Lately I have been obsessed with simplifying my curriculum. That is, drastically decreasing the Extraneous Cognitive load of all materials, technology, etc.
Perhaps I'm just maturing as an educator? Perhaps I'm just EXHAUSTED by all the options out there. Or perhaps I'm just developing a much deeper love for the content I'm teaching rather than the tools used to teach it?
I'm sure it's a combination of all things. Either way, I find it fascinating, and somewhat paradoxal, how attempting to deeply simplify the tools I and my students are using poses as a greater instructional design challenge than leveraging a system of complex tools.
Either way, this coming semester (classes at my school are a semester long) I am going to be transitioning all of my class websites from traditional Google Sites to simple Google Documents.
I use our class website to not only curate resources, but also deliver all instructions (link documents, practice problems, activity templates, etc.). In transitioning to a Google Doc based system I plan on having one document, that is broken into individual learning cycles where students will access all class materials.
I will use one hyperlinked bookmark to identify where we are in the document for that particular day so students feel a sense of flow and organization to the document. Students will click on the link at the top of the page and be shuttled immediately to the portion of the document for that day.
Click here for an example of an old website using Google Sites, and here for an example of the beginning (2 of 6 units have been completed) of my new system.
I will also be including a "Teacher's Corner" (under construction...apologies) link at the top that will outline how each unit is designed according to the 5E/Hero's Journey learning cycle format.
I do not explicitly indicate the curricular jargon to students, rather I want them to experience the journey authentically. However, I want you, and other fellow educators, to be able to access my thinking.
Not sure if this post makes any sense, but I am SUPER excited about the challenge in simplifying my curricular materials for both learning and instruction. I will be updating this process as I progress over the next few months under the "Projects" tab.
Ever since I read amazing physics instructor Frank Noschese's writngs on Standards Based Grading (SBG), I have been obsessed with figuring out a system that works for me.
This 2011 blog outlines my initial attempt.
This 2018 blog outlines one of many subsequent revisions.
Today, day 1 of the 2019-2020 school year, and my 19th year in the classroom, I find myself reinventing the SBG wheel once again. I am committed to the process, or some eventual variation of the process for three primary reasons:
Each iteration is catalyzed by some aspect of the above three rules falling short.
Either I have, as my first attempt in 2011 demonstrates, overcomplicated the grading process (4.7/5) trying to place a 5 pt scale on a 10 pt scale, or as my 2018 post demonstrates, overcomplicated the student communication piece, forcing students to record their performance on a ridiculously complex spreadsheet.
Good intentions...bad result.
I think I'm on to something this year! At least that little pedagogical voice in my gut senses I'm on to something. Here's the plan:
I am hopeful that the combination of simplified, more overarching standards, a more simple and structured way for students to track performance with color codes, and limited recording of public grades with maximum student individual recording of standard performance, will be a system that works for me this year!
The joys of reflective practice.
Before every major assessment I like to facilitate review activities in class. That being said, I can only handle the Kahoot theme song so much, play so many games of "Chemistry Jeopardy", or figure out another variation of Periodic Table Battleship to satisfy review of the whatever skills we are learning that topic.
Not that there is anything wrong with the above games, or the myriad of variations. Indeed, if I played Kahoot everyday my students would be STOKED!
However, the above review games, in my mind, always fall short in one area: student creation/invention.
This is where Google Forms is a powerful tool! During the past unit on Formula Analysis, distributed a different problem to each team of students.
I then asked each of students to input their solution AND a Youtube video of them solving their problem on a whiteboard into a Google Form.
I then made the output spreadsheet public, and students spent time solving one another's problems, and watching one another's solutions when they were stuck.
Although not as superficially engaging as Kahoot, watching students invent videos to explain their problems, and negotiate not only the problem, but also how to teach it, was incredibly inspiring, and IMO, much more engaging from an outside perspective.
Although this post is represents an extremely simple application of Google Forms, one I'm sure many of you have already done before or experimented with in the past, the power of immediately sharing the output formula with students, containing live links to the videos THEY created, was worth sharing.
Click here for the Google Form and here for the output spreadsheet. See screenshots below as well.
If you found the information in this message useful to your practice, I invite you to learn more about becoming a site member. Monthly membership includes, but is not limited to, frequent distributions of detailed online video courses, lesson plans, teaching websites, curricular resources, and access to webinars exploring the world of curiosity, inquiry and technology in the classroom.