Next semester I am very excited to teach a new elective class called "Engineering for Social Good". The overarching goal for the course is to position isolated skills in coding, design, fabrication, electronics, CAD, etc., students have acquired in previous courses into a service context. I will be developing the course here.
While I have a loose idea of the curriculum, I am this week in my Introduction to Robotics course to a test a few activities. An area of interest I currently have is the use of robots to carry important tasks that, in the past, resulted in human injury. One such area is explosive disposal.
I am interested in how challenging students to simulate the explosive disposal process (we use the VEX V5 system) helps to build empathy for the risks various service providers face when working to protect our society. Using the VEX Vision Sensor and the VEX V5 Starter Kit I designed this challenge, this "Public Product" requirement, and put the students to work. View an example of student work here.
A Few Good Men
I have written in the past about how I love to use medical case studies to spark inquiry in biology class. This week, to conclude a 5E Inquiry Cycle on Cellular Respiration, students were challenged to solve this case taken directly from the movie A Few Good Men (upon surveying, NONE of my students have seen the movie. Shocking but better for the lesson!).
Rather tell my students the correct diagnosis upon completion of their diagnosis presentations, I showed this video clip taken from the movie that reveals the diagnosis (Lactic Acidosis) for the students. Much more impactful and fun! Then, once the diagnosis has been revealed through the movie, I move into a responsive lecture about how the condition relates to current content in the class.
Unlike the above reflections, this teaching example is super simple. Students spent today preparing for a quiz the on intermolecular forces in chemistry. Answering the questions on the quiz require students drawing a diagram to represent molecular interactions. Each group of students created a question, then solved their own problem directly on a personal whiteboard.
I then created a blank Google Slides preso, altered the settings, shorted the URL, and shared it with my students. Students then inserted their question into one slide and used their web cams to insert an image of the whiteboard from the previous question into the next slide. Within 20 minutes our class had made a deck of practice problems, that, when placed in presentation mode, behave like a set of flash cards. I then shared the slides with my students for strategic review. Click here for the final product.
I have already written during the first week of school about my excitement as I embarked on a paradigm shift in how I, and my students, think about, and record work (grades, activities, reading reflections, etc.).
Three weeks later my excitement has turned into obsession!
I am SO happy this with new process, that, for a lack of a better, less "buzzy" phrase, it feels as if I am leveraging a Google Sheet template as a "Metacognitive Portfolio". A process that, after years of tinkering, really, actually, forces "thinking about thinking" and curates work effectively.
Not something I read on a blog (like this one) or something I was told to do at a workshop or faculty PD session.
What I mean is this: Rather than recording grades in our grade book, students keep track of their own progress on standards, while I keep track of progress on a paper sheet, and update quarterly.
BUT in addition to standards tracking, students are tracking ALL of their work in a Google Sheet using sub tabs.
One tab is for tracking standards performance (autogenerated colors help students reflect reassessment needs). One tab is for links to their activity slides (click here for a previous post about this process). Finally, one tab is for students to track, in a structured way, reflections on class readings.
Thus, the three things I grade: standards, activities, and readings, are now curated easily, in one place, for students to not only reflect on performance, but also catalog work.
One place for students to gain awareness of performance, build pride around their body of work, and develop appreciation for their readings curated over the course of the year.
Simple. No website. Easy. Effective. So far...
Plus, I don't have students coming and asking "what is my grade?". I rather have students asking, "have you graded that yet so I can update to my sheet."
It keeps us both honest in the best possible way.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, whenever I need to access student work, I go to ONE PLACE to access it ALL! Grades, activities, readings, etc. I love it!
Less tech. Better tech.
Click here for the template I pushed out on the first day of class for them to track. They shared it with me, I made a folder of their sheets, and thats it.
I have ALL their work. No folder, just a sheet. I love it! (Can you tell I'm excited??)
See images of the system below, along with an embedded video of me reflecting, in an overly excited way after a day of teaching, on the process. (Note: this might not be life changing to any of you, but I have to share it. Simpler=Better IMO. I have tried so many things and this...this my friends...is something I'm truly pumped about!."
It's like REFLECTIVE PRACTICE CHRISTMAS or something. :)
In no particular order. I want to to turn this into an expanded eBook. Feedback to me is welcome. Your can also share your advice here.
Yes. I am obsessed with the craft of teaching. I think about it constantly. Thus, in addition to the incredible time with family ands friends that the Thanksgiving holiday offers (mixed in with writing college letters of recommendation), I found myself using the time to revisit list of "potential ideas" I gather throughout the semester.
Things I see online, in conversation, at conferences, spying on other teachers, etc., etc., etc. Things that I want to integrate into my practice, daydream about leveraging, or need to improve upon. In an L-tryptophan haze, I spent the Friday after Thanksgiving digging through my lists, and curating 10 new ideas I want to integrate into my practice:
I began teaching in August of 2000. This year marks my 19th year in the classroom. When 24-year-old me stumbled into room 206 at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory in downtown San Francisco, hired to teach chemistry and biology, with no credential, formal training, and only 3 flunked MCATs under my belt, I did not think I would be writing this blog today.
I would be, accordingly to my 24-year-old self, be a practicing physician as my time spent that year in the classroom was only meant to embody the space between my first fourth MCAT (the one I would finally do well on) and my journey to medical school. I didn't know, at the time, that I would absolutely fall in love with the craft of teaching. Head over hells in love.
Today I find myself, for some unknown reason, reflecting deeply on that journey. Why did I fall in love with teaching? Why did I want to be a doctor? Why did I give up on that dream, for another? Why do I still feel like an imposter after 19 years? What if I stuck with it? Did I give up to early? Could I have saved lives? Have I done my students over the years...especially the ones in the first few years, more harm that good? I dunno.
Around 2006, a subtle tipping point occurred. A transition was felt. I became, in my eyes, and the eyes of my colleagues, and my students, a teacher. A teacher! The vocation became who I was...not some strange space between dreams my parents had for me, and those which I struggled to have for myself. I went to graduate school, did research, obtained an EdD, because a teacher of teachers, traveling around the globe, sharing my passion. It just happened.
I didn't mean for it to happen. I didn't try to speak on TED, or deliver Keynotes about my teaching journey, or write books, or the myriad of other things I have been blessed to do. So, as I sit here, 19 years later, absolutely in love with the teaching profession, I find myself reflecting on this journey. How did I stumble on such opportunities, and why, to this day, do I adamantly resist, and reject, opportunities to leave the classroom.
I think I have it figured out. It's not the kids, as much as I love them. It's not the colleagues, as much as they inspire me. It's not the assessments, or scores, or summers off. It's not the feeling I get when I tell somebody "I'm a teacher..." and their face lights up with respect. It's one thing, and one thing only: URGENCY.
It's the feeling I get when I create a lesson, that must be delivered the next day. The urgency of pedagogy. The urgency that comes along with deadlines, and the art of crappy lessons, great lessons, and all things in between that emerge when the bell rings, my mind opens, and I create. Not for some day off in the future when I will deliver a keynote, or share a story about a lesson I plan to deliver.
The urgency associated with the next day. 12 hours later when they will walk in the room, and look at me with a stare that embodies the term "Go ahead dude...try and teach me.". I love that urgency...that creativity...that feeling. I think, for what its worth, this sense of urgency is why I have been blessed with the ability to share my story with others...Teacher can relate to this. We gravitate toward ideas. We feel the urgency. We are artists every freaking day. We empathize with one another.
What a blessing.