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.
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.
The below talk by UC Davis Neuroscientist Matthias Gruber encapsulates all that currently fascinates and motivates me as an educator. I hope you enjoy!
Johnston Institute Workshop Slides (Sparking Curiosity: A Lasallian First Approach to Instructional Design)
Albeit corny, I don't think a blog post goes by where I don't allude to the beautiful connection between the 5E Learning Cycle and Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey.
Our students are HEROES and our standards are their JOURNEY. Why not!?! It certainly makes lesson planning more fun...meaningful...etc. Click here, here, and here for past writing and literature about this connection.
Keeping the above in mind, I was planning for parent Back to School Night last week. Teachers at my school are challenged to design a 20 minute lesson, for each section, to model their pedagogical style, content, etc. Not an easy challenge.
A few days before the night I began preparing my typical "Coke vs. Diet Coke" activity where parents engage in an inquiry activity around why a can of Coke sinks in water and a can of Diet Coke floats. See image below:
Normally I begin the activity by showing parents the above demo, then asking: "What questions do you have?". Subsequent discussion leads to definitions of mass, volume, density, and if time, quantitative measures of the mentioned variables.
This year, I set out to do something else: Model an entire 5E/Hero's Journey Cycle, in just 20 minutes.
At least scratch the surface of each anchor point in the cycle to take the activity beyond the simple density example, to questions surrounding chemical structure, sweetness, biochemistry, etc. (note: this desire was primarily catalyze by the need to begin lesson planning for a Medical Biochemistry advanced elective I will be teaching next semester. More on that later for sure...)
Below is the outline of the lesson that I will be expanding into a full learning cycle using this template in the next month or so. Stay tuned!
PHASE 1: EXPLORE (Call to Adventure)