As a science teacher, I often get the following statement when working with other educators: "Sparking student interest in the Sciences is just easier. You get to show cool demonstrations and stuff...".
Yes, this is very true. It can be easier.
BUT, I recently had an incredible conversation with a Humanities teacher at my school, and she shared some incredible great resources for leveraging data visualization a method for sparking student curiosity in the humanities.
If you are not familiar with data visualization, check out this talk.
By finding a visualization, downloading it, removing specific information (titles, legends, keys, etc.) and displaying it to students, questions emerge.
For example, this visualization of drought patters over the course of the past 100 years in America can be a powerful spark to build student interest in the Dust Bowl.
Show students the image, say: "What are your curious about?".
Questions will emerge that will vary but ultimately, because of the nature of the visualization, students will not only ask "What does the orange region represent?", they will also notice that similarities exist between the the 1940s and parts of the 2000s.
Questions will emerge related to differences in farming practices, the economy, polities, etc.
Suddenly a conversation related to the core causes of the Dust Bowl emerges without even discussing the Dust Bowl directly.
THEN, the next day (or for homework) show Ken Burn's documentary on the Dust Bowl. Delay the instruction. Delay the mentor! It's how the Hero's Journey operates.
Below are some excellent Data Visualization Resources:
I have written to annoying lengths about my love for the connection between the 5E Inquiry Learning Cycle and Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey.
The below diagram outlines the serendipitous connections between these two cycles well:
In preparation for a professional development workshop I facilitated yesterday, I created a lesson planning template based on the above connection that I am very happy with.
My hope is to use a copy of the template for each cycle I create in my biology and chemistry classes for the upcoming semester.
Unlike previous templates I have used, this one leverages a Google Slide template, as a planning, rather than presentation document. The flexibility of editing slides, embedding video, etc., makes Google Slides an incredibly flexible medium.
You will notice that each of the five phase of the 5E/Hero's Journey cycle hyperlinks to an associated slide. I love this feature as it creates a contained pedagogical cycle, allowing the teacher to focus on each phase individually, IN THE CONTEXT OF THE WHOLE.
As an educator, this connectivity is very comforting, and as Jon Stewart said: "A structure that allows for creativity". You will notice that each slide has two portions: 1) Lesson Procedure and 2) Technology integration.
By "tagging" the technology on as an afterthought, this template forces the teacher to first think pedagogically (How does this procedure serve the inquiry cycle as a whole?), then procedurally (How will I make structure the class to accomplish the goal of the specific portion in the cycle?) and finally technologically (How can I leverage technology to make this lesson even more efficient, productive, meaningful, etc.?).
Thus, technology serves the pedagogy by simply following the template. An ideal teaching tool IMO. Click here and "make a copy" of the template for your own use. The template is also embedded below for ease of viewing. Enjoy!
When reading the research on Curiosity, Involuntary Curiosity is of particular interest to us teachers.
Defined by Loewenstein (1994) as curiosity that "...arises spontaneously as a result of a curiosity inducing stimuli", it isn't difficult see how honing the art of curating such moments is a powerful lesson planning tool.
Specifically, editing a video to reveal only a specific portion of a clip is a useful technique.
Often times a powerful video, if showed in its entirety, can simultaneously engage AND demotivate students by "inducing" curiosity, while also explaining the content that underlies the phenomena.
Rather than showing the entire video, the goal is to strategically curate the perfect portion of a video clip to tunnel students into asking the question you want them to ask.
To intentionally withhold the perfect amount of information.
Below are a few examples from the past two weeks in my chemistry class (note: videos are downloaded using savefrom.net and trimmed using Quicktime)
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with the science educators at D211 in Chicago's Northwest Suburbs. As part of the workshop, all teachers were challenged to work in discipline specific teams to create an outline for an NGSS aligned, 5E Learning cycle. They were too good not to share! Click on the image below to access all lesson outlines. Enjoy!
I have written many times before about the connection between the 5E learning cycle and Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. Click here for a diagram that pairs the two processes together well.
Perhaps the most important part of the shifting one's instruction to an inquiry learning cycle approach is challenge of "Calling Students to Adventure", engaging them by strategically sparking their curiosity. The goal of this process is to STRATEGICALLY elicit spontaneous questioning about a topic in such a way that students begin to ask question about the lesson plan you have already created.
Yes, you could ask them the questions directly.
However, I find when the questions come directly from the students they are markedly more engaged and empowered.
Below is an example of a "spark" I recently found that I plan to use in my chemistry class during the 2018-2019 school year:
Electrochemistry, specifically the intricacies of oxidation and reduction tend to be challenging ones to engage students in. The process of electron flow can be a challenging one to visualize, and beyond making batteries with lemons, nails and pennies, finding a simple, tangible, and engaging way to created a window into the topic and spark spontaneous, natural intrigue about the topic is something I have yet to do successfully.
Keeping this in mind, this summer I spotted one of my 5th grade science camp students dropping a AA battery and watching it bounce. When I confronted him he said:
"If it bounces it's empty. If it doesn't it's full".
At the time wasn't yet aware that this "bounce test" was a viral internet phenomenon.
After sitting there watching this young camper test battery after battery I found myself asking questions:
"Why does it bounce?"
"Why does it not bounce?"
"Is this real?"
"Is this a hoax?"
After contemplating the process, and scribbling the inner workings of an electrochemical cell on the adjacent whiteboard in search of a personal explanation, I finally resorted to the internet and found a few articles on the topic. This article was the most comprehensive and successfully quenched my curiosity.
I also found this video on the topic, which gave me an idea of a potential student activity on the topic.
After spending a few hours reviewing all of the videos on the topic, I decided to create my own battery bounce test curiosity spark on the a few day ago. A simple video that gets to the heart of the issue, and makes the information gap as salient and as clear as possible with the goal of tunneling students into the same questions I asked above.
Click here to see the video or view below:
Essentially I had gone on my own Hero's Journey..Embodied my own 5E Learning cycle..Lived the metaphor that I speak of so much when working with other teachers or writing blog posts (like this one!).
The young 5th grade science camper ENGAGED me with his battery bounce test.
The subsequent information gap forced me to EXPLORE reasons for this by accessing my prior knowledge.
My lack of ability to resolve this perplexity led to a need for a mentor (the internet) to help me EXPLAIN the concept.
I am now EXTENDING this concept, converting it into a lesson plan for the upcoming school year, and will EVALUATE the lessons efficacy when done.
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. Additionally, you can find a copy of my new book, "Spark Learning: 3 Keys to Embracing the Power of Student Curiosity", by clicking here.