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:
Classes start back up tomorrow, and two weeks of winter break provided a much needed break from thinking about teaching...NOT!
Teaching is my hobby, and while I had a nice time, space away from teaching freed up space to peruse my "Idea Dump",a notepad of ideas, sites, or tools that I stumble across over the semester, but did not have to reflect on.
In the spirit of sharing, below is a RANDOM, science-focused list of the top ten curated over the past two weeks. Not sure what I will implement, but I am excited to dive deeper into this list and will post updates as I do. Enjoy!
Philosophically, I appreciate the debate over grading in schools. I even agree with parts of Alphie Kohn's case against grading. All that being said, in a few weeks I go back to school. To my classroom. To a vocation I LOVE. To a career that provides for my family. And grades are a reality. They are required. They aren't going away.
Keeping this in mind, it does me no good as an educator to engage in debates around the efficacy of grading. I simply want to serve my students the best I can. And, in some ways, I don't think grades should be terminated. Perhaps it is up to us, as educators, to develop new, and thoughtful "hacks" to our current system.
To maximize the A-F system in our favor. In a way that serves our students. Builds metacognition. Limits apathy. Motivates. etc., etc., etc. I believe this is possible. And, here's the clincher: IT IS MORE POSSIBLE THAN WAKING UP TOMORROW AND GRADES BEING ELIMINATED. SO, IT'S ON ME TO BE BETTER FOR MY STUDENTS.
So...in the spirit of sharing super tangible, grassroots techniques, below is what I'm going to try next semester. Disclaimer: It involves some "old school" moves, such as transitioning to a teacher paper and pen gradebook, but please know, it is all in the spirit of pedagogy. In the spirit of my Ed Tech Mission statement if you will.
This revised system will provide students with the ability to constantly know their "grade" in our class, while simultaneously developing enhanced student awareness of their own performance and build student agency over the grading process.
I have written in the past (click here and here) about my transition from formal lab reporting to the use of Google Slides as a student form of reporting lab work.
Today I sat down to begin the arduous process of finalizing all fall semester grades for my sophomore chemistry class and the benefit of using Google Slides their lab reporting format was clearly evident!
My final "stack of papers" to grade was a shared folder full with our final lab practical reports: a group experiment where students determined the optimal H2-O2 ratio to fill a 2L bottle fo for maximum product upon ignition.
Not only was I able to grade each project directly from my phone, but embedded video of procedures, screenshots of calculations, and clear images of laboratory procedures made for a meaningful assessment process.
MORE IMPORTANTLY, the process of student creation and curation of their work using a Google Slide template (click here for the one used in this activity), was fluid, easy, and put the learning, rather than the reporting, at the forefront.
Below is an embed of one group's "report".
I tend to miss class from time to time. I hate missing class. I love nothing more than being with my 9th grade Biology students and 10th grade Honors Chemistry students helping them to negotiate the complexities, and beautiful intricacies of science. Teaching is my hobby.
Unfortunately, missing class is a reality when trying to juggle being a parent of four young children (two being 3 year-old twin boys), managing a career as an educational consultant, and working online an adjunct profession of education, all while trying to maintain my role as a full-time high school teacher.
I am committed to this. I am sure many of you reading this can empathize. It's just what I'm dong. I'm blessed.
However, missing class means creating sub lesson plans.
I HATE creating sub plans.
I have experimented with many different models: guided reading notes, instructional videos, etc. etc., etc. I want the sub lesson to be meaningful, and not just a lesson that all to often becomes a "study hall".
Unfortunately, none of the above methods seemed to lead to anything other than the typical responses. : "Can we have a study hall?", or "Can we watch a movie?", or "I didn't know we were supposed to do it?".
Totally normal, and totally age appropriate. No matter how much I LOVED my teachers in high school, there was always something novel, something surprising, and something fun about having a sub. I get it.
That being said: How can I improve the process? Provide meaning while not being there?
These are simple questions that I'm sure many of you have answers to already, however for me, it has been a significant part of my journey as an educator.
A tangible, grass roots problem that full-time teachers often overlook. How can I be better?
Out of frustration, I sat down a few years ago and wrote down exactly what I wanted a sub lesson to accomplish:
Given that we are a one-to-one school, over the past year there is a method I KEEP COMING BACK to.
A method that ALWAYS seems to work, and checks off each of the boxes above:
Embedding short videos IN a google form with associated summary prompts.
Here's my workflow:
Here's my logic:
Click here for an example of my most recent Google Form sub lesson.
See screenshots of my most recent Google Form sub lesson below: