Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hydraulic Arms...STEM

"Mrs. LaCrosse, I've NEVER used a screwdriver before!"

"What would happen if we had bigger syringes?"

"Hey, let's use the robo-arms together to make pyramid between them!"

"Oh my gosh, this is the coolest! Can I buy my own?"

The week was full of teamwork, questions, trial & error, and excitement as 105 students worked through a VERY long set of instructions to build 4 hydraulic arms.

Using simple tools like white glue, hot glue guns (with my help), screwdrivers, water & food coloring, kits, and directions, the students worked carefully and collaboratively to build the arms for later use.

The critical thinking skills that students had to use were made really obvious as I followed suggestions to be less helpful.

(Check out Dan Meyer's talk...

By giving them the freedom to work together, ask questions, and explore, the room simulated what I would consider a real world design environment.

The really fun part came after two days of assembly when students participated in robo-challenges! They designed their own challenges. One group set up robo-baseball with one arm holding a bat (paper towel tube) and another with a small play dough container. Another group had a pyramid stacking challenge. Finally, one group worked to pass objects back and forth.

Role playing and make believe talk filled the room with students imagining they were manipulating Mars rovers and moon base equipment! Awesome!

And, during the building and "play" phase, what other activities were going on?
Brain Pop-star life cycle
Study Island-earth and space questions
Book work-reading about our sun and other stars
Galaxy art work-glitter projects

Great way to practice our STEM skills!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Keynote, Apple TV, Assessment

This week in Science, I wanted to assess my students understanding of planet characteristics. After highlighting Earth's unique characteristics for sustaining life, students had been studying the other planets, creating postcards, and nailing down the big ideas. So, it seemed like a great time for a quick assess.

In the past, to assess this I may have had a writing prompt, series of multiple choice questions, or maybe a chart of characteristics to fill in. Blech...right? That's my thinking too! I take a really cool topic and fizzle the excitement with those activities.

So, this time I used a Keynote slide show, the apple TV in the room, and dropbox. I wanted to give the students freedom in developing their own planet characteristic sorts. (I was hoping they would go beyond an inner and outer planet sort.) To accomplish this, I told the students that they would find a Solar System Sort Keynote presentation in the iPad dropbox.

I told them that it was incomplete, and I needed their help. I needed to show the next class 5 different ways to sort the planets. Each slide in the Keynote (after the title slide) had the planets all mixed up. Can they help?

Immediately, students were able to locate the Keynote and pull it up. They started by working independently, but then asked if they could share ideas. No problem, just make sure everyone can explain the sorts.

Students were doing a fantastic job within minutes! They were dragging the little planet pictures around, discussing characteristics, and helping each other with misconceptions. Some students were even adding text, pictures, and descriptions! Total teamwork and talking science!

After giving the students some work time, I started rotating around to the various students. I had great discussions, reinforced some solid ideas, and started having the students share through the projector.

(Can you tell the sort pattern here?)

It was as simple as mirroring the iPad to the Apple TV! When we wanted to switch people sharing, we just got the next iPad streaming. What a quick, easy way to share! The assessment was painless. I was able to reinforce and feel confident in my student's knowledge. Win, win!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Making Postcards in Science

So, my students made what I consider to be some phenomenal postcards from other planets in science this last week.

For those people who are interested in what apps we used...



Solar System by Marcus Chown-




Drawing Pad-


I think they were successful in their work for a couple of reasons...

*App/tech familiarity- My students are half-way through a year in which they have been encouraged to explore various uses of the iPad to create original works. They are fluid in completing research through apps, creation by combining apps, and uploading & sharing their work through Dropbox.

*Organized scaffolding- I didn't just ask my kids to open up LifeCards app to create a postcard. First, I set up the research with a sample postcard, rubric, and guidance in what we would be looking for. I wasn't at school for this first day of research. So, the kids had a list of apps use (that they were familiar with) and target research goals to accomplish.

*Team approach- Once students had been checked off on research (second day), they were given the directions to BUILD. My comment to them was, "Ask three, before me." I elaborated by reinforcing the fact that they had 20+ other learners around them for support.

*Audience- Each student was creating a postcard for another student or class that we had previously connected with on Skype. They know these other classes as their partners in Science. Some are even connected through edmodo as well! So, they connected the importance to doing a great job.

Here is a link to our class blog page.

And, here are a couple samples...

While every postcard is not flawless, this project allowed students to showcase their level and understanding of another planet in comparison to our planet. The project is designed to build into another project where students work together to decide the next NASA method and location for exploration. Having some expertise on various planets will make the experience authentic. Will they decide to send a rover to Venus, a space station to Neptune, or a moon base on Titan? Who knows, but they will have some background knowledge to get them started! And, the Lego rovers/space stations/moon bases will be wired with lights and gears for a great transition into Electricity! Woo hoo!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

iPads in Gym, seriously?

Along with teaching my 5 science classes a day, I have the fortune of teaching a gym class each morning to a my fifth graders.

How do we use the iPads in gym? Beyond the obvious use of showing video clips for various skills, games, and activities, here is a list of how we have integrated the iPads:

*Video replay- While learning basketball skills, my students loved to be video taped as they dribbled, passed, and shot. They would come over, watch themselves, and try to change something. Pretty cool feedback!

*Yogo sessions- I made Keynote slide shows with funny pics to demonstrate the various poses. Using the iPad hooked up to the projector, we all could view and complete the workout together with some humor involved.

*Dance/Yoga sessions- Students used their iPads in groups to create their own sessions. They could choose to make a dance with one of the loaded songs, or they could design a yoga session with the Yoga 101 app that is loaded.

*Obstacle Courses- Thanks to a great lesson plan from Royan Lee (@royanlee), my students created their own obstacle courses for each other for the second year in a row. This year, they used DrawingPad app to design their courses.

*Running- Pretty expensive timer, right? But, yeah...the days I forget my watch or cell phone, I have the iPad timer and score board right there.

There are many apps for monitoring fitness, weight, and health goals that we could be using. We could get into tracking heart rate and exercise level. Heck, I could even get my kids to complete an on-line blog of their activities and goals. I say keep it simple and implement when easy to do so.

The iPad is an amazing tool that once you are comfortable implementing it, you can think of a jillion more uses. And, it isn't a novelty anymore; it just becomes another tool for student learning.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fake it till you make it!

Many people have some sort of motto they live by, right? It's a key phrase, philosophy, mantra...whatever. Well, in teaching and using technology, "Fake it till you make it" seems to be a pretty good phrase for me to identify with.

Enter the colored water...

At the beginning of each year, when I'm setting up my classroom, I fill the glass beakers with water and food coloring. Now, those of you who are science teachers might be thinking of a variety of topics that could be linked here:
-energy transfer
-water cycle
-and more!

And, I would love to say that is how my beaker project started. But, 7 years ago, when I moved from 6th grade Social Studies to 5th grade Science, it began because I just thought it looked pretty. Yep, there it is! When students asked me why they were out and colored, I would direct it back with the good old, "Why do YOU think?" So, I was faking it. I was waiting, learning, growing with my students. The content understanding wasn't there yet. As many articles, books, on-line classes that I was taking, and it just wasn't there yet. I was curious, and I was learning with my students. But, I was back to first year teacher again after 7 years in the classroom.

Now, the colored water beakers come to represent a long-term investigation my 5th graders have come to love. We talk variables, indirect evidence, light, thermal energy, water cycle, evaporation...etc! The conversation is a year long one that develops as our understanding of the science develops. So, yes...very cool!

"Fake it till you make it." Science, technology, whatever. Learn and grow with your students. Don't just tread water, but DO give yourself a break. Recognize that no one is an expert at first. We are all still growing and learning in one or another area.

Got a new iPad or class set of iPads? "Fake it till you make it." Look, listen, and learn with your students!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, January 6, 2012

Capitalize on Interests!

Just looking at this unit...pretty cool working with 5th graders that are so excited to learn!