Monday, July 30, 2012

Creating content, or what? Part 2

So, I hit submit on the previous blog post, Creating content, or what? and thought, "Wow. I'm glad I got that off my chest!" Seriously, I thought of how many times I have sped through the science to get to the tech, and I'm a little disappointed in myself. I'm robbing my students of some true science experiences by being so focused on the tech & product building.

But, I don't think I always do this...
I think I have set the stage (at times) for my students to experience science more in line with Apple's Challenge Based Learning. I'm not doing it wrong ALL the time. :)

So, thinking a little more about this, I decided to find an example of each in my most previous year. I'm going to highlight instructional practices in which I approached content creation incorrectly and correctly.

Topic: Exploring potential & kinetic energy
  • I began by demonstrating various toys showing potential vs. kinetic energy. (Did you catch that I?)
  • We watched a brain pop about potential and kinetic energy.
  • We followed up with a short passage from the book.
  • We watched another couple cartoon like videos about potential and kinetic energy...maybe a Bill Nye.
  • Then, I asked the kids to create a cartoon strip showing potential and kinetic energy. Enter...ipad project. (We used Strip Designer app...which is an awesome app!)

Potential & Kinetic Period 2

What I noticed in my students' projects:
  • very repetitive examples used (mainly the toys that I demonstrated or the examples in the video)
  • very few/if any real world examples (from their experiences)
  • rushed drawings...little detail
  • some incomplete
  • minimal/if any descriptions of science
So, yep. That would be wrong! There was no content creation. There was very little content understanding. Why? The learning was doomed from the start. My goals were focused on the WRONG aspects.
(I would love a DO OVER with that lesson!)

Topic: Future Exploration Vehicles for NASA
My ultimate goal with this exploration was to encourage students to use what they knew about NASA, space exploration history, and our solar system to design the next vehicle for NASA to use to explore. ( Curiosity is the next.) I wanted to combine research skills, beginning engineering skills, team work/negotiation, and electrical wiring (simple circuits) during this project.
So...the CHALLENGE was set. The materials were dumped in the middle of the room (Legos, wiring materials, and more). And, the students were given the choice of creating a Keynote or iMovie to document their vehicle (what it was, where it was going, who built it, what it would study, et).

Here is a link to my 2nd period science class projects. You will have to scroll half way down the page to get to the projects.

When I look through these projects, I see a HUGE difference!
  • Personal...These kids really bought into this content. They made this rover, satellite, or space station uniquely theirs.
  • Depth- They researched what NASA has already done by utilizing various apps (like the wicked cool NASA app) and sites.
  • Polished- From their mission badges to the vehicle itself, the kids invested time in doing it right!
  • Content- It was not regurgitated information. The variety and details are all from self-driven research.

So, setting the stage for true content creation for ME means having that open challenge, not being so rushed for the product, being supportive of the process, and being patient with the tech integration. If it is to be done well, the students will need the stage set correctly.

Any ideas?

Creating content, or what?

Laying out this next school year involves making decisions on some upcoming projects, developing connections with other classes, and evaluating my tech usage in class. Using the summer to roll ideas around, plan with others, and research teaching practices, has led me to think about the idea of students creating content. I recently read a post by another teacher about having her students create iBooks. She described how her students were "creating content". Something in this claim made me wonder...

To CREATE content, students have to be the owners of the:
  • questions
  • discoveries
  • and work product.
This would be my qualification for saying that they are "creating content". Otherwise, aren't they just regurgitating content in a fun, flashy format? Yes, it's fun. Yes, it will most definitely make them retain the content longer with more depth than traditional studies. But, it isn't really creating the content. We aren't asking them to bring their own questions, ideas, and struggles to the process.

I think that I've been somewhat guilty of this in the past. I haven't given the time to truly explore content and develop ownership to the students as often as possible. I tend to rush through the exploration of the content to get to the fun product making part. Yep...guilty on some levels. I think that I do this sometimes because the iPad offers SO many tools for students to show understanding, and I want to use as many as possible. The device then drives the instruction...ssshhhhh. Don't tell!

So, here's the final thought...

Giving my students the opportunity to OWN the learning (in my eyes) is best accomplished by giving them ownership in the WHOLE process. Reminds me of Apple's Challenge Based Learning.
While I know I use this approach on some occasions, it is time to take the plunge and really buy into this methodology.

Sounds like more to add to my own IEP...

What do you think?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Satellite Children

Last night, my daughter and I spent the night in our small tent in the backyard enjoying the stars, Radio Disney, and Stack the States Challenge. (Boy...she is better than I thought with that app!) We had snacks, comfy (really uncomfortable) accommodations, and ADVENTURE. That's what Jay calls any "mom time"...adventure. Whether we are riding the motorcycle out to visit grandma or hanging in a tent, when we are's adventure. As the night wore on and Jay got sleepier, I watched her start to slide back in years. Parents know this. We see our kids grow forward and slide back constantly. A word or phrase used as a 7 year old gets dropped and picked up later at 9. The way Jay slid back last night just made me think. Her little hand grabbing mine. Her snuggle up with her favorite Bug (stuffed toy). Her feet wrapping around my legs. All these little physical signs are so very like Jay. She used to do this constantly, but she's getting more and more independent. She seeks out time with other people more and more. It made me think of my children as satellites. At one point, they just orbited right around me. A very regular pattern, predictable, comforting. I knew their limits, their choices, their abilities. They had these little growth spurts, but they came back quickly. My gravitational field with their...we just existed together in this motion. Now, as my children are getting to be 10 and 11, I see the satellites starting to drift. They are falling out of orbit more and more often. They snap back for awhile...during back yard camping trips. But, my gravitational pull just isn't enough to keep them in orbit. The need for showing individuality and independence is more and more evident. (You would think with their mass increasing, the gravitational pull would be greater. But...) This is both a really cool thing to experience and heartbreaking. I just wish I had more time in the satellite mode. I know that I have no right to demand more of this time, refusing my children the amazing experience of growing and experiencing the world. It's just a little daunting. Maybe at some point, the laws of physics will kick back in. Maybe these next years of drifting orbit will be hard for me. But, hopefully our combined mass will be so great, they will be unable to come back and visit that comfortable orbit. Just thoughts of a parent... (Probably all of this was spurred by Pluto having another moon added to it's growing list!)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

iPad Project Menu

In collecting my ideas for this upcoming school year, I have been sifting through my ideas for iPad projects. I have used many different projects on the iPad for assessing my students' understanding of science content. We used postcard making with the LifeCards app to assess understanding of various planet characteristics. We've created popplets for concept mapping of the water cycle. We've created Keynote presentations for designing new ecofriendly, alternate energy based communities. And more...

So, for next year, I'm looking to scaffold the iPad projects in a similar method. Highlighting:
  • content, content, content- The science must lead the project!
  • audience- Adapt the project to fit the audience.
  • choice- What are you natively interested in building?
This last part is where I think I'm going to implement the use of a project menu board. We've discussed using menus on twitter chats, and I've utilized menu systems with science classwork. So, why not try it with my iPad projects?

Here's my beginning list of projects. GOOGLE SITE LINK

Feel free to add some ideas, and share your twitter or google contact if you'd like.
Otherwise, maybe this list can give you some ideas for iPad project building. :)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

IEP Revisited

Last year, right around this time, I posted My Personal IEP post ( This post was inspired by Morgan Kolis, @Room5Friends. In my post, I identified my top goals for the school year. They included balance in instruction, communication, and connecting my students. I printed out this post and hung it on the science supply cabinet in my room (as I elected to ditch the desk this year).

Periodically, I reviewed it, but I'll be honest, I fell short in the communication with families area. I didn't have as much variety in communication as I had hoped. The school postcards were GREAT, and I rocked that out. However, I wanted to initiate more contact through phone, and that didn't happen as much. Twitter...great, but only had a few parent followers. The other areas looked pretty good. I had a nice mix in tech, hands on, and literacy based instruction. We managed to explore the science content while developing investigations, connecting with other professional and student scientists around the United States, and avoiding achievement test prep nonsense as much as possible.

So, for this coming year, I have MORE goals:
  • Communication- Going to continue working on that! I am going to try to make 3-5 calls home over the week. Identifying the positive moments, as well as sharing areas of growth will be the focus.
  • Communication- Twitter, going to try to encourage more parents to follow. Edmodo, going to get parents involved in our Learning Management System.
  • Continuing Education- This is the year for me to renew my National Board Certification. So, I'll have a social studies class in the mix of science classes. FUN!
  • Growing with iPad use- I'm excited to use my iPads for the 3rd year with students. I am looking for even more ways to learn, create, and share with the devices!
  • Global Read Aloud- I am signed up for this really cool connection, and I am super excited to jump into this!
  • Connections- I loved the conversations that occurred this year in connecting my classes through Skype, Edmodo, and Twitter. Definitely hoping to keep those connections, and I'm looking for 1 or more class to pilot a more permanent connection with. Please see my Help Wanted post.
And, my final goal...
  • I am really going to try to enjoy having my son in class this year! I know that their will be a balance in there and maybe it will be a struggle, but I hope he sees the love of learning, students, and science that I have. This will be a new dimension and relationship for us, and my goal is to relax, enjoy, and savor this time with him.
Do you have your goals? I'd love to hear about them!