Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Engaging with Tech Before Building Our Stream Table

As we finish up our Earth Science unit, I'm so excited to bust out our last engineering project. It involves using a stream table and saving a Lego village! Maybe a bit silly, but I think the 8th graders could totally use this type of challenge in December!

If you don't know what a stream table is...

This one is from a company, and costs close to $300. A little too much for my budget. ;)

So, the kids are helping to change my former Lego table into a stream table...
After adding the pond liner, hoses, and sediment, this table will be ready to go!

To generate excitement and help students develop some prior knowledge, I set up some lessons meant to ENGAGE!

Students submitted plans for the stream table layout last week on paper or by creating drawings in various apps. Here are a couple of favorites...

We jumped into the concept this week with some fun simulations!

Students were able to adjust the slope, vegetation level, and rain intensity to see the amount of soil erosion. They blogged about their findings, and we discussed the implications for our stream table. 

We used an app called Wind Tunnel to look at how particles move.
Students had 10 minute of pure explore time with the app! Phenomenal ideas, really cool observations, and just fun time was had the day before Thanksgiving break starting!

This video shows our explore time work...

Here are some student blog posts. While there isn't much science language in the blog posts, we have definitely started the conversation, peaked interest, and engaged! The science understanding will develop through play (stream table) and revisiting the concept!

All of these activities are leading up to the stream table work that will explore erosion/deposition and engineering principles to prevent soil loss. Students will work in teams to build structures to slow down the process and prevent a Lego community from destruction! And, yes...we will revisit the Wind Tunnel app as we go to check our understanding.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Augmented Reality Walk Content Review

This week started off on Monday with a really exciting activity that I am just so excited to share!

After exploring many earth science topics like tectonic plate movement, seismic-safe building designs, earth features, earth geologic time periods, and fossils, we were ready to stop and catch our breath. Students have been working hard to learn the content and create different projects with their learning like these:


Short Animations


Toontastic Cartoons

And more! Not displayed here are the fantastic booklets and posters that students created in class. Students are exploring the content in so many ways. So, to catch up, review the information that we have been working with, introduce them to the Aurasma app for later use, and just have a fun activity, I decided to use some of their work in an Augmented Reality walk.

So, using their seismic-safe building models, Earth time period posters, earth features booklets, and various other posters and class materials, I built a walk that would take them through images and videos reviewing the content. As students opened the Aurasma app, they visited various "stops" at the lab tables. 

The stations looked like this:

Students were able to explore the content by watching fossils emerge from their time period posters and information from their Earth booklets.

They were able to watch video clips of the San Andreas fault and bioluminescent animation from the maps in the room.

I embedded information about seismic-safe buildings right inside of their models!

Some triggers loaded web clips. Some loaded student animations. And, some were just fun graphics!

It was really fun to watch the students wander along the AR walk, talk about the information, have fun pulling up the overlays, and just enjoy themselves! Their were a couple of glitches with triggers that didn't work perfectly. Also, it became difficult to hear all the videos in my larger classes. So, it wasn't a flawless activity, but definitely engaging! Students commented, "I love this app!" and "This is really cool!"

With so much interest in using the app, where do I go from here? Well, I have a couple plans:

  1. The posters, booklets, and materials that were used for this activity aren't going anywhere! They will be around the room for any down time. Why not embed the learning on the walls all around them? Their work, their memories, their learning! Review for state tests, connections to later content, and just fun reviews are in our future!
  2. Students are already creating their own augmented reality vocabulary cubes. By training just a couple kids, the understanding of the process is easily being shared. This was my example...and now they are on there way!

3. Students tackle this next time! They are completely capable of creating an Augmented Reality walk for me now! Won't that be awesome!

With such cool technology, this earth science review was fun. :)

If you are interested in using Augmented Reality with the Aurasma app, here are a few resources and good to know facts.:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Beauty in the Statement, "I don't know, what do you think?"

It seems like just yesterday when I would pose the question to my 5th graders, "I don't know, what do you think?" Chances are, I would be using that statement as a buffer for myself. Instead of quickly answering a student question, I would throw it right back to the student...just as I learned working with Commander Reed Steele at the Challenger Learning Center. As the Commander said, "You are making it too easy for them. You aren't in the business of giving answers. Your job is to grow THINKERS, PROBLEM SOLVERS." So, it was definitely a shift in my educational practice. Thank you, Commander!

Now, the statement has a whole new meaning! As much as I prepare for my 8th grade science lessons, as much as I research ahead of time, it is an AWESOME but SCARY feeling when my students ask questions. They may be tired of hearing, "I don't know, what do you think?" I genuinely want to know their ideas and thoughts because it propels me to think outside of my prep and research to learn more myself! The entire process it really cool...as we research and learn together, we are growing together as learners. We are trying to connect to our personal lives, find out "why we need to know this", and grow a bit as learners.

Always learning...I love this terrifying feeling. I love the honesty that comes from admitting to my community of learners...I don't know, but I'm so excited that you thought to ask!