Saturday, January 30, 2016

Science Literacy: Building Understanding by Blogging

Before I begin...

Some science teachers use science notebooks. That's cool. My students use notebooks in our science learning, and I feel that there is such value in pencil to paper that should be recognized. Much of my personal science and education brainstorming and note taking occurs within a paper notebook. I also love using sketch notes with my iPad. So, a blend is considered appropriate in my mind.




I also know that each student thrives with different methods presented to them. So, in my 8th grade class, I try to give students multiple ways to record and share ideas. One method that I feel is powerful and helps support science literacy is blogging. Each of my 120+ students have their own science blog. They used their school google accounts and www.blogspot.com to design a blog.  We used the Blogger app on the iPad for creating our posts. 

I piloted this method when I taught fifth grade a couple years ago. Since those beginning blogs, I've tested a couple of different apps that have more options. We always seem to come back to Blogger. It's easy to use with a short learning curve, but it is somewhat limited. Students can only add text and images within the app. They are able to get more detailed in a browser based mode.

My daughter and I recently checked out her blog from 5th grade. She's now in 7th grade, and it was cute seeing her posts from "way back then". Her 5th grade blog has 26 post. Most of her sharing was in the form of quick picture shares or short cycle projects. There isn't a ton of depth, but for a first year blogger...not bad! (Secretly, I can't wait for next year when we pick the blogging back up!)

This is one of my favorite posts by Jay.
She even had a comment by Mr. TJ Houston!



The eighth grade bloggers have been working this year to share their science understanding through blogs. This links to their work:





Some thoughts and samples:
  • I know that not every student works perfectly in the blogging environment. Some students will look at this as another writing assignment, but I hope to use the blog process to mix up the way we share science. Many times my students create Keynote presentation and share their learning orally to the whole class. Sometimes, we do a quick think, pair, and share. We also build books, create movies, and conduct demonstrations. I think blogging adds an alternative to these methods for sharing science thinking and work. We are sharing with a larger audience.

  • In our use of blogging, we build up to more developed blog posts over time. First and second quarter posts are somewhat structured and guided through teacher prompts and guiding questions. These posts are designed to direct students to reflect upon the science topic, event, or project. Also, some posts are strictly for sharing a short cycle project, like a word cloud or sketch done in relation to the science. By the third quarter, students are given less prompts and structure. We take small steps to get comfortable.

Sample beginning posts:

Prompt given: What does science look like to you?





Prompt given: Share the Marshmallow Challenge. Tell the purpose of the challenge, how you tackled the challenge, and your results.





Prompt given: After reviewing the Old Woman Creek website, create a sketch note of some of the important science vocabulary and ideas.





Prompt given: Share how you anticipate your seismic safe building will perform during the shake table tests. Be sure to explain the "why" in your answer.





Prompt given: As your are watching the video about planet formation (for the second time), create a sketch and blog post of what the terms 'accretion' and 'differentiation' mean. Share an 'I Wonder' statement in your post.





Prompt given: Share your teams investigation. Be sure to begin with what you were exploring, how you designed your test, what variable were controlled and which was manipulated, how data was collected, your results, how the results could have been skewed or impacted by outside factors, your conclusions, and how your could extend the investigation.
Students were given a check list for this investigation share!




As we continue into the second and third quarter, students will be given less of a checklist within the rubric for the blog posts. 



  • Also, communication between peers through blogging steadily increases throughout the year. The first couple quarters, students share on their blog posts mainly for me. I show them where the blogs are linked, but we don't spend any time dedicated to reading and commenting peer to peer. Only at the beginning of the third quarter do I bring in peer review. I ask the students to begin by commenting on 5 different students blogs. They can be any posts completed in the year. They are directed to give them a positive comment, an area in which they can make their post or science thinking even better, and how the author's post connects to them. Before I let them loose and show them how to get into this, I model for the students. They see my comments start showing up on their blogs. The comments will continue to get more detailed and science based as the year continues. Also, parents will be asked to jump on to comment soon. :)

Sample peer comments:

"I really love the pictures with the information. I also like how you organized your information. "

"I love how your picture looks real and how you showed the distance they were dropping the eggs. You also showed what they were doing and told everyone what they were doing too. you describe the materials and everything else very well."

"That's a really good picture Sophia. I really like ow the colors pop and how the picture explains accretion and differentiation. I think for both, but mostly the differentiation you could've labeled a few things. I can relate to this because when I cook I can see the differentiation between the oils and water."

"I found this post very enjoyable to read Sophia! I loved how you included how you had fun during the experiment. Especially since I was on your group! You made it very fun. I feel that you could improve on your explanations of what we did and how we did them. I can relate to this because I loved the first quarter also and had so much fun with you on the trip to OWC!"

"I really like your investigation, and how you dealt, and solved the problems you guys came across when you tried to test it. I also think that your extension on your investigation is a good idea, since you only used a small ramp for your first time, this way you could get more results, and you'll have more insight on how the RC car is affected."







  • Not every post is graded. With 120+ students, I don't have the time for that. Many times I will rotate the classes for my review of the blogs.
  • This is a window into my students' thinking for me. Some posts give me indicators of understanding AND misunderstanding. The conversations that develop from reading the blog posts are powerful!
  • We use blogging when blogging makes sense. Just like every other strategy, over use can become counter productive. 
  • Science conversation is important! The more we can encourage dialogue about questions, learned information, and investigations, the more comfortable students will become in this mode. Hopefully, the process of writing about science in a blogging format can help strengthen student interest, commitment to question, and participate in the science around them.


I'm sure I could keep going on and sharing more of my students' blogs. I think they do a nice job sharing their science understanding, and I'm proud of them!

I'm hoping this gives some insight into why I choose to use blogging in the science room. If you have some ideas, comments, or questions, please share!









Science Literacy...Some Thoughts I Have On The Subject

Everyone loves a list, right? Myself included, we love lists. Give me 10 ways to better my love life. Or, 10 moves to get rock hard abs. In the education world, give me 10 apps to load to my iPad to raise my test scores. I'm totally over that. 

Anyways...
I was thinking about science literacy. This is on my mind mainly for three reasons: I teach science, I'm 23 days away from the amazing Neil deGrasse Tyson lecture, and mainly the recent, ridiculous proposition on Twitter by a popular rapper that the Earth is flat. All these things float in my mind, and I've been reflecting on how my journey with students to develop science literacy is progressing.

I've always believed that memorizing facts in respect to science is fundamentally unsound. We definitely need to have some basic understandings nailed, but the goal to memorize a bunch of stuff doesn't make sense. Science, like many areas, is always changing, expanding, and improving with great people's minds reflecting and questioning. A fact today could be adjusted tomorrow. That's exciting to me! I love that we don't know everything! The journey through life becomes an adventure.

So, these are my thoughts on what supports the development of scientifically literate members of society...

Wait! A list?
Yes, because everyone loves lists!




1.  Write/blog in science.
2.  Draw/Sketchnote in science.
3.  Work in the world of student designed science inquiry.
4.  Think out loud in science, and SCIENCE out loud in class.
5.  Mix up the materials used and the spaces that science is conducted.
6.  Science current events need to be the driving resource.
7.  Get students looking for Science in the Pics!


I'm going to break these ideas into separate blog posts. I think each of these practices/ideas deserve individual posts. I will share my observations, my thoughts, my resources, and questions. By writing and sharing, I hope to jump start conversation on how other science teachers are addressing the area of science literacy. If you feel inclined to share, awesome. If you just want to read and think, that's cool too. In my world, I write to think. 😀



Friday, January 8, 2016

Becoming a DroneHead Pilot in @lacrossescience in a few easy steps!

Having a class drone...what an opportunity! But, exactly what are we doing with this thing?l
Here is a short list...

  • Tracking the environment of our local estuaries- We are exploring how the weather and rainfall are affecting our favorite estuary, Old Woman Creek. Our drone buddy, Jon Jarc helped us capture some beautiful early fall footage. Now, we are ready for some winter(ish) views of the estuary!
  • Exploring physics principles from above- Students are going to capture various forces and motion investigations from above. Grabbing overhead footage of objects in collision may be the ticket to helping some of my students understand the concepts that we are exploring.
  • Conducting some investigations- Speed and acceleration, baby! That's the ticket!

I'm sure that we have plenty more coming...but, this is what's on my mind right now.

So, do I have to be the only pilot? Oh NO WAY! My students are working towards joining the ranks of Drone Head Pilot status for our class. Here are the steps that they are completing:


First, watch a short video about drone safety with Jeff Dunham and Bubba J. 





Then, hop onto the FAA site for some safety regulations!


Next, take a written test. Don't worry...you can work with your partner! (Click on the link to see the questions.)




After you have passed the written test, get ready to PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
Your hands-on test is right around the corner. So, learn how to start up, land, practice speeding up and slowing down, and more.


The students that are embarking on this journey have a wicked cool license waiting for them.




Woo hoo!