Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Marshmallows and Hermit Crabs

An exciting and busy first week of school for me.

I've created an elective class that is focused on the engineering design process and computer science.

This week students designed their Google websites which will be used as ePortfolios.  Students will showcase their projects and write reflection pieces regarding their work.  See my website for the class here.

Next students took part in the Marshmallow Challenge to give students a taste of design without a process.  Only one team got their design to actually stand up!  See slideshow from the challenge below.

Today students began the Boomerang Challenge using elements the design thinking process.  Today we focused on Brainstorming.  I gave students the challenge of coming up with 8 quick designs in 6 minutes.  I told students not to worry about getting it perfect, to just go fast and draw what comes to mind.  And the crazier the design, the better.  Sometimes we may not use that design, but it might inspire something else.

Next, teams looked for patterns among all of their team designs.  Then they chose the team design.

Tomorrow they will create their template and begin crafting.

In biology, we've gotten off to a great start.  We are investigating the concept "Is it living?  How do you know."  My intention is for students to devise a "rule" regarding how they know something is alive.  this will lead into our investigation of the cell.

I'm using the writing structure "claim, evidence, and reason" as described in the book Negotiating Science by Brian Hand & Lori Norton-Meier.

Teams started by observing 5 items:  hermit crabs, kelp, turban snails, water, and a rock.  Students pointe to the snail and crabs as being alive.  Their evidence/criteria was that they moved.  This is a limited notion that students have at this age.  I was surprised when I showed students a solar car and many of them concluded that it is alive also because it moves.

One technique I am using is NOT to tell students the correct answer.  Instead, I ask students in the class what they think.  I use popsicle sticks with students name and draw them as random.  I call another student and ask if they agree or disagree with the ideas of the first student.  Notice I said ideas.  We are not talking about right and wrong answers at this point.  This phase of the lesson is a mix of formative assessment and argumentation.  By asking students to comment on other student ideas, they are using higher level skills of analysis and argumentation.  I find a lot more energy in the class now that I use this technique rather than me just telling them yes that's correct, no it's not.

So to get back to the solar car.  The next day, I wrote on the board "if it moves, then it's alive."  I asked students to write whether they thought that was a good rule and why or why not.  I used this for my argumentation and analysis phase that I just described.  With guidance from my questioning, students arrived at the conclusion that a solar car is not alive.  (Phew!)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Maker Camp on Google+

Be sure to check ou the Maker Camp on Google+ for cool ideas for Making in your classroom and at home.  I will be using many of these ideas in my elective class this year.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

MENTOR MakerSpace

On Monday, I was fortunate to spend time "tinkering" with innovative educators at the Exploratorium in SF.  You can read more about it here:

I plan to use these ideas as I create our LVMS MakerSpace which will be home to my Design Thinking elective class.

Yay! I'm presenting a workshop at CUE to the Core 2013!

I'm excited to say my friend, Chris Scott and I have been accepted to present this spring at CUE in Palm Springs.  And not just a session, but an actual workshop!  The workshop will focus on designing the ideal learning environment and reaching the Common Core using a process called Design Thinking.

Participants will work in teams to get the feel of the Design Thinking process.  They will get a taste of each step of the design process.  They will engage with other educators to cement their design decisions.  

Bascially people are going to walk away with tools to use in the classrooms.

So many teachers have learned the apps. Students are blogging, podcasting, and editing videos.  Teachers use the latest free web 2.0 sites, but something is missing. How how do we get students to make meaningful connections and projects using these apps? How do we encourage students to apply their learning to real world challenges?

New technology, new standards, new resources won’t fit into the original classroom model. We need a new approach, a uniquely tailored approach for every school and every classroom. That’s where Design Thinking comes in. Design thinking is a dynamic, creative and collaborative approach to problem solving, it presents a unique model for educators who wish to facilitate from within the class, rather than impart knowledge to it. In this workshop teachers will use design thinking to rethink the culture of learning in their classroom. They will leave this workshop with the tools needed to take this dynamic approach back to your school to encourage problem solving.

The process followed in this workshop is adapted from the Stanford in collaboration with the world renown IDEO design firm (the people who designed the first Apple mouse).

Some of the most innovative schools are using Design Thinking to rethink the learning that takes place within their school, like the Henry Ford Learning Institute, The Nueva School, Stanford


Do We Need Light To See? Part 1

The video workshop Private Universe features a segment on student misconceptions about sight and light.  So I decided to give it a try since my state content standards focus on these concepts.  Here's the approach I took.

In the past, I tried starting lessons with KWL.  But frankly, I saw this as a waste of time.  I decided I had content to share with them so let's get to it.  I figured my students had various amounts of knowledge and questions about the topic.  It didn't matter because I was going to present the content and fill in any gaps they had.

But now I have a different intention for this pre-unit questioning.  It is to discover misconceptions students may have.  So I started this unit by doing a concept map.  I started with the question how does the eye work?  I wrote whatever students told me they thought they knew, even if it was a misconception.  That way, as we progress in the unit, students will be able to revise the concept map and see their learning.

Then I asked students to write down questions they have about how the eye works.  I went through the questions and found many students have the same questions:  Why do we see upside down?  Why does the pupil get bigger in low light and smaller in bright light?  Why do we have different color eyes?  We talked about what makes a question testable or researchable.  We decided (with my prompting) that the first two were testable.  One of the things I realized from these questions is that students do not realize the pupil is a hole which lets light into the eye.

One thing I noticed from the concept map is hardly anyone mentioned that light is needed to see.  I probably would not have noticed that if I hadn't watched Private Universe.  I decided this was the concept that I would target for their learning.

I challenged them by asking them if they thought they could see in the dark.  Initially, some said no and many said yes.  As I questioned further, I found that some that said no revised their response when I questioned them further.  I asked if you are in a completely dark room could you see shadows, shapes, or movement.  Many of the students who initially said no said you, you can see shadows, shapes, and movement.  They also said they'd be able to see these things after their eyes adjusted.

I asked them to write down what they thought they'd see in a completely dark room with no light.  Then I asked them to draw a diagram showing how the eye sees a red apple.  Many were at a loss.  So I prompted them to draw an eye and an apple and to draw arrows showing me how the eye sees.

Just to let you know, at the beginning of the year, we had talked about how we see color.  That some light is absorbed by an object and other light is reflected into their eye which our brain reads as the object's color.  When I saw their drawings, I realized most had not learned this concept.  I was blown away!  Most of the students drew an arrow coming out of the eye.  I questioned them.  They suggested that sight comes out of the eye!  This was the majority of my students.  Including my two honors classes.  And hardly any students drew a light source.

In a future blog post, I will share the activities that I used to challenge these student misconceptions.