Monthly Archives: October 2015

Using technology to understand CELLS. Final Project

For the final project for Course 1, I chose our Science unit on the topic of cells. Our Middle School science program is modeled around an inquiry-based approach with an emphasis on having students discover the purpose and relevancy behind the content. We want students to explore the ‘why’ of the standards and how can that knowledge be used to improve current understandings. I see technology as a wonderful vehicle to fueling and promoting the students’ creative thinking and innovative solutions. Also, technology offers students global access and the ability to share their ideas and improve understandings through collaboration. These were the main technology standards I chose to focus on in this unit. How can students use technology to collaborate more effectively and with greater purpose and how can technology be used to foster creativity and deliver ideas in a more meaningful and powerful way?

In order to work towards these technology standards, I chose to focus on the sharing opportunities and collaborative possibilities of Google Drive. Each student created their own project folder as a way to track their progress and receive feedback from me via the ‘comment’ feature. A work in progress in this unit is trying to increase the communication/feedback possibilities between the students, in particular, between students of different classes.

To promote creativity and technology, I placed no barriers on what technology the students could use. I took the position of accepting the fact that students know a lot more about technology than I do and so I gave them a lot of room to explore and choose the best technology option. It was quite the experience to watch the level of knowledge some children had about available technology!

Here is an overview of my unit: Click here for more detailed unit plan

Technology Standards (AISR)

3.8.2 Be able to effectively participate in online learning communities to gather feedback about their own work.

Uses technology tools to effectively communicate.

3.8.1 Be able to use email and online learning communities to share ideas.

1.8.5 Be able to use digital media creation and editing software to create original work.

Big Understanding: 

The world is composed of systems made up of parts which work together as a system

Essential Questions (Understanding goals)

How do different parts of the cell work together as a system?

 How do all systems operate in similar ways?

How can our knowledge of a cell help us understand other systems?

Summative Performance Task:

Students choose any system they want such as how a watch works, a transportation system, a car engine, a prison, a hospital etc..Based on their knowledge about how a cell works as a system, they will use their understandings of a cell as a system in order to improve the functioning of their system or demonstrate how their system works very similar to that of a cell.

Student summative example

It is all about balance.

After this week’s readings and having a chance to think about material which has been shared so far in this course, I wanted to post a reflection about balance and hopefully begin a dialogue about how can we incorporate technology along with our less technologically focused approaches and pedagogies. The idea of balance came to mind when I read the article Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age by Davidson and read the following paragraph, ”

But it got me thinking: What if bad writing is a product of the form of writing required in college—the term paper—and not necessarily intrinsic to a student’s natural writing style or thought process? I hadn’t thought of that until I read my students’ lengthy, weekly blogs and saw the difference in quality. If students are trying to figure out what kind of writing we want in order to get a good grade, communication is secondary. What if “research paper” is a category that invites, even requires, linguistic and syntactic gobbledygook?

Research indicates that, at every age level, people take their writing more seriously when it will be evaluated by peers than when it is to be judged by teachers. Online blogs directed at peers exhibit fewer typographical and factual errors, less plagiarism, and generally better, more elegant and persuasive prose than classroom assignments by the same writers.” 

I think this paragraph very clearly illustrates the issue about balance. It is not about swinging the pendulum from one extreme to another; from a movement away from research writing to blogging. Where is the balance between research papers and blogging? If the author’s research indicates that blogging promotes better peer feedback, then perhaps the question should be how can we use technology to increase the quality and quantity of peer feedback in research writing? Rather than trying to promote blogging and downplaying research writing; modern versus traditional, what about asking how can we fuse the two together? How can we balance research writing skills with blogging skills? How can we use technology to increase peer evaluation in research writing? Are there benefits to research writing that are not found in blogging and vice versa? How can skills in one area enhance and support skills in another?

Another example, is in my own classroom. In math and science class, I am trying to give opportunities to share ideas with each other. We are having students create their own math and science tutorial video, with the goal of archiving them so future students can watch them and learn the content taught by their peers. In this situation, the balance is that using pencil and paper, students have to first plan out what they want to teach in their notebook. After receiving peer feedback, they then take their plan and using pencil and paper, they must storyboard their plan. They must map out how it will look in the video. Once the student has received multiple feedbacks from other students and myself, they can then choose any app such as I-movie and make their video. The pencil paper portion takes equal if not longer to do then the technology part, but both are essential to producing a quality, global reaching learning tool; an essential balance.