Monday, December 1, 2014

Great Challenges

Thanks to inspiration from the TEDMED Great Challenges, my Anatomy class decided to tackle Making Prevention Possible by encouraging society to take steps to improve their personal wellness.

Over the course of last semester, we talked about digestion and nutrition, exercise physiology, and heart health.  Students then created educational materials to teach others based on what they had learned.

This course is designed as a six weeks challenge to improve your health.  Participants will be given one challenge each week, encouraging them to make lifestyle changes to prevent illness or injury over time.  Students are teaching our subscribers why they need to make these changes in their lifestyle.

You can JOIN NOW
Let us help you develop a healthier lifestyle, one week at a time.

Learn more from this video my class created!

In the spring, we will tackle another Great Challenge, The Impact of Poverty on Health.  We plan to address this problem by helping educate students in developing nations around the world and doing all we can to help the Oceans Project in the Great British Viking Quest.  I can't wait to talk more on this one, as I have multiple teachers involved in a cross curricular project!  More info coming soon!! :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Student Blogs

This year students are creating blogs or portfolios to document their learning.  They are given a challenge that connects our current topic of study to the world around them.  They can choose any challenge they want and can do as many as they want.  Each challenge they take, they blog a reflection and discuss their thoughts on it.  It surprises me how many students choose to do additional challenges, not to improve their grade, but because they are "fun".

Here is a link to our six weeks challenges so far for this year.

Here are a few of my favorite blogs so far:

Ariel's Blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Students Teaching Students

Students have decided on how they want to share their knowledge this year and will be creating two iTunes U courses, Health EDU and Basics of Anatomy.  

The first course, Health EDU, will attempt to educate society on how to improve health habits.  Each week, participants will be given a challenge, such as altering their diet to exclude certain components like soda, HFCS, or artificial sweeteners. Some challenges will be more fitness based, such as try to add 10-15 minutes on your current walk or run, actually start exercising, or try a new type of workout. Other challenges will be focused on mental health and how to reduce stress. Each challenge will include student created educational material (iBooks, tutorial videos, etc.) that help convince the course subscribers and participants of the WHY behind the challenge.

The second course, the Basics of Anatomy, is being developed for the Oceans Project, and really anyone who wants to subscribe and learn about the body.  The Oceans Project foundation is raising money to give iPads to students in developing nations to improve global education.  My students will be creating a course to teach children in these developing nations exactly how their body works. So far, we have the following sections set up:  how things work, the limitations of the body, grossology, and try this at home.  We are still brainstorming ideas of components to add to this course.

With both courses, students are learning how to maintain personal health and then taking that information and sharing it with others to try to improve the overall wellness of our society.

Courses should be up and ready for release sometime in December...

We are still working on the course names and art...suggestions are appreciated! :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Learning Stations

This post is really late!  I think we discussed this in the #scitlap chat one night and I promised to write a post about how I use stations in secondary science.

Since my classroom is blended, students are always learning at their own pace.  There are very few times that everyone is doing the same thing at the same time.  The use of learning stations for labs really increases efficiency and allows the learners to not feel rushed to keep up with their peers.

I typically set up the week like this one, when we learned about the bones.

Link to the actual activity in full text

You can see a few of their final products in our class portfolio.

The following week, we start muscles and do stations for each of the posed questions:

Link to the actual activity in full text

The muscle section is more of a lab style assignment.  For each question posed at a station, they must figure out how to answer it using the materials provided.  Some stations incorporate Pasco probeware or force grips and others have them identifying muscles by determining how physical therapy devices are used.

After they finish both bones and muscles learning stations, they determine which project they want to complete for the six weeks.  The project overall goal is to create informational material to help society as they begin a healthy lifestyle.  Project choices take the knowledge they have gained from the stations above and determine what from that is necessary for the public to know in order to be safe working out, how to avoid injuries, or how to not listen to biased media claims. Some students will choose a project that requires them to develop a lab investigation, while others will choose a more research based project.  There is also the option to design your own project.  Project options can be viewed in my iTunes U course under Exercise Physiology.

As a class, students are currently building their own course in iTunes U to challenge society to make better lifestyle choices regarding health and wellness.  So ultimately, whichever project option they choose, the product they create is to inform and educate our course subscribers.  All learner created products could potentially be published in this course, which will be released later this semester.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ebola Infographics

After 2 days of non-stop questions on Ebola, I decided to stop talking about bones and muscles and instead, focus on the current issues in Dallas.  Texas Presbyterian Hospital is less than 20 minutes away from our school, so our students are very concerned.

We started today by answering these questions as a class:
What is Ebola?
Where did it come from?
How did it get here?

We reviewed the facts that we know and the most current information we had, which actually changed throughout the day as they announced they were moving the nurse to the NIH.

I had the students compare the protocols from the CDC and the WHO and we watched Dr. Sanjay Gupta show us how easy it can be to contaminate when removing PPE.

I then did a basic Q and A and we looked up answers to the questions we did not know or were unsure of.  I hope that I helped clear up a lot of misconceptions and fears during this, a Texas town has not been quarantined, and no there is no such thing as an Ebola zombie.

Next we decided to take the Open IDEO challenge of "How might we rapidly equip and empower the care community to fight Ebola?"  We reviewed some of the posted research and tried to come up with ideas on how we can help.  Our ideas will be posted in the next few days, after we review and edit them.  One of my students (who is super awesome), already posted his idea.  Give him an applaud or comment!

We are doing some initial brainstorming on this Google Moderator to define our ideas before posting to the Open IDEO.  Feel free to add to the moderator, vote for your favorites, or have your kids comment on any posts.   You will need a Google account to comment and please put your location so we know where you are from.

Our next step is to discuss how we can decrease the stress that is occurring in our community.  My suggestion will be to create researched based infographics to help the general public understand the facts regarding Ebola.  I will recommend the use of Canva to create the infographic, but will leave it up to the student on how they want to inform the public.

If you students want to take this challenge with us, we would love to collaborate with you.  I will publish the best of student work into our class portfolio and link it into our iTunes U class to provide a large authentic audience.

Here is the rubric I am working on now -- feel free to give me some feedback on it!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Assessment Challenge

If you have read anything on this blog, you would know that I am not a huge fan of standardized or traditional testing.  I typically like the "show me what you know in any format you choose", but sometimes I just want to know where they all are content wise.

Here is one way I assess student learning:  the "Test"

My test today is 22 questions - multiple choice, free response, and identification of structure and function of the digestive system.  It is set up in Blackboard, our LMS.

The first 15 minutes, students take the test traditional style - by themselves, no notes, no Google.  The purpose of this 15 minutes - for them to test themselves. What do they know?  What do they feel confident about? What are they unsure about?  What do they have no ideas on?

After 15 minutes, the test is open resource - Google, notes, iTunes U, Life on Earth book, and a partner.  This is the cool part --- they analyze every question and discuss why they answered the way they did. They defend why they answered the way they did.  They try to determine which person is more confident in the answer and consult with Google.  Here are some comments I heard today:

"I am confused about the insulin and resistin question, what did you have in your notes on that?"

"Wait, that website you are on is a blog, lets check a more credible site to make sure we are right."

"Oh that makes so much more sense."

What I observed:
Kids were having conversations about science and explaining things to each other. They were 100% focused for the entire 50 minute class period and the test took the entire period.  They were listening to each other and processing information in a way they would never do with a scantron test by themselves.

If they took this test alone the traditional way, they would have been done in 20 minutes, guessing at the ones they didn't know and forgetting about it as soon as they left the room.

I also discovered that they have a misunderstanding of one of the questions and the majority of them will probably miss it - and I know why.  I will toss that question out. Without their conversations, I would have known a lot missed that one, but wouldn't have understood how they interpreted the question differently than I intended.

The questions on the test are not memorization style questions.  They are all application types that really can't be directly Googled. They can Google a lot of information, but if they truly do not comprehend the content, they can't answer the questions.

What are they learning:
Collaboration, proper research skills, and other "working together" type of things.  More importantly, they are learning to really learn and how to problem solve.

The Challenge!
I challenge you to assign one assessment this way and see what you think.  Let me know how it goes. :)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Online Anatomy?

Harvard X started a new course today...AnatomyX.

This course is covering the musculoskeletal system by using a case study approach.  You will have 5 patients to diagnose and treat while learning about muscles and bones.  The course is geared towards the general public and is free--are you curious enough to check it out?

Here is the challenge for my students:
Take the course.
I will use your progress average at the end of the six weeks and count it for our second six weeks assessment, assuming you want to use the grade. They are covering what we are covering, and "they" are Harvard. If you can pass a Harvard course on the muscles and bones, you certainly don't need to take a test in my class! 

Even if you don't like the course or want to continue after you start, you have nothing to lose. Check out online learning from one of the best schools in the country.  

PS, I am taking it too - bonus points for getting a better grade than I do :)

Image from 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Create Your Own Project

Day 1 - What do you want to learn?
Day 2 - What do you want to do with what you learn?
Day 3 - Today...

Today was awesome. Kids have amazing ideas on how to improve our world.  I really wish more educators would let them create their own pathway and learning objectives.  Or maybe I wish more politicians or decision makers would let us determine what is best for our kids in our classrooms.

Today we looked a the project last years students created, Health Without Borders in iTunes U.  We determined the pros and cons of creating an online course in iTunes U.  We discussed designing and creating things that have not been created yet and what the needs of society really are. We tweeted with TEDMED about how we imagine a healthier world.  FOUR students were added to the TEDMED Imagine Mural!!

See the full tagboard of tweets here!
We looked at ways to improve the health of our community and tried to come up with ideas of how we can tie in what we are doing in class to global health issues.  We thought of ways to help kids in developing nations break the cycle of poverty and hunger.

These are a few of the ideas from my classes today in our brainstorming.  We will revisit all the ideas tomorrow and students will decide which project they feel most strongly about and create an implementation plan and timeline.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Science Transformations

This summer I worked with the fabulous Casey Helmick and TASA to create courses in iTunes U for science educators across the nation.

Our purpose:  To create free, transformative teaching resources for science educators.  All content is aligned to our TEKS, or state standards.  I worked on 6th, 7th, and 8th grade science, Anatomy and Physiology, and Principals of Health Science. Last year we created the Biology course, which was updated this summer.

Download the courses to get some new ideas for teaching science this year! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

PBL Planning

Day 2 of design your own syllabus continues...

I started with the question, "Which do you think is more of a global health concern, starvation or obesity?"  They overwhelmingly chose starvation.

Next, we revisited the questions they posed on the first day that revolved around diet and nutrition. They had some pretty awesome questions and things they wanted to learn. These are all student generated questions to the question "What do you want to learn in Anatomy?"

Next, I asked them to come up with some project ideas on one of these topics.  I find it interesting that the majority of their ideas are focused on decreasing the obesity epidemic, while over 70% of them felt starvation was a bigger concern globally.  Do they think starvation is a bigger problem, but obesity is easier to solve?  I have a guest speaker coming in next week, someone who did a TED talk on malnutrition and obesity issues so we will see what information he provides to give them more knowledge on the subject.

Here is our padlet wall of project ideas...

We will revisit these after our guest speaker and start putting ideas together on how we can impact society with our knowledge.  Once we have a few big ideas, we are going to talk to Sarah Weldon of the Oceans Project to hear what she is doing to help improve society on a global level and see if she can inspire and challenge us to think bigger.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Educator Evaluation

Our district has completely redone how educators are evaluated and its quite awesome. I love that it encourages growth for ALL teachers, no matter where they are right now and really aligns with our district vision of transforming education.

One way in which educators in CISD are being evaluated this year has to do with the learning environment.  One domain mentions "displaying learner work", which struck up a lot of conversation this morning at the meeting.  I know that I don't hang kids work on the wall anymore-- and haven't really in a long time.  Most of what my kids create is digital, although we do create models and such occasionally, most is online.

For the last year, I have created an online portfolio for me to share class creations.  My portfolio is used to showcase their work so I can share it on twitter, with their parents, or at professional conferences. While they have their own online portfolio to reflect and share their work through the year, being published in our class portfolio gives them another way to have an authentic audience. I do not always share the best work, I showcase good work, accurate information, creative thinking, innovative ideas, etc. Everyone has a chance of being published.

Giving kids an audience for their work should be something we all strive to do. Authentic audiences = more learner engagement = more learning.

Two more awesome science educators are implementing this idea this year and have just set up their class portfolios as well to be added to this school year.

Angela Barnes --  ESS, Astronomy, and APES Portfolio

Monica Ortigoza -- IB Chemistry and GT Chemistry  

Check out their outstanding work and think about creating your own space to showcase learner creations.  

**We used bulb portfolios due to the ease of use and the ability to create and access from an iPad...and its free. :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

TOY Reflections....

Today I have to get on a stage in front of my entire district and talk ...about myself. Those of you that know me, know that I am horrified at the very thought of this.

When trying to decide what to talk about, all I could think about was how thankful I am for what everyone else does.  So as my speech makes an odd twist away from talking about me to talking about you, know that it was very intentional.  I could have made it a Grammy/Oscar speech and thanked specific people (who are listed below…), but I know that a few I wanted to thank aren't in the district anymore and I didn't want people to actually fall asleep while I was talking. 

Being TOY has given me a lot of attention, which I am not great at receiving.  I am never sure exactly how to respond or I fear that I come off ungrateful, when really its just my introverted personality.  I appreciate everything and could not be more excited to represent Coppell ISD and Region 10.  I am also kind of excited about being on the sidelines of the National Championship game in January too :)

One thing I was not prepared for when receiving TOY was the negative attention I would receive. While many people were complimentary and truly happy for me, others somehow decided I have created more work for them.  What does this mean for me?  Thicker skin?  Developing the ability to let things roll off of me without getting my feelings hurt?  Probably so -- but more so, it motivates me to really try to improve the culture of my school and the attitudes of those I work with.  Acknowledge everyones strengths and be happy for what they contribute - because everyone contributes something.

But last night and this morning, I was reminded by so many people one reason why I love my job. Getting texts, tweets, DM's, and emails from people I haven't talked to in awhile...all with happy thoughts and wishes for me as I get on the stage.  I could not ask for a better community in which to work and teach.  Thank you all so much for supporting me and knowing me so well.

So here is my convocation video.  I wish I could have included all of the videos that were sent to me by students, but I had a time limit. Some had sound issues, others were grainy, and several had just minor technical difficulties in sending them.  All videos will be delivered to the teacher they thanked over the next week.  

Here is the link if the video does not show up.

My Thank You List:

Dr. Turner - How could I have been willing to try new things and challenge the traditional educational system without his support and encouragement?  Knowing your superintendent believes in you is more powerful than anything.  I have so much respect for him and what he is doing to improve education in our state and beyond.

Tabitha Branum - This woman intimidated me more than I knew possible, but with that, she challenged me to step up and try harder. Her encouragement allowed me to present at conferences and speak with confidence.  I admire how amazing she is at leading people and how well spoken she always is.

Laura Springer - What could I possibly say about Springer that everyone doesn't already know?  Her legacy in this community is like nothing I have ever seen.  When I asked kids to speak in this video, almost every last one of them wanted to thank Springer, and so do I.  Her presence in the room makes the room a happier place and I can not tell her enough how her positive attitude inspires me.

Linda Cook - Her work ethic is unmatched.  She finds the best in all people and I truly admire her for that.  She had helped me see the big picture and helped me reflect along this journey.  I cannot imagine anyone better suited for her position of leading and transforming educators.

There are so many more people that I want to thank -- so I stuck with the ones that were here from the beginning (or almost the beginning)...I appreciate each and everyone of you that contribute to making Coppell ISD a transformative school district.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

1st Day Plans

I have had many requests to explain how I set up my classroom to allow students a voice in what they learn, so I thought I would blog through my planning of it to share with those that want to try.

When I start school, I have no plans for the year at all.  I have goals, objectives, and hopes - but no actual day to day plans.  This is what my "lesson plans" look like as I begin this school year.

Here is a link to the actual schedule if you are curious as to how it turns out :) 

I know this would cause some people stress and anxiety - and I am a high anxiety type of person.  Last year I thought I was going to have a panic attack before the first day of school because I was worried it would fail and I would be frantically planning late in the nights and not being prepared for my kids.

The fact that I am doing this again - and sharing - should convince you that it worked.

First day of school -- I do a quick scavenger hunt around the school just as a fun, welcome back kind of activity.  I also sneak in a little digital citizenship :)  Once they return from the scavenger hunt, they have a link on the board to a Google Moderator (please someone find me something that looks prettier for this...) and the question "What do you want to learn in anatomy this year?"  Each student can submit as many ideas, questions, or topics as they would like and they can vote and comment on others ideas.

After school, I will read through the questions and try to organize into some themes or big picture ideas. Last year I was able to come up with six major themes and one "other" category.  I loosely tied their ideas to topics I had previously taught, for example - instead of the digestive system, I changed it to diet and nutrition; instead of skeleton and muscles, I changed it to exercise physiology or sports science.

Day 2 - They will read the questions from all the classes combined.  They will get sticky notes to write down their favorites or new ideas and then sort them around the room on giant posters with my themes written on them.  I will take the poster with the most stickies and probably make that our first unit, so I am starting the year with the topic they are most interested in.  The rest of the posters will be put away and used throughout the year, hopefully one per six weeks.

Day 3 - We will read all the questions on the one topic and sort into Google-able and non Google-able questions.  Do they really need me to answer basic questions? Nope....they have Google for that. They do however need me to help them learn how to Google and how to judge a source for credibility.

Once we have reorganized and possibly reworked some questions, we then will decide what we do with that information.  What is our purpose? How can we solve problems? How can we ask more questions? How can we impact society with our knowledge?  We start each six weeks the same way - with a new poster.

It really wasn't that difficult for me to do this for an entire year.  They, of course, will not ask to learn all of our TEKS...such as kidney filtration or how a neuron works.  This is now my job - to connect their interests into the state mandated curriculum.  This is way more fun than creating a presentation for power-point karaoke.  It didn't give me more work, it just changed the type of work I do.  

Examples of what they wanted to learn and how I incorporated what they didn't want to learn...

They requested to learn about mental disorders -- we learned about it from the perspective of medication and how medication for mental disorders alters what happens to the synapse.  Final product: a 60 second PSA using science to remove the stigma of mental health conditions published to our class portfolio which is linked to our iTunes U course.

They requested to learn about pregnancy and babies -- I found/developed a case study that walked them through pregnancy as if they were new parents and their baby ended up with a kidney condition. Final product:  a class iBook that focused on various aspects of maintaining a healthy pregnancy that is published to the iBook store.

Options - choices - freedom.  That was the theme of the class.  This year I need to focus in on how to manage all groups at different levels and working towards different products.  The small group team meetings worked well, but it takes a lot of organization, which is not my strong area. :)

I hope you accept this challenge to let your kids design your syllabus!! Good luck! Any feedback or suggestions appreciated! 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer PD

I had so many amazing opportunities this summer to hear fantastic speakers from across U.S.  From iDesign Coppell, to the Visioning Conference, all the way to Chicago for the Ed Tech Teacher Summit, I felt the need to share some of the great things I learned.  They all seemed to have the same underlying message - pedagogy and individualized learning.  Here is a list of some of quotes or thoughts (or sort of close to quotes) from my favorite speakers of the summer...

George Couros - Change is an opportunity to do something amazing! I really liked the small group discussion about the importance of blogging.  I have blogged for a couple of years but never been consistent and my blog is breaking all kinds of blogging "rules".  I will get around to fixing those one day.  I also liked his comment, which I have said myself, "If you can google the answer to a question on your test, then your test sucks."  I also enjoyed the lawn service that decided to mow the grass outside the auditorium while he was trying to talk :)

Kevin Honeycutt - Emotion and background alter learning -- know your kids.  I loved his passion for education and the importance of individualized education for all students.  You never know what your kids experienced before they walked in your room.  Treat them all with respect.  I also loved the validation of the feeling of isolation when you are a risk taker.  

Diane Ratvitch - She was awesome!  I love her questioning of WHY.  Why do we still do things the same way?  Why do we let Pearson decide what our kids should know? Who is going to the first educator to finally say enough is enough?  Time to stop talking and start doing.

Yong Zhao - No one ask you to bore a kid.  Are you teaching compliance or creativity?  I especially appreciated that he was such an experienced speaker that his presentation was pretty much just jumping around in his camera roll and winging it. I like the concept of stop looking at where students are deficient or what needs remediating and look at ways to enhance their strengths.

Will Richardson - Change isn't optional.  One of my favorite analogies he mentioned...we don't give our kids the same medicine we took when we were kids.  We don't still use mercury thermometers even though they would still work.  Why is school different? Things change and we need to stop pretending school is an exception to the change rule.  After his keynote, I did want to go up and invite him to my school, because there are a lot of teachers that are doing it right.

Jenny Magiera - Possibly my favorite speaker of the summer because she is an actual teacher in the classroom doing amazing things.  What she has done in the Chicago school system is outstanding.  My favorite from her..."Watching Khan Academy videos is like watching Ben Stein watch paint dry.  Sal Khan doesn't know my kids...I do.  I know how to help them be successful."   Stop telling our kids to put a bubble in their mouth or SHHHHH...give them a voice and an audience.

There were so many more - Wes Fryer on publishing, Carl Hooker and his zombies, and Patrick Larkin who really should train principals across the country if he doesn't already. So appreciative of my district for providing and allowing me to learn so much this summer!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Block and Filter

Today my seven year old got bored. (Summer problems...)  He asked me to air-drop him some pictures of our new puppy Molly so he could make a movie about her.  After about 40 minutes of hearing him laughing, getting frustrated, asking a few questions...this is what he created. Warning...he made it "super creepy" to scare me.

Hand a teacher an iPad and they need app specific training and worry they won't know how to help kids be successful with them.  Hand a 7 year old an iPad and you get "The Molly-Nator".

My observations?
This kid knows what it means to air drop something. He took pictures and edited them in iPhoto and Photobooth.  He also asked me to upload it to YouTube so everyone else could watch it.  He asked if I could tweet it to his awesome kindergarten and 1st grade teachers so they could see his new puppy.

So instead of blocking YouTube from schools or fighting to keep iPads out of kids hands in schools because of the fear of what they may do with them, think about the world we are living in.  Our kids have technology at their fingertips. Their world is different than the one we grew up in. So instead of fighting it, help them learn how to use it responsibly before they leave your somewhat safe environment.

Monday, June 30, 2014

E.O. Wilson's Life on Earth

About a year and a half ago, I stumbled across an iBook that restored my faith in books. E. O. Wilson's Life on Earth is more than just a textbook, its an interactive experience unlike anything I had seen before.  Chapter 17 sold contained an interactive diagram of the heart that explained how blood flows. Seems pretty simple actually, but to take the typical flat diagram of the heart and make it really made the traditional textbook seem beyond outdated.

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation has finished the book that covers all concepts taught in biology.

1.  Its free. Yes, the entire 7 book collection - FREE.  A textbook better than anything currently being published and for no charge.  The bar has been set high for textbook publishers.

2. They are building an iTunes U course in connection with the book - also for free.  This course provides teachers with innovative lesson plans and activities.  This course is encouraging the sharing of student products and incorporates citizen science lessons.  Free, interactive, and contributing...what else could you ask for?

3. The books are in 7 different units that can be downloaded separately.  This will prevent too much space from being used on the iPad -- only download what you need when you need it.

I am so appreciative of the Foundation for all their work on these outstanding resources. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

iBook Author

My culminating project this year for Anatomy was to have my students use iBooks Author to create class books on topics of their choice.  I figured I would need to teach myself how to use iBooks Author in case they had questions so I wrote a short book.  I wasn't planning on publishing it, but it was actually kind of fun so I finished it.  

I shared 7 projects that we did in class this year, the rubrics, and some student examples. You can download iPads in Life Science from iBooks .     

My students created books on topics from how to have a healthy pregnancy to how to not gain the freshman 15 when they go off to college next year.  They had 1-2 editors for the class book and other students were assigned jobs as page writers, illustrators, design and layout, etc.  Based on their reflections after publication, next year if I repeat this project, I will have smaller groups and more clearly defined job roles so the work is more evenly distributed.  

Here are some examples:

Gabby's Book - My Developing Baby
This book covers how babies develop during the three trimesters and how to make sure you have a healthy pregnancy.  They drew all the images in this book on their iPad.

Emma's Book - College 101
This book covers how to stay healthy your first year of college and avoid gaining the "freshman fifteen".

Stacey's book - How To Handle Your Pregnancy
Tips on a healthy pregnancy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Coding in Science

One option for my final project in Anatomy and Physiology was to actually code for this App-E-Feat contest.  I had all students come up with ideas for this contest, but the coding was optional.   I was surprised at how many students chose coding for their project, as there were easier options.   I was actually more surprised by how many of them did not want to submit their final product to the contest because they wanted to continue working on it over the summer to try to develop it themselves. Watching them learn to code was really amazing and I was really impressed with how quickly they learned it.

I have not shared the apps for the students who are still working, as they wanted to keep them private until they are ready - but the ideas are so outstanding!  Others however, were fine to share their apps and enter the contest, so here are a few of their ideas in our class portfolio.

Special thanks to Gail Ross-McBride for sharing this contest!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Redefine Your Classroom

After attending BLC13 last summer, I wrote this post about Design Thinking that explained how I tried to implement what I learned from Alan November and No Tosh.  After allowing my students to design the classroom and curriculum for an entire school year, these are my thoughts...

Ask students what they want to learn and fit your curriculum around their interests.  
Do a survey during the first week of school and find ways to tie into what they actually want to learn in your class.  When we feel our thoughts and interests are respected, we listen and learn more.  Here is what I got when I just said, “What do you want to learn this year in Anatomy and Physiology?"          Google Moderator - Anatomy 2013

      Take what they want to learn and ask how we can impact the community or society?
      What can we do with our knowledge to benefit others?  How can we make our society better?

      Give them choices on how to show their knowledge. 
      Let them be creative and innovative instead of telling them what to do.   When you limit them to one app or one final product, you take away their ability to be creative.  Our world needs more innovate problem solvers, so why not start in school?  Give them a problem to solve, ask them to support their work with knowledge, and let them develop a plan to solve the problem in anyway they see fit.  When you remove the guidelines, they will exceed your expectations.

     Bring in experts more knowledgeable than you.  
     Use community professionals or Skype in the Classroom to find people to help your students learn.  Allow students to collaborate with other students around the world to gain insight and feedback.  See this example from Mental Health in 60 Seconds

      Publish their work in a global setting.  
 Your class can build a course in iTunes U, co-author an iBook using Book Creator or  iBook Author, or create a class YouTube Channel.  Have student teams compete for publication, teach them how to research, and show them fair use of images and information.  See this example of a student run MOOC in iTunes U called Health Without Borders.  This project is completely student designed, student created, and student managed.  Our high school class in Texas is teaching over 33,000 students from around the world.

How can you redefine your classroom?

Mental Health in 60 Seconds

One of the big topics my class wanted to learn this year had to do with mental illness.  Many questions were asked in the interest survey about depression, anxiety, and psychiatric conditions.  While none of these topics are in my course objectives, the actions of neurotransmitters and brain chemistry are.  Here are a couple of their thoughts:

So here is how the project went:

1.    What do you want to learn about Mental Health?  Students performed a gallery walk and anonymously asked questions about the conditions they felt were most common in their age group. 

2.   How can we take what we have learned and impact society?  Students discussed various ways to remove the stigma of mental health conditions in society.  They felt if they could create media and publish it, they could attempt to remove the negative perception of some of these conditions.

3.   How will you create this?  Students were given the opportunity to create their product in anyway they felt would be effective.  We decided on a PSA style approach and called our project Mental Health in 60 Seconds.

4.   I found a licensed psychologist on Skype in the Classroom, Dr. Fu, who will speak to my class via Skype on nationwide trends in mental health.  My students will compose a list of questions they have prior to the Skype call and we will do a basic Q&A with someone more knowledgeable than us.  We are also going to join the TEDMED Google Hangout on Mental Health on May 6!

5.   How will we share what we create?  We are creating an online portfolio of the best projects submitted.  Students will compete for the most creative, scientifically accurate, and impactful PSA to be published to this website.  The website will be linked to our Anatomy iTunes U course, which has an audience of over 113,000 subscribers.  Maybe their work will truly impact someone with one of these conditions.  Maybe their work will provide empathy in society and help remove stigmas associated with mental health.

So what did they learn? They had to research using scientific journals and find current scientific information to support their claims.  They had to understanding how neurotransmitters worked and the structure of the synapse.  They had to understand the various areas of the brain and the functioning of neurons.  While these are my state objectives, they learned much more than this.  They learned guidelines for publishing work online, empathy for others, and how to create a concise, collaborative product with a group.  They also learned how to be culturally sensitive, since our course is international.  They were engaged during the entire process, since in reality, this project was their idea in the first place, not an assignment given by a teacher. 

Check out our portfolio of student created PSA's, Mental Health in 60 Seconds