Friday, September 13, 2013

Week 3 Review

After three weeks back in school, it's beginning to feel like classes are getting rolling now.  Students are getting used to routines, new technology, and are settling into some more intense learning cycles. What follows is a brief overview of what has been happening in my flipped classes.

In the Biology classes, students have been working through models of food chains, food webs, and energy pyramids.  The next concept they were ready for was the rule of 10% in energy transfer, so instead of just telling them about this, I set up a whole-class simulation in which the students could "become" the trophic levels and calculate energy transfer.

I used some whiteboarding in this activity to do formative assessment of the students' table-creating skills.  The students worked in groups to create a table from the simulation data on their whiteboard.  The students then passed all the whiteboards around the room to compare and evaluate other groups' data tables.  Not only was this a way for me to see what table skills the students were bringing with them into the classroom, but the student groups had some great discussions and I was able to bring in all of the little "details" about tables that I look for when I grade them.

After completing this simulation in class, I assigned the students a video to reinforce the math that supports the 10% rule.  I gave the students 3 days to watch the video outside of class.  Out of approximately 50 students, only 4 didn't watch the video.  I was able to check this on my class Schoology account.  So, to make sure they were ready for our class activities, I tracked them down during their lunch period and asked them to take a "working lunch."  They brought their trays into my room and watched their video while they ate.

Later in the week, students worked in groups to create arctic food webs and determine how changing one organism in the food web could affect many others.  I set up questions on Socrative for some peer instruction work on food chain energy transfer.  This week they started work on their "Food Webs" research projects.  I used gClass Folders to hand out the Google Doc research document I had prepared for all the students.  The students also started their weekly Current Science online discussion.

College Biology started out the year with Ecology topics as well, but since these students have already had Biology as sophomores, they dive right into the topic of biodiversity.  I took the students down to our local river and a water tower area right outside our school to sample biodiversity using hula hoops to make "quadrants."  Students watched a 10-minute video on biodiversity equations as homework and then practiced using the equations in class by calculating biodiversity of various "bean" populations in Petri dishes.  Students read an article about the Spotted Owl controversy and participated in an online discussion regarding protecting habitat for endangered species.  As a hook for learning about exponential and logistic growth, I put together a simulation using Starburst candy that explored different strategies organisms use to deal with their carrying capacity.  Then students watched a population growth video as homework, and they practiced the problems in groups.  I had most of these students in my flipped Biology class last year, and I have had 100% of them watch all of their videos.  This class LOVES Remind 101.  They have told me repeatedly how helpful it is to get reminders for their assignments.  I've sent them a few sillier texts as well, which they always comment on.  The CB students are in the middle of creating "Mystery Biome" videos.  They collaborated on storyboards using Google Docs, and I'll be giving them feedback this weekend using Kaizena (which I'm very excited to reveal to the students).

Finally, I did it!  I am so proud that I was able to figure out how to make Auras for all of the chemistry lab equipment.  Students took the classroom set of iPads around the room and used the augmented reality app, Aurasma, to learn about the equipment.  They were definitely engaged and learning.  The one thing I'm looking forward to doing next year is making Auras with my own students' videos.  This year, I had to use random You Tube videos because I didn't have anything else from which to draw.  So this year I'll be recording videos of the students talking about equipment so that I can add them to the Auras for next year.

The first three weeks of this school year look completely different from the first three weeks of last year.  Because of all the changes I'm making to my classes right now, it's probably analogous to planning three different classes from scratch.  I feel like I'm putting an inordinate amount of time into working on my classes, but most of that time has payed off and is really benefitting student learning.

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