Saturday, March 29, 2014

Stop Motion Biology

I've been working on improving the Biotechnology unit for my College Biology students this year, and one of the new topics is gene regulation. While searching for creative ways to help them understand the content I came across this PhET Simulation regarding the Lac operon. I read through some of the supplemental materials that came with the simulation, and saw that one teacher challenged students to imagine how mutations in the various genes in the operons would affect its function. I loved how this idea really stretched their understanding, but wanted a more non-traditional way for students to explain their thinking. Stop-motion video came to mind.

So I began searching for an iPad app that was free and user-friendly that would allow my students to make stop motion videos of the processes in the mutated Lac operon. I also wanted the capability for students to record a verbal explanation of their mutation within the app. After a few minutes of searching online, I found Stop Motion Studio and the project became reality.

Here's the sequence of the project:

Day 1. Students worked through the PhET simulation to learn how the Lac operon functions. I created a set of instructions with limited guidance, directed observations, and analysis questions to guide their learning.

Day 2. This was a shortened class period (only about 25 minutes).  I assigned each group of 2 students a gene to mutate (there are three genes in the PhET Lac operon simulation).  They discussed with each other how their mutation would affect the whole system, and then began choosing props to represent different parts for their video. I tend to hoard items that other people might think are "junk" in my classroom, so I pulled all this junk out of my cupboards and piled it up on the counter in the back of the room.  These are the props they used for their videos.

Days 3-4: Students took the pictures for their videos, edited them, wrote a script, and recorded the audio track. They saved the video to the camera roll and uploaded it to a media folder I set up on the class Schoology account.

Students getting a good perspective to take their photos.

The student in the scarf finished early and then helped other students. She drew the diagram on the board as she was explaining a concept to the students.

Writing the script for the audio track.
Those of you who are constantly changing and editing lessons in your classes to improve student learning and update techniques will understand what I mean when I say that most of my "great ideas" are a flop the first time I try them out.  It usually takes about 2 years of adjustments and tweaks before I get a lesson to the point where I feel it's successful. However, this lesson actually worked the way I envisioned it the very first time! The students were engaged, creative, and thinking deeply. They learned the content, formed their own understanding, and were able to communicate and demonstrate that new understanding.  Success!

Some examples of the final product are below. They might not make sense without an understanding of the Lac operon, but hopefully you'll get the idea and be inspired to have your students make stop motion videos!

1 comment:

  1. For some odd reason, I can't view the videos. Sounds like a really cool project. I want to do more video creation by students - not only do students learn more by creation but you also gain learning materials for future classes.