Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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Now this is just down right cool! Mashable is reporting that in a few hours from now on 1/11/11 Google will be announcing the first ever global science fair. So many possibilities and I can only image what students will submit. The fair is open to 13 – 18 year olds from around the world and the prizes range from scholarships to work opportunities (as reported by Mashable).

The Google Science Fair Site is now live. You can view it here and sign up your class or school here. What a great was to start 2nd Semester at any school. Great timing on Google’s part as a teacher could give extra credit to those student who submit an entry, or even make this a part of their own school wide science fair. 

As usual Google as a nice little video to go with the launch. 

I just spent a bit of time going through the site and it looks really cool. There’s no reason why a school district or school couldn’t easily copy this format for future use as well. 

I’ll be following this over the next semester and hopefully will get some kids at my own school interested enough to submit an entry.

Sometimes there are teachers you just need to celebrate…..and that is this blog post (and the next).

This week is only two days old but I’m already excited at what teachers who are finishing our COETAIL course are producing. The final course has them implementing everything we’ve learned in the four classes before into units or lessons within their content area. It also calls for us, the instructors, (Kim, Dennis, and I) to observer a lesson where they implement everything they’ve learned and using this rubric have a discussion with them about what we observed in their lesson and room.

The last two days have been even more special in the fact that I was able to observer a 3rd grade classroom and an IB High Level English class (11th grade). I wish everyone had the opportunity to see the whole spectrum of learning as I do.

Monday I sat in a 3rd grade classroom and watched, talked to, and just smiled in amazement of what happens when we let students be creative with their own learning. I’ve talked about Mike Jessee’s classroom many times on this blog (here and here). In my opinion, he’s an amazing teacher that gets inquiry learning at a level that I myself struggle with. I’ve never witnessed a teacher that has been able to freely give control over to students like Mike does. I think his most favorite phrase is, “I don’t know…what do you think?”

His lesson on Monday was not the original lesson that his project outlines called for. No, the project called for students to create VoiceThreads, or to keep working on the VoiceThreads they stared in earlier science units. There was only one problem…when Mr. Jessee told the students they were working on VoiceThread the student’s energy disappeared. Wait a minute…they didn’t want to use this cool tool? Why not?

“It allows me to be creative”

“I can show what I learned and create my slides the way I want to”

“I created a VoiceThread, but it didn’t allow me to show what I know so I wanted to make a Notebook file that allowed me to show what I know…but I linked it to my VoiceThread…see…watch”

Yes…those are direct quotes from 3rd grade students on Monday as I watched them work on their SmartBoard Notebook files.

You see….when Mike saw the energy disappear from the kids eyes when he mentioned VoiceThread he asked them what they would rather do….without hesitation they asked if they could use Notebook instead. The students wanted to create their knowledge not just talk about it.

Here is where Mr. Jessee went wrong. He allowed the kids to create Notebook files for their Student-Led Conferences (Here’s one page from each student). Students had the creative bug and they wanted to be creative…they had the freedom to create slides of who they were as learners and now they wanted to create slides of who there were as scientists.

Mr. Jessee gave students the choice of creating a VoiceThread or a Notebook file. All but one student created a Notebook file. The one student (quoted above) is a verbal student…he can explain his learning better verbally then he can through writing. The problem is the one picture in VoiceThread didn’t allow him to “show” his creativity so he created a Notebook file as well….and with a little help from Mr. Jessee he was able to link it to his VoiceThread.

Mr. Jessee listened to his students and didn’t realize until they spoke up that he was actually standing in their way of being creative.

On Monday I saw what the students were creating. They’ll be posted soon on the class blog, and what they have created is so individual, so amazing, so 3rd grade that I was literally in awe.

I watched students check their spelling using the built in dictionary app on their MacBooks. I saw students literally draw….on the screen….a crayfish. I saw another student choose a background that was blue and green because, “It’s like their habitat”.

There’s only one problem with the project….the kids don’t want to stop! They have one more day to finish and they don’t want to stop creating their learning…in a way that represents them.

This is what we’re talking about….allowing students to be creative, getting out of their way, listening to them, and just allowing them to create their own learning and show us what they have learned through that creation.

The data that Mr. Jessee will be able to get out of these personally created masterpieces is more than any test would have told him. Misconceptions, big moments, and knowledge….and recorded individually and posted for the world to see (soon).

This is it….this is technology being used in amazing and authentic ways in allowing students to create and show their knowledge. This is why every student should have access to a laptop when they need it to learn…even in 3rd grade….we need to give student access to these amazing creative tools and then get out of their way and watch them create masterpieces!

As our first Certificate of Educational Technology and Information Literacy program (COETAIL) draws to a close here at ISB educators are starting to put the finishing touches on their projects for the 5th and final course. They’ve been working all semester on putting into practice what we’ve been learning about the first 4 courses. They have been paired with a mentor (Kim, Dennis, and I) to help them create a unit or lesson to use in their classroom. We then schedule a time to go in and observer them using this rubric that the three of us created (worth checking out) based on the enduring understanding of all of the courses.

Some of these projects have just blown me away. Take this Multi Cultural Games Wiki created by two of our PE teachers who have taken the course Andy and Kerry (check out their blogs to see how they’re using cell phones in PE Class as well). Students are outlining, filming and sharing cultural games from around the world….and Andy and Kerry invite your students to do the same and add to the wiki. They do a fantastic job of outlining for other educators the idea behind the wiki and how to get started in this youtube video.

These are two PE teachers to follow and pass on to your own PE Department. Andy next year will be moving into the Athletic Directors role and with me moving to the High School next year, we’re already talking about ways to use technology even more to enhance our physical education program.

Next up is a very tech savvy 1st Grade teacher who is finding ways to use the technology in his room to help teach a life cycles unit in science. Vu was one of the first teachers I connected with moving here to ISB a year ago and he continues to find ways to use technology with his 1st graders. Using technology in the early primary grades is where I struggle most in my own understanding. Vu’s been a great resource for me to go to, bounce ideas off of, and someone who is willing to explore crazy ideas on new uses of technology in the classroom. He’s created a blog for their life cycles unit here, and has found ways to take some amazing pictures with the document camera and digital microscope in his class. His students are now all working on VoiceThreads and should have those posted soon. He’s currently looking to connect with other classes around the world on this project. You can find the details here, and if you’d like to be a part of this or know a primary teacher who might be interested please contact him. Check out this Cotton Stainer rolling over…1st graders love this stuff!

I’ll be sharing more projects in the coming weeks as these “students” finish up their projects.

The COETAIL program has been a huge success at our school with about 50 teachers completing the 5 course 15 graduate credit certificate program. We’ve already started the next cohort which has 20 teachers signed up. The model that we’ve created here is starting to spread as well. Taipei American School will be starting their first cohort next fall and Kim and I are working with SUNY and EARCOS to find away to try and offer the program online (more info coming soon!).

In the end this program is changing the pedagogy at our school in small but noticeable ways. 50 teachers with a deeper understanding of both the technology and the pedagogy behind it are now looking for new and innovative ways to use these tools in their classroom.

As we continue to set up and learn about blogging in the 5th grade we’re finding ways to both teach skills and tie blogging to the content in which the students are learning.

Idea: Can we move the students’ science journals online?

http://blogs.isb.ac.th/wins/files/2009/09/dscn0009.jpgThe Set Up:
Two classes of 5th Graders. Mr. Armitage’s Class and Ms. Hellyer’s class took time this week to post data from a recent science experiment on their blogs.

Skills:

  • Write a blog post
  • Take a picture, transfer it to a computer, upload it to the blog, insert into blog post

Task:
Each student will now look at the data from a student in the other classroom. As a group (the same groups that they did their own experiments in) they will discuss what they notice about the data, compare it to the data they got, and then give advice via comments to the students on what they should do next or what they might want to retest.

Skill:

  • Leaving good comments (explain your thinking clearly to others)
  • Understanding variables within the experiment and be able to explain/give advice on what the scientist should do next using scientific language
  • Read Data from another scientist

If you have a look at the data from the students you’ll notice that they have given very little details on what the data is about. This is done on purpose as we want the commenter to have to interpret what the data is saying and give advice based on the data shown (all students have done the same experiment and have that background knowledge to work from).

But as an outside class, or commenter you could also help by just having a look at the data and telling us what you notice or observe. What does the graph tell you? What do you notice about the data collected?

This is just our first in what we hope to be many socialized scientific experiments this year. This is our first attempt at moving the student’s science notebooks online where they can be linked, commented, displayed, and reflected on throughout the year and years to come.

Today I found out just what a vacation will do to you. I spent 4 hours helping some 34 9th graders start new blogs, and I no longer have a voice.

We’ve run wordpressmu were we have over 600 4th-12th grade students blogging (School of 2900ish K-12). Students only set up blogs once a teacher contacts one of the educational integrators and they decide that the blog is the best avenue for learning.

Today’s meeting was sparked by a science teacher who has been looking for a way to start e-portfolios with his 9th grade science students. We’ve been talking for the past couple of weeks as the teacher and I work out just what he wants the program to do and I add my two cents about what the program can do and at the same time push the teacher to think even deeper about what this blog, and his blog, can offer his students.

The classes were each 80 minutes long…plenty of time to setup a blog, write a short blog post, learn about posts vs. pages, walk through how to manage comments, change themes, update options, change password, and have a discussion on the use of the blog.

I always find it interesting when teachers come to me and are amazed when I tell them we can accomplish all this in a 80 minute class. But these kids…this generation….they just get it…and I love it!

My first question lately has been “How many of you have a Facebook page?”

Of course everyone raises their hand and looks at me like “dah!”

I then continue to compare their new blog to their Facebook page. Explaining things like “Blog posting are like your wall in Facebook, the latest comment is always on top and the rest get pushed down the line.”

They get that, it’s there language

I compare sidebar widgets to all the apps you can add to your Facebook page. Where you can drag and drop them and have some control over the layout of your page….not total control…but some.

The kids of course just go with it. My favorite part is signing them up for their blog. You sign up, get the e-mail, click the link, get the password, log in.

What do I say? “You guys know how this works let me know when you’re finished.”

And off they go setting up their blogs….it got me thinking today that there are not many things standard on the web today, but the process of signing up for most of these online sites…is the same…the whole verifying e-mail thingy…they know it.

After I was done today the teacher (who was in the room the whole time following along and setting up and making changes to his own blog…and for teachers…hearing the same thing three times is just about right šŸ˜‰  ) and I talked about what was next and how he felt taking it to the next level. We even started talking about other ways he could use the blog other than as a portfolio and showcase for student work.

We talked about having the students find a science video on YouTube or TeacherTube, embedding it in their blog and then writing a reflection on whether or not they followed the scientific process. Why would you do this? Because it engages students! Our students all watch YouTube, so lets watch it with a purpose, and learn something, analyze something, and reflect on the over all video.

We then talked about the teacher embedding a video and having an assignment where the student left comments on his blog discussing some aspect of the video depending on the assignment.

This is the reason why I love blogs, they open up a whole world of opportunities. At a basic level they are easy to manage websites (which is OK). On a higher level they can allow students to create, reflect, analyze, and publish work and content from their classes.

I love blogging software…not only for the sake of blogging but for its ease of use…I think that’s the revolution, that’s the catch, and today we added more student blogs to the blogosphere!

[tags]science, 21st Century Learning[/tags]

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