How Technology has Changed My Science Classroom

What were your goals for this lesson/project (Standards)?
As teaching often requires delivering and assessing a grocery list of standards, I used formative assessment tools to measure entry level background knowledge and skills and provide coverage for all the standards I teach in the unit "Intro to Chemistry". However, our school is taking steps to identify "power standards" which are 3-5 key standards that teaching teams agree on having higher order application at the end of the learning process. My power standards were:

  • Accurately collect data through the selection and use of tools and techniques appropriate to the investigation. Construct tables, diagrams and graphs, showing relationships between two variables, to display and facilitate analysis of data. Compare and question results with and from other students.
  • Communicate scientific procedures, data, and explanations to enable the replication of results. Use computer technology to assist in communicating these results. Critical review is important in the analysis of these results. Level: Important
  • Use mathematics, reading, writing, and technology in conducting scientific inquiries. Level: Important
  • The total mass of the mixture is equal to the sum of the masses of the components. Total mass is conserved when different substances are mixed. Level: Important
  • All matter consists of particles too small to be seen with the naked eye. The arrangement, motion, and interaction of these particles determine the three states of matter (solid, liquid, and gas). Particles in all three states are in constant motion. In the solid state, tightly packed particles have a limited range of motion. In the liquid state, particles are loosely packed and move past each other. In the gaseous state, particles are free to move. Level: Essential

Having power standards meant more flexibility on how I would use a summative assessment for authentic purposes and not force me to use a traditional test. Although some teachers argue that we must give standardized tests to get kids ready for the rigors of high school and colleges, I think they are usually pretty dry and boring. That being said, they are useful, but as a formative assessment piece. In the case of entry and exit interview, the results don't really count towards a final grades as they are assessments for learning.

What tools did you use? Why did you choose this/these tools for this/these task(s)?
This question will give a dizzying array of actors so I'll break them down for sake of understanding.

Formative Assessment Tools

  1. Infuse Learning-Great on computers or mobile devices for entry and exit interviews. What I like best about infuse learning is that it streams responses in real time and you know whether or not a student has started.
  2. Google Forms-I used these for quizzes about every two weeks. The questions were a bit higher up on blooms taxonomy scale and the responses allowed me to do a number of functions with them afterwards.
  3. Flubaroo-Flubaroo is a script that is compatible with Google form spreadsheet responses that allows quick grading of multiple choice, choose from a list and checkbox responses.
  4. Doctopus-I like doctopus for file sharing and the easy of going back and forth between student work. It also allows me flexibility for grading and assessment.
  5. Autocrat-Autocrat has allowed me to create personalised documents following assessments after having used Google forms. For instance, a form will reduce a students responses through flubaroo to a 6 out of 10. But with autocrat, a document can me made and emailed to the student with correct responses, and their responses for reference.

Publishing and Peer Review
  1. Snapguide-We used this app on the ipad to document and communicate procedures of how this apparatus was made. I have never used snapguide before, but the result was a very sleek product.
  2. Screencastify- This free chrome app extension made it easy to record screen casts which I incorporated into the movie later.
  3. Google Docs-Google Docs is invaluable and the sharing options make it great to check in with student progress. As the higher order thinking was structured around command terms such as "Analyze" "Prove" "Interpret" and "Apply Concepts", open ended responses were the best way for students to show their learning of these concepts.
  4. Google Spreadsheets-Like Docs above, I like the collaborative nature of sharing and spreadsheets. I actually use spreadsheets more than docs in the science classroom as we are constantly doing data collection and analysis.
  5. Wordpress-Wordpress is our blogging platform and hence publishing tool. After students had finished on their Google Doc, they can publish their work for some of our partner classrooms around the world and elicit feedback. 
  6. Skype-I've had a few experts talk to my class this year, but I am lucky to know the head of a major water treatment plant as he was the father of one of my students years ago. This is where it pays to get to know your parents and the knowledge that they can share with your class is so awesome.
  7. I Movie-What I used to make the finished product. It was hard getting the time down to 11 minutes.

How did the students react? Include actual samples of student reflection (video, images, etc)
What I enjoy most about teaching is that it's such a multi-faceted profession. We're not only teachers, but we're statisticians, counselors, mediators, actors, performers and scientists. I closely follow the debates about education reform and think a lot about the future of education with assessment models that are being imposed on schools. 

I love that students struggled to share ideas and hone their communication skills. I tried to capture this "struggle" in some of the movie clips above, but I think overall, the students were very engaged and had a lot of fun.

Evidence of learning? Remember to include student evidence like video, images, reflections.
The summative piece was on a google doc that I used with a scoring rubric. I'll put a link to a student example here as well. The grade 6 math teacher (Zachary Post) and I collaborated to include samples of graphing and analysis which is a current theme in grade 6 math, so we thought it was a great opportunity for integration.

The formative pieces were more frequent and assessment tools such as forms and infuse learning made assessment quick and easy. 

A Word on Standardised Assessments
The irony of teaching is that we should differentiate our teaching and standardise our assessments. I think one cannot standardize things such as collaboration, creativity, and personal qualities such as self reflection and learning from failure. Many companies are increasingly wanting such skills from their new hires, but standardized testing does little to engender these. I think that standardized testing does have a place, but I relegate it to formative assessments and ensuring that students have the necessary skills and knowledge for later application. After all, if we're going to ask that they learn something, shouldn't we teach them why they should be learning this?

Outcome? Did you meet your goals?
Looking at the spreadsheet and responses of the students, about 90% of the students had excellent support within their final reflection. There were a few students who didn't, but this was due to quickly glossing over the questions and not giving them ample support. As a middle school teacher, I try not to be too much of a hard liner on grading and gave some of the students that struggled in the final reflection to turn in their best work. After all, isn't our job to teach children, regardless of how long it takes them to learn?

What would you do differently next time? What did you learn?
The use of snapguide was a godsend, but my timing of it could have been a bit better. For instance one designated "tech ninja" documented the procedure early on, but over multiple trials, groups amended their design and altered it slightly which was different than the documented procedure during the initial construction. The reason I did this was to free up the group for data analysis and graphing later, but as I saw the designs change, I knew their original construction procedure was obsolete

On the making of this movie, I learned that I had a lot to learn in the way of movie editing; especially sound equalization. On some of the interviews in the hallways, some of the background noise (white noise) was odd and I struggled with the audio editing. This was my 6th movie I made on I Movie and need to get better at audio enhancements.

What was your greatest learning from COETAIL?
I think that technology is seen as an obstacle for many people and that new trends can inundate educators to feel like they are behind the times, so why learn? What I learned most is that quickly learning new skills can be a huge benefit to classroom instruction, especially data collection and analysis. Freeing up time to assess such lower level tasks has given me more time to read about student learning that does matter. The funny thing is, despite all that I've learned, all these new skills have grounded me in keeping with fundamental practice of good teaching pedagogy but select tools that redefine learning in ways that are seamlesss. Such tools like Skype, Apple Products, Google Apps and Wordpress have brought my students interests and voice to the world. Although they are only sixth graders, I think they have a role in shaping their view of the world and empower them to think like scientists. By giving them real challenges to solve, we inspire them to think that they can be one.


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