Success! A Reflection on my Major Project.

As we come to the end of this semester, and to the end of my major project, I reflect back on how much I have learned (and taught my students) about becoming a responsible digital citizen and how to use this technology to help mold my students into becoming digitally, and scientifically, literate contributing members to society.

This really has been a journey, not a straight pathway, but one full of twists and turns, and many lessons learned:

  1.  This school year started off with me officially continuing as acting VP at school – a role in which I felt more confident and comfortable than the previous year before.  This was a good thing, as I needed some comfort level somewhere in school with the new science curriculum’s officially being released, meaning all teachers of a 20 level course must teach the new curriculum.  Good for me in regards to the two 20 level subject as I have “test ran” them already – but as all teachers know, reflection of past teaching practices comes into play and we ultimately re-vamp (and should every year) our classes in order to achieve a better outcome for our students.  I decided not to touch the 20 level courses with my major project related to this class, instead I turned my focus towards my science 10 class and decided to concentrate on having my students blog their science fair projects.  Good idea at the beginning, as our science fair projects were to be due on December 1 and 2, just in time for this class to end.  Thus began the Evolution of a Major Project, appropriately titled as I now reflect back on the changing withing both myself and students within these last four months as digital natives and immigrants.
  2. The idea of the project was to have students blog their entire written portion and to keep a journal of their science fair projects.  Slowly but Surly we began to create our blogs.  We chose to use Kidblog kidblog as the ELA teacher and myself collaborated and were going to have all students use the same domain within both classes.  We thought that this would be the best way to infuse blogging into our grade 10-12 students in our school.  Although my major project focused solely on the grade 10’s and their science fair projects, the main idea was to get the students use to blogging!  I felt that if I was going to have my grade 10’s blog, I may as well have all classes blog and dive head first into this project.
  3. As with all projects tried for the first time, there always seems to be some snags along the way – this is how learning takes place after all!  Some of the greatest inventions, laws, and theories of the scientific community evolved from mistakes.  For my class, this felt similar to Apollo 13; Houston, We Have a Problem.  Neither I, nor my colleague, realized that we had to pay for Kidblogs, and that we were only signed up for a trial run.  This caused many students to lose their work!  Frustration ensued, and I felt that my students had just given up on blogging as their hard work has now disappeared.  The decision to have students save their work in a word document and then post that to the blog seemed to satisfy all students.
  4. Slow and Steady Wins the Race is true for my class.  I have now successfully had  student blog about their projects.  Realizing that my students needed more direction than just to blog their journal entries, I began giving firm directions as to what I expected to show up in their blogs and how it was to look. Although not all students have yet blogged (and I expected this to happen), those that are blogging are doing a fantastic job!
  5.  Success at last!  Finally I feel that we are Up, Up and Away with blogging.  All of my students have not blogged successfully on time!  This is the upside to my project, on the downside I needed to expand my due dates for science fair as I feel that my students needed more time to work on their projects to achieve the quality of work that I am expecting from them.  I know that the success from this week has come from the directions that I have given my students in regards to blogging.  Clear expectations one week at a time!
  6. Since I have made the decision to expand science fair, I am having my students blog about their car projects as this is a blog that will be done in time for the end of EC&I 832.  In the Forces and Motions unit of grade 10, I have my students explore through inquiry, how to design a car that will move on it’s own – they must also look at acceleration vs. time, position vs. time, average acceleration, speed and instantaneous positioning – all outcomes supported by indicators for the unit.  The students really did well and Started their Engines!  I feel that this project will develop faster than the science fair projects were as students are now more comfortable with blogging and I have been doing more research into how to implement blogging within a science classroom.
  7. Finally:  I Think We May Be at the End of This Project, And Back to the Beginning ensued.  We completed our car race and blogging.  I had decided to ask each group to blog together in one long blog – not to break their blogs up.  My findings with this indicated that the students enjoyed blogging on large blog in which they were able to edit and save a draft instead of feeling like they needed to start a new blog each time they worked on their cars.  I am fine with this at this point in our blogging adventure as I agree with my students, their projects just read better and I was receiving high quality blogs.  I am very happy with my students work – all groups but one blogged (the one that did not had computer issues at home), and almost all of the aspects of the projects were included within the blogs.  My students even learned how to hyperlink, insert media (both pictures and videos), and to edit in a professional manner.

Overall thoughts of this project:

This project has thrust me into the realm of digital citizenship via social media, and realizing the benefits of using social media in the class.  I have implemented blogging into everything!  I recently watched George Couros’s Tedtalk, and really like the idea that all of the students in his division have a wordpress blog as their digital portfolio throughout their school years as a place to collect projects/examples of their work.

This is an excellent way to see how the student has evolved!  I will be implementing this immediately! Needless to say, I will be switching from kidblog to wordpress in the future with my students as I feel that it is a more reliable domain to be using.

I realize that I do have a lot of learning to do in regards to blogging in the science classroom.  I feel that in future years I will look back at these posts and realize how far I have come as an educator, and how far my students have come.I have gained insite into blogging in the science classroom from many resources.  A blog posted on NSTA written by Erica Brownstein and Robert Klein on how to blog in a science classroom guided me into effective blogging using their 8 simple rules, even including a three point rubric as a quick way to assess students blogging. Reading Chris Ludwig’s blog: Blogging in the Science Classroom, the Worksheet is Dead resonated greatly with me: especially the quote he quoted from @mrsebiology in regards to assessment and rigor validation of blogs:

“Rigor is the goal of helping students develop the capacity to understand content that is complex, ambiguous, provocative, and personally or emotionally challenging.”

When you look back at my students car blog projects, you will see that I have asked my students to post their written, calculated work on their blog.  I have even had one group use excel to graph their data rather than using graph paper – this was not an expectation, but a pleasant surprise,  and was not mentioned to my students – but I am pleased  that these students related digital media in all ways and tied it to their blogs. racecarcody

Although I focused on blogging throughout the semester with my students, I felt that my confidence of social media use within the classroom expanded exponentially.  I am proud to say that I have now shared my planbook on my wikispace with my students and parents (I have nothing to hide and feel that teaching the curriculum should be transparent), we are also tweeting as a class @cooperscience1 @cooperscience1

which has been a very good communication tool as the students tweet myself and their peers questions.  I have also used Hootsuite hootsuite in my class as I do not want to see everything that my students are tweeting in their personal lives – kind of a cloak of invisibility so to speak.  When teachers teach in a rural community, they are often thrust into an environment in which they are jack of all trades but masters of none.  I consider myself a jack of all trades working towards mastery of student engagement in curriculum and instruction, inspiring my students through the power of engagement in social media and digital citizenship to become the best, critically thinking, and most engaged students within the curricula they are learning.  How do I plan to accomplish this?  Easy, by allowing the students to use the tools that they are most familiar with, after all, the students we are teaching are digital natives. For my students, blogging their work throughout this semester has positively enhanced their STEM literacy skills, not just scientifically, but digitally as well.

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