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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I Think We May Be At the End of This Project….And Back to the Beginning

This week I have been continuing to focus on asking my students to complete specific topics for their science fair projects.  I am finding that I am conflicted with the idea of demanding that my students all be at the same place within their projects at the same time.  From the years of experience that I have with science fairs, and my experience with Canada Wide Science Fair, I am continually reminded that students work at a different pace from one another.  Originally, I just wanted to have students blog about what they were doing up to date on their projects.  I then began to feel that my students were not blogging simply because they had not started their projects yet (their choice, not mine) therefore they had nothing to write about.  I could only keep asking for resources so much before I realized that this was not allowing students to work on their project and that the project soon began to feel like a blog and not a science fair; good for me…but not for them.  I have always pushed my students to explore open inquiry within their projects, but slowly started feeling that I was pulling that back a bit.

I found an article from Steven Spangler that explained how to blog science fair projects, although this blog was written by a very young student, it was the content of the blog itself in which I began to look more closely at.  I have now just asked my students to blog one “final blog” and edit it on a regular basis.  As stated before, these projects have now been pushed back to January and would not be completed until after this class.  IMG_0856JPG

Therefore, I have re-started my major project, sort of, by just having my students blog one project – the race car project.  The testing of my students cars were completed last week and students had until Friday to submit their final projects to me.  I have all but one blog submitted on time – and these students handed in a paper copy because their blog wasn’t working well!  Woohoo, it is actually  better than handing in a “traditional” paper.  I have not marked my students on their abilities of blogging for this project as they were not told that they would be, but have commented on their blogs about what I was excited to see and what I would have liked to have seen which would have enhanced their blog just that much more (picture on the side is the beginning of one of the cars).  Last week, I posted a link to a student’s blog that was in progress.  This week I am sharing the completed blog – it is really amazing, check it out!  I have learned a lot from this project, I have learned that students really do well with blogging as it allows for a creative environment to show their work and one in which they can research easily as they are already connected to the internet, also blogging has allowed my students to think outside of the box and to be okay with creating their own projects with their own “look”.

Start Your Engines

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Photo Credit: Raphaël Belly Photography via Compfight cc

I have expanded the due date on my students science fair projects – they were just needing more time to complete at the level in which I expect from my students, this means that my students will finish their blogs after this project is due – which isn’t idea, but I will make it work.  I have expanded my quest of blogging to all of my classes because I have begun to feel very comfortable with this process throughout the semester.  This is a good thing because I can see myself using blogs from here on out, and collecting less paper!  I have asked all students to create one blog instead of multiple blog posts for major projects (science fair, SDS, etc…) – although students could just hyperlink their blogs, the students felt comfortable with editing one long blog post and I am fine with this.  My students have stated that one long blog post feels more like handing in their scientific papers, the feeling I had with this discussion is that the students do not like their work (especially because it is one large project) chopped up into smaller pieces.  I wonder if they felt that their work did not have a flow if it was hyper-linked?  This is something that I will need to explore further with the students.

In order to accommodate and have a completed blog post  before the end of this class, I have asked my student to blog their race car project and to have this blog emulate what their science fair projects would look like (I asked Josi and Kelsey for their permission first before I posted the link).  I have also asked my students to begin using Twitter – one more social media way to discover digital citizenship within our class, follow us @cooperscience1.  I have explained to the students that they will need to post videos of their projects to Twitter and hyperlink them into their blogs.  We have had a lot of fun with Twitter this week and I am happy to report that all of my students are on Twitter now (I actually decided to go with Twitter and get rid of Remind). Students have been posting thoughts and links to informative sites regarding the topics we are currently covering in class.  I have given each class it’s own # therefore making it easier for us to only look at our posts when we are discussing what we have been posting.

I have taken advice from several websites and blogs from teachers whom have implemented blogs into a science class before.  I found the site Top 50 Science Teacher Blogs to be very helpful in regards to blogging in general.  The article 4 Powerful Ways to Implement Blogging in the Classroom (Daily Genius, April 23, 2015) gave links to examples of students blogging labs and group projects.

Up, up and away!!!!

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Blogging with my students has been very successful this week.  Almost all of my students have entered a blog and ON TIME!  Woohoo!  I really feel that we are well on our way to successful projects being created.  I have expanded my timeline for science fair, unfortunately this means that science fair will not have happened until after this class ends.

I feel that the success of this week has been from the comments of my classmates as to creating leading questions for the students to answer.  This week, I required all of my students to list their materials and write up their hypothesis in proper scientifically literate expectations.  This was done very well!  I have also dedicated 20 minutes each week to blogging aside from class time to work on their projects.  I think in the start of the semester, I just expected my students to blog on their own, but have realized that they were just as intimidated about the blogging process as I was at the start of this course.  Now that we are all becoming more comfortable with this process, blogging is becoming easier.

I will be asking all students to write up their procedures in their blogs for the next post.    I have also decided to use Carly’s blog as an example for my students to follow – especially for those still a bit intimidated.  Even for those students whom have been very successful with blogging, I will just ask them to keep adding onto their original blog instead of creating a new post, just to see what happens.  I would rather have one long running blog for this project than many short ones.  The idea with this is to create one blog per student per projects, so at the end of their high school experience with me they will be able to go back to their blogs and see all projects (big and small) that they have created.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race…

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By Moise Nicu (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Well, I am finding that the old tale of the Tortoise and Hare is well in play with our class blogging.

Some students have really jumped  into this project, while it is taking others quite a while to get going.

As of now, everyone has blogged at least one time.  I am wondering if the struggle with this project is that my students work on their projects independently or when I am out  of the classroom and have a substitute teacher in (its really hard for me to get a sub who is comfortable teaching science, so I tend to leave this project for the days I am out of the class)?  In the past, students have had verbal conversations with me regarding their science fair projects, I am finding this is how students are still interacting.  I am noticing more verbal and less blogging taking place.  This is where my struggle is, the verbal is immediate feedback, where as the blogging is not.  Sometimes it is best to have verbal in order to keep the “flame ignited” immediately within their projects.  On the other hand, blogging is written down – this allows students to come back to their posts and my comments to re-read what I have written to them.  This is a good thing!  If they forget or get mixed up in what I say to them, they can simply re-visit their blog post to confirm or deny what they recall me saying to them.

I have taken advice from my classmates and colleagues and have asked the students to blog their hypothesis, in detail, by last Monday.  Only three blogs were posted.  I think where the students and I are struggling with this is the lack of time to blog in class.  I am going to dedicate a minimum of half an hour per week just to blogging.  The students are always given time to work on science fair each week and this may be what is hindering the progress.  Reflecting on this has been a good thing for my pedagogy – re-thinking and re-vamping the way I teach, and learning from my colleagues and classmates is always a good thing.  I have viewed videos about engaging students in blogging.  The Extraordinary Teaching Project really, really excited me – honestly I wish I would have seen it sooner as I feel it may have been a better major project.  In fact, I think I will employ this in my health science 20 and physical science 20 classes this week!

In other news, I have reached out my social media “feelers” in my other classes.   All of my students in all classes are now blogging, not just the science 10 class that I am focusing on for my major project.  Last week I had my health science 20 class create social media “Did you Know” bits for their patients.  This worked out very well as I had some using a fakebook, while others used a piktochart and others chose to blog!  The confidence I have in myself to introduce social media and the comfort level that I have has grown ten fold!  Not only am I growing as a student and educator, my students are growing as responsible digital citizens.

 

Houston, We Have a Problem…

Well, to say that my class blogging is going well would be an understatement!  Everything started out very well, in fact better than expected!  Until my students began to lose their blogs, poof!  Vanishing into thin air!  What was happening?  This was puzzling and upsetting for our students.

I am working alongside another teacher in our school whom is trying to blog with her students as well.  I decided that it would be best to use the same blog site that she had decided on just to make it easier on our students.  She and I began to notice that our students were losing their blogs, but not too sure why.  So, we began to ask our students to save their blogs into a word document first before hitting the “publish” button – you know, just in case everything was wiped away.  So, this project has hit a tiny bump in the road….  The intent of blogging was to make connecting with my students on their projects easier, a single step process, but not it has become a multi-step process and actually no different than having them type up a word document each week and e-mail it to myself.

Until, the solution to the problem was found!

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By Arlindi1999 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, neither the other teacher nor I, realized that we had only signed up for a trial period on kidblogs – we were both under the impression that it was a free site, similar to wordpress, for school usage.  NOPE!  Once,our trial periods were over (without warning), our students work began to vanish as did our comments to their posts.  Once we both paid for our subscriptions our students blogs began to stay published.  Unfortunately, some posts are gone and will not be found again.  A little bit frustrating, and in retrospect, I am glad that this happened near the start of the blogging process (only one month in), rather than near the end.

Slowly but Surely….

Well, I have been having some success with my students blog posts, but only have about half of the class blogging on a regular basis.  I do allow for a lot of time for my students to work on their science fair projects and to blog about them, but not all of the students are doing this.  What I have found is that my top students are blogging and inserting links to resources, I even have some inserting videos successfully!!!!  Yay!!!!  What has surprised me though, is that two of my students whom have DNP’s or IAP’s are actually very good at blogging.  I am unsure if this is because they feel comfortable with the platform of having a computer to help them get their thoughts down and they do not have to worry so much about their spelling (thank goodness for little red lines 🙂 ).  Or that they find it easy to copy and paste a link into their blog to help them get their ideas through to me in a more articulate way than they are able to on their own?

What I am now going to try to do is to implement some of what we are having to do in this course into my own class.  I have put a due date of every Monday at midnight to have at least one more blog post done, with at least one more resource added to their growing lists. My hope for this is that the blogging process is not too overwhelming for my students.

I have now also asked students to reach specific Milestones throughout the course.  For example, I want all students to have their Hypothesis’ chosen and written into a blog post by the end of next week.  This way I feel that I will be able to monitor the quality of the projects that they are producing.  Since this is not the first science fair that my students are participating in, and that I have had quite a few students in the past few years attend Canada Wide Science Fair, my expectations are quite large.  My students are aware the I expect high rigor with this.

I have also added two more classes to my blog and am now having my grade 11’s blog their SDS projects.  Why not jump in with both feet?  Let the learning begin!

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