Mar
31
2009

Math Science Partnerships

Hello from Chicago!  I’m in the Windy City this week at a US Department of Education Regional Conference focused on the Math-Science Partnership (MSP) Grants that come from USDOE to each state education agency as Title-IIb grants.  The language on ed.gov reads:

“This program is designed to improve the content knowledge of teachers and the performance of students in the areas of mathematics and science by encouraging states, Institutions of Higher Education (IHE), Local Education Agencies (LEA), and elementary and secondary schools to participate in programs that:

Improve and upgrade the status and stature of mathematics and science teaching by encouraging IHEs to improve mathematics and science teacher education;

  • Improve and upgrade the status and stature of mathematics and science teaching by encouraging IHEs to improve mathematics and science teacher education;
  • Focus on the education of mathematics and science teachers as a career-long process;
  • Bring mathematics and science teachers together with scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to improve their teaching skills; and
  • Provide summer institutes and ongoing professional development for teachers to improve their knowledge and teaching skills.

The Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) program is intended to increase the academic achievement of students in mathematics and science by enhancing the content knowledge and teaching skills of classroom teachers. Partnerships between high-need school districts and the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty in institutions of higher education are at the core of these improvement efforts. Other partners may include state education agencies, public charter schools or other public schools, businesses, and nonprofit or for-profit organizations concerned with mathematics and science education.”

Some states award grants for three years, others award them year by year.  I’m in a state that awards yearly and this is the 5th grant I’ve directed or co-directed over the past 6 years (sometimes it’s good to be a high-need school district).  This summer our project is focused on middle school math and science and our higher ed partner is the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering and their engineering researchers. Two previous projects focused on elementary science in partnership with the OU research scientists and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and the other two awards were a partnership with St. Gregory’s University  and focused on the use of Lesson Study to improve teacher content knowledge and curriculum development.

I bring this up because now is the time when you should be looking for partners and kicking around ideas about ways you can increase teacher effectiveness and student achievement.  The average MSP grant serves 44 teachers a year, brings about 120 hours of inservice to them in the span of one year, and utilizes about $240,000.  The data on subsequent student achievement is just now coming in, but it looks like the programs are performing as advertised.  Do you work in a high need LEA?  down-houseIf you don’t, do you have one in your area who might take the lead role in a partnership?  Know someone in the department of science (or math) in a local college or university who might be interested in improving the local teacher quality and thus the abilities of their incoming freshmen students?  This is just one of many funding streams that will enable us to meet the challenge of the  job we’ve been called to do. To borrow from Red Green, I’m pullin’ for ya, we’re all in this together.

Bob

Written by bobmelton in: Workshops | Tags:
Mar
31
2009

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and Biology Eduation?

Kevin L. Lindauer

Kevin L. Lindauer

I want the world to know I work hard to teach my students the principles of biology.  Moreover, I want the world to reinforce the necessity of continued professional development and collaboration among teaching professionals.

Does being national board certified actually make you a better biology teacher?  That is something each individual must answer for themselves.

I am in the middle of renewing my National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS.org) certification as a teacher of biology.  So, my answer is, apparently, ”yes.”  But what IS the value of reflection in teaching?  Should we really take time to self-evaluate?

In my case, I have never given up the good fight of pursuing excellence like Dr. Richard Kimble’s pursuit of the “One Armed Man.”  The strange part is, like the fugitive himself, I often feel like I am the one being pursued.  Educational stakeholders–our students, parents, and communities–have every right to demand excellence in education.

But are they the ones pursuing me?  No.  Typically, they are the ones supporting our efforts to educate America’s youth.

Those in pursuit are those who fail to understand the actual rigor to which professionals hold THEMSELVES.  If we want to regain the respect professional educators once held, we must make it obvious that we DO monitor ourselves, that we DO pursue difficult tasks because they are good for all, and that we DO intend our students to make positive progress in a complicated world.  This is why I am renewing my National Board Certification.

Make no mistake…this is a difficult, reflective process.  The process forces me to look inward at how I really spend my energy, and outward at the results attained.  It WILL make me a better teacher.

Because biology education is more critical than ever in a world moving ever faster, can we rely on professionals to self-reflect and improve on their own?  Outside of rigorous processes like the NBPTS, we are the ones who encourage each other to improve, and the NABT is our rally point.

How do we involve more professionals in the NABT?

This is the question that we need to answer….

Mar
30
2009

Word Cloud 101

Here is a really fast, really easy, really handy web tool.

Wordle.net is a web application that can be used in any class for lots of student interest generation. The application is really simple–> go to the web site–Wordle.net, select “Create”  type or paste a text selection.  I tend to copy and paste text that I am trying to highlight or call attention to (notice the Word Cloud in this posting.) picture-11 Then hit “Go” and Wordle creates a Word Cloud of the words you pasted-in or typed in.  You can customize the look of the Word Cloud, or you can have Wordle create a random look. You are almost finished now.  If you like what you (or Wordle,) has created then you can post it in Wordle’s Gallery, or you can capture the image that is created.  I tend to capture the Word Cloud and save it as a jpg image on my desktop. Once I save the Word cloud I can paste it anywhere I want to. Now here is where this discussion becomes interesting…..

What can you do with a Word Cloud?

Think about it.

  • Give a reading assignment and when your students come in the next day hand out a Word Cloud of the section’s intro.  Or create one with the key terms from the reading.
  • Create a Word Cloud of the key concepts from a new unit as an introduction.
  • How about using a Word Cloud as a unit review?
  • Create a Word Cloud as a preview of what your students will see on an upcoming field trip.
  • Assign students to create a Word Cloud that represents a laboratory they just completed.
  • Or …………….  Let us know what you can think of.  Add a comment with your great ideas for using  Word Clouds in your classes.

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Mar
30
2009

Loon Season

OK, the title is as close to Biology as I can get this post but it’s that time of year when so many state legislatures are in session and rational thought seems the cease within the halls of elected government. Why should teachers be concerned about what goes on in their legislature?  Ask our colleagues in Kansas, Ohio, Florida, New Mexico and Texas.  All of these states (and this list is by no means exclusive) make the news from time to time due to efforts from so called values-centered politicians to censor or distort Evolution education.  The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) does a wonderful job of keeping biologists and biology educators informed about such efforts.  If you aren’t on their list-serve you need to join or at least check their website regularly.

But our interest in legislation should not be limited to efforts to suppress Evolution education.  Every education decision is a political decision and this is true whether you teach in or are a patron of public, private or home school.  All facets of the education enterprise are controlled and allowed through the political process.

So… What is loon season bringing to your state?  How’s this to start the discussion? In Oklahoma, a measure is successfully making it’s way through the legislature that would make all public school districts Charter School Districts.  That’s right, no state curriculum standards, no class size limitations, no due process rights for teachers, no teacher tenure, no teacher degree or certification standards…  Let me state up front that I have nothing against Charter Schools and their role within the framework of a larger public school system.  Nor do I have anything against a parent’s right to choose private or home school education down-housefor their child. But how do you think the Evolution battles are going to go when each of the 500 local public school boards in Oklahoma become the sole determiner of what will and what will not be taught in biology?  

Not that I wish any other state ill, but please, somebody tell me there is a worse piece of state education legislation being debated this year.

Bob

Written by bobmelton in: Biology Teaching |
Mar
30
2009

Web 2.0 Tools: Animoto

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In my posts on this BioBlog, I will talk about various web 2.0 tools that I hope you all might use with your students.  The tools that interest me the most are the ones that encourage a participatory culture – that is, tools that, when used, just might get the students further engaged with the biology and motivated to dig deeper.

So, here’s a first one to try:  Animoto.  I selected this one mostly because it is so darned easy to use and the results are pretty fun to watch. Nothing to download, no complex interface to master. You just upload your photos, choose some appropriate music, and the site mixes your assets into a high-production-value video clip that looks a lot like a movie trailer. The resulting video can be emailed to people, posted on your web site, or downloaded to your computer for use in other settings.  It’s an easy way to get a professional quality “short” to use on your site, in a blog, or to dress up a PPT presentation.  Students could use the tool to create projects of their own and embed them on your course web site or wiki. This is mostly for fun and engagement (other, more flexible and extendable tools will come later).

The service for short (30-second) animotos, is free.  You just sign up, upload your pictures, pick a song and away you go.  I assembled this Darwin Animoto in about five minutes (using Flickr Creative Commons images).  If you want to build a longer animoto (with more pictures and a downloadable high resolution version), there is a small fee.  But the 30-second free versions work well too.   Give it a whirl and tell me what you think.

robin

Mar
29
2009

So How Does a Virtual School work?

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This is a question I get quite often. I’ll introduce my school and its clientele, and then get into more specifics of how I teach science, virtually. I teach at the Lawrence Virtual School, in Lawrence, Kansas. Our school is a public, state-wide, k-12 virtual school, that is part of the Lawrence School District (we take state assessments; have inservices, staff meetings, and collaboration; and are subject to AYP goals). Our high school program consists of grades 9-12 and we cap enrollment at approximately 100 students. We are a college-prep school, and all of our students follow the Kansas Board of Regents curriculum.

Our student population is very diverse. A few are traditionally home-schooled students, but most are not. Each student comes to us for a unique reason. Students must be a resident of the state of Kansas to enroll with us. We have students from across the state, and not all of our students currently live in the state. We have children of military families, who are stationed elsewhere. We have children of university professors who are doing work in another state, or sometimes another country for a while. We have a couple students who are actresses, one in LA and one in New York, and one who is a junior-pro tennis player. We even have a student who started his own successful, full-time lawn care business, complete with employees, and the Virtual School is how he completes his high school diploma while running his company. Many students come to us simply because they can get the education or services from us that their own local school district did not or could not provide.

We teach our courses online, mostly through a curriculum provider (much like text-book providers), and we also have courses that are created by our teachers and taught on Blackboard. We do have deadlines for students to meet with assignments, but we also provide some flexibility within the larger schedule. Students do not need to complete their work or be online at a certain point in time each day. They simply need to make sure they meet their due dates. The teachers also have our own online “classrooms”. These are online meeting rooms, where students can log-in at a predetermined time (this is recommended, but not required). We can see who is there by their log-in name, and the students have icons and emoticons that can demonstrate “body language”. We have mic capabilities much like a walkie-talkie, along with a chat section. We have what is basically a SMART Board there also, where we can upload documents, presentations, take students on a web tour of a particular site for discussion, or write and illustrate ideas like a regular classroom white board. We can also record the session and make the link available to our classes for future reference, and for those who could not attend at the time, to observe the discussion.

Being a virtual teacher is surprisingly similar to what I did as a regular classroom teacher. The main difference, of course, is that I don’t literally see my students. I do talk with them regularly on the phone, and e-mail with them very often, which at times I find to be more personal than many of the interactions I had in my traditional classroom.   I address the class in class-wide e-mails, which are all copied to their parents. I meet in my “classroom” every Tuesday afternoon to discuss the topics of the week, and hold office hours. I spend most of my time answering questions through e-mail and talking on the phone or in my virtual classroom. As a virtual teacher, and as students in a virtual school, the biggest key to success is good communication. Students must be proactive when they need something and they must learn how to ask specific questions in order to get a prompt, accurate response.

My students work through what I consider to be a very good curriculum for their courses. They all get boxes of lab equipment at the beginning of the school year, which contains small, one-time-use amounts of chemicals, soils, rock samples, along with the microscope slides, glassware and plastic materials. My biology class even gets a microscope sent to them. The only lab items not included are basic house-hold or grocery store items such as a 2-liter bottle or bean seeds to germinate. Most of our labs are well-designed, and ask high-level questions that require synthesis, application and evaluation skills. Our inquiry labs, however, need to be improved. Luckily, our curriculum provider is well aware of this, and they have been working on creating a more authentic inquiry-type experience. One nice thing about a virtual curriculum~ it can be changed in a matter of weeks, and no one needs to wait for new editions to be purchased!

The biggest drawback of this type of education for the science classroom is, of course, the lack of collaborative experiences. Some students do get together and conduct labs together in person, but at this time, this is a hurdle we are trying to figure out how to get over. The solution will probably involve webcams, but we are still working out the details since our students are currently not provided with webcams.

One question I am often asked is, “do you think virtual education will replace classroom teachers?” My opinion is: absolutely not. But I do think this has such a great potential for teaching and learning, that I think it will become a more integral part of “regular” teaching positions~ it already is at the university level. I do think that the opportunities for what can be offered to students is so great, and the quality is improving so fast and the flexibility is so great, that I think many schools will be offering more online components to their traditional course offerings. And as a result, I think more classroom teachers will have some facet of their jobs in the virtual world.

So, in my experience, virtual education is really very similar to a regular classroom, with a few twists thrown in. Virtual education is changing literally all the time. My job today is very different from what it was when I started at the Virtual School a few years ago~ but my job description is the same! And I will say that, in my opinion, the quality of virtual teaching and learning has improved exponentially over the last few years. As with all quality instruction, this is not a job where you figure most things out the first year, and then tweak the lesson plans each year. Every year things change quite a bit, but that is what makes it fun and interesting, and exciting to be part of.

Written by Kylee Sharp in: Biology Teaching |
Mar
29
2009

Kylee Sharp Intro

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Hello! I am Kylee Sharp, and I have been in public education for 9 years. I have my Bachelors and Masters Degrees from the University of Kansas, and I teach at the Lawrence Virtual School, in Lawrence, Kansas. Our school is a public, state-wide, K-12 virtual school that is part of the Lawrence School District. Our high school program consists of grades 9-12 and we cap enrollment at approximately 100 students. We are a college-prep school, and all of our students follow the Kansas Board of Regents curriculum. In addition to my full-time job at the Virtual School, I also work with the University of Kansas at the Center for Science Education, in their UKan Teach program.

My husband and I are both high school biology teachers, and we have a 6 year-old son and a 3 ½ year-old daughter. We spend weekends birding, hiking, botanizing, catching critters at our local wetlands, and generally being outside and enjoying nature. I also enjoy running, bicycling, vegetable gardening, camping, traveling, and my newest adventure: beekeeping.

Written by Kylee Sharp in: Workshops |
Mar
29
2009

Kim Foglia — Introductions

Kim Foglia and her students at the American Museum of Natural History

Kim Foglia and her students at the American Museum of Natural History

It’s been a long strange trip!

Right now, most people know me as a biology educator and one of the handful of mentors on the College Board’s AP Biology listserve. I teach AP Biology and Regents (NYS 10the grade) Biology at Division Avenue High School in Levittown (America’s 1st suburb!), Long Island, New York. I have actually taught biology at many levels over the course of 25 years. I used to teach Introductory Biology at Cornell and also served as the laboratory coordinator for the Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers. I developed CIBT’s popular Lending Library Program in which biology teachers can borrow equipment kits to perform biotech labs in their classrooms.

I am the publisher of the ExploreBiology.com Web site, offering biology teaching and learning resources. I am also the author of the Instructors Guide for the AP Biology edition of the popular Raven & Johnson textbook from McGrawHill.

But it’s been an eclectic path along the way and I’ve tried on many hats. In the 80s, I was a baker running a natural foods bakery outside of Ithaca, NY. In the 90s, I worked for CNN and CNNfn helping launch their news Web sites. In the early 2000s, I launched my own dot-com company developing Web sites for large enterprises. I also returned to the family farm for a while and helped run our flowering perennials nursery.  But I’ve always come back to teaching. That is the only endeavor that left me satisfied and excited on a daily basis.

Kim Foglia & her mother out birdwatching

Kim Foglia & her mother out birdwatching

And I bring this eclectic life into the classroom. I have never approached teaching as all you need to do is walk into a classroom and lecture, then walk out again. I believe a classroom is a setting for exploration and learning, so my classroom is always filled with ongoing projects, lots of plants, interesting critters, intriguing oddities, models, and the occasional out of place tshatshke just to keep the students wondering. My biggest pet peeve about science teaching is approaching biology as a second language — making it an exercise in vocabulary memorization — rather than an approach to questioning how the world works and on the flipside an understanding of interwoven concepts explaining how the world works. And ultimately, I believe if it’s fun to do, it’s easy to learn.

My life is measured in seasons. My interests extend to gardening, birdwatching, hiking, camping, mountain biking, snowboarding, kayaking, and sailing.  Life is rounded out with two growing children, 2 dogs, 2 snakes, a turtle, a bearded dragon, a degu and waaaay too many mice.

Written by kfoglia in: Introductions | Tags:
Mar
28
2009

Passionate for teaching Biology

moore2Hi!  My name is John Moore.  Brad has asked that I provide some background about myself and provide some discussion for our blog site.  I am excited to help stimulate discussion for the benefit of developing better biology education.

I have been teaching science (biology) for 36+ years. After graduating from college I began teaching in Indiana on the Junior High level where I taught for ten years.  I loved working with those students, their minds were so eager to learn and they were so excited about most things I taught.  I then moved to high school where I taught for another ten years.  While at the high school I taught all levels and types of classes for the advanced students (microbiology, physiology and AP biology).  I also taught courses for those students who were disengaged in the education process.  I have now been teaching for the last 16 years on the university level including the science methods courses.  I am now beginning to develop an education centre for my university in Cuenca Ecuador.  I plan to live there this year in August to help develop the centre.

My ares of interest in biology also changed over the years.  When I first attended college I was an animal biologist and ecologist.  I loved studying the outdoors.  As I went back for my masters, I was seen as weak in plant biology, so my masters in biology had a plant emphasis.  Well when finally going back for my terminal degree in biology, my advising committee felt it was time for the cellular molecular world.  Now I am working in the area of the philosophy of science education.  I wonder where I will be in the next ten years?

Well after all these years in education, I have seen many debates about science education and the varied approaches to teaching it such as: learning styles, inquiry based, cooperative learning, constructivist approach to name a few.  One thing has remained constant over these years, in spite of the varied approaches; science is still perceived as a hard academic discipline.  So many of the students I now get in the university talk about how they were affected positively or negatively in science education by their high school biology teacher. It is always good to hear the good stories about the teachers in high school, especially after spending my first 20 years there.  However, in my non-major class, I often hear the sad stories of their science experiences.  One of the comments that I heard about a few years ago from a student in a biology class was.  “Biology, oh that is a field of study based on memorization of boring facts that have little relevance to my life.  People who are almost always right, never unsure of them, relatively emotionless, and often arrogant, practice it.  They are not at all like me.”

How many of you have heard students with the same opinion of biology, science and scientists.  How do we help teachers move from teaching just content and information? How can we help teachers find ways that excite students in such a way  so they can fulfill what they think the science standards are asking of them and begin to address the real biology?   So if you were asked the question, what is biological science, how would you respond?  I hope that these questions can provide a form of discussion on this blog that will help all of us to be better biology teachers.

Written by John Moore in: Introductions |
Mar
28
2009

Kirk Brown Intro

kbrown2Hi, My name is Kirk Brown and I have been a teacher for 22 years at Tracy High School in Tracy California.  Since 1987 I have been teaching Higher Level International Baccalaureate Biology.  Over the years, I have had the opportunity to teach so many outstanding students.  I have taught long enough to have students graduate from some of the most prestigious universities in the world, become physicians, professors,teachers, lawyers, bankers, you name it, they have done it.  Teaching is certainly a profession that has given so much to me.  I’m sure you all agree, the success stories of our profession, makes all of the long hours, meetings, and work well worth it.  Tracy High has about 25% of our students go to a 4 year college directly.  One out of five are on free and reduced lunch.  The diverse population of students and their equally diverse ability levels certainly make for a challenging bunch to teach.  Since 1996, I have worked very closely with Bio-Rad labs in helping to develop the Biotechnology Explorer program.  I help with their professional development and have a well developed business partnership with my local school district.  Since 2000, I have been teaching a Biotechnology course the hour before normal school begins.  Forty four brave souls come at seven in the morning.  I also teach a Biotechnology course for San Joaquin Delta College.

In today’s uncertain economic times, with all of the concern on energy and the environment, it is so very important that teachers stay connected to current developments in the field.  Students respond to the connections that we make as teachers.  This blog site will give us an on-going forum to connect and communicate.  To share the years and years of experience that we have accumulated and to help give that information to the next generation of teachers.  It is my pleasure to be part of this Bioblog.  I look forward to hearing from everyone.

Written by kbrown in: Introductions |
Mar
28
2009

Bob Melton Intro

down-houseHello!  I’m Bob Melton and I currently work as Science Curriculum Facilitator for Putnam City Schools in Oklahoma City.  School district boundary’s in Oklahoma are often unconnected from those of the municipalities they serve so to give you geographical perspective, we serve 19,000 children who live in the Northwest quadrant of Oklahoma City.  I have been working in public education for 34 years and have been in this job for 14 of them.  A lot of the job of being curriculum facilitator (or coordinator) concerns developing the intended curriculum and helping teachers, especially our many new ones, to bring that design to fruition.  I was a part of the development of the Oklahoma Priority Academic Student Skills and the student assessments that are aligned to them.  I’m a Teacher/Consultant with the Oklahoma Writing Project, direct the Oklahoma Science Olympiad, and serve on the boards of  Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education, The Oklahoma Science Teachers Association, and the Coalition for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education in Oklahoma.

I am very excited to be a part of this NABT BioBlog.  We recently transformed the tired old quarterly newsletter of our state science teachers association to a blog.  Although the focus of that effort is different from this, it’s a lot of fun to maintain.

Outside of my professional interests, I enjoy fly-fishing, organic vegetable gardening, hiking, geo-caching, bicycling, and mountain-biking (although my wife says I need to stop the later because “You always come back hurt”.  She is, of course,  most often correct. Still, it’s the code of blood, sweat and gears.)  I am also active in Boy Scouting currently serving as Chairman of our local Council’s Venturing District. My wife, Fern, is a Speech Pathologist and our son is a graduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

Written by bobmelton in: Introductions | Tags:
Mar
27
2009

Spring Comes To Northern Ohio

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It’s official–Spring has arrived to Northern Ohio!!  Well, actually, it is official that Spring has arrived all over the Northern Hemisphere. We don’t usually think about Spring in other parts of the world, or Fall for that matter. Not until we start traveling to other places that is. My best friend (is that “bff” ?) teaches biology and other sciences in Melbourne, Victoria. That is in Australia and that is in the Southern Hemisphere. He just saw the arrival of Autumn and he is extra happy this year. You see, the past summer brought incredible extremes to southern Australia. You may have heard about the terrible fires that “broke-out” just outside of Melbourne this past month. I put quotes around “broke-out” because arson is suspected. But Mother Nature created the conditions that led to this disaster. You see, I have been following the weather in Melbourne for the past 5 years or so. Ever since I traveled to Trinity Grammar School one year and the University of Melbourne the next to teach teacher workshops on genetics and evolution. The Australian state of Victoria has had a drought for the past 7 years. About a month ago I noticed that there was a 90 degree F difference in the temperatures of Concord, Ohio and Melbourne, Australia. It was 14 degrees here in Ohio and 104 degrees in Melbourne. Later that same month it got up to 114 – 116 degrees F with strong winds. It was very dry and the conditions for a fire disaster were perfect. That’s when the fires “broke-out.” Over 230 people perished. Two educational aids at my friend’s son’s school are included in this total. Here is a link for a short video about how the fires impacted one of Australia’s most beautiful parks–Wilson’s Promontory.

Why did I bring this up? Well, for a number of reasons.

I am currently teaching a series of environmental classes to a group of 3rd through 8th grade students that are enrolled in an after school program for identified gifted students. Our first session was designed to help them understand what we mean by “the environment.” We looked at their place in the world. Almost like “Cosmic Zoom” or “Powers of 10″. We traveled from where they stood out past the edge of the solar system. Of course this was virtual travel utilizing the power of Google Earth. Then we zoomed back in. As we settled back to Earth I started to discuss the environmental boundaries we were passing. Continents and biomes and then watersheds. It was the watershed concept that I was really after. Our local environment is on a 250-acre plot of beautifully forested land owned by the county Metro Parks. The Environmental Learning Center is lucky enough to have two different watersheds (or at least parts of them,) within its borders. We eventually would be studying both Jordan Creek and Big Creek (a wonderful Steelhead stream and a part of the Lake Erie watershed.) I wanted the students to understand “Where In the World They Were.”

–So my Australian observation connects to “Where In the World Are We?” If you are here in Northern Ohio, it is now springtime. If you are in Melbourne, it is autumn. In fact it is 9:23 Monday morning (I am typing this at 6:23 pm Sunday evening.) The students are closer to the beginning of their school year, Ohio students are starting to look for the end of the year (some Ohio students actually start thinking about the end of the school year in October, but that is another problem ;)

Second, I think that we all need to think about the impact our abiotic environment has on us and on the biota around us. The conditions for disaster in Melbourne were set in motion by the high air temps, the low humidity and the high winds (not to mention the years of drought that preceded the fires.) The beginning of spring in Northern Ohio brings about lots of new plants, lots of returning birds and lots of moving amphibians, reptiles, fish, and insects.precision-is-important1

That’s what this entry is all about–the changing face of our environment, wherever it is. We visit Jordan Creek; we monitor the physical and chemical parameters of the Creek We survey what is living in and along the creek. All of this helps us to determine the nature of our environment. It is all a part of “Where In the World We Are!” We need to remember the “big pictures” as we investigate the details of the world around us.  Too often we get bogged down in the details of what we are trying to teach and lose the “bigger picture.”  Sometimes we need to “zoom” out and look from above.  We talk about systems throughout our classes–molecular systems, cellular systems, body systems, ecosystems…..  we need to apply this to the world around us as it changes and impacts  lives of our families, our friends, our students and ourselves.  How do you connect your daily lessons to the things that are happening around the world?  How do you “convince” your students that the concepts that they are reading about, hearing about and studying about are the same concepts that impact the environments all over the world?

As spring progresses and helps us forget some of the winter that just passed,  let’s hope the weather holds and our nets don’t have holes that are too big !! My students tell me that “Summer is almost here!!”  The Last Turkey Of Winter

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Mar
27
2009

Web 2.0 – Why Should I Care?

web20people1Hello. My name is Robin Heyden and I am a science writer and editor. I’ve worked in educational publishing for over 20 years, publishing science books, software, and online materials. I am a co-author (along with Brad Williamson and the late Neil Campbell) of the high school biology program, Biology: Exploring Life. These days I am most interested in the question of how new media technologies (blogs, wikis, and social networking tools) can be most effectively applied to the teaching and learning equation. For this newly launched blog, I will be writing about that question and would love to hear from all of you. What do you make of these new, participatory media tools? How are you using them with students? What challenges do you face and how can we address those challenges together?

 

With all the pressures of teaching — too much information/too little time, slashed budgets, unmotivated students, highly variable student backgrounds, and over-stuffed classrooms — why should I bother with all of this new media technology? Afterall, throwing a few new, web 2.0 tools around in my classroom will not solve the complex teaching and learning issues I face everyday. Right?

Well, yeah, maybe not. But there’s still an excellent reason for bothering with the world of web 2.0 tools and literacy. And here’s what it is: your students are already there. Outside of school our students are authors, producers, animators, film makers, photographers, and designers. They are writing fan fiction, creating anime music videos, building social networks, writing on sports blogs, devising complex battle strategies, and posting homemade movies on YouTube. In other words, they are engaging in the kind of work that educators value, the kind of work you wish they were doing in your course. So why not transfer all of that excellent effort over to the study of biology?

For most of us, our first forays into the world wide web were read-only excursions. We had a question and we went to the web to find the answer. Today, the web has become a read and write environment. A place where people read, yes, but they also write, produce, mash-up, sing, and build. This next generation of widely available, easy-to-use and free web tools and services, collectively referred to as “Web 2.0″ , is driving online behaviors in an unprecedented way.

Let’s sketch a hypothetical example. Students in a biology course could be assigned the task of creating a course wiki on climate change. Over the semester, they could research and write articles to post to the wiki, comment on each others’ work, and initiate discussions on the more controversial topics. They could use RSS feeds to tap into climate change articles from the New York Times and compare those to parallel stories from The Tribune in India and China Daily. They could scour the blogosphere in search of climate change experts, evaluating their biases and respective areas of expertise. They could collect a series of annotated and tagged bookmarks online, using Delicious or Diigo, so that others could follow their thinking trail and in so doing, develop their own ways of organizing and structuring the information gleaned online. Using Skype, they could interview the experts they deemed appropriate and perhaps broadcast those interviews using UStream or Mogulus. Some students could create content modules, using Voicethread, embed them in the course wiki and collect comments and feedback on their ideas from outside experts. Through the personal learning network that these students construct, they could seek out feedback and critical evaluation, to challenge their thinking and further engage them in a conversation about the material. As the semester draws to an end they have a living, breathing portfolio of their work and their understanding. Online, for all to experience, comment on, and add to.  For you, their teacher, that portfolio would not only be an intriguing assessment tool but a handy method for getting a peek into their minds.

Through activities like the ones I describe, new media tools offer students powerful incentives to engage deeply with the material at hand. And as they engage, they build connections to what they already know, make associations with things they care about, and lay down pathways to continue the process as a life-long learner. As you read the verbs in that paragraph (create, evaluate, comment, research, compare, discuss, write), it becomes clear that these tools are vehicles for the active learning and constructivist approaches that we know work with students. We already know that students learn, really learn, not when they are told, but when they do. But to teach this way, we must be willing to try the tools and services ourselves. It’s not that we all have to become expert geeks but it is necessary to get inside the web 2.0 world enough to understand the affordances of these tools and services. Once we do that, we will know best how and when to use them for the particular course and students we teach. We will be able to guide our students pedagogically effectively, ethically, and safely. And we can teach by example.

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Written by rheyden in: Introductions | Tags: ,
Mar
26
2009

Rich Benz Intro

Rich Benz (and friend) G’day all.
I thought a little intro might help everyone get to know me.  Currently I am the Lake County Science Specialist at the Lake County Educational Service Center (another name for our county board of education.) Lake County is in Northern Ohio about 15 miles east of Cleveland, along Lake Erie. This is my third year as the “County Science Specialist.” Prior to this I was the Science Department Chairman and taught biology for 34 years at Wickliffe High School (also in Lake County.) I taught general bio, Honors Bio, AP Biology, Biology 2, Photography and many years ago Earth Science. I am the author of the NSTA Press book, Ecology and Evolution; Islands of Change, and wrote the on-line student lessons and laboratories for the PBS Evolution Series web site. In addition, I wrote the teacher’s guide for the IMAX movie Galapagos. I also helped to write the current State of Ohio Science Education Standards and was on the advisory board for the State Curriculum Lessons. I have traveled far and near spreading the word about biology having taught teacher workshops throughout Ohio, around the country, and internationally in South Africa, Great Britain, and Australia. I have visited and led trips for teachers to the Galapagos Islands. I have presented at both state-level and national conferences on topics ranging from biotechnology, genetics, evolution, and using technology in education. My most current project has been to help with the science programming of the newly constructed Lake Metroparks Environmental Learning Center.

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I enjoy fly-fishing, photography, technology in general, and wandering along trails and in streams. I live in Concord with my wife Betsy and my naturalist cat Fitzroy. I have two step daughters, one a genetics counselor at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in Manhattan, and the other that is currently living and working and raising my granddaughter, Maddie, in Bethlehem, Pa.

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Written by richardbenz in: Introductions | Tags: