Through the wonderful world of the web, I’ve recently gotten to know an incredible high school biology teacher – Sue Mullican. Sue teaches at Jenks High School, in Jenks, Oklahoma. We first met at the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) meeting, when she attended a workshop on using participatory media tools in teaching biology. Since then, Sue and I have been corresponding, exchanging ideas, and sharing favorites sites and tools.
Sue was new to all of this but, true to her creative roots, she took to it immediately. The first thing she did was to build a class wiki. As you can see, she uses it to post biology in the news type stories, give assignments, feature student projects, and make announcements.
What really strikes me about Sue is that she’s completely internalized the idea of her students as “producers”. She sees these new media tools as vehicles for her students’ to demonstrate their understanding in new ways.
Take for example this video, created by one of Sue’s physiology students, Alexis Miller. The assignment was to build a human homunculus out of clay – one sensory area at a time. For those of you not currently enrolled in Human Anatomy and Physiology, the word “homunculus” is Latin for “little human”. In biology courses, it refers to a scale model of a human, distorted to represent the relative space occupied by human body parts on the somatosensory cortex (somatic sensory homunculus) and the motor cortex (motor homunculous). In other words, on a sensory homunculus the tongue would be HUGE. In the original assignment document, Sue suggests that the students take photos, each step along the way, as they build their clay homunculus, and showcase their photos or assemble them into a PowerPoint deck. A clever assignment by any measure – but Alexis took it a step further and created this video. Gotta love Alexis. Gotta love Sue. Gotta love Jenks High School for being smart enough to hire a teacher like Sue, support her, and send her to national conferences.