Author Archives: Stephen
In the 2012-13 school year, our science department worked on a collaborative Student Learning Goal to improve student performance in Criterion E: Data Processing. Click here to find out more about the process, outcomes and next steps.
The One World criterion in MYP Sciences can get a bad rap and I think it is because it has been misinterpreted as being unscientific or too ‘soft’ for a science class. Sure, you don’t want to spend the whole semester doing One World essays, but we can make much better use of its potential. It can be a good showcase of student writing and ethical discussion, as well as an authentic connection between research and real world.
Here are a few pieces of recent work from students that give some idea of how engaging it can be. All are from the same class, with the prompt “Think Global, Act Local“.
- Aili’s investigation into the one-to-one programme and paper use.
- Sanam also uncovered some shocking facts on paper use and printing.
- Maggie’s post, “Make your meals healthier, even after you’ve finished.“
- Joanna’s post on e-waste and if we really need that new phone.
- Kyoko on balancing paper towels with hand dryers.
- Parina’s idea for a vegetarian challenge to reduce our meat consumption.
I think for One World to be successful it needs to have the following elements:
- An audience. I hate that students write for me alone, so the more that we can blog, the better: especially when it is community-related. The blogs allow us to include images, videos, links and mirror more closely the work of real science writers. I do need to get better at getting students and others to comment on their work.
- An authentic purpose. In the examples above, part of the purpose was to highlight that our own actions as a school have consequences, but also to give some inspiration for CAS projects. Connecting One World to other subjects or global issues might help students see the purpose of their research and writing.
- Differentiation. Of course it’s boring when 20 students write the same response to the same question. A good unit question might be all the stimulus it takes to get many different ideas, all connected to the significant concepts. We should help students pick questions of personal interest.
- Enough guidance to help those in need, but not enough to stifle the students’ voice. The criterion is complex, and it is easy to break it into a checklist or paragraph-by-paragraph pro-forma. For students that need this level of support, that is fine, but for some it is like a straitjacket. I like to give students the guidance, but encourage them to take their own path, if they can.
- Time. It is very easy to set these kinds of tasks as homework and be done with it, but that doesn’t do the students or the task justice. If it is a summative assessment task, it should be mostly completed in school; if it is valuable to count in the report, it is valuable to… value with time.
- Feedback and self-assessment. Drafting in GoogleDocs makes for easy, timely and directed feedback to students during the process.
What other suggestions do you have for successful One World work?Do you have examples of great student One World work you’d like to share? If so, please do so in the comments.
Here’s a little presentation that might be useful for a formative or introductory task:
Click here for a summary of our recent student-designed Grade 10 (MYP5) Environmental Sciences unit that we planned for students to design and implement. I used this project as my trial for Hapara, a GoogleDocs dashboard system.
In summary, using this as a management tool allowed for a smooth and highly differentiated, student-led inquiry unit in MYP 5 Environmental Science. Find out more.
As we study science, a lot of our time and resources are devoted to implementing an engaging practical scheme of work. Are we really making the most educational use of this time, these resources and the opportunities that we have?
Teachers all over the world use experiments and demonstrations to engage students in the concept being taught. But does this actually improve student learning? Two recent videos have got me thinking about this issue, and before you read on you should watch them both.
The first is from UK science teacher & communicator Alom Shaha (@alomshaha), half the brains behind the sciencedemo.org website. The video was produced for the Nuffield Foundation’s new Practical Work for Learning resource. He refers to a number of research papers in the video, and is also one of the leaders of the #SciTeachJC (science teachers journal club) twitter discussion group.
Do you recognise those labs and how do you use them? Do the labs we do really help us teach the concepts we intend them to, and how can we rethink (or at least evaluate) our use of labs.
The second video is from US Chemistry teacher Tom Stelling (@ChemistTom), on his “vRant” about students asking to “blow something up” and the dangers of ‘wow’ demos as distraction rather than education.
Note: this post rambles a bit from here on. If you want to know more, please read on. Otherwise, all the good bits were in Alom & Tom’s videos.
Although i-Biology hosts all my content resources, the main class resource students are working with is a personal GoogleSite to track their progress and reflection. Click here to find out more about how it works.
As we finish our Exploring Environments student-designed units, students have published blog posts for the science communication assessed task. In this task, assessed for Communication in Science, they had to pick a case study or current news item of interest and direct connection to their group’s unit. Using guidance, models of good science writing, GoogleDocs drafting (and for some, pointers from professional science writer Andy Revkin), they wrote short articles on their case study.
There’s no point writing for an audience of one, so…
..here they are!
If you do visit and feel like posting a comment, remember that these are school students, and that your comments must be appropriate, constructive and positive.
- Maggie’s post on fighting Aricanized bees with… more bees!
- Heather’s post on invasive mussels and their damaging impacts.
- Parina’s post on 13 oils spills in 30 days (!)
- Joanna’s post on Australia burning.
- Kyoko’s post on painting the roof white to cool the town.
- Rohan’s post on the cost of shark finning.
- Sanam’s post on the end of the reign of the king of butterflies.
- Stephanie’s post on cell phones and honeybees.
- Mahya’s post on Australia’s new colour on the temperature chart.
- TaeHyun’s post on spring floods and the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.
- Yota’s post on Sea Shepherd vs Japan.
- Aili’s post on bluefin tuna being worth too much dead to be allowed to live.
- Cedric’s post on the mystery of the dead pigs in China.
- Mikka’s post on the shrinking Antarctic ozone hole.
- Haruki’s post on the highest global temperatures in 4,000 years.
Good luck to all students in the May 2013 exam session!
As always, this time of year drives a spike in views at i-Biology.net. If you have found the resources and presentations here useful (as a student, teacher or study group), then please consider making a donation to one of my chosen charities through Biology4Good, my JustGiving team. All donations go to the charity chosen.
- Mines Advisory Group
- Save the Children
- Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders)
- Hope HIV
- Save the Rhino
- Tree Aid
I hope your hard work pays off and that you have learned something along the way that will come in useful during your life.
In our Grade 9 Chemistry class we think of the subject as a great puzzle, leveling-up as we add new concepts. The key to the puzzle is the periodic table: learning your way around – and how describe what you know and interpret the descriptions of others.
In this video, from the Crash Course Chemistry series, Hank goes over:
“How do we head through nine billion people by around 2050 without really screwing up too much?”
Andy Revkin writes the DotEarth blog for the New York Times, and has been writing about the environment for almost thirty years. His topics are diverse (and his Twitter stream rich with links) and connected to much of what our students have chosen to explore in our current Environmental Sciences unit in Grade 10 (MYP5).*
He very kindly agreed to G+ Hangout with some students before school, to discuss science writing in general and how he masters his craft on the environment beat. We learned a lot from Andy, and loved his assertion that he is not a ‘doom and gloom’ writer, but that the environment is different, and more complex than we first thought.
Here are links to some of the ideas & issues he mentioned in the chat:
- His ‘Postcards’ series, snapshots of science and environmental research
- Psychology & the environment
- Schools and syllabuses designed with the environment in mind
- Twitter in the classroom
- Obama and the National Academy of Sciences
- Will we have fewer, more dangerous hurricanes?
- The Burning Season book: the murder of Chico Mendez
*As part of our current Grade 10 Environmental Science unit, students have broken into groups depending on their interests and IBDP Sciences choices. They have designed their own unit content, though assessment types are common – a lab they design, a test we’ll write based on their chosen assessment statements and a piece of science writing. I’ll dedicate a whole post to how the unit worked once we’re done.
For the science writing task, students are asked to find real-life articles, case-studies or stimulus materials that will provide a context for some of their content. We showed them some models, of great science writing, but I realised my Twitter lists were light on environment writers.
A quick tweet (and some follow-up emails) fixed all that:
Thanks again to Andy for chatting to us – it was a great opportunity to talk to a real pro.
It is also evidence, once again, that Twitter can be an amazing tool for classes and professional development.