Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Make them the experts!


At the beginning of the third trimester, I had no idea that my team partner was going to be gone for our last field trip. You may ask: It's a field trip, where's the problem? This particular field trip was a bus tour about the history of Waukesha. It is a celebration about what we have learned. 
Screenshot from our co-created iBook on the history of Waukesha.

This teacher always led the tour, providing the rich history found in Waukesha. Students would follow the tour utilizing an iBook that the students helped us to create using iBook Author.

Here is where I had my problem occur. I had never led this tour on my own and I was more than nervous!

iBook Author

Screenshot from our co-created
Blackboard course where student 
work and available resources are brought together.
At first, I decided not to worry about the tour. Students had a few weeks of research before they were ready to participate in the tour. The previous year we had work extensively on uploading materials into our BB9 course. 

When I say extensively, I mean hours. We put together all of our articles, videos, links, and book titles. Then, we spent a few afternoons uploading these resources into a pre-selected list of questions.

If there is so much work, why did we do it? The truth is that like in many other areas in teaching, there were very few resources. Getting a copy of an original historical document to each student was not easy. We loved the idea of having BB9 warehouse to collect, organize, and distribute the resources. It is a way for all of our kids to see all of the resources, take them home with them, and access them any time they like. And when you are ready for it, adaptive release (a feature in Blackboard that includes rules about when students can see specific content) can make sure your students get just enough material. 

Problem Solved!

Students explore Prairie Home Cemetery as part of their
historical tour of Waukesha.
After students began their research, I became more and more concerned with the tour.

Then, I had one of those "lightbulb" moments. Students were already researching the material I would be summing up. Why not have them lead the tour?

Stops on the Waukesha History tour outlined in the iBook
students helped to create.
And they did. The students led the bus tour, stepping up to speak at "their stop" on the historical tour of Waukesha.  They spoke with authority and enthusiasm -- this was their area of expertise.

The truth is that this ended up being one of the most memorable tours, I have ever planned. 

Students not only summarized their learning for me to assess, but they now had the responsibility to be the experts. It brought everything together. Students were able to see their classmates learning and celebrate beside them!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Prescription for May Headaches: Technology


It's May, which means "Get ready to not see your juniors!"

Below is an update that I sent out to the governance board, WAHP teachers, and professionals in the beginning of May. It tells the general story of what was going on in my PLTW class called 'Medical Interventions.'

As we get into the busy month of May, Waukesha Academy of Health Professional juniors find themselves increasingly busy with AP exams, field trips, forums, and an overall hectic nature as their year comes to an end. Because of this along with preparing students for an increase in responsibility, we enter a completely self-paced unit in Medical Interventions looking into designing alternative treatments for cancer.
Similar to online portions of college classes, we will be utilizing technology via BB9 and Google Apps to complete this unit. ​BB9 will act as a means for students not only to receive direction and information, but a place for them to complete formative check ins in the form of conclusion questions and discussion boards. Students will showcase their collaboration skills through this self-paced unit via Google Classroom and Google Slides. The entire unit will culminate in a scientific poster presentation where they research a nanotechnology, connect it with a specific cancer case study, create a treatment plan that follows ethical board regulations, and present their plan to their classmates.
This flexibility of pace allows students to practice their higher executive processing skills as they must schedule their time and effort properly as they are in and out of class frequently during this busy May schedule.

What isn't seen in this update is just how successful this unit was because of my work with technology. I attempted this self-paced, free-flowing class structure last year, but I saw a wide variety of challenges and successes amongst the different types of learners. This year, though, I saw many more successes than failures! Some of my work included:
  • Adaptive release on BB9, pushing students towards work completion in order to gain access to the next step
  • Better formatting of the online pages, alluring student interest in the most simple yet psychological way
  • Test questions on BB9 serving as formative practice instead of conclusion questions they would answer in their notebooks, which I would never see. This also allowed me to grade and give feedback immediately upon submission.
  • Discussion blogs between their classmates on topics throughout the unit
  • Collaborative work with Google Slides
All of this made my expectations crystal clear as students progressed on their own pace throughout the unit, and as my post implies, it was the best medicine for that May Headache!