May 20, 2019

Can I Really Be a Scientist?


You may think of your students as ‘scientists’ and you may even refer to them as scientists.  But what do they think a scientist is?  Do they consider themselves scientists? 

Reflection on How Students View Scientists; and Themselves

Draw a Scientist

Many of you may have done or seen the ‘draw a scientist’ activity.  If you haven’t heard of it, it is an activity where students draw their idea of "a scientist doing science." The exercise surfaces students' prior understandings of the nature of science and the demographics of scientists.

Unfortunately, the results show that many students don't see themselves as scientists. According to an article written in 2018, students are still primarily drawing white males as scientists. Over the past 50 years the number of female scientists being drawn has greatly increased, but is still only 28%.   The authors of this article stated that “stereotypes of scientists not only shape ….perceptions of who is a scientist, but also influence their perception of who can be a scientist.”  The researchers also mentioned that these stereotypes go beyond gender, 79% of the scientists drawn were white.

This is a problem.  This is a especially a problem for minorities, females, foreign students, etc.

When we are teaching students who don’t match this image (who are female, darker skin colored, etc) it is even harder for them to see themselves as scientists.

Why is this important?  

This puts students one step farther away from what we are trying to teach them.  This is yet another way that they feel disconnected from school, and feel that it doesn’t apply to them.
We are teaching students science, and we want them to see themselves as part of science, and the scientific process.  However, many students don’t see science as relevant to their own lives. They science as only a subject in school that they need to pass, but they are, in fact, not part of it.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Science should be relevant to students’ lives. Science involves problem solving from everyday life, their own bodies, and the world around them.  However, this is not always what students see.

As educators, part of our role ideally is to help bring students to a place where students can see the connections to their own lives.

Your Challenge

I challenge you to try the “Draw A Scientist” lesson with your own students. It can be a quick activity that takes 10 minutes at the end of class, or a full blown lesson.  I’d love if you’d report back with the results. Are your students drawing white male scientists? Are they drawing scientists that look like them?  It would be really cool to have some discussion or reflection to go along with this.  Lastly, what if you showed some other examples of minority or female scientists and then had them draw?  Would you get different results?

If I taught elementary I would absolutely read them this book first and see if it changed my results.  Maybe I would read it to high school too?

Try it out!

May 6, 2019

Five Evidence-Based Study Strategies Your Students Should Be Using

Five Evidence-Based Study Strategies Your Students Should Be Using

Spring and early summer brings tests and exams for many students and teachers. If you’ve managed to cajole your kids into putting in some time outside of lessons, congratulations!

The bad news, though, is that left to their own devices, most students will be using ineffective study methods, meaning they will fall short of the marks and grades they could otherwise have hit.

The good news is that there are some simple evidence-based strategies that can transform how effectively your students study, and the grades they are therefore able to achieve. Read on to find out how.
Five Evidence-Based Study Strategies Your Students Should Be Using

  1. Retrieval practice: memory training

After almost a century of research, the results are in: there is now broad consensus among learning science researchers that the best study techniques are based on “retrieval practice” (see here or here for reviews). Most students study by pushing information into their brains – re-reading, highlighting, summarising, making notes – retrieval practice flips that on its head, and says they should be spending as much time as possible trying to pull information out of memory, trying to remember it.

There are plenty of options for using retrieval practice to study for tests:
  • Training with flashcards
  • Answering “quiz” questions
  • Writing down all you can remember about a topic on a blank sheet
  • Having a friend / family member test you
The key is to move on from the “pushing information in” stage sooner than feels comfortable, and spend as much time as possible studying by trying to remember what you know. It feels like harder work, but it’s far more effective.

Formative assessment is also a great discipline to use in your classroom as starter or exit activities: Science In The City has plenty of assessment resources available to life a bit easier.

      2. Spaced learning: conquer “forgetting”

Over time, we all forget what we once knew – even if we used retrieval practice to learn it! Spaced learning is the solution: for every new occasion on which your students revisit a fact or concept, their memory of it gets stronger and more permanent.

Try and get your students in a “little and often” habit: rather than cramming all the day before a test, far better to spread that same amount of study time out (or even do slightly less!) over a longer time, e.g. 10 minutes a day for a couple of weeks, rather than two hours the night before.

They will not only perform better on that test, but their knowledge will be much more secure, helping them build on it in future, rather than having to start seemingly from scratch in each new school year.

     3. Chunking: data compression for memory

“Chunking” is the act of grouping a larger number of units of information – letters, words, phrases, numbers – together in meaningful ways to create a smaller number of units, making the information easier to remember. It’s your brain’s version of data compression algorithms that make files smaller for storage in computer memory.

Here’s an example of chunking in action: 18 random letters are very hard to remember, but re-order and add some grouping, and it becomes much easier.

An example of chunking content to remember it more quickly and easily

You probably remember your own phone number by “chunking” the digits into groups. When someone else groups the digits differently, it can be hard to recognise even your own number!

Chunking is at the root of a many mnemonic techniques, such as:

Acronyms: making a new word from the first letters of the words you’re trying to remember, e.g. “HOMES” for the five Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior)

Acrostics: making a memorable phrase from the first letters of words you’re trying to remember, e.g. “My Very Excellent Mother Just Made Us Nine Pizzas” for planets

Chunking numbers with patterns: look for arithmetic relationships to make digits more memorable. Thulium was discovered in 1879: you can derive the “7” and “9” by subtracting and adding the “1” to the “8”, respectively.

You could spend a moment in lessons working with your students to come up with a novel chunking strategy, which not only helps them learn the content, but trains them in how to use chunking for themselves. See here for an in-depth guide to using a number of useful chunking strategies, with more inspiration on how to apply the technique to a range of information types.

     4. Dual coding: we are all visual learners

Have you heard of “learning styles” – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic? You may also have heard that there is very little scientific evidence that teaching in each individual’s preferred style helps them learn.

However, it seems while we all have our preferences, we all have a bit of every “learning style” in us, and that appealing to multiple styles at once can help us to learn.
The idea of dual coding is that by taking in information as both words AND a diagram / picture, you’re more likely to remember it – perhaps because you’ve got two different ways to remember that information when you get into the test.

If your students are making summaries ahead of an upcoming test, they might like to use a picture AND a description in words for key concepts, to help solidify their understanding and memory.

     5. How to read (no, really…)

OK, so this is more about test-taking than studying: but how many times have you seen students throw away marks by not reading the question accurately?

When we read, our eyes move in jumps called “saccades”, with a focus point every few words. The brain fills in the words in peripheral vision based on word shape and context. That makes it very easy to miss things, especially under the pressure of a test!

Example of how to read most effectively for studying. Can you spot the error?

If you know what you’re looking for, it’s painfully obvious, but if you don’t, a lot of people won’t spot the two “As” before “single step”.

In one example where students were taking test questions, researchers found that emphasising a key command word in a question by switching to a bold typeface increased the proportion of correct answers from 8% to 31%. That’s huge!

You may not be able to change the test papers, but there’s a simple solution: train your students in the disciple of reading questions slowly, deliberately and methodically, using their pen to underline key words in the question to add emphasis for themselves – to make sure they pick up every mark they deserve.

Wishing you and your students every success in any upcoming tests and exams!

Guest Post Exclusive: Five Evidence-Based Study Strategies Your Students Should Be Using
****
This is a guest post for Science In The City by William Wadsworth, a Cambridge-trained psychologist and full-time study skills researcher, writer, coach and author. He hosts the weekly Exam Study Expert podcast and blogs at www.ExamStudyExpert.com, both packed with tips to help students score the best possible grades, by unleashing the new science of truly effective independent study techniques.

Mar 30, 2019

Unparallelled Self-Care On Your Spring Break




As spring break approaches, what are your goals?





Are you planning to go on vacation?
Spend it on the couch?
Catch up on work around the house?
Catch up on schoolwork?

I would argue that spring break should be a time to focus on your goals, and on taking care of you. By self-care I don’t massages and pedicures, I mean work on some ways to take better care of yourself, and make yourself feel better! You can do it, but it takes work! Use your time to do the work, and come out of spring break feeling much better!

Self-Care is Not an Indulgence, it's a Discipline
Self-Care for Teachers
Teacher Self-Care

What I do mean is take care of yourself. Do things that will make you healthier, stronger, calmer and feel better!

  • How to do that??
  • Move your body - walk? Dance? Exercise? Try to establish a pattern that you can keep up, even if it's only ten minutes a day of yoga. Look on YouTube for some short simple videos to follow if that would help. Go for a walk! Even if it’s cold, bundle up! If you are looking for accountability or encouragement, join some fitness groups on Facebook. There are many! Ask me for suggestions if you are stuck. I’m in a couple. 
  • Eat good food - healthy is even better! Try a new vegetable and find a different way to cook it! 
  • Do things that bring you joy - read a good book? Do an art or craft project? Go for a hike? What lights you up? Find time for that. 
  • Do something that makes you laugh. We all need more laughter in our days! 

Come up with plans to continue this trend once school begins.

This comes with a change in mindset. It means prioritizing yourself and taking control of your day. If that’s where you are struggling, let me share a few of my favorites:






Chalk Full of Life Podcast

And many more.  If none of those fit for you, let me know and I can recommend others.

Mar 16, 2019

How to Immediately Implement Dynamic Learning? #shakeuplearning

To Implement Dynamic Learning it is important to keep the characteristics in mind.




Here are a few examples, and many more example lessons are available on https://shakeuplearningbook.com/ and the free quick start guide available here https://shakeuplearning.com/blog/shake-learning-free-quickstart-guide/

Characteristic 

Beyond the bell
Beyond the grade level and subject

Strategies 
Students help set learning goals
Vision board
Tracking goals 
Design thinking process
Genius Hour
Maker project

In my mind, this is similar to Backwards Design or planning with the end in mind. Think about the learning objectives, the characteristics, and the 4 C’s mentioned earlier (and discussed here).

Start small, and reflect. Make gradual changes! Small steps add up, and we can think about ways to take our learning objectives and include more Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, or Critical Thinking, or to take learning Beyond the traditional boundaries.

There are some fantastic examples here of how to do this with the G Suite.

Here is another excellent resource that helps to pull these pieces together.

Mar 2, 2019

What is Superior about Dynamic Learning? #shakeuplearning

What is Superior about Dynamic Learning? #shakeuplearning 

Shake up learning calls for learning activities that go beyond one and done activities. Learning can (and perhaps should) break the boundaries of the school day, due dates, and the prescribed curriculum.

Shake up learning calls for learning activities that go beyond one and done activities.   Learning can (and perhaps should) break the boundaries of the school day, due dates, and the prescribed curriculum.


This new style of learning and teaching involves the following:

Risk-taking

It is important to model risk-taking and teach students to face their fears.
  • FAIL = first attempt in learning
  • This can be taught through modeling, explicit teaching, and asking questions that don’t have just one right answer.
  • This can also be reinforced through teaching about famous failures, and those who have overcome a difficulty. 

Breaking barriers and bad habits

  • Real learning can happen anywhere, anytime, and is driven by interests and curiosity
  • Real learning is not one size fits all
  • Grades should represent understanding and learning, not compliance

Always learning

  • Learning can happen at a variety of times and places, not only in a traditional lesson in the classroom. 
  • This involves teaching students how to find answers on their own
  • How to curate resources
  • How to search effectively
  • Troubleshooting. When students have difficulty finding something, or you have difficulty with a resource, use this as a teachable moment! 
  • Learning can be a la carte and publicly available - Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook groups, etc

Sharing your voice/connect

  • Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and your work, as well as your students’ work. This doesn’t mean that you are claiming to be an expert but is a reflection of your learning and your talents.
  • Share through Social media, Twitter, blogs and develop a personal learning network

Unleashing creative thinking

  • Do not give a formula for an activity
  • Use activities that are more open ended
  • Authentic learning experiences, out of the box projects that don’t have just one correct answer

Going global - share student work with an authentic audience

  • Publish work rather than turn in or build online portfolios
  • Use hashtags to find the audience
  • Google hangouts and skype

Empowering students

  • Learning experiences that are more personalized
  • Choices - choose devices/tools/topics/readings/goals, etc… use menus?
  • Encourage curiosity
“Ask students what problems they want to solve, rather than what they want to be when they grow up!”

Dynamic Learning is characterized by constant change. It grows and evolves along with the learner collaborating, creating, and communicating to demonstrate progress. It extends beyond the traditional boundaries.

For more information, check out this podcast and this infographic, as well as the website Shake Up Learning.
 

Feb 16, 2019

Why is it so important to Focus on Dynamic Learning? #shakeuplearning


Why is it so important to change the way that we teach?

I have been lucky enough to be part of a professional development book circle on the book Shake Up Learning! By Kasey Bell.  I want to share with you some of my biggest takeaways, in a series of 3 posts. 
Shake Up Learning

The book is available here.  Kasey also offers many additional resources on her website https://shakeuplearning.com/, the webpage companion to the book https://shakeuplearningbook.com/ and her Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/shakeuplearning/ (as well as other social media).  These are fantastic resources, that I absolutely recommend that you check out on your own.  I am just glossing over the highlights, and her resources are fantastic!

However, as I am processing all that I have learned in this PD, I wanted to share it with you.  

Why is it time to Shake Up Learning??

At this time, in the 21st century, we are at a tipping point, or a change point in education and in learning.  So many resources and so much information is at our fingertips all the time! 

This change doesn’t start with technology but starts with the way people and students learn.  Technology can be a tool to help reach these goals.  

Think back on the history of education. (What is the Purpose of Education?) The purpose of education, originally, was a factory model. It was designed to create a labor force and to create students who are prepared to go into the workforce.

Our needs and the goals of education have changed. The needs of the workforce have changed. We no longer just need compliant laborers, we need problem-solvers and workers who can think creatively, and work more independently.

The educational system is broken and ready for a change.  Many of us know this. It’s time to Shake Up Learning.

Technology has changed the way we learn


In this day and age, anything we want to learn is at our fingertips.  We can quickly and easily connect with people across the world. We can instantly record video and show it live to anyone in the world. 

We can listen to podcasts, read blogs, look up journal articles instantly, etc.

Think about when and how you have recently learned something. How did you do it?  Did you pick up up a book?  Go to a library?  Or did you search online?  Connect with people in a group or discussion board? Was social media part of your learning process?

The Rise of the Entrepreneur


People are no longer working at just one job for their careers and being provided with benefits and security.  It is much more common for people to change jobs, etc. than it was in the past.  What worked previously isn’t working today.  Rather than the skills that were needed in the past, students need different skills now, such as curiosity, problem-solving, perseverance, risk-taking, ownership of learning, becoming resilient, creativity, dig in, develop grit. 

We need to find ways to teach these skills in our classes.  We need to have students producing their own work and practicing these skills. 

The Role of Technology


Technology is not a solution, but it is a tool.   It depends on what students do with the apps and technology.    Technology can be used in many ways to practice these skills and to engage students.  Students can (and should be) creating original product types, having the choice, etc.  They are going to be online and using the technology. We need to teach them to use it productively and improve their skills.   Ideally, when planning and working with technology, the Shake Up Learning text says that we should incorporate the Four C’s - critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.  Students are going to be online and using the technology.  Part of our job is to teach them to use it effectively and educationally. (more information on that thought process here).

Feb 2, 2019

Kinetic and Potential Energy Interactive Guide

Kinetic and Potential Energy Interactive Guide



I wanted to share a web resource with you that recently was brought to my attention. It is a really unique guide to potential and kinetic energy that includes interactive activities, examples, and plenty of sources for more information.

This would be a great resource to use to do a Webquest or other lesson with your students.   

This guide invites readers to learn more about all forms of kinetic and potential energy by using interactive graphics.  As you transition through the resource, each form of energy is broken down and explained in further detail.   The main content covered is outlined below: 

Potential energy is broken down into four types:

·        Chemical potential energy is present in every animate and inanimate object. Chemicals in a battery can be converted into motion, giving them chemical potential energy. 
·        Elastic potential energy is found when an object is in a deformed state but can be returned to a static state. This object is said to have elastic potential energy when it is either stretched or compressed. 
·        Nuclear potential energy is comprised of the force binding protons and neutrons because it causes the atom to weigh less than the sum of its parts. 
·        Gravitational potential energy is the ability for an object to do work in relation to a gravitational field. 

Kinetic energy can be broken down into four types as well:

·        Mechanical kinetic energy is observed when an object is in motion.
·        Electrical kinetic energy is seen when the electrical current carries the charge from a battery to the light bulb. 
·        In thermal kinetic energy, an object’s temperature can be transferred by convection, conduction, and radiation. 
·        In magnetic kinetic energy, magnetic fields are the effect of electric currents and the strength of attraction or repulsion on an object. 

Kinetic and potential energy also can work in harmony. All forms of kinetic energy are derived from a previous state of potential energy. An example is the chemical potential energy from a battery that is converted to electrical kinetic energy and transported to the bulb to produce light, which radiates thermal kinetic energy.




Jan 19, 2019

IGIST Aim Far!



Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for writing this review

I want to share a book with you that is particularly relevant and engaging to middle school readers.  The book, IGIST, is available here, is recently published.  It is geared more towards girls, but I gave it to my twelve-year-old son to read first. 

The book can be read like a traditional book, or through an app!  The app still contains the content, but also additional interactive features.  It is called an ‘immersive novel.’ This is sure to engage more reluctant readers, by allowing them to be part of the story and interact with the story in a new and different way.   You can check it out at https://igist.com/ 

So, why was this book created??   The author mentioned that in the past science fiction writing has inspired inventors and scientists. However, many of these famous pieces of literature focus on men and are somewhat outdated now.  

This book is part of a series where “there is a strong, smart female version of Tom Swift in order to inspire my daughters but hopefully more young women (and everyone) that they can be a great inventor and a scientist.” -- LS Larson, Author of IGIST

My Son’s Review

As I mentioned, I first gave it to my son to read:  He loved it!  He actually likes to read but is a pretty picky reader. He texted me from school during the day to tell me how much he loved the book! 

He says his favorite part was when the main character got into IGIST and was so happy about it.  He recommends this book for teens and older tweens, as well as anyone who likes Science,  Science Fiction, or Fantasy.  He thinks that while it would be appropriate for younger kids, they would not as much out of it. 

He gives this book an overall score of 8/10 because the story was good and exciting to follow, and it also showed character traits such as determination and problem-solving, as well as confidence, in the main character.  


My Thoughts: 

As a female science educator, I love the idea of a novel with a strong female teen character. When possible, I love to try to bring different gender, age and racial role models for students. The idea of being able to do this through a book is fantastic.  Then on top of that, the creation of an app really makes it unique! Kids are used to interacting with the world around them in such different ways now that an app is a perfect way to engage young people and draw them into a story even if they might not traditionally be a reader.   I hope this book can encourage many more kids to be interested in science.


Jan 7, 2019

5 Days of New Year Science Cheer! Sign Up to Receive Gifts


If you aren't on my email list, use this opportunity to sign up! 

Click here!

A group of science teachers are hosting 5 Days of New Year Cheer this week!  This is not a random raffle or giveaway, there are deals everyday this week. Friday all email subscribers will receive a huge gift from myself and the other science teachers. BUT this is only for email subscribers, so get on the list before Friday!


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