Another Google Summit comes and goes, and it was well, #awesome. Travelling at my own expense, I stayed with family in Victoria and attended two excellent days of educational technology ideas for learning. I was particularly taken with Alexis McKean's Introduction to Google Classroom and Michelle Armstrong's "Fasten your Seatbelt" synopsis of Innovative Educational Resources.
If you haven't attended a Google Summit for Education Conference, I highly recommend them. Since attending my first conference in Kamloops in 2014 and meeting Tracy Poelzer, District Technology Coordinator, the sessions are amongst the most informative and visionary I've had the pleasure to attend.
This round, I was eager to get some advanced perspective relating to FIPPA/FOIPOP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy.) And, Mark Walsh, lawyer and Secretary Treasurer of School District 61, did not disappoint. Detailing the extensive privacy impact assessments, interactions with the BC Privacy Commissioner, and work to achieve impact assessments and permissions guidelines, the session provided a much needed overview and path to accessing cloud resources sensibly and legally. My notes from the session are recorded here.
With the renewal of the SD57 Technology Advisory Committee, born from the ashes of the previous District Technology Team, I'm much more hopeful to create inroads of access including district-wide reliable wifi, cloud document access and editing such as Google Docs, Classroom & Drive, and greater support for a wide array of District and student-owned devices for learning.
In year-4 of eCampusLive, a series of Flipped, Project-Based Learning Biology Classes, I can attest to the impact and importance of technology in promoting learning for all students. It's been since 2010 that the last district-wide conversations and focus on these manner of opportunities occurred occurred with this team. While long overdue, it's also opportune and never too late in planning for the educational future we wish to achieve.
Another Year Already?
Wow, another year goes by. As a teacher, they go by too quickly. Fall brims with excitement and new promise, suddenly it's Thanksgiving (Canadian-style), Halloween, Christmas Break, Semester Two, Spring Vacation, then exams and another year is done. You'd think given all that time I'd have posted more often, but in truth, my Flipped-Project-based Learning class took up all my spare moments. Anyone claiming a flipped classroom or PBL equates to less teacher workload, is far off the mark.
Semester One, eCL Biology 12 evolved considerably. I've a penchant for dusting off old activities and giving them a PBL spin. In A Curious Case Indeed, it was great fun to create a murder mystery themed experience from a traditional nutrients testing lab. Reflecting, I discovered I am "done" with science labs that resemble cooking exercises. Instead, my renewed focus centres on discovery, application, and addressing the natural questions that arise during inquiry. It's more engaging for students, myself, and overall motivation. There is a report, but it's more of a narrative.
In addition to reimagined labs, the Dr. Awesome Series remains a steadfast and inspiring challenge. There are new scenarios, medical challenges in draft form due in Semester Two, 2017. Creating new challenges and learning resources is tremendously motivating. I've always loved created original resources or ones with a twist. Authorship is it's own reward as I came to learn in the UBC MET Program.
Having the honour to present eCL in the 2015 Provincial Innovation Showcase was a pivotal moment in my career. Showing, no proving, that a Flipped Classroom was not only feasible but richly rewarding for students seemed a career epoch, yet it still felt there was so much to do. So, it came as no surprise when colleagues at the Centre for Learning Alternatives (CLA) asked if I'd be interested in working on a blended learning, trades program, that I jumped at the chance. A Provincial Innovation Project, the initiative provides online science courses for students interested in trades. Partnering provides lab space for CLA when eCL students are engaged in a research phase. Working together, the project is developing nicely.
As a member of CLA's team, I travelled to Vancouver for the Innovation Symposium, a chance to meet other teams working towards new vision for education. And then, it happened. I spoke with the Principal of Templeton Secondary and asked the fateful question - "So what are you working on?" The response astounded me. Templeton runs a year-long STEM Program partnering with BCIT and post-secondary partners. One of their capstone projects included a solar tracking array for more efficient power generation. At this point, I was a "tad bit hooked." Being a Flipped Classroom, PBL, Biology instructor is amazing, but running a full year STEM Program? Wow!
On the plane home, my mind swam with ideas. You see because in addition to Biology, I also teach computer programming, 3D printing, and robotics. Imagine creating a smart plant pot with a Raspberry PI... The writing on the wall was becoming apparent. eCampusLive is project-based, but what if it became a STEM Program? All the elements are in place: digital instruction, a course management system (Moodle), and students interested in project-based learning. Our local college - CNC and the University of Northern BC have been great partners over the years, so reaching out with a new initiative to work with them is something I greatly look forward to. Yet how to create a year-long program in a semester environment remained a challenge. As I prepared a Star Wars themed Google Forms Digital Final Exam for eCL Biology 11, I had an epiphany on how to create the program. While I can't fully disclose the idea now, it involves creating full year Biology and Mathematics streams. It's not only feasible, but brings project-based learning, coding, and robotics to the mathematics classroom, an endeavour a great friend and colleague is tremendously excited to jointly develop in 2017.
Innovation and Growth as a Mindset
Embarking with the eCL Program was an affirmation of my belief in changing education. As it grew, opportunities continually presented themselves in a manner seeming almost fated. And working alongside colleagues to tell the tale and share some wisdom about challenges, frustrations, triumphs, and more became a continuously present element.
In a spring-time conversation with Scott McKay, a Coordinator for SETBC, taking the time to discuss eCampusLive was amazing. With so many new initiatives, elements, and projects in the program and with colleagues, it was almost cathartic to express my views on eCL and the journey ahead. Most significantly, I learned that change is a continual process. Akin to flying to Neverland, one just aims for the third star to the right and carries on till morning. That is to say there is not "sure fire" plan, only a general one that becomes more defined over time, shedding aspects that are less successful, retaining ones that are inspiring, while taking on new challenges to determine their merit. All the while, creativity and innovation remain constant.
Looking ahead to 2016, 2017, my greatest goal is professional development- for myself and colleagues. Taking time to network is vital, although there never seems enough time. I've my sights firmly set on ISTE 2017, potentially as a presenter, which would be a dream come true. Plus, it's in San Antonio, home of the Alamo and the Rio Grand. I've always wanted to see Texas. Perhaps it will also be the year to tell the eCampusLive story, how a Flipped PBL Program evolved into a STEM Initiative.
For the final examination in eCampusLive Biology 12, I wanted to do something different, something that I'd never been done before and in a galaxy not so far away, my class.
For a bit of context, in Biology, final exams are always printed on paper in black and white. Dull... Colour copying is too expensive for a one-time test, and students always seem to draw on the pages. Without colour though, diagrams of circulatory system lack the ability to convey meaningful information about oxygenation. Also, differentiating green chloroplasts from other cellular organelles becomes a real chore. Those mitochondria typically depicted in red, lose their lustre. Let's face it, diagrams are impaired.
Why not move beyond diagrams, I pondered? Google Forms, in case you haven't tried them, let you create multiple choice questions and place images AND video preceding responses. That's right -- video in the form of small YouTube windows. Absolutely perfect in conveying moving processes like peristaltic waves of the digestive system, I was hooked. I had to include this kind of material in my final exam.
So, many hours later in constructing my Google Form (similar to the link in the video) with uploaded and online images, as well as questions with embedded YouTube content, the final exam was finished.
Okay, so it was amazing. With a DNA image as the background to the form, Google automatically matched the blue tones, providing a light-blue background. I was impressed.
So how does StarWars factor into my Biology 12 final exam? Look closely in the image above at the first question "Enter the Star Wars name provided to you..." To protect student privacy with Google Forms, I provided each student with a Star Wars name on the day of the final. No student knew what their name would be. And FIPPA-compliant, neither would the Internet... [Cheers and applause...]
As an added touch, I discovered how to program Google Forms' spreadsheet to automatically grade the exam. You see, Google Forms saves response data as a spreadsheet. Using spreadsheet formulas, each answer in the final was compared to the correct answers I provided. When the exam was finished, the scores for each Star Wars student automatically displayed in the spreadsheet. Now if you're interested in seeing how this is done, here's how it is done.
I know what're likely thinking -- how did you transplant all those final exam questions? Well, in part I copied and pasted data from PDF's of the exams. Then, there was a lot of typing and web searches for better colour diagrams and video content for questions. It was admittedly a sizeable task, but completely worth it.
On the day of the exam, when students received their Star Wars identities, I was a bit nervous. I provided the URL for the Google Form, highly classified data until the day of the test. I was worried there wouldn't be complications. For example, if students pressed enter, it automatically completed the form. Luckily, Google Forms has an option for the test-taker to return to the form and continue completing entries is this is the case. It's an important option to include when creating the form. I'll post more about that later.
Suffice it to say, the students completed the exam and had nothing but positive things to say. The test was completed in the school's PC wired lab, so there was little chance of flaky wifi-ness.
Post-exam, I matched students' Star Wars name to their score and was amazed I could analyze responses of all students. You see, Google Forms creates a Summary of Responses as pie graphs. This enabled me to see what students had answered for each question. I was understandably happy with the result.
So, if you're looking to create online Google Forms assessments, I highly encourage it. Check the links in this post if you're eager to get started. Later this spring, I'll post a YouTube clip explaining much more. But for now, I wanted to blog about how well the experience went. Will I create a Google Forms eCampusLive Biology 11 Final Exam? It's a secret and don't tell anyone, but the answer is HECK yes. :)
Three years into the eCampusLive Program at College Heights, and we thought we'd hit our stride. There's immersive role play, scientific project-based learning, and inquiry initiatives. From the "Dr. Awesome Medical Scenarios" to "A Curious Case Indeed," the goal of the program remains to create engaging learning opportunities, provide a la carte instruction, and maximize in-class interactions & teacher access. As a flipped classroom, marrying project-based learning to blended learning has proven very successful.
As eCampusLive evolves, change is the greatest constant. And, change is exciting, creating a vital opportunity to grow in important new ways. Having the recent opportunity to visit the InnovateBC K-12 Symposium, discussions about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) led to examples in action at BC schools. Without specifically realizing it and as conversations unfolded, I came to realize the eCampusLive Program at College Heights Secondary had always been a STEM initiative. Interacting with UNBC in partnerships such as "DNA for a Day" and most recently, "Botany at UNBC" were natural interactions between post-secondary education and the K-12 system. Realizing this was an important step. The next was to understand the bevy of experience, advice, and potential mentorship in reaching out and working with industry.
With a single trip, my outlook evolved overnight. The resulting vision will undoubtedly take time and commitment. There are lessons learned, valuable experience, and resources to move forward. eCampusLive offers a digital course and materials with a full host of Biology 11 & 12 lessons on YouTube. Formative assessment for learning is cemented throughout the program providing insight and opportunities for learners to perform at their best. Project-Based-Learning and inquiry remain rich experiences students have responded very positively to. Yet, in this regard, through STEM, I'm convinced we can do even better. Creating real projects that address vital issues through science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and more is the natural course.
It's exciting to steer in a new, but similar fashion with inquiry and project-based learning. If it weren't a bit uncertain, it probably wouldn't be worth considering. Making a dent in the universe, however, is worth it...
The night before the BC K-12 Innovation Partnership Forum, I thought I'd pen a few thoughts about social media as an immersive tool for learning. True to its moniker, social media provides a gateway for sharing ideas, conversations, thoughts, and products of learning.
Each year, I encourage students in eCampusLive to create a social media site that Carl Linnaeus, the father of Biological Taxonomy, would post if he were alive today. One part role play, another immersion within the context of biological classification, I've never been disappointed with student creativity and expression where role-play is concerned.
A recent iteration of this project demonstrates the fusion of social media, Facebook & YouTube, where Linnaeus rolls out & explains his classification system for organisms, while entertaining with an educational running monologue. This kind of grading is not only fun for everyone involved, but a great process to demonstrate learning with a bit of comedic flare :D
I recently had the honour to chat with Scott McKay about eCampusLive Biology at College Heights Secondary. It was a great opportunity to consider the past, present, and future of the program. Reflection is always the best professional development. Discussing the flipped classroom approach, inevitable integration of project-based learning, role of technology, and more was a valuable experience.
Below is the interview. Thanks again, Scott.
In my seventeenth year, I'd simply had enough with certain Biology labs. Akin to worksheets, there was too little discovery, investigation, and scientific method for my liking. Each year, the Biology 12 class would study biochemistry, learn the nature of lipids, saccharides, starches, and proteins, then complete the standard lab testing for each nutrient. Honestly, it had become routine -- boring to complete and assess.
With the opportunity to inject a project-based learning theme into Biology 12, it was with a certain renewed energy that in June of 2015, I reinvented this activity in the semblance of Clue. If you haven't played Clue, it's a game of sleuthing -- a "whodunnit" murder mystery. In the case of my activity, the Ambassador of Yattastania had been assassinated -- poisoned. At the scene are forensic clues, namely two glasses containing unknown substances with unknown fingerprints and palm-prints to match. What might have slain the ambassador is linked to pursuing these clues. What followed was a lab that trained students as forensic investigators to analyze samples and unknowns to cross-reference their nutrients.
During the lab, there were a series of bulletins from a fictional crime lab, announcing tidbits of information, from fingerprints to palm-prints, and detailing the contents of two milky-white substances the Ambassador had consumed. As it turns out, the Ambassador died as a result of an anaphylactic reaction to a trace amount of peanut oil added to one of his drinks.
As students assessed the nutrient content of each unknown substance and analyzed the fingerprints associated with each glass, a picture emerged of who the perpetrators might be. My colleagues at College Heights Secondary were the loving culprits. Mr. Quarenghi, Mrs. Wilson, Mr. Finger, and Mrs. Pearce were our prime candidates. Creating a motive for each to desire the Ambassador's fictional demise, students found themselves immersed further in a whodunnit scheme rift with means, motive, and opportunity. All that remained was to analyze the evidence.
Students were quite excited to create a report detailing which suspect was guilty of the crime. Some students created written submissions, while others created a video account of their analyses. The use of immersive role play worked to increase motivation and student involvement for a biochemistry unit that had little flair in past iterations. Motivation, as ever, remains key to engagement for learning.
As an instructor, I was ecstatic to grade a much more meaningful learning assessment. Using an online rubric generator, grading was transparent and easily communicated. Overall, the activity was a success. Next year, there will be new suspects, motives, and clues. As with all activities, there are areas for improvement and reflection. In this case, the fingerprint & palm-print were supposed to be on different glasses, containing different suspect materials.
Oh well, there's always next year to get it right...
Multiple Intelligences - When Students Choose their Learning Style PBL Considerations - supporting Inquiry
When my principal informed me that we had the numbers to run an eCampusLive(eCL) Biology 11 class again, I was ecstatic. The first year was pure exploration reinforced by adherence to certain principles - flipped instruction, project-based learning, creativity, publication, reflection, and ensuring accountability. One year later, these experiences afforded enough wisdom to make valuable changes moving forward.
First, student groups must be closely monitored. Groups of three are particularly suspect. Two members often form the contributory team while the third is disenfranchised. I've counselled several students who are teams-of-one and do their best work alone. I've noticed these are high-performers who will seek advice in class and online via email, etc., but need the freedom to work in a framework where they can make sweeping changes. These students are highly entrepreneurial in the sense they form their own small business.
Second, groups of two sometimes morph into groups of four. There's something about even numbered groups that enables groups to delegate subtasks effectively. In one instance, two students worked on a model, while their counterparts managed the project report and reflection. Sitting in on their discussions, I was impressed how, without much guidance, the students established team expectations, assigned roles, and strategized their project-approach. I found there's much to learn through quiet observation.
Third, students might be digital natives, but yearn to express learning using physical materials. In the gallery below, you'll notice many of the projects have digital components expressed through physical materials. The Linnaeus newspaper for example has quick resonse (QR) codes leading to resources on the web including Amazon and YouTube. I'd introduced students to goo.gl and demonstrated how to create QR codes. Most had no idea what these were or their usefulness. Once demonstrated though, they were hooked on the idea of a poster with links that can never run low on battery power. A second project uses a magazine approach. In the article, Carolus Linnaeus is interviewed about his System Natura. An audio recording is included on the included CD. I found it intriguing the voices were robotized to ensure privacy.
Audio Recording Project #1 ----> Carolus Linnaeus Magazine Interview
Another team chose role play and created a radio-play of their project. In Chaos at the Ark National Museum, Linnaeus rides to the rescue amidst a museum in organizational shambles. With a flair for the creative, the scene unfolds. I must admit this kind of marking is far superior in sustaining an instructor's interest. After years of paper-to-pencil assessments, creative projects kindle a revived interest in assessment.
Audio Recording Project #2 -----> Chaos at the Ark National Museum / Linnaeus to the Rescue
And finally, I realized something I'd long suspected -- that students naturally gravitate to their preferred learning styles. This is evident in the mode students chose to express their projects: audio-recordings, plays, drama, written text, digital written text, role-play, artistic drawing, and combinations. Taking Garner's Multiple Intelligences to account, I wasn't surprised, rather pleasantly reassured that students can find their ideal means of expressing learning. This isn't to say helpful advice isn't warranted. It seems that advice begins on a yellow brick road of the students' choosing while instructors are welcome and insightful guides.
Well, that's it for this post. My apologies for not writing more frequently. Reflection is vital, but seems to take a considerable chunk of time to do well. My work continues to be my expression of teaching via principles and philosophies founded in my undergraduate work at the University of Victoria, and refined through the University of British Columbia's Masters of Education Technology Program.
Cheers and thanks for popping by -- Mr. J. Bleecker
After graduating from UBC's MET program, there was so much I wanted to do to improve my classroom. In the beginning, creating a class eLearning website, blog, podcast, and amassing digital resources was my goal. Over time, one aspect of my own practice that bothered me was how the changes were too teacher-focussed. At odds with my own practices, the lecture-format remained and assignments were still too paper based. Students continued to submit paper-to-pencil materials, worksheets. It was dissatisfying, although some projects were highlights. Every year, students were invited to create edible cake, cookie, and sometimes jello-based models of cells. These project-based initiatives were rewarding for everyone. Students love to make and present. I delighted in marking, then helping eat the projects with side of coffee or espresso :) But still, despite great laboratory work including dissections, taking blood pressure readings, cytology, spirometry, and more, there was the sense we could do so much more.
Screencasting the lessons for Biology 12 was a fresh challenge. While I'd focussed on screencasting a library of lessons for Biology 11, I hadn't done the same for the 12's. My estimate is that each hour of screencasting represents at least two hours in bloopers, uploads, and occasional edits. Most screencasts were single-takes. There were the inevitable elements that would disrupt screencasts (done at home.) The phone would ring, a calendar event would pop up, or Apple's notifications would barge onto my iPad or Macbook screen. I learned to roll with the punches and take disruptions in stride. Students often remarked on how amusing they were. "Did you remember to take your daughters to dance on time?" one student asked in class with a smirk... All in all, these interruptions were a natural, more organic part of screencasting, helping create more of a personal feeling for students, and myself. Making mistakes, being human turned out to be a good thing. And over the course of the semester, the screencasting homework was done, an investment in the future of the course -- an asset in laying down the yellow brick road a piece at a time.
With a commitment to a flipped AND project-based learning class, I'd moved instruction online, making myself much more available for students in class. Students had several days to take in lessons online via YouTube with the inevitable quiz at the end of the research period. Quizzes were in-depth to determine if students had really done their research, completing their own notes on note-blanks provided. To provide a bit more credence, quizzes counted for marks, but a poor result could be "knocked-out" by a better performance on another assessment such as the chapter or unit exam. After all, learning should be the goal. Sometimes students just aren't ready for an assessment. But, like a drivers' exam, there is an opportunity to demonstrate successful mastery of learning. In most cases, assessment scores improved. As in a traditional classroom, learning is often a function of motivation. My class was no exception.
Project-based learning began with cell-models as I've already stated. Then the course turned to Biochemistry, which turns out to be much more challenging to develop projects for. I needed to lay down more yellow bricks and develop motivational projects that students could immerse themselves into or modify. Lab work was to be the answer. We have a lab where students identify nutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, sugars, and lipids. Students run standard tests with Lugol's Iodine, Biuret's, Benedict's solutions, and test for lipids using a brown-paper assessment. This time the lab was a project. Students ran standard tests to determine how the reagents and tests functioned, then were given several unknowns to test independently. I must admit it was fun to watch them toil, puzzle, hypothesize, and postulate what the unknown samples could possibly be. One student asked if one unknown (apple juice) could possibly be urine... My response... "Well what's in urine that you could possibly test for?" The fact that I didn't discount the possibility reflected in the student's quite amusing reaction :) Once testing was complete, students had a fairly good idea of what the test materials could be. To make matters more interesting, I decided to use quick response (QR)codes -- essentially bar codes acting as links to online content to find out the true identities. The codes sent them to riddles to do the final sleuthing. I've included these in this post. Watching students run throughout the building from our classroom to the library to the Social Studies Department, then to the office was fun. One thing I've learned is a good scavenger hunt is a great idea every once in a while :)
Okay, well that's about all the time I have for this initial post. I'm glad to have had the time to reflect and share a bit of my journey with eCampusLive Biology at College Heights Secondary.
Welcome to the eCampusLive blog. I'm Jerry Bleecker. I teach Biology, Science, Information Technology, Computer Arts, and more. It's an exciting year to share our experiences with our flipped classroom endeavour.