Biology 12 has an amazing curriculum. It represents a tour of biochemistry, human body systems (med-school 101), enzymatics, and homeostasis. Creating a project-based learning course required laboratory experiences, discovery learning, and a fair bit of role play as students played the role of Dr. Awesome and evaluated medical scenarios. Once more, screencasts of classroom lessons were provided via YouTube. Combined with eCourse resources (Moodle), eCL Biology 12 had arrived. The goal of eCampusLive is to blend live and online experience and resources and motivate students to apply learning in ways that solve problems and major issues facing society. From infection to tissue and organ regeneration, eCL students are encouraged to think like "TED" and apply STEM to envision and improve the future.
It has been a while since my last post to eCampusLive. After a wonderful summer in 2014, the fall was a turbulent one. There was a BC teacher strike followed by a late start. eCampusLive Biology12 was offered alongside three other courses, providing a great challenge in posting updates... until now. Yes, I now have a preparatory period ;)
eCL Biology 12 was the first time College Heights Secondary School and SD57 offered a blended and project-based learning course for Biology 12. It felt a lot like laying down the "yellow-brick road" on the way to the Emerald City of Oz. A course that provides a tour or biochemistry, enzymatics, homeostasis, and human body systems hadn't been offered in this fashion before. It was an awesome challenge and very rewarding to create this new course. Screencasting lessons presented a perennial challenge, but I'd like to thank the fine folks at Camtasia for making it a lot easier to create YouTube content.
After eCampusLive's Biology 11 course, we were quite excited to offer eCL Biology 12. And, students from Biology 11 were excited as well. The class roster had expanded. Many students from eCL Biology 11 enrolled in eCL Biology 12.
Over the course of my next posts, it's my goal to tell the tale of eCL Biology 12 at College Heights Secondary. And, it's quite a tale to tell.
Cheers, and thank you for following our blog.
It's the end of the semester and time for our last update. In their final project, students were challenged to create a diorama or a nature scrapbook, reminiscent of the variety featured in the children's cartoon Go Diego Go. When the scrapbook idea was introduced, many of the students were familiar with the cartoon character, his nature explorations, and information gathering that occurs on the show. When final project submissions came in, there were good dioramas and excellent scrapbooks. My diorama shots didn't work out so well and the plasticene critters withered over the weekend. My bad... However, the scrapbooks held up and I've included pictures below. The goal was to summarize habitat, body systems, include a neat Ripley's Believe it or Not Factoid, and relevant issues facing a particular Chordate today. For end of the semester projects (student fatigue at maximum), they were not only fun to mark, but physical projects created with originality, care, and attention to detail. My advice to students was to study any Chordate they had a keen interest in, from Megalodon to Titanoboa, Snow Leopards to Caecilians. Love what you do and study and it won't seem like work, but passionate inquiry. This was the advice I offered throughout the semester. Many students took the notion to heart, and their projects were better for it. Have a look for yourself. I think they did very well as pioneers in the first flipped project-based learning biology class offered at College Heights Secondary.
Final Thoughts ...
Flipping my Biology class was a great decision. In final analysis, what I think was a strength was the flexibility that independent study inquiry brought. Screencasts, a physical text, a digital book, and a Moodle site strewn with resources from flash animations to YouTube links, inter-activities to study guides, web-links, and more provided a strong base to support student inquiry and exploring content. Before offering a flipped class, my Moodle resources had been refined for years, so once the screencasts were done and project ideas began to take shape, flipping the class was a natural next step. Having a strong foundation was a smart move, one that becomes better with reflection and refinement that come with time.
So, the burning question remains - what would you do differently the next time around? To answer my own question, I plan to move to greater inquiry-based learning. Project-based learning is exactly that - projects, while inquiry follows students natural interests around topics. While a bit more tricky to implement within a particular chapter or topic, I believe it's a better fit for individualized learning and should improve motivation through curiosity. Second, students need to step up more and celebrate their work. They were quite concerned to take risks and share their learning with others. They worried about negative feedback from peers. That mindset needs to be challenged. I look at it this way -- who makes fun of projects at a science fair? I don't think anyone should. In fact, a science fair is perhaps the best example of inquiry-based learning and applied learning that comes to mind when I consider science, engineering, and technology. It's about application. These will be good changes, adding to the great work completed this year.
I've been approached many times about offering eCampusLive Biology 12. The answer to students about the course is simple; if they want it, they need only sign up for next year. Good programs will have a good following. That leaves me with potentially many screencasts to conclude. The inquiries and projects will have a medical focus with Biology 12 being a human anatomy, cellular biology, and biochemistry focussed curriculum. It will be all about critical thinking and solving mysteries. Along the way, there should be some great scavenger hunts, as I've become quite proficient and fond of using Aurasma.
So, I'll take some time, step back and reflect some more, minus the blog and go into a creative phase. I've had a wonderful time sharing my experiences, hardships, complaints, and triumphs through this medium. Thanks for listening and we'll see you somewhere out there ...
Mr. J. Bleecker
Nosing around Google+ Communities and Twitter, I had the great fortune discovering and following CEET-BC. A community of expertise in the use of education technology, their discussions about screencasts and the use of augmented reality are highly intriguing. Sometimes it's hard not to be an explorer. This is one of those times.
After viewing a few links, I happened on a great video on YouTube and immediately saw the possibilities in action. Using augmented reality with Aurasma, students can create interactive posters with links to video presentations, and web content providing great connectivity for project and inquiry based learning activities. If you haven't tried Aurasma, it's a bit like using QR Codes (bar codes) to link to online content. In the case of Aurasma, you upload a trigger image which upon scanning links to online content. The possibilities for use are astounding. As I write this, I'm already working a scavenger hunt with Aurasma into one of my Biology units. Fun.
So, what do students & educators have to do to take Aurasma for a spin? First, download the app. Second, watch a few how-to's. I liked this one to begin with, showing how to use Aurasma on an iPad. Finally, be sure to follow the publishing instructions, particularly the part about following the person whose Auras you wish to see. Then and only then will you have access to their online content.
Why augmented reality? In an era of digital everything, it's nice to afford a blended approach where tangible meets the intangible in exchanging ideas and communication. I know I'm looking forward to that first interactive anatomy poster presentation next year in eCampusLive Biology 12. This is definitely the start of something good.
Has it been five months already? Time sure flies. It's not just an idiom. In the last few units, our students studied Mollusks, Arthropods, and now turn their attention and research to the Chordate classes.
A truly great recent project saw a student use Minecraft to create a virtual model of a squid. Even better, he provided a screencast tour of his work, improved small imperfections on the fly, with a full run-down on its body systems, and some very interesting factoids. We've included the link here. It's well worth a watch.
Now we're down to the last days of the course. This time around, students are challenged to create projects as dioramas or a Go Diego Go style scrapbook. If you've ever watched Dora the Explorer with your kids, you probably watched the Diego series, which inspired our scrapbook project idea :)
All this research and project work leads to DissectaMania next week - two days of lab research into fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Our specima include perch, frogs, turtles, pigeons, and rats. The driving question of the dissection series is - "How have body systems evolved and increased in complexity to meet the needs of larger organisms?" A tour of the body systems and internal organs tells the story.
So, as eCampus heads into the final stretch, it is with great pride that I'll include our final projects in posts to come, knowing it's the beginning of reflection and improvement for the next derby.
In June, when we received the go-ahead to offered eCampusLive Biology, I wondered how my views on assessment would evolve. Would paper & pencil assessments still be the hallmark of success or were other means waiting for their "day to shine?" It turns out change was waiting for its inevitable introduction.
I'd volunteered as part of a strategy group at my school to with Tom Schimmer to integrate formative assessment. I was immediately taken with many ideas, after just a few sessions. Like food for thought, assessment changes segued naturally with the ongoing experimentation in my flipped classroom. The flipped format provided the time needed to consider formatively assess strategies to apply and review afterward. A bit like playing with dominos, a change to one area inevitably led to a change in another.
First, we began working with Google Forms. The entire class had fun with formative group quizzes and analyzing the results. Using anonymous formative assessment turned out to be so useful, we used it to obtain feedback from the class on how to improve the program. Amazingly, one small change - using Google Forms, led to much greater ones. The benefits have been tremendous.
Second, it was time to attempt different assessments strategies. We decided to forgo a traditional paper assessment for Phylum Echinodermata. This time, students researched echinoderms, then completed a starfish dissection presentation. The criteria were similar to many projects that came before: survey and explain external & internal structures, describe how the major body systems are accounted for with the organs present (or absent), and lastly, provide a "Ripley's Believe It or Not" factoid. While we didn't have time to film the entire interview for each team, we do have some short clips of a few interviews to share. One thing about Biology -- students love to roll up their sleeves, snap on their gloves, and dive into a dissection =:}
Dissection 1 - A Tour with Team Ninja hey - they chose the name ;)
Dissection 2 - "Diving in" with Team Second Row
After surveying my class, I learned they love creating models and using them as a basis for creative projects. In the last week, I've received models constructed from play dough, plasticine, paper, and cake. The care, thought, and attention students place into creating their renditions is amazing. With each model, students submitted reports typed on paper, via Google Docs, on video, and even by podcast. As we complete our fourth month, their work continues to amaze. Project-based learning is a tremendous medium for learning, and I'm very encouraged by the positive feedback received. eCampusLive-Biology 12 is next on the docket.
As the course moved on, I noticed one of my students responded very well to learning during our labs dissections. It was readily apparent he enjoyed hands-on work, having a definite kinaesthetic learning style. Addressing student learning style and choice is an area I wanted to investigate and study. An opportunity to provide individualized learning arose, so I jumped at the opportunity. My student was more than willing to have a dissection chat and discuss the annelid body systems and their importance. It was a great experience. I'll be doing much more of this in the future, not only with students, but senior students buddying up with junior students as well. Below is the YouTube video of our chat together = }
Having fun with Biology 12 Students
When I'm not teaching Biology 11, evolution and surveying all life on Earth, I get a chance to practice a bit of Pre-Med and study biochemistry, cells, and best of all, the human body systems. What is the best way to learn? Well, sometimes, it's best to sit back and enjoy student suggestions, like this video pick of the day on YouTube
"What does the Spleen Do?"
On days like this, I love my job =}
How do students create their own notes in a digital classroom? It's an interesting question. Throughout the course, students have created digital notes, some have completed slideshow notes, while others prefer not to take notes at all, instead watching course videos as needs be.
It is difficult to say which note-taking style has been most effective. However, one set of notes stands out. By watching the course videos, one student created the magnificent notes shown below.
Looking to the future, will students use a stylus and create notes by hand digitally? I wonder. It's something that can be completed now with tablets. Colour notes for every student? Sounds like a plan with extra benefits.
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.