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.
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.