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.
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.
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.