Category Archives: Uncategorized

A “21st Century Report Card”?

I just finished reading the article, A Plan For Raising Brilliant Kids, According to Science, from the NPR Ed website. It’s a summary of an interview with Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a developmental psychologist with Temple University and the Bookings Institution, and Professor Roberta Golinkoff from the University of Delaware. The pair have written a book titled Becoming Brilliant: What Science Tells Us About Raising Successful Children.

In the book, Pasek and Holinkoff propose a new model for educational assessment, which they call “the six Cs”: collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation and confidence. I don’t think they’re the first to propose these ideas as fundamental to modern education, but I do like the way they link all of them together. Here are the six Cs in the authors’ own words:

Hirsh-Pasek: The first, basic, most core is collaboration. Collaboration is everything from getting along with others to controlling your impulses so you can not kick someone else off the swing. It’s building a community and experiencing diversity and culture. Everything we do, in the classroom or at home, has to be built on that foundation.

Communication comes next, because you can’t communicate if you have no one to communicate with. This includes speaking, writing, reading and that all-but-lost art of listening.

Content is built on communication. You can’t learn anything if you haven’t learned how to understand language, or to read.

Critical thinking relies on content, because you can’t navigate masses of information if you have nothing to navigate to.

Creative innovation requires knowing something. You can’t just be a monkey throwing paint on a canvas. It’s the 10,000-hour rule: You need to know something well enough to make something new.

And finally, confidence: You have to have the confidence to take safe risks.

Just to be clear: I’m not endorsing the book (I haven’t even read it myself). I was simply struck by how different these ideas are from the way most schools, and many of us teachers, measure students’ achievements and progress. In my experience, all Cs but the content have been relegated to secondary status on report cards, lumped together in a general “effort” or “approaches to learning” category.

Happy learning!

Mr K

I’ve been creating HyperDocs for my students, and I didn’t even know it!

The Cult of Pedagogy article “How HyperDocs Can Transform Your Teaching” appeared in my Twitter feed recently. While cooking dinner last night, I listened to the embedded podcast and realized that I’ve been using this great tool for a while without even realizing it has a proper name!

My enthusiasm for the Google for Education universe is based primarily on the following reasons:

  1. GAFE allows for an almost entirely paperless classroom. Documents, presentations, diagrams, drawings, and data sets can be emailed, shared with peers, and/or published online with only a few clicks and keystrokes. This cloud-based connectivity also makes it a lot more challenging to lose work!
  2. Collaboration among teachers as well as students is incredibly easy and intuitive, especially since there’s no downloading required, training others how to “track changes” and return an updated file is no longer necessary, and each user’s favorite operating system is irrelevant because each person can keep using their platform of choice without inconveniencing others.
  3. Personalized, differentiated learning is more achievable through what I’ve always referred to as a “menu” of activity choices provided to students: a selection of relevant YouTube videos, online learning games, animations and simulations, traditional worksheets, and news articles about recent scientific developments in the current topic of study. The menu concept allows each student to engage with a unit of study at his or her own pace and preferences.

Early versions of my HyperDocs were less open-ended and quite sequential: “First, complete these two activities and email your teacher when you’re ready to share your work. Then complete the following worksheet, and after that….” It was a great way to use the hyperlink feature of Google Docs to keep students organized, but there wasn’t really much choice involved.

As I became more and more competent with the Google platform (I’m now a Google-Certified Educator), I began to use hyperlinking differently: “If you’re curious about X, click here. If you’d rather learn about Y first, follow this link. When you’re ready to develop your final product, make a copy of the document linked here and follow the instructions within it.” My team-teaching colleagues and I started using Docs to develop entire units of study in which we collectively shared and used all the resources we’d found individually, and that was really empowering as an educator.

In the Cult of Pedagogy podcast, Jennifer Gonzalez interviews Kelly Hilton, Lisa Highfill, and Sarah Landis, authors of The HyperDoc Handbook. All 3 women teach outside Silicon Valley, and they summarize the benefits of HyperDocs as:

  • Fewer lectures
  • More face-to-face interactions with students
  • Flexibility
  • Multimodal opportunities
  • Student privacy

Listening to their story, and the way they describe these benefits, I think they’re onto a truly transformative teaching tool. Even though I’d already developed my own approach to this idea, these 3 educators have refined some “best practice” approaches that I’ll be incorporating into my Chili-pepper menus from now on.

Happy learning!

Mr K

Chemistry resources for students: part 2

Hello!

Today I’m sharing a collection of chemistry bookmarks, which I hope students and teachers of science may find useful.  Some of them are specific to a particular unit of study, while others are more general in nature. There are definitely some duplicates here from my previous posts, so I apologize for the extraneous material, but it’s still good stuff. Today’s post focuses on general chemistry. You can find additional bookmarks in my earlier post, “Chemistry resources for students: part 1.

That’s all for now, folks.

Happy learning!

 

Biology resources for students: part 2

Good morning!

It’s time for more science bookmarks! This morning I’ll be sharing a collection of bookmarks, which I think students and teachers of science may find useful.  Some of them are specific to a particular unit of study, while others are more general in nature. There are definitely some duplicates here from my previous posts, but I don’t think there’s much harm in that. I’ve categorized all these resources by subject: astronomy, biology, chemistry, ecology, and physics. Today’s post focuses on general biology. You can find additional bookmarks in my earlier post, “Biology resources for students: part 1.”

I hope these aren’t too repetitive. I just want to pass them along so that my students and colleagues have access to some of the many wonderful biology resources I’ve found over the years.

Happy learning!

Elections get in the way of science news

Good evening!

In addition to the professional presence I have on Twitter (@bradleymkremer) and here on my science blog/website, I have a personal profile on Facebook, which I think doesn’t make me unusual in any way. I usually make a fairly concerted effort to keep my personal and professional lives separate. I’m not Facebook friends with any current students (I’ll accept friend requests upon their graduation from university, though), I never tweet about politics or personal events, and I almost never post science articles or thoughts on my Facebook wall.

However, those personal and professional worlds do overlap sometimes. I have current and former work colleagues who have become friends. My personal interest in science frequently spills over into my professional involvement with science education.

Where is this leading us, you may ask?

Today I am sharing a collection of science news and updates from my Facebook feed. These are a few resources I’ve saved over the past few weeks and months because they’re either of personal interest or they’re directly relevant to units I teach – or both! Sometimes, life gets in the way, with things like visits from your mother, presidential elections, and an almost-one-year-old baby at home. So, without further ado, here are the science news items I’ve been following lately:

Elon Musk and Tesla reveal solar rooftops – Bloomberg News. Musk is one of my heroes because I think he’s a visionary who is unafraid to use his considerable funds to push the envelope of scientific innovation for the betterment of humanity and our planet. (Full disclosure: I own stock in Tesla.)

The “Zero Waste” grocery store – A Berlin shop which has developed a sustainable shopping model with the goal of reducing solid domestic waste. IB ESS topic 8.2: Resource use in society and 8.3: Solid domestic waste.

Zero emissions train unveiled in Germany – Not yet in service, but a step in the right direction to meet growing transportation needs. The train uses hydrogen fuel cells in place of diesel engines, and since it’s a public service, economies of scale may help advance more widespread adaptation of the fuel cell technology.

Climate change is having an impact on infrastructure – A story from Wired detailing how rising temperatures, thawing permafrost, and increased precipitation are having an effect on communities built permafrost. A case study for IB ESS topic 7 and IB Biology topic 4.

Captive breeding case studies from National Geographic – Students evaluate the effectiveness of various captive breeding programs designed to conserve biodiversity in this species-based approach to conservation. A solid link to IB ESS topic 3.

Are the water wars coming? – A look at dwindling freshwater resources in the face of growing human population pressure around the world. A good discussion for IB ESS topic 4.2: Access to fresh water.

How what we eat has changed (and will change again) – A short video from the BBC Future project examining the interplay between human population growth, food production, and ecosystem impacts. Relevant for IB Biology option C: Ecology and conservation, as well as IB ESS topic 5.2: Terrestrial food production systems and food choices.

Looking for good news about climate change? This is about all there is – The Washington Post outlines a scrap of good news regarding the rate of planetary warming in the context of the 2016 US presidential election. Useful for IB Biology topic 4.3: Carbon cycling, topic 4.4: Climate change, and IB ESS topic 7: Climate change and energy production.

That’s all I have time for tonight. I’ll post another set of news links soon-ish. And of course, I’ll have more on Twitter.

Happy learning!

Mr K

Ecology resources for students: Part 1

Good afternoon!

I’m back with another set of bookmarks for students and teachers. Because I’ve taught the IB Environmental systems and societies course for several years, this set of online resources is closest to my heart. Some of these links are here simply because I think they’re cool or fun. Many may also be applicable for studying biology and chemistry as well. Let’s get to it:

Happy learning!

Cheers,

Mr K

Chemistry resources for students: Part 1

Hello again!

As with my last post, this one is dedicated to sharing the random assortment of helpful bookmarks I’ve collected over the years. Like the first part of my bio resources, these are in no particular order, unless you consider where they fall in my browser’s drop-down menu some kind of order. Without further ado, some resources for your chemistry studies:

  • PTable.com. Hands down the best periodic table on the internet. Period.
  • Chemistry.about.com. A good, all-around general chemistry resource. They’ve updated the site format to include news and events, which may tie in nicely with MYP Criterion D: Reflecting on the impacts of science.
  • LibreTexts virtual chemistry textbooks. These are some fairly advanced materials which may be more appropriate for students in Diploma Program or AP chemistry classes. Organized around broad topics such as analytical chemistry, environmental chemistry, organic chem, and physical and theoretical chemistry.
  • IB Chemistry Web. This site appears to be meticulously maintained, and it’s closely aligned with the new IB Chemistry syllabus. Heavy on text, but a tremendous amount of resources for every part of the course.
  • PCCL Flash animations for learning chemistry. These aren’t fancy animations, but they clearly and simply demonstrate a bunch of key topics in general chemistry.
  • Molecular Workbench. Hundreds of engaging, interactive simulations in chemistry (and other subjects). Many include embedded assessments, and you can build your own simulation if you really get into it. You can spend hours with the MW.
  • Cavalcade o’ Chemistry (a.k.a. ChemFiesta). Mr Guch’s incredible chemistry page. He’s been maintaining this page since the late 1990s, and it gets better and better each year. Supremely helpful for middle school and early high school students. He also has a special section just for teachers.
  • Practical chemistry activities from the Nuffield Foundation. Over 200 activities you can do to teach or learn about chemistry. Some are virtual, but many require a science lab.
  • Behind the Scenes at MIT. As the website tagline says, “A series of two-minute videos relating concepts from textbook chemistry to current MIT research and applications in medicine, the environment, and energy.” A nice way for students to see the real-world applications of what’s happening in the lab and the classroom.
  • Off the Shelf Chemistry. A series of 18 chemistry labs for middle school and high school. Download PDF or Word versions to use in your own class/lab.
  • Chemlab.com from Truman State University. This website hosts the course materials for several university-level chemistry courses, but many of them are appropriate and applicable for high school.
  • Periodic Videos from TED-Ed. “A lesson about every single element on the periodic table.” Enough said.

Those are my Chrome chemistry bookmarks. After I’ve run through my resources for earth science, ecology, and physics, I’ll revisit all these subjects and add a second round of resources from my Firefox browser.