Category Archives: Teaching with Technology

Now That’s A Museum Exhibit

A visit to New York City’s Historical Society Museum with my friend, Abe

While in New York City I had the opportunity to visit the New York Historical Society Museum (56th and Central Park West). If you haven’t been there, it’s a gem of a museum.  Terrific permanent collection and a steady rotation of intriguing new exhibits.  Not to mention the life-sized statues of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas that grace the steps of the two entrances, as if the two men were on their way in.

Main wall of the exhibit.

On this visit, there was a fabulous exhibit in the museum’s lobby called the New York Gallery of American History. Small and unobtrusive, you almost miss the darned thing as you move into the museum to head toward other exhibits.  On one entrance lobby wall is a salon-style display of various museum artifacts that tell the story of New York’s contribution to American history.  It covers the period from the American Revolution to 1804 (when the Society was founded).  What’s really intriguing is the way this exhibit is curated, with multiple entry points and levels of examination.  The artifacts themselves are hung on the wall, floor to ceiling (as you can see in the photo to the right).  Then, on strategically placed media columns, you can engage with touchscreens that replicate a section of the wall allowing you to interact with the artifacts – select one by touching it and you will drill down to a sub image or more information.

As an added layer, there is a downloadable app for the exhibit affords you a similar path on your handheld device with even more information and helpful connections.  I really appreciated the way the app helped one to see thematic connections, across the exhibit and between individual artifacts.  Very nicely done.

As you wander the length of the wall, exploring the various touchscreens, you notice small portholes in the floor.  Nine of them.  In each porthole is a well-lit object that was found – fittingly – in the ground under New York City by archeologists.  Arrowheads, military buttons, coins, bullets, an oyster shell.

Portholes in the floor.

It was a completely entrancing museum exhibit. It felt like being at the center of perfectly crafted origami creation – unwrapping it as you went along. Layers intricately planned… in front of your eyes, at your fingertips, in your hand, and under your feet.  Lovely.

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New Media Consortium Summer Conference

#nmc12

I just returned from the Summer New Media Consortium (NMC) conference at MIT in Cambridge, MA. A terrific three days, chock-full of excellent speakers, edgy ideas, and excellent networking.  This post will be an attempt to capture and process what I heard and saw – or at least a first stab at it.

The first full day opened with Joichi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab, as the conference keynote.  He gave a wonderful talk and set the tone for the meeting ahead by explaining that life at the Media Lab (where innovation rules) is less about “stocking” (filling your head with information) and more about “pulling” (being able to pull the information you need, when you need it).  The Media Lab is really set up like an adult kindergarten – you get interested in stuff, you mess around, you figure things out. Created 28 years ago, there are 26 faculty (in different fields…they call themselves “anti-disciplinary”), 140 graduate students, 300 research projects, 70 sponsors, and an annual budget of $35 million.

Ito talked about the finances of innovation with venture capitalists.  Basically, it comes down to the fact that the “sitting- around-and-thinking-about-it” costs or the “trying-to-retool-it-costs” are always more than the “just-try-it” costs.  If it’s not working, abandon it – good luck, move on, come back when you have another good idea. His average project at the Media Lab costs less than $100k.  He cites the example of a company spending $3 million on a feasibility study to decide whether or not to move forward on a $600k idea. A total waste. Interesting way of thinking…

Ito then went into a description of his media philosophy, by talking about the thinkers who influenced/architected the internet. This is important to provide as context since, as Ito puts it,  “The internet is not a tool, it’s a philosophy.” I really liked that. Starting with Small Pieces Loosely Joined (David Weinberger), then onto David Clark, Rough Consensus Running Code, which basically translates as come to a rough consensus, write code, hack on it, retool.  From there, he went onto The Power of Pull, John Seely Brown, the importance of serendipity, and getting good at using your peripheral vision.

Detecting patterns

Ito went on to encourage us to “think like mushroom hunters”.  When hunting for mushrooms (notoriously hard to spot), experienced mushroom hunters don’t look for mushrooms, they search for complex patterns.  They stop looking at anything in particular (don’t focus), and instead  look for patterns – voila! the mushrooms pop into your view.  The more you focus, the less pattern recognition you have.  So, at the Media Lab, he tries to get people to stop focusing and, instead, use their peripheral vision. We’re so used to planning and focus being good things, but he and the Media Lab are going in the exact opposite direction.

With this approach, he finds that people can be more agile. You can build first, think later. You make things really quickly because you really don’t know until you see it whether or not they will work. He doesn’t believe in longterm strategy – “by the time you figure out the strategy, the world has changed”.

HIS PHILOSOPHY:  resilience (instead of strength)/pull (instead of push)/risk (instead of safety)/systems (instead of objects)/compasses (instead of maps)/practice (instead of theory)/disobedience (instead of compliance)/crowds (instead of experts)/learning (instead of education)

Following that high point, there were a number of other excellent speakers and sessions. Sherry Lassiter (MIT, The Center for Bits and Atoms), talked with us about Fabrication Laboratories (Fab Lab). She set the context for her work by reminding us of the previous two digital revolutions: analog to digital communication and analog to digital computation.  And now, as she sees it, we’re in the third revolution – moving from digital to analog fabrication (making things).

She teaches an MIT course called How To Make (Almost) Anything. If you could make (almost) anything, what would you make?  Students do amazing projects with laser cutters and 3D printing machines. And now, they’ve set up 135 fab labs in 27 countries around the planet.  All the fab labs include a laser cutter, a sign cutter (circuits), milling machine (circuit boards and moulds), and a 3 D printer – all wrapped together with an electronics workbench.  Young people come into the lab, pull the required knowledge as they need it, and apply it to build what they imagine.  Of course, they don’t get it right the first time, but they keep trying until they get what they planned, inventing and problem solving as they go.

Lassiter describes the 21st century workforce as a STEM-capable workforce.  The inventions coming out of the fab lab are amazing – wireless infrastructures, solar homes, agricultural innovations…  Lassiter strongly urged us all go out and “make something” (you’ll be glad you did).

Scott Sayre, founder and principal at Sandbox Studios, a Minneapolis-based group that works with museums and storytelling, also gave a terrific talk. He urged us all to think of the ways that museums display art – in a clean room, simply hung where you don’t really know the story of each piece – how it was created, how it got there, who all owned it.  You also don’t see the behind-the-scenes stuff at the museum – the huge staff, the storage bunkers (~95% of any museum’s collection is in storage), the conservation efforts, the other voices (see the Walker Center’s staff blog site).  Sayre advocates the telling of all of these stories  – past and present – in our museums.

“A deed, a gesture, a poem, a painting, a song, a book are always wrapped in thick wrapper.”

A very useful break-out group session called “Don’t Adjust Your Set  – This Class is Live” was given by Andy Rush, Tim Owens, and Grant Potter.  They’ve been making good use of live radio, podcasting and videocasting in their teaching.  Many of you are well acquainted with DS 106 – these are a few of the guy behind it. Great advice on apps, software, and techniques for livecasting cheaply and efficiently. Check out this page for all sorts of useful tips and this page for their past presentation videos.

One of my favorite parts of the meeting was the sessions “Ideas That Matter“, a 90-minute session on the morning of the last day which featured eight excellent speakers giving short, TED-style talks.  Among them was  Helen Keegan‘s presentation of her amazing adventure running a module of her course as an alternate reality game.  If you haven’t read about it yet, you’ll want to:  Who is Rufi Franzen? And see the collection of tweets.  Absolutely fascinating.

Another favorite of mine was Keith Kruger, CEO of Consortium of School Networking (CoSN), who gave a rousing talk “The Big Hairy Problems of Technology and K-12 Education”.  I particularly liked this series of historical quotes he flashed up on the screen:

“Students today can’t prepare bark to calculate their problems. They depend upon their slates, which are more expensive.  What will they do when their slate is dropped and it breaks? They will be unable to write!”   -Teachers Conference, 1703

“Students today depend too much upon ink.  They don’t know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pencil. Pen and ink will never replace the pencil.”        -National Association of Teachers, 1907

“Ball point pens will be the ruin of education in our country.  Students use these devices and then throw them away. The virtues of thrift and frugality are being discarded. Businesses and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries.”    – The Federal Teacher, 1950

Just a humorous reminder that we humans have been here before, nay-saying new technology…You can read the whole raft of these shades from the past here.

Lord David Puttnam

The meeting concluded with a wonderful capstone in the form of Lord David Puttnam’s talk.  Lord Puttnam is the current Chancellor of the UK’s Open University, but prior to that he was a film producer.  His experiences making movies (Oscar-winning movies!), along with his cinematographer’s eye, is evident in both the content of his message, as well as the way he conveys it.  His talk was a call to action…the undeniable necessity to overcome education’s  “stultifying resistance to change”.

He made a beautiful analogy between the development of the machine gun (and its impact on warfare) and the current situation with educational technology (and illustrated it with a stirring clip from the movie War Horse). Apparently, the machine gun’s introduction was delayed by endless debates over cost/affordable/practicality as well as the love affair that war strategists and officers had with the horse.  Once it was demonstrated undeniably effective in battle (during World War One), there was no more discussion – the money simply had to be found.

Lord Puttnam explained that  it’s the same with educational reform – we simply can not afford not to do it.  “To settle for anything less is to risk the success of the next generation.  We can not allow our children to drift into being second class world citizens.”  It was a stirring end to an intensely interesting week.

Soooo, my key take-aways from NMC12:

– The importance of agility and moving quickly to try things

– The importance of making things and the catalytic environments that support that: Makerspaces, TechShops, Hackerspaces, Fab Labs, DIY

– The power of igniting passion and curiosity in students

– Keith Krueger’s suggestion that the question “should we invest in educational technology?” is the WRONG question.  Rather we should ask  “What should learning look like today so that students are prepared for tomorrow?”.  If we ask that question, technology will be squarely in the center.

For your own NMC exploration you can go to the NMC iTunes page and watch/ listen to the archived conference video collection and here for the four daily digests.

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The Jesus Game

The Wikipedia entry for "Jesus"

We had a bunch of teenaged boys in the house last night who introduced us to “The Jesus Game”.  For the uninitiated, this is a rousing online rendition of “seven degrees of separation”, where the player is challenged to get from some remote, randomly selected topic to “Jesus“, on Wikipedia, in the least number of clicks.

So, here’s how it works.  You navigate to Wikipedia.  I give you a random topic – say, discrete math.  You scan the article, looking for suitable links.  You strategize on your best shot, click, scan the new article for a relevant path, click, and so on. When you finally arrive at the Jesus entry, you’re done.  Then we go back to your browser’s history, count up the number of clicks between “discrete math” and “jesus”, and that’s your number.  Then it’s my turn. Hilarity ensues.

Here’s what I loved about watching these boys play the game last night:  first, they were completely intent.  Focused doesn’t describe it.  If the house had been on fire, I would have had trouble dragging them away.  But the other thing I loved was their conversation around the choices.  They were all looking over the players’ shoulder, making suggestions, shouting out advice, scanning the article for meaning.  Debating whether Catholicism or Protestantism would “get them to Jesus” faster.  OK, so it’s not deep learning, but it’s a darned interesting way to observe their minds at work. It was like game play narration (which I’ve blogged about earlier), they were narrating their thinking, sharing it with others, learing from each other as they carved a path and then, afterwards, reflecting on the their decisions (which paths led to traps, which were the most productive).  And here’s a really interesting thing – once a player made their way to a path previously blazed by an earlier player, they opted to not “cheat” (and mimic that path), but to look for an alternative.  One player announced, “No no, that would be too easy, I’ll look for something else.”

And to complete the metathinking circle, there is a wikipedia entry on The Jesus Game.

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Experimenting with Participatory Media: Mike Gaines at University of Miami

Mike Gaines teaches general biology to undergraduates at University of Miami. He’s one of those incredible educators who is always trying something new – regularly reinventing his course and his approach in order to keep it fresh, alive, and interesting (for his students and for him!).

Mike Gaines' wiki page

Mike Gaines' wiki page

Recently he decided to introduce participatory media to his course (BIL 150).  For some time he’d been looking for a good way to turn a critical analysis of science in the movies into a workable course assignment and a wiki site seemed like a good way to organize it. He built a course wiki site, using Wikispaces, and gave his freshmen biology students the assignment to watch two movies, Contagion and 50/50, and then post their analysis of the biology in those movies (misconceptions?  inaccuracies?  controversies?)  as wiki entries. The student posts are very revealing. You can almost hear their wheels turning as they apply the course concepts (cell division, genetic mutations, viruses) to the science plot twists of the movie (cancer treatment, infection, and disease management).

Following success with that, he started a new page on the wiki site where students would record their observations and reactions to the Richard Dawkins lecture, The Magic of Reality.

Now he was up and running, he decided to experiment further.  Twitter, Wordle and Pixton quickly came next.  He used Twitter to keep in touch with his students, conducting virtual office hours to answer questions and take the “pulse” of the course. After each exam, he asked students to create Wordles (word maps) of their reactions to the exam so that the students could easily (at a glance) check in with each other on their sense of it (really hard?  how’d you do? what concepts were confusing?  how much and how did you study?) and how their own reactions compared to those of their peers. I thought this was a particularly ingenious use of a simple media tool. It was so interesting to read their potent relief as their calibrated themselves to their peers on terms other than test scores.

What I think Mike has done particularly well here is to design his teaching approach so that he’s engaged his students in an authentic experience, where the representation of his students’ knowledge is absolutely essential to the ongoing flow of the course.  There is no busy work here, no tack-ons – everything the students are doing feels important and part of the fabric of the course.

Cleverly, Mikes also used that course wiki site to get final feedback on the course from his students. He set up a new wiki page for student feedback and asked them all to post their comments, suggestions, gripes, and concerns on that page.  From the looks of it, almost all of his students posted something and many of them wrote a quite detailed and useful analysis of their experience.  There are some excellent insights there, but if you don’t have time to read them all, here are a few of my favorite student remarks:

“Because our audience was middle schoolers, critical thinking was required to help express technological and biological in an understandable manner to a general audience.”

“I enjoyed having the opportunity to provide my own input (through Twitter especially) because it gave me a chance to actually think about things more thoroughly. For example, by simply asking us to tweet you about what we found most hard about the test, you are asking us to rethink the test and try to figure out what went wrong. Tweeting is such an easy way to provide input but it really helps spark thinking.”

“Throughout this course twitter has been used as a useful tool to communicate with the professor. Although it may seem informal, it is an effective means of communication because a student can ask the professor a question as soon as they think of it. The comments from twitter were then converted to Wordles, this was exciting because as a student I got to see that other students had the similar concerns and comments on the course.”

“In particular, I thought the use of twitter was a fantastic way to connect with Dr. Gaines and make you stand out in a large class. The same goes for the Wordles, which allowed you to have some valuable input on the tests. It really showed that Dr. Gaines cared about us as students, and didn’t view us all as just one gigantic class that blended together.”

Pretty darned impressive.

And here’s what Mike, himself, had to say about the experience,

“My advice to teachers who want to try this is that once you become familiar with different aspects of Web 2.0 technology, it will be a useful addition to your pedagogical tool kit. It’s how todays students communicate. I had some fears at first because I felt my students were “digital natives” while I was a “digital immigrant” and I would know less than they do.  But this did not turn out to be the case. This teacher and his students became partners sharing their different expertise in the digital world to make my large lecture class more interactive and exciting.  So go for it!”

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Storytelling

Storytelling

Humans are storytelling creatures. Whenever someone says, “that reminds me of a story…”  we prick up our ears and settle in to listen. Two recent Scientific American articles, The Secrets of Storytelling and Fiction Hones Social Skills shed new light on the intricacies and importance of storytelling.  The first article, by Jeremy Hsu on the secrets of storytelling, hones in on why our human brains seem to be particularly well wired for both telling and hearing stories.

The impact of storytelling

The second article dispels the myth that avid readers are isolated bookworms, out of touch with their social world.  The article’s author argues that we humans use stories as a kind of social simulation to help better understand ourselves and human character in general. That entering these imagined worlds of fiction help us to develop empathy and rehearse social interactions so that we are better fixed to take on another person’s point of view.  The article’s author cited a 2006 experiment conducted by Raymond Mar (University of Toronto).  Mar and his colleagues assessed the reading habits of 94 adults and tested their sample on emotion perception and social cognition (by asking them to make judgments/decisions on emotional state/interactions through photographs or video clips).  What they found was a positive correlation between reading fiction and the ability to correctly assess emotional states and interpret social cues.  In other words, the more fiction someone read, the stronger their social aptitude. This is an opinion I’ve long-held (perhaps rationalizing my love of fiction) but it was so gratifying to see it described so well, and  backed by scientific evidence, in a peer-reviewed journal.

Like many others, I’ve been transfixed by National Public Radio’s Story Corps project.  Since 2003, the non-profit Story Corps has recorded over 35,000 stories of people’s lives. These digitally recorded oral histories are broadcast weekly on NPR and archived at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. The heart of the Story Corps project is the interview. Typically, the storyteller is interviewed by a friend or loved one, urged on to recount a story familiar to both of them. In addition to the warm humanity that comes through in these stories, I’m always struck by the interplay between the interviewer and the storyteller – the nature of the questions, the good-natured coaxing, and the way that rapt listening works to loosen the storyteller’s tongue.

So what is it that makes a good story?  Ira Glass, from This American Life (another fabulous storytelling radio show from National Public Radio), in his video series on storytelling, outlines the building blocks of good storytelling. First, he explains, there is the anecdote – a sequence of actions, one thing following another.  The power of the anecdote is so great that, no matter how boring the facts, you still tune in because it is a sequence of events, like breadcrumbs, that you are eager to follow in order to get to the implied and hoped-for destination.  What’s going to happen? He goes on to say that good stories include bait. The bait typically comes in the form of a question that your story is shaped to answer. And then there’s the all-important point of the story – the moment of reflection, the insight, the ah-ha moment that brings your story together and makes it all worthwhile.  Similarly, Brian Sturm, UNC Chapel Hill, explains his view of storytelling, theory and practice in this video. He explains what a story is and how good stories weave together character, plot, and events as a unified whole and why they are so persuasive (he also tells some great stories in the bargain).

In thinking about storytelling, I found this visual resource helpful  – The Periodic Table of Storytelling. It provides a useful organizational framework  (familiar to any graduate of a general chemistry course) through the different tropes, genres and storytelling methods in a handy, navigable chart.

The periodic table of storytelling

“Digital storytelling” has become an educational buzz phrase as educators and administrators attempt to use participatory media tools so that students can tell their stories more effectively to a wider audience.  There are some amazing online resources to help any educator bring digital storytelling methods to their students.  If you haven’t already seen it the Center for Digital Storytelling (based in Berkeley, CA – natch) is an amazing online resource. Penguin books sponsors a wonderful called we tell stories.  Contests abound, like KQED’s Digital Storytelling Initiative. The University of Houston has a wonderful web site designed to support the educational uses of digital storytelling.  The National Storytelling network, a sort of guild for storytellers, has an interesting website chock-full of resources. And there is even an international conference on digital storytelling, slated for March 2012 in Valencia, Spain.  There’s a range of useful storytelling tools available online like VoiceThread, Pixton, Voki, Storify, and Tikatok – to name just a few.  The always amazing Alan Levine (aka CogDog)’s wiki site on “50 Ways to Tell a Story” is a terrific resource where he tells the same story using 50 different online tools so that you can figure out the unique affordances of each one.  With free and easy-to-use storytelling tools and video, we can all be published authors.

Then there is the notion of transmedia storytelling – the fine art of telling a story via a range of media types (print, audio, video, etc).  The idea is to craft your story in such a way so that it has built-in mobility, so that you harness the power of various media to augment, so that you tell parts in one way, embellish other parts in a different way.  Here is a PFSK series on The Future of Transmedia Storytelling that gives food for thought.

A Child's Christmas in Wales

This Christmas, as a family, we gathered together on Christmas Eve, as we do every year, to read aloud to each other Dylan Thomas’s Child’s Christmas in Wales.

“All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.”

As it always does, that story wraps us in the warm glow of Christmas’s remembered bringing the snows, the guttering gas flames, the swelling uncles, and tipsy aunts to life – even though they were written about an age ago, in a place far far away.  Over dinner the next day, I urged my parents to tell stories from their youth to my listening sons. I could feel the story of my mother’s high school Latin teacher and my father’s first job as the operator of copier for architectural plans sinking into the fiber of my two sons’ young souls. Lodging there, expanding their perspective, and adding to the texture of what they will become.

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Learning in Action: Interview #4 with Ruth Gleicher

The Dunes project with Niles West High School

For about a month now, I’ve been blogging about an ongoing project with Ruth Gleicher, a high school biology teacher at Niles West High School, just outside Chicago.  You can read the first two posts here and here. Bascially, I’ve been riding along while Ruth has re-invented an ecological succession project, that she normally does with her AP Biology students. She wanted to give the project some new juice, incorporate web 2.0 tools into, and weave some formative assessment into the plan. With each major step in the project, I’ve interviewed Ruth to find out how it went, what she’s learned, and how the students have responded.  Here are the recorded interviews:

And here are the documents she refers to in the interviews:

The storyboarding guide:  storyboardfordunesproject.

The project’s RAFT rubric:  DunesRAFTrubric.

The reading guide:  readingguideindianadunes.

Ruth’s Posterous space

Her students went on their field trip to the Indiana Dunes in September and have now completed their projects. The assignment was to tell the succession story of the Indiana Dunes to an audience of your choosing (making a connection between you, as the narrator, and your audience).  The students had multiple web 2.0 tools to choose from when creating their story – some created digital books, some shot video, some created comics, and still others did VoiceThreads.  You can find the students’ posted projects on their class blog site (pictured above). Without exception, they are creative and wonderful expressions of the students’ understanding of succession.  I was truly impressed by how much time and effort the students put into their work.

One of Ruth’s observations, now that the project is complete, is that she feels she has a much better handle on what her students know (and do not know) about succession.  In other words, their projects were deeper, authentic expressions of what they knew and understood.

Unfortunately, the formative assessment part of the plan didn’t go so well.  The students had two weeks between posting their project and the point at which Ruth would grade them. She encouraged them to comment on each other’s work and recruited a few other biology teachers to post comments.  Most of the students got 2 or 3 comments but, unfortunately, they didn’t respond to them nor did they opt to revise their project in light of the feedback (even though there were some specific issues to address). Ruth’s take is that this formative assessment loop is not a familiar path for her students – once an assignment is turned in, that’s the end of it. She’s eager for ideas to help encourage this important aspect of the project so if any of you have suggestions, please comment below – we’d love to hear them.

I also wanted to reflect on the way that Ruth and I have been working together. It’s interesting to tally up the many ways Ruth we productively used new media tools as we worked.

Skype:  Ruth and I used Skype for our planning conversations and for the interviews.  Since the voice were coming through my computer, I could easily record the conversation and then post the recordings online.

WireTap:  I use this regularly to record audio – it’s a wonderful, versatile, and fool-proof piece of recording software.

Google Docs:  Ruth posted all of her student worksheets and rubrics as Google Docs which made it easy for me to edit and add suggestions. It also made it easy for the students to access them – they could either save and then print them as PDFs or Word docs, or they could save a copy and create their own version of the original, also a Google Doc, so they could modify it, write in their answers, online.  Having the activity’s documents online will also make it easy for Ruth to share her work with other teachers.

VoiceThread:  A few of the students used VoiceThread for their projects.  They uploaded digital images taken on the field trip and added their own narration to the images to tell their succession story.

Issuu.  Quite few of the students used Issuu for their projects to make online books – Ruth’s speculation was that this was the easiest of the tools for the students to use and required much less work.

Pixton.  A few of the students created comic books, using Pixton, for their projects. This was the tool that Ruth was first drawn to.  She particularly liked the way you could add comic drawings to real photos to tell a story.

Posterous.  Ruth used this free application to create a publicly accessible blog site where her students could post their finished projects – all in one online spot – so that others could see them and comment. By posting the projects and specifically marking out time for peer review, Ruth is emphasizing important elements of the scientific process (as well as good writing) – multiple drafts, reshaping one’s ideas based on the meaningful input of peers and outside experts, editing, proofreading, and refinement. And since the projects are all online, and easily accessible, she’s erased the boundaries of the 50-minute class and the limits of getting feedback from those in attendance at Niles West HS.

Thanks, Ruth – it’s been a really good learning experience and great fun as well!

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Learning in Action: Interview #3 with Ruth Gleicher

Ruth Gleicher's AP Biology Students at the Indiana Dunes

I’ve been shadowing Ruth Gleicher, AP Biology teacher at Niles West High School (in Skokie, IL), for the last few weeks as she re-imagines an ecological succession project with her students.  This week, Ruth and her students went on their field trip to the Indiana Dunes (that’s them in the photo above).  Ruth has altered the project from the paper brochure she required her students to create in years past to a menu of possible digital projects (a video, an online comic book, a VoiceThread, or a digital storybook). She has also included a formative assessment stage, where the students storyboard their project before building it. Ruth hopes that the assignment’s redesign will help spark their imaginations, encourage their creativity, and facilitate peer review and networked sharing. Ultimately, Ruth believes that this new approach will help the students more fully grasp and understand the concept of ecological succession while helping her better assess and diagnose their misconceptions and gaps.

I’ve been recording short conversations between us as Ruth recounts her insights and observations on the development and implementation of this new project.  Here is conversation #3, recorded jus after their trip to the Dunes:

Ruth Gleicher Interview #3

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