Tag Archives: ruth

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!

6 Comments

Filed under Teaching with Technology

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

1 Comment

Filed under Reflections on Teaching, Teaching with Technology

Learning in Action: Interview #2 with Ruth Gleicher

For the last week, I’ve been blogging about my ride, alongside Illinois high school teacher Ruth Gleicher, as she works to revise an ecological succession project for her AP Biology students. Last night, Ruth and I spoke, via Skype, and I recorded the conversation.  In this recording, Ruth reveals her thinking process about the assignment, the materials she’s created in the last few days (since our last interview), the project format options her students will have, the timeline for the project, and her expectations for the outcomes.  Here’s the recording:

Ruth Gleicher Interview #2

Here are the materials that Ruth refers to in the recording:

The storyboarding guide:  storyboardfordunesproject.

The project’s RAFT rubric:  DunesRAFTrubric.

The reading guide:  readingguideindianadunes.

The student image collection:  ImagecollecitonforDunesTrip.

To sum up the project’s timeline….

9.20.11  Students will go on field trip to the Indiana Dunes

9.27.11  Storyboards due

10.6.11  Student projects posted

10.21.11  Ruth evaluates projects

One of the many things I admire about Ruth’s plan is that she’s made room in the schedule for input and refinement.  There are two weeks between when the students post their projects and when she evaluates them.  Projects will appear on the class blog site, comments are encouraged, and the link will be shared with other AP Biology teachers and content experts.  Based on the feedback they receive, students have the opportunity to refine and improve their projects.  With this interesting addition, Ruth is modeling the network effect at its best. Wonderful.

Leave a comment

Filed under Reflections on Teaching

Learning in Action: Interview #1 with Ruth Gleicher

In order to give you a better sense of what Ruth Gleicher is undertaking for her AP Biology course, we decided to record a few conversations between us about this new project for her students. In this first interview, you can hear Ruth outline her goals for the project, how its worked in the past, what her concerns are, why she wants to change things, and what she hopes to do going forward. Ruth and I will record other conversations to document her planning process and, eventually, the outcomes.  So stay tuned!

Here’s Ruth:

Ruth Gleicher Interview #1.

1 Comment

Filed under Teaching with Technology

Learning in Action: Planning the Project with Ruth Gleicher

Ruth Gleicher and I are working together to reinvigorate her AP Biology “Dunes” project by turning her students into producers, authors, and film makers.  Ruth’s plan is to assign her class the task of creating a digital story to explain ecological succession, after a field trip to the Indiana Dunes.  Here is a PDF of her original assignment: 0821_001

In this previous post, I’ve explained the challenge before us.  Now, onto my recommendations for Ruth on the digital tools. Here is an email that I sent to Ruth this week:

Hi Ruth,

So, what  we want to do is to reinvigorate the “brochure project” that you used to assign by using new media tools so that your students will be able to create and share digital stories. But, as we discussed, you want to think through the instructional plan before we jump to discussion of tools.

You mentioned that you were interested in formative assessment for your students, so regardless of what method you (or they) choose to create their succession project, I would suggest requiring them to storyboard their story first.  Storyboards are paper plans for the eventual project – a roadmap of the story they plan to tell.  The great thing about storyboards is that it forces the producer (your student) to grapple deeply with the concepts before they get caught up in the fun and zeal of the technology.  They make sure (and you can see) that they understand the biology behind the story and they have a firm grip on their plan, before they invest in the creation.

Here’s a great site that explains what a storyboard is and why it’s important to do. Here’s a site that will send you a free pack of storyboard templates. And here’s a web-based set of printable storyboards.  And here’s another.

The other thing to keep in mind with these participatory media tools is the “participation” part.  By posting their stories online, it’s a tremendous opportunity to share, do peer review, and get others to comment on the students’ work.  That is what you sometimes here referred to as “the network effect”. Get people talking – get them to share, reference each other, build on each other’s stories.  If they feel that they have an audience, that there are other people listening/watching, the quality of the work, the amount of time they invest (and, of course, what they get out of it!), will increase.

So, onto the tools…

Video:  Home-made videos can be very powerful.  And with video cameras being so cheap these days, it’s relatively easy for students to produce their own videos.  You can buy a Flip video camera for ~ $90. Armed with their camera, your students could go out and shoot some footage at the Dunes then, using some simple editing software, create a movie to tell the succession story.

VoiceThread:  This is a free web tool that allows students to create a narrated “slideshow”.  So, it’s their voice, talking through the images (which are jpgs they upload).  In addition to creating a nice, visually-based story, others can go into the created VoiceThread, after its posted, and add their own comments, so that the story continues…

Podcasting:  I’m a big fan of podcasting (reminiscent of radio…). What I like about it is that it’s relatively simple and low tech.  You just use an ipod or any of a number of cheap digital audio recorders. Record an interview with an expert or a student talking through story, timeline, or a series of images.  You can leave it there, with just the recording (up on a web site or on iTunes, for anyone to listen or download), or you can play with the audio recording to enhance it. To do that, you import the podcast into an editing tool (Garageband on the mac, Audacity on the PC) and then add images or video clips to the audio.

Present.me Another free web tool.  With this one you can create fully recorded sessions, with slides (PPTs).  One stop shopping here – you get the video of the presenter, their voice, and the images.

Blogging: Blogs are great tools for reflection and growing community.   You could set up a class blog or individual student blogs. Or you could do a combination of both, where the individual student blogs all roll up (and feed into) a class or “mother blog”. Students write about their experiences, the photos the data – they tell the succession story in installments. The key is to get them to read and comment on each other’s posts. You could also line up some outside content experts (or other teachers, NABT friends) to comment on the students’ posts.  That’ll really fire them up!

Comic Books:  A fun way to tell a story that seems to appeal to kids. There are a number of programs to do this that are very easy to use and allow for a tremendous amount of creativity.  For instance, Comic Life (a Mac program) is one I use frequently. It’s all drag and drop – dead easy – and your output can be jpgs or PDFs, so easy to share what you’ve created. Here’s a web-based comic creation site, Pixton, that I’ve used before with good results.

Issuu: This one allows you to create and publish a “storybook” online.  This would be great for anyone who had in mind creating a digital children’s book, to tell their story. You can upload images, documents, whatever and then build it into a magazine-like narrative.  In the final product, the reader flips the pages online as they work their way through.  Very nice output and its easy to use this one, they could structure it so that their drawing was on the left-facing page and the photo of the same thing was on the right and then explain how the two are related.

Animoto:  allows you to create a sort of “music video”. Photos (that you upload) that dissolve and spin, using special effects, played to music that you choose.  You can insert a sort of narrative into it by adding images with short lines of text.  I’ve seen some really high impactanimotos, like this one on the light reactions.

Include Drawings:  You mentioned that you’d like to their hand-rendered drawings in the final product.  If you have access to a scanner, they could scan them in and include those drawings as jpg.  Easy.  So, basically, with any of these programs, the idea is to make sure that all of their assets are jpgs (whether they are photos or scans) and just upload those into the application of choice.  You can use Skitch (for Mac) or SnagIt (for PC, but that one’s not free) to add illustrations, doodles, and annotations to your uploaded images or screen captures.

Google Maps and Google Earth:  Images and/or footage from these tools could be nicely incorporated into the student projects. Done simply, they could use Google maps or Google Earth images (screen shots, uploaded as jpgs). At a more complex level, they could create a Google Earth movie (a screencast) that zooms in on the dunes location, giving relational information or they could create a kmz file (an overlay) that zooms the viewer from place to place in a predetermined way.  There are a number of tools that allow you to do screen casts of the action on your screen – my favorite is Screencast-o-matic.  And speaking of screencasts, students could use a tool like Eyejot to record a short, talking head video using the web cam on your computer.

What do you think of these?

 

4 Comments

Filed under Reflections on Teaching, Teaching with Technology