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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why I love going to conferences.

MSTA update edition.

I just returned from the Michigan Science Teachers Association convention in Grand Rapids. It was awesome for many reasons.
  1. I love being around teachers who want to improve their craft. This is why I truly appreciate all my tweeps and blog friends. They allow me to feel like I am at a conference on a daily basis. There were many great discussions held over many great fermented beverages. The ills of the education system were systematically dissected and solutions crafted.  The dueling pianos weren't bad either.
  2. I presented for my first time ever at the conference. Wish I had taken video. Thought of it later. (DOH!) I was worried that only 3 people would show.  My room was rather small which at first I thought was good.  But when about 30 teachers showed up for a room that comfortably held 12 I realized that my worries were for naught. The most amazing thing was only about 4-5 people had even heard about modeling.  I briefly (only had 45 mins) went through a description of modeling.  I started by asking them to share with each other the one thing that they would want a student from their class to learn in their class.  The only thing approaching a content standard was one teacher's desire for students to wear their seatbelts.  The rest were ability to evaluate data, appreciate science, understand that while physics can be challenging they CAN understand it.  I then launched into why those things then take the back burner to content?  We don't need to be the pushers of content. There is google and wikispaces in their pockets 24-7.  They need to be able to have science reasoning abilities to truly be good citizens. We need to push enough content to allow us to teach those skills. With good reasoning abilities and the ability to analyze data and graphs students could probably answer most content questions on standardized tests. At least make an educated guess. Anyway, I digress. The presentation went great. Whiteboards were used. I ended up giving them a ball rolling down a ramp problem to whiteboard where they had to create the PvT, VvT, and AvT graphs. I felt that was quick enough to have them whiteboard and discuss in the allotted time. I also figured we would get some different answers.  We did.  I intentionally picked a tougher problem.  The ball rolled down hill from right to left. It started at X=50cm and rolled back to X=0cm.  Some boards had v and a as positives; some were negative. Some were just wrong.  But the beauty is in that 10 minute activity we generated at least 3 important topics with motion.  They could see how the discussion immediately erupts as students try to resolve the differences.  Lots of great feedback came from the session. I'm already planning my presentation for next year. Perhaps the use of Twitter and the Blogosphere as professional development?
  3. The awesome new connections and networking. I met at least 3 teachers that I had not known before who will have a hand in shaping my class for years to come.  I plan to continue talking and collaborating with them for years to come. JT Miller's work with twitter was fascinating.  His students all have twitter accounts (except two - parent decision).  They regularly tweet about what is going on in his class (#tkcp).  He tweets out homework and class activities to his students. Through a poll of his students, 50% of them have his tweets sent to their phone. 40% rely on his tweets to track their homework! Another teacher is doing great inquiry in Biology (no web site yet, sorry!).  Her class is set-up on trimesters and each one is a case study where the required content objectives are incorporated as students try to solve the case.  Great stuff.  I'll most more once I get more info.
  4. Taco Boy burritos.
  5. Physics Educators meeting on Professional Development in Michigan.  Several Physics teachers, ISD science coordinators, NSF contacts, and college professors met for an informal meeting over lunch. Currently their is one modeling workshop that runs in the summer in the Detroit area.  We discussed how to get more training going on in more areas of the state.  Lack of modelers who can train IN the state is limiting our possibilities.  Lack of funding prohibits bringing in trainers from out of state.  We discussed the possibility of getting serious funding through NSF.  We also discussed modeling at the college level. Why is teacher prep for science still not constructivist? Why isn't all science at that level constructivist? Why are we spending all this money re-training teachers on true inquiry rather than doing it pre-service? Lots of great ideas were discussed.  Lots of balls started rolling. Hopefully a critical mass can be reached!
  6. Seriously? You are still reading this? I'm impressed at your perseverance.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Why whiteboarding is going better.

So I made a shift in my class. The circle wasn't working out so well. Students were not discussing and lots of side conversations kept springing up. So I moved towards a presentation style format where one group gets up and presents to the rest of the class. Worked much better. The students were engaged. The students were debating. The students told me later how much fun class was. I love my job.

I think the shift is when only one group is up there is no confusion about who should be talking. When I had two groups go up today the silence happened again. No one took control. Once I had the other groups sit down conversation started again. Very curious to me!

I had a breakthrough with one of my students this week. On Tuesday we were in discussion and she asked me a question about force pairs. I told her I wasn't sure what the answer was. She replied in exasperation, "Yes you DO know the answer! You just want me to have to think!" Yes, Tiffany, yes I do.

Today she struck again. I gave out a quiz today. She glanced at it and said, "This is what we did yesterday."
"Yes," I replied."
"And this question is what we did earlier in the week!"
"And I know this one too!"
"Tiffany, are you complaining that you understand everything on the quiz?"
"*chuckles* I guess I am! It's just not a very usual occurrence for me!"