Blogging about Technology: A Metanalytical Approach

As outlined in the EDU 486: Integrating Science & Technology syllabus, this course had 4 goals. They were:

  1. Participants will demonstrate evidence of a solid understanding of what scientific inquiry is and describe and defend its importance in the science classroom curriculum.
  2. Participants will present comprehensive, thoughtful, critical and nuanced explorations of and wrestling with the role of emerging technologies in science classrooms.
  3. Participants will identify and implement specific and insightful strategies to address equity and social justice with respect to inquiry-based science.
  4. Participants will be able to develop theoretically grounded and theoretically consistent model-based inquiry pedagogy.

 

As this blog post is meant to be a consideration of my learning trajectory throughout the course will be divided by these goals, which were rolled-out sequentially, but stayed constant throughout the duration of the course.

 

Goal 1

The most salient point that I pulled out of critical commentary 1 was the power that cognitive dissonance provided in initiating learning. “…learning begins when individuals experience disequilibrium: a discrepancy between their ideas and ideas they encounter in their environments (that is what they know and what they observe or experience) (Inquiry, n.d., 34).” I would say that all the campers in my group believed that Charlotte Beach was “dirty” and if their investigation disproved their conception of what “dirty” meant, then they would need to wrestle with the implications provided by that. In our video assessment, one camper did in fact state, “I don’t think the beach is dirty, but we need to make sure that we take care of it so that it doesn’t get worse.” That camper came to that conclusion on their own, based on the work they performed during their investigation. And that’s the power of scientific inquiry, this camper created their own interpretation without being forced to parrot what their instructor told them. As his teacher, I gave him the means and environment to investigate, but his learning was his own.

 

Goal 2

Great care should be taken with respect to how technology is utilized in pedagogical practice and using it incorrectly can be detrimental to learning. Technology requires prep work both in the purpose you want it to play and how it will be physically integrated in the lesson. An example I can pull from camp would be Day 5, where I wanted to utilize Google Docs to have my campers work on a Google Slides presentation, together. Taking the boys to ITS, I had not realized that they would be unable to log-in with internet access (a necessity for Google Docs). Luckily, Occhino was there with me and logged in the other two on his account while I asked them questions to test their understanding of what we had done that week. If I had placed myself in the shoes of those students and then brought myself to that space, I would have realized the problems with my initial plan and could readjust accordingly.

I could have made use of more technology during camp, but I was afraid of the associated risks. What if my activity using the Smartboard was not motivating enough to fight against their natural curiosity? Should I just let them play around and learn about how the Smartboard works for 10-15 minutes? Then the next day, I could create a strong activity from the ground up making great use of the Smartboard that they have gained more expertise in (maybe to the point that they could teach me a thing or two). Was this more effective use of time then having them use the whiteboard instead? Maybe. I wanted to make the most effective use of the short amount of time that I had with campers, so I tended to opt out of using technology. This was a shortsighted approach because I am certain that there were activities that using tech like the Smartboard could have saved time with, but I just did not consider them because I imagined that the tech itself would be distracting. Science equipment such as microscopes, DataHubs, probes, were items that I was familiar with and their use felt more necessary (because science)  rather than distracting. This feeling was probably motivated by the fact that I was familiar with them. This tells me that I still need to work with the different technologies that I have access to, to get a full breath of the possibilities at my disposal.

 

Goal 3

The GRS camp requires that we deal with a variety of social justice issues. All my campers were black students; with 5 of them going to city schools and 1 was part of the Urban-Suburban Program. From the APKs, most of them thought of a scientist as a white man with a lab coat using doing a chemistry experiment. This image did not match that of the campers. From the evaluation form we gave our campers, many of them noted different experiences that made them feel like scientists including data collection, making and view microscope slides, counting bacterial colonies. Hopefully, the type of person that they identified as a scientist has extended to include themselves (if they did not already). Beyond on that, during camp we found that most of our campers were hungry in the morning, so we changed our planning to ensure that we started the day with snack. This paid off quite well, because we found an increase in engagement earlier in the day after this change. The GRS cohort also developed a morning chant and included the practices of the Freedom School in instruction to show respect to where the students were coming from. These actions helped to show the campers that we respect their culture and opened them up to the opportunity to take some of the culture of science with them from camp. Outside of camp, our grant writing was an example of something a teacher can do to ensure that their students get the materials they need for meaningful learning.

 

Goal 4

Unit planning and lesson planning was the most difficult task during the whole course, because it forced me to think and wrestle with many different, and often conflicting, theories for practice. For the sake of time, do I take some of the authenticity out of this activity and design it in a way where it will probably take 10 minutes instead of 40? Time constraints were a major strain on my planning, especially when trying to create an authentic inquiry-based experience for the campers. Planning also forced me to think about where things should be, where they will end up, if they should be collected. These logistical elements served to show me that teachers have to keep up with more than just the students. The informal environment further served to make this even harder because the locations of things you need 45 minutes later need to be taken to account, and if you needed it on the beach then you should carry it with you. Making sure which materials were necessary and which were less necessary, and at what times, was an important skill that I still need work developing (material management).

 

Philosophical Statement on the Role of Technology:

Technology is advancing rapidly and it is important for science teachers to keep one eye on that advancement, because technology opens up many doors for both the teacher (their practice) and the student (their learning). “The ethos was there—embryonic, perhaps; waiting for an enabling technology, undoubtedly” (Lankshear, 2006, p.21). Once an enabling technology is discovered, some might say that the impetus is on the teacher to produce a shift that allows students to have greater agency in their learning. But I feel that students can play a role in that as well, advocating for technology that better reflects the ways that they learn to be integrated in the classroom. Giving students that responsibility not only helps the teacher from suffering eye strain, but also promotes agency in their learning experience.

 

References

 

Lankshear, Colin, and Michele Knobel.New literacies. 3rd ed. Berkshire, England ; New York: Open University Press, 2011. Print.

 

NRC. Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards a guide for teaching and learning. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000. Print.

 

Camp Day 6: Farewell, Science Kids…

Yesterday, I was not very pleased with how my team’s presentation went, at least initially. It was probably better to look back on the experience when I was not as hungry and tired. I decided to get some rest to see if my opinion would change when I woke up, which incidentally happened at about 8 am today. My feelings about day 6 of camp have softened, though the major arrows remain.

 

à This was our plan for camper roles during the presentation: “Campers will be divided into 3 teams: one team is in charge of presenting the slides, another team is in charge of slide transitions and picture transitions via the iPad, and the last team will point out the relevant information being presented on the slide that is on the tri-fold as well as perform a demonstration of “How to take a water sample.” This demo will consist of a camper using the whirl-pak to take a water sample out of a bucket of water, an example of what we did at the beach.” The goal was that teams would switch roles between presentations so that everyone had the opportunity to present, do the demo, and control the presentation. This was too confusing and thus implemented poorly. Tiarra helped transition from this format to a format where each student is responsible for a day of camp, with the last camper being responsible for the demo. This was easy to understand and easily implemented by the campers.

 

àWhile the campers decided on the PowerPoint format for their presentation, I think they hadn’t really considered their audience in making that decision. Perhaps if I prompted them to focus more on that aspect of the presentation, then they would want to include more hands-on demonstrations, question-asking, and interactions with the level 1 and 2 students. Also having visual demos would be helpful in the loud environment. I did like how some of my campers would give the younger students high fives when they walked by their station though.

à Something that I had to consider was that they campers noticed their lack of ownership when it came to the tri-fold, compared to the PowerPoint (where most of the slides remained mostly intact). Jam said that the poster was theirs, while Jan told him that it wasn’t because they didn’t make it. On the other hand, each camper made the point to say, “I’ll talk about these slides because I worked on them,” serving to highlight the contrast. I am not sure if the poster should have been included. Would our team feel weird because they didn’t have a poster when the other teams did? Does the poster have any meaning when they didn’t make it themselves? I am not sure.

 

àBeing nicer. (See + on evaluation forms)

 

+ During the presentation, I would ask the campers questions when I felt they could go a little more in-depth. Rather than just talking to the audience myself to detail a point that was missed I would just prompt the campers to tell it. Also positioning myself in the audience, I was attempting to model questioning to the level 1 and 2 students.

 

+Our campers quickly adjusted to the transition Tiarra made and they did well at their new roles.

 

+Our set-up was quick and everything we needed was immediately accessible. I was able to spend my time watching the presentation and how it was going.

 

+Camp Evaluation forms were a good idea and while not providing as much criticism as expected, they were another way to get the campers’ voices heard. I had expected that all of our campers would have cited collecting data on the beach as their favorite day at camp, but most of them actually stated that the work in the lab was their favorite part and made them feel the most like a scientist. Tiarra was also their favorite camp leader and one student even wrote that I could be “nicer.”

 

I’ve had a lot of fun during camp and I will miss working with my campers quite a bit. It was an interesting experience that I will be looking back on and reflecting on for weeks (perhaps even months to come). Overall, I’d say that day 6 was a solid day of camp and the Science Kids ended it on a high note. Shout out to Tiarra for creating awards for our campers, which they all appreciated.

Camp Day 5: Who are We? Scientists!

So here I am, in my best friend’s house after watching Edge of Tomorrow (it was awesome), preparing my thoughts for this reflection. The environment contains a culture I am familiar with and became accustomed to through a shared experience with people who care about me.

Originally, my main goal for camp was that all the campers in my team would be able to see themselves as scientists, identity development. But now looking back on it, my focus should have been creating a space for the campers like that of my friend’s house. With that, connecting with the campers would be easier and they would take more notice out of what was being imparted to them, they would be more engaged in the experience of investigating.

That said, the relationship that I was able to develop with each camper (except for A because he only showed up on 2 days) was astonishing to me. I don’t exactly know when E started referring to me as “Brother Ceb” (around Day 2 maybe) or what was done to make Jamar feel comfortable enough to take the lead on Day 3’s presentation discussion. I need to remain conscious of these occurrences and what happened to motivate them, to know what I want to incorporate into my practice. Today’s big plus was the campers’ appreciation of me making sure that their items were taken care of. I jumped in between a sprinkler and a pile of the Jan and I’s clothes. Jam told me, “Good looking out”, when I gave him his hat and shirt which he left in the break-out room.

Another cool thing that happened was that while with the boys, they asked me about going to the U of R. They were interested in the requirements to entry and if they needed good grades. I told them that yes, their grades would matter and their SAT score too, but that such institutions will also look at other factors such as their experience and interests. I made sure to mention that the U of R was a good university to go to for those interested in science.

My major arrow for the day was that the boys’ understanding of the investigation was not clear. As they worked on Google Slides, the questions they had for me and their answers to my questions (or lack thereof) revealed certain gaps in their knowledge. They knew the variables we tested, but did not remember the models we made, or the investigable question, though they remembered that an investigable question can be tested in a limited amount of time. They also did not remember how the revised models we made yesterday differed from their original models and initial claims. It is difficult for me to come up with a way to right this, but as we were working on the presentation I did my best to reinforce each practice we performed and why. For Monday, during the dry run, I will make sure each boy has a prominent role to help reinforce the values that I wanted to get across.

Another arrow I need to work on is “dry running” activities by placing myself in the role of the student, and imagine the space from their perspective. Today, I found out that guest accounts at ITS don’t allow access to .com’s, meaning that I would have to sign in each camper under my account to make it work. Michael helped me out at the time, but it was an oversight that did waste time.

Luckily, our campers finished their presentation and it just needs small revisions for Monday. We’re in good shape, and I am very excited to see them present!

 

 

Camp Day 4: The Payoff

Today was fantastic, overall. I was scheduled to ride on the bus from Freedom School to the U of R, which meant I got to witness Harambee again. It was great to experience it again, even though there were fewer students. This also translated to the number of campers that came to the U of R, but luckily only one member of our team was missing.

We started the day by going to an exhibit about the 1964 riots in Rochester at Rush Rhees. I would recommend anyone to check it out, especially those from Rochester. Anyway, each of the campers pulled something out of the experience, some more than others. But at least one camper was able to make the connection between the push towards social justice being expressed in the exhibit and how doing something to help improve Lake Ontario, is an act of social justice.  Maybe if we spent more time in group discussion, all the campers would see the connection, but we needed to finish analyzing data!

Looking at the exhibit
Looking at the exhibit

The Green Team returned back to the break-out room we ended Day 3 in. There was a little miscommunication between the camp leaders during planning, so when I came into the room late, I witnessed all the students with individual whiteboards, when I expected that they would all be using the room’s whiteboard. for graphing. I have decided to be more explicit in detailing my ideas. Regardless, the campers still understood that some of their initial claims about which parts of the beach were of lesser quality wasn’t corroborated by the evidence. They decided to make new claims based on this, saying that the water quality declines from the pier towards the swimming area at the beach.

Revising models
Revising models

During this time, our youngest camper was not paying attention and contributing to the group. After 15 minutes, I decided to take him for a walk to talk about what was wrong, because he was not willing to say anything was wrong in front of the team. Outside, he told me that one of the other campers verbally abused him by calling him words such as “stupid.” I told him that camper was in the wrong and that I would speak to him about how to respect fellow team members. Then I took the young camper to the athletic center to let him play 5 minutes with a basketball. After that, I asked him if he was willing to get back to work and he said he was, and more importantly he did. A giant plus of the day for me was the way I was able to handle that situation, because it made me feel like more than just an instructor to that camper.

After lunch, we discussed how the presentation should be organized and the campers decided they wanted to do it by detailing each day of the investigation. By virtue, I expect that it will follow the metamap design fairly well. We will try to make explicit connections with scientific practices (even though they were able to describe the investigation through the practices they performed each day, today. This was a large plus and the biggest payoff so far! I will say it was because Tiarra was leading that discussion).

Tiarra leading discussions like a boss!
Tiarra leading discussions like a boss!

Arrows I have for today, were not being aware of the verbal abuse that was occurring (I will try to be more aware of what is going by walking between all campers), the miscommunication between leaders, and giving the students more space to take authority in how they want to frame the investigation for themselves.

Today was a beautiful day of camp for myself and, hopefully, all our campers (especially our youngest one).