Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Integrated Lesson Plan: Research assignment -Exploring a Genome Database

Integrated Lesson Plan

Summarize the Context

1.  Description of Unit - My integrated lesson plan will be designed for a 10th grade biology class in the second half of the school year.  The reason I put the time frame for the lesson later in the school year is because not only does the topic I chose get introduced towards the end of most high school biology curricula, but also because during the first half of the year I would expose students to the different types of technology this lesson incorporates. I would afford students practice earlier in the year with technology.  The lesson and classroom learning activity would be a part of a unit on Heredity and Reproduction, specifically on the topic of genomes.   The aim of this unit is to make evident to students the relationship between DNA, genes, chromosomes, and genomes and to give them a basic understanding of how genetic information is passed through generations.

The lesson would contain a structured webquest Internet research component and a component that requires students to craft a visual and audio multimedia presentation of student findings.  Students will be required to gather information about their organism using several databases from the National Center for Biotechnology Information website, which has entire genomes of thousands of different organisms, including eukaryota, prokaryota, and even viruses.  The lesson will require students to do research on the Internet, to create a multimedia presentation  (including a PPT presentation as well as an audio component synched to their presentation) that addresses the essential question of the unit “How is genetic information passed through generations?”  and contains their research about the genome they investigated.  The students will work in groups to create a wiki through which they will share their work with their peers.  Lastly, students will assess their peers presentations as well as their own presentation using an evaluative rubric.

2.  Student Learning Objectives - The purpose of this specific learning activity will be to have students use a to critically explore and analyze the genome of an organism of their choosing and to relate their research back to the fundamental biological concepts of the unit.  This learning activity supports critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as cooperative learning.  The types of student dispositions or attitudes it would support including visual and audio learners, students that work well independently as well as cooperatively, and students who may be intimidated by speaking publicly (allowing students to podcast their presentations rather then present them live to the class).  This learning activity supports other activities in the unit of study because it shows a practical application of several of the key concepts (DNA structure, structure of a chromosome, what a genome is, why uncoding genomes is important) within the unit.  It demonstrates for students the real world, current application of these concepts in society.

3.  Specific Curriculum Objectives –
This learning activity supports unit objectives and unit Performance Task by allowing students to interact with authentic data and to access large databases.  These types of laboratory experiences are suggested by the NJ World Class Standards website as essential to a high school biology curriculum.  This lesson stresses the fact that science is a practice and forces students to act like scientists. Lastly, this assignment is cumulative in that it highlights the intricate relationship between DNA sequence, protein expression, and gene inheritance and links these concepts to real world application within the field of biotechnology
·      5.3.12.D.1 Genes are segments of DNA molecules located in the chromosome of each cell.  DNA molecules contain information that determines a sequence of amino acids, which result in specific proteins.
o   CPI: Explain the value and potential application of genome projects.
o   Enduring Understandings: There are predictable patterns of inheritance, and the variation that exists within a species is related to its mode of reproduction.
o   Essential Question(s):  How is genetic information passed through generations?

·      8.1.12.F.1 Information accessed through the use of digital tools assists in generating solutions and making decisions.
o   CPI: Select and use specialized databases for advanced research to solve real-world problems.
·      8.1.12.A.3 The use of technology and digital tools requires knowledge and appropriate use of operations and related applications.
o   CPI: Participate in online courses, learning communities, social networks, or virtual worlds and recognize them as resources for lifelong learning.

4. Substance of the Lesson/Activity:

The technology being used includes computer technology – in particular the Internet and a government funded website (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/),  that contains several free databases used by scientists around the world.  Students will also use PowerPoint or Google Docs to create a multimedia presentation that includes audio.  Students may use Garage Band or Audacity to create an audio presentation.  Lastly, students will use Slide Share to synch their presentation with their audio.  Lastly, students will be assigned groups.  Within their groups they will create a group wiki using www. wikispaces.com.  Students will post their multimedia presentations and comment on each other’s work.

As stated previously, having students put biology into practice and perform research using real databases is a great way to enhance their critical thinking and problem solving skills while also having them learn through their own personal experience by doing something. Having students create a wiki and evaluate each other’s work as well as their own will force them to reflect on the assignment, perhaps reinforce or learn new content through viewing the work of their peers, and also will get them to work cooperatively.  Peer to peer instruction and interaction is one of the best ways for students to learn.  Lastly, students are creating something themselves based on a research organism they chose.  This will hopefully keep students engaged in the assignment.  Students will have content requirements for their presentations but will also have space to be creative in their multimedia presentations.  The technological skills students will need to learn or develop would be how to use a database and how to perform an effective search within the database.  Students would also need to know what information they are looking for and how to sift through their search results.  Students would also need to know how to use Power Point, Garage Band/Audacity, how to synch their presentations on slide share, how to create a wiki, and how to post their presentation to that wiki.

5. Activity timeline/procedures:
            This assignment would take 3 full 80-minute block periods to finish.  The first class would be used to lay out the assignment and its requirements entirely.  Students would also mostly complete the webquest research assignment.  Students would explore the database website and look at the list of different organisms to chose from.  Students would be given a handout with explicit instructions for how to get to the website, explore, etc.  Students would be given a set of questions and research topics that they would have to answer within their presentation as well. By the end of the class, students would select an organism and have answered several of the research questions.
            Day 2 would again be in a computer lab and would be finishing up their actual research.  At this point students should have addressed all of their research questions.  This class period students would be creating their presentations.  Students would be given a rubric during this class that states the requirements for the presentation (both audio and visual).  If students have time, they can begin working on the audio component of the assignment.  If unfinished, the audio portion of the assignment must be completed as homework.  The teacher would provide addition computer access time outside of the class period where students could work o the assignment (both before and after school). 
            Day 3 would have students in their wiki groups.   Students would create their wiki and post their completed multimedia presentations to the wiki during the first half of class.  The second half of class, students would be given the teacher’s assessment rubric and would be required to assess their own presentation as well as their peers in their groups using the rubric.  Students final grade will be composed of 50% an average of their peer and self assessment and 50% the teacher’s assessment of the presentation.

6.  Assessment Criteria:
            As previously stated, there will be a project rubric given to students that includes requirements for the web-quest activity and the presentation itself (including the fact that the presentation must include images, must have audio, must be posted appropriately to the wiki, must have all required content, etc.)  The criteria for success include completing all components of the assignment.   Each requirement for the assignment will be represented in the rubric.  Students will also be responsible for accurate content and for answering all research questions/topics.  Students will be assessed within their project based on their group participation as well.  For example, “Did student submit a self assessment as well as an assessment rubric for each of their peers?”
            The students’ grade will be based on the rubric the teacher uses as well as the group evaluation rubrics (same as teacher) that are submitted by the student and the peers within the group.  I will know in several ways that this learning experience has accomplished the learning goals that I set for my students.  Because some of my goals involve students completing an actual task and actually creating something, I will know if they have or have not accomplished this by physically examining their final work.  I will also view individual assignments and evaluate students individual understandings of core concepts based on the content of their presentations.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Matter of Life or Death

The article by Ribble, Bailey, and Ross (2004) about Digital Citizenship had many valuable suggestions for integrating the NETS for teachers into actual practices that teachers can implement daily to teach digital citizenship.  At this historic moment, schools are beginning to teach students valuable technological skills alongside critical thinking and problem solving skills that will surely help students succeed in their future lives.  Exposing students to 21st Century Skills and teaching them to use the technologies themselves is necessary for students that will be entering the future workplace, where this type of literacy and knowledge will surely be a skill.  As educators, we need to reflect on the fact that although students may seem to be more adept at using things like the Internet and smart phones than we ourselves may be, they by no means should be given free reign, nor an unstructured environment in which to use these technologies.

Students need to be made aware of the legal implications of their actions.  These past two weeks of resources has taught me several new things about legal issues that could arise from technology.  I was unaware of many of the copyright issues as well as the fact that an adolescent sending sexts of themselves is actually sending child pornography and makes them a sex offender.  As a teacher, this highlights to me that although the legality of technology may be constantly changing, gray, and difficult to uncover, it is my job as someone who is trying to successfully teach the 21st Century Skills, to sift through and be clear on these issues.  Teaching students technology without the legal and ethical component is like teaching a student to physically drive a car without also teaching them the laws that dictate the rules of driving and what can happen if one is negligent or careless when they drive.  If I teach the use of technology without teaching students about responsible, appropriate use as well as opening their eyes to the other serious issues that can arise from inappropriate use, I believe that I have failed in properly educating them.

The tragic stories of Hope Witsell, Jesse Logan, and the other adolescents who shared their situations on the news shows sadly point out how serious educating students about these issues really is.  In fact, it is a matter of life or death.  Adolescents (and even some adults, for example the mother who created a fake page to harass a teen) are insecure and lack maturity and experience in the world.  I feel that appropriate use, as well as what can result from inappropriate use needs to be exemplified and explicitly laid out for them in as many ways as possible.  The individuals who make these issues explicit should be the ones who are teaching them how to use the technology (teachers!).  Although it is sometimes impossible for schools to control what happens outside their walls, they must make every attempt to educate and prevent these types of situations from happening.  Schools must attack this issue head on by making students aware of these types of tragedies.

  As a former Rutgers alumni, inappropriate technology use has recently made headlines in the tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi, who took his own life after being exposed over a webcam for being a homosexual.   To hear about Tyler's sad story, which I instantly thought of after watching the video clips, click here.  I not only think about how sad Tyler must have been, as well as his friends and family, but I also think about how the individuals who committed the terrible violation must feel.  Although they may not have thought the situation would end up the way it did, they have to live with themselves everyday for their horrible act of cruelty.  Did they ever hear about stories like that of Hope Witsell and Jesse Logan?  Did they know the legal implications of their actions?  Did they understand that their actions would result in the death of a bright, young man with all of the promise in the world?  These types of tragedies can and should be prevented.  Although schools should not be the entire burden of educating children about these types of issues, they are responsible for, as Ribble, Bailey, and Ross (2004) point out, "teaching overall citizenship, to learn to live together with fellow citizens, and above all to learn to obey the law".  For some students, the public education system is the ONLY place where they are exposed to and have the opportunity to learn these important things.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fair huh?

Upon reflecting on my first year teacher, I must say that although I anticipated being extremely busy, I never imagined the amount of time and work that I would spend trying to keep up with and improve upon my own pedagogy.  There are many tasks, deadlines, and obligations that I am currently responsible for that I never considered prior to beginning teaching.  With that said, and with the fact that I am a few credits short of a masters, I can honestly say that I have never even considered copyright infringement nor that my practice in the classroom could be violating federal law. Although I have emphasized the importance of using proper citation and giving credit to other's ideas in my students work, I never thought that what I was doing on an everyday basis could be doing the exact opposite.

I appreciate the articles I read this week as they were definitely eye-opening, while I simultaneously feel burdened by another obligation/consideration. I believe firmly in properly protecting the work of others.  While I immediately reflected upon my own practices over this past year with a critical eye, the concept of fair use eased my mind a bit as I feel that many of my copyright infringement could be defended under the legal defense of fair use.

What is fair use?  According to the video A Fair(y) Use Tale, as well as all three of the other reference articles, fair use allows for the use of copyright materials in small amounts when the materials are being used for educational as well as research based purposes.  With that said, it is important to note that fair use can be used as a legal defense for using a copyrighted material, but is in no way a blanket policy or a right to which every teacher in every scenario can claim.

Fair use deals with specific situations, and is usually handled on a case by case basis, according to Thompson (2005).  All three reference articles highlight the fact that fair use is in no way cut and dry, but rather comes with a certain murkiness that in some cases only can be decided on in a court room.  The basic idea is that teachers may use copyrighted materials, with the understanding that four key factors will be considered prior to using the copyrighted material.  These factors include (1) the purpose of the use, (2) the nature of the work, (3) the amount of work borrowed, and (4) the effect of the use on the market or possible income from that work (Thompson, 2005).  If the use of the work is justifiable in light of these four factors, then it would be acceptable to use the copyrighted material.

Teachers on a daily basis work with materials that are copyrighted.  As an educator, I am glad that fair use exists because it allows educators a way to effectively navigate the strict copyright laws that are currently in place.  Langran et al. (2005) acknowledge that  "we live in a paradoxical age in which copyright terms and controls are increasingly restrictive while it is physically easier than any other time in history to obtain content" (pg. 3).  Overall, I feel it is paramount as an educator to constantly considering these four factors as well as to stay current and knowledgeable on copyright legislation, even if it is confusing and constantly changing.  Johnson and Simpson (2005) point out that standard IV of the NETS says that educators should "model and teach legal and ethical practice related to technology use". Copyright infringement is  a "federal law"(Johnson and Simpson, 2005), and is certainly something that should be honored, respected, and upheld  not only to protect oneself, but also to provide an appropriate example for students. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Technology Integration Matrix Evaluation

I viewed and evaluated the 1-1 access learning activity entitled Collaborative Learning Lesson on the Adaptation Level from the Technology Integration Matrix resource.  By reviewing this activity in lieu of the NETS for Teachers, I feel that the lesson addresses and incorporates multiple standards from the NETS for Teachers in meaningful, creative ways.  It is an impressive assignment that I believe is very successful both in provided students with meaningful work while they incorporate technological tools, as well as addressing the NETS for Teachers.

The learning activity addresses 1. Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity  letters A, B, C, and D because the lesson encourages students to reach out and contact actual poets to create their own lessons (letters B and D), and to create their own mini- lesson using iMovie software to create and illustrate for the class what they believe the poem to be about after doing extensive research (letters A and C).

2. Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments - I believe that this learning activity clearly addresses letters A-C of this number more or less, although it weakly addresses "C".  "C" requires the lesson to personalize the learning to the needs of diverse learning styles.  Although the lesson allows students to create a video of their choosing, it mainly focusing on visual and audio learners and not so much on kinesthetic and tactile learning styles. I feel that the lesson may not be differentiated enough to address the varying cognitive levels of students.  Perhaps the individual teacher addresses these differences by scaffolding how to research and by spending more time with students that struggle using the appropriate technological tools and/or who struggle with the cognitive demands of deciphering a poem.  A and B are integrated by the fact that the lesson gives students a choice in the poem they choose and the type of research they would like to perform on their laptops.  It also offers them the technological tool of iMovie software, but allows them to design their mini-lesson and video however they choose, as long as it is educational and incorporates the pertinent information.

3. Model Digital-Age Work and Learning - This is probably the weakest components of this assignment because the video does not provide enough information, therefore I do not know really how fluent and versed the teacher themself is in the technology.  I imagine that in order for students to use the Internet to communicate with poets and conduct research, as well as to create their own iMovie and mini-lesson to demonstrate their poem, they must have been exposed to and versed in the technology by the teacher.  If this is the case, the assignment addresses letters A-D because the assignment is refined and requires knowledge of several computer programs, how to use to internet, as well as how to create a movie using iMovie.  From this video, it is not clear how the teacher got the students to the level where they were able to comfortable use these technological tools on their own.

4. Promote and Model Digital Citizenship and Responsibility - Letters B,C, and D are addressed by this activity because everyone is given a laptop, meaning that the use of technology is equitable and available for all learners (letter B).  The assignment requires students to correspond via email with the actual poets who wrote their poems, meaning that students must be versed in digital etiquette and responsible social interactions (letter C) as well as the fact that students are getting experience working collaboratively and engaging with colleagues (poets) across time and space (letter D).  

5. Engage in Professional Growth and Leadership - Letter A is clearly a part of this assignment, and although I believe a teacher that created this type of assignment is also continuing to grow professionally and be a part of the educational research community (letters B,C,D) this is not made clear by the video.  Letter A is addressed because the teacher has students contacting outside "experts" (the poets themselves!) and even has brought in one of the poets into the classroom to meet with students.  This is an example of how the teacher incorporated the global learning community into his or her own local learning community (the classroom!).

I feel that over these past few weeks, my own technology integration in the classroom has begun to blossom.  Despite the fact that my school's computer lab is outdated and often causes aggravation for myself and my students because of the speed at which the computers run, I have begun taking my class into the lab more and more. In the beginning, my assignments gave students options as to how they wanted to complete assignments (for example, create a PowerPoint, do a skit, work collaboratively or alone) and I believe my activities existed on the Entry and at times Adoption levels.  Lately, as my own personal use of technology has improved, I believe that my integration is now on the level of Adaptation.

Here is a little anedote to exemplify why I feel I am not adapting technological integration rather than just integrating it on the Entry or Adoption levels.  I currently have a class of seniors that I have given an assignment to where they must create a Google Docs account, conduct real research using peer reviewed scientific sources, and create a PowerPoint and written paper collaboratively with their classmate using the "sharing" function within Google Docs.  Although at first my students groaned and complained about using Google Docs (something no one in the class was familiar with), I showed them some of the ins and outs of the program, showed them how they could easily collaborate with one another and access their work from any computer that has an Internet connection, and in no time I was hearing "cool" and "wow" from several students in the room.  I did also feel that some of my students were groaning and complaining because they were forced to try something new, and when things didn't go smoothly for them the first time around, they wanted to give up.  It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that these types of new experiences with technological tools are EXACTLY what my students need in order to be ready to enter the 21st Century working world.  Students need to accept that new things can be challenging and uncomfortable and that the results they are looking for may not be instant or perfect at first.  The only way to become more comfortable and even "good" at using these new tools is to try, try again!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What Teachers Make

As an (future) educator, if you've never heard of Taylor Mali, or even if you have, enjoy!  Mali is an advocate of teachers and of the profession, as he himself spent nine years in the classroom.  He is also one of the most well known poets who has come up through the slam poetry movement.  His words are uplifting, reassuring, and make me smile.

Week 7: Tech Lab 4 - Ms. Mooney can PodCast!


Podcast Powered By Podbean

This article is an abridged version of Watson and Crick's classic 1953 article published in Nature magazine about the structure of DNA.  I imagine I could use this article in several ways through a podcast.  My first idea for an assignment would be to assign a homework or classwork task after teaching students have studied DNA's structure and function.  The article is quite technical and scientific, but also has a lot of information that students learn in Biology class about the structure of DNA (i.e. base pairing rules, double helical structure, purines are hydrogen bonded to pyrimidines, etc.)  Students could listen to the PodCast and list the aspects of DNA's structure that they have learned that are also present in Watson and Crick's piece.  I would listen to the article aloud with my students after they completed to assignment on their own to help scaffold and demonstrate where the things that they have already learned about DNA's structure are present in the paper.

I also could use the article as a writing prompt or opinion piece that gets students thinking about current ethical issues and debates surrounding DNA in today's day and age (i.e. genetic cloning, designer babies, etc.)  In particle, Watson and Crick's line, "It has not escaped our notice that the specific pairing we have postulated immediately suggests a copying mechanism for the genetic material," would be a great way to rope students in and get them to think about what Watson and Crick would think of today's biotechnology. 

I find this technology to be really useful and appropriate as well as culturally relevant for  communicating with students.  I could create review sessions that students could easily access from their ipods, and even teaching students to use it to communicate with me or the rest of the class.  This time around, I took advantage of the new version of GarageBand on my mac, and found it really simply to use to create an mp3 and upload it to PodBean.  I did, however, Google a podcast on how to record a podcast on GarageBand and export it as an mp3.  I myself am getting more resourceful.  Overall, this went over well. phewww.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Week 6: Schools Kill Creativity

I have seen this video several times before, and each time I am still floored by the points Robinson makes.  His criticizes are entirely true and seem almost commonsensical when he points them out, yet I have never considered them in my own reflections both about my current career as well as my own educational experiences.  Perhaps this is because I have become so normalized and accustomed to the ideology surrounding what traditional schooling should be.

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original." It is by making mistakes that we learn new things.  By feeling comfortable to step out on a whim and try, we are able to come up with new things.  My boyfriend has a three-year-old at home who likes to "read" books.  I am constantly amazed by her ability to make up the story by looking at the pictures and drawing on what she remembers from having the story read to her in the past.  She "fills in the gaps" as Ken Robinson would say.  I agree that somewhere along the way, this willingness to innovate is lost in children.  I teach 10th and 12th grade, and regularly I experience students' unwillingness to be incorrect, to take a risk, or to make a mistake.

I agree that schools entirely stifle creativity, when they should be cultivating it.  As my prior blog entry points out, creativity is a skill essential for success in the 21st Century workplace.  As Robinson highlights, we value one type of thinking and one way of reasoning in schools, when we for all intents and purposes should be honoring diversity, multi-vocality, and different opinions in the classroom.  There is not one correct to solve a problem, therefore there should not be one way of learning and demonstrating that learning in the classroom.  It blows my mind to think about how many talented individuals have been stripped of their unique talents by the educational system.

I work in a magnet school for the Arts, so I can say that I have seen some of this creativity being celebrated and cultivated within the walls of my school.  However, it is not on the level as it should be.  I believe that teachers need to constantly tap in to their students own interests and what they are good at in order to best educate them.  We have to relate to our students on a personal level in order to determine the best way to help them learn.  In my own classroom, I could definitely take some of what Robinson points out and put it in to better practice.  I think that allowing students to have options in assignments is a good way to do this.  For example, I will give students a set of criteria for an assignment, but then allow them to choose how they would like to demonstrate their understanding.    Some of these options include allowing students to write, to demonstrate through a skit, to make a song or dance, or to give a presentation about the subject matter.

When I went to school, there was one way of learning and demonstrating learning.  That was by sitting, listening and taking notes and then reproducing them on the chapter test.  In today's day and age, where content is instantly accessible at the click of a mouse, it is not entirely necessary nor helpful to know every step in the Kreb's Cycle of photosynthesis or to be able to do long division by hand.  Ken Robinson's challenge to teachers is one that I agree with and hope to honor throughout my career.  Cultivating creativity and ingenuity in our students and supporting them in what it is they are talented at is something that should be at the top of our list.