Thursday, January 26, 2006

Review Activity

I have to give credit to Amanda for this one. In chemistry we are getting ready for the first assessment of the semester. The topic of study is the electron and the Periodic Table. I started by putting the term "electron" on the board in class. Next, I asked the students where we started the study. The first response was one that amazed me. "History" one student said so, I wrote that on the board. Then other students started to chime in with terms and concepts that we have studied in the past three weeks and even from last semester! When all was said and done, we had a list of close to fifty terms on the board. Next, I asked a student to choose a term that was directly tied to "electron" and she picked "orbital" and we connected those terms on the board. We worked together for awhile on this and then I turned it over to them. I explained that if they could make the connections between the material that we were investigating then it might be easier on the test. I also told them that if they could not make the connection then that would help them figure out where to focus their studying.

I cannot belive how this worked, or at least seemed to. I wonder if the students see the value in this type of concept map? I know that they were not happy about doing this at first but the conversations that I overheard were amazing. My goal is to have them do this for each unit of the semester and then for the final we are going to try ot make one big concept map. I hope this goes as well as I think it will...

(To Be Continued...)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


So, after I have calmed down a little, I talked to my wife. (Go figure, I have time to do that when I am also doing this stuff.) We talked about how and if the world is becoming "flat." She works for a health care company in an after-hours clinic (nice since I work days and can then hang with my daughter). Sometimes she needs to consult an "expert" like an orthopedic doctor. The other night she said there was a call for a consult and the person on the other end had a strange accent and lots of noise during the phone call. It seems that the "after-hours" consult call went to an orthopedic doctor in New Zealand! Since it was the daytime there the doctor was "in." The x-ray was sent via e-mail and the doctor looked at the film and decided there was a break. She could not believe that the help came from that far away. The two of us are now talking about what this means for our children (yes, there will be another soon) and for the students that I teach. We do not think that this type of outsourcing is a "bad" idea and I am wondering what other people think?

Grading Discussions

Anyone else confused? It seems like I just went through an entire day of meetings and talked some about grading. One meeting had us looking at the idea of getting rid of grading all together. Then we have talked about how to give feedback. Finally, we talked about using letter grades for a method of telling students/parents about reaching benchmarks. It seems as though we (I mean me) are looking for a way to make grades more meaningful than they are currently. I wonder how to do this.......

Are we just seeing different ideas right now and the answer is coming from some higher power? Is this one of the "cycles" in education that my college professors talked about? As I am looking for answers about grading? I am just becomming more and more frusterated about the discussions? What are we trying to decide? I am looking at what I am doing in the area of grading? (Knowing that I could do more to help students.) I am just a little afraid about what I have been reading/hearing and the direction that this is going. Is a decision coming about grades or is this just going to be one of those "neat"discussions in education?

Anyone else out there feeling these things? Thinking these thoughts?

Interesting Point

Today in our group discussion, an interesting point was brought up. The fact that history repeats itself. As we know with the fall of the great empires, which found an untimely demise, the United States seems to be falling from the top of societies. I wonder if this is a perceived fall or an actual fall? Are we really falling behind? Is this a method for people to make money? What is the best way to change? Do we need to change? Where are we going? Is there a destination at the end of this path we are walking, in educational change, or is the destination the path itself? Are the things we are trying going to cause a change or are the students going to continue through education the way that they have in the past?

Monday, January 23, 2006


Hatak takes the assist from the corner and shoots and scores...... Oh, wait this is not what Karl meant.

I guess if I had to come up with a goal this semester it would be to engage the students in meaningful discussions which are a means of investigating the essential learnings in class. I would also make sure that the students understand what the essential learnings are for each of the classes that I teach.

Plan of Action:

1) The primary means for engaging the students in discussions will be the classroom stucture that enables the studnets to take an active role in the investigation of the material that we are studying. This will be through continnued use of inquiry based experiments, blogs for discussion and classroom activities.

2) The students will use blogs to discuss topics that we do not have time to cover in class. This will cover material that is important to the study of the sciences but should not be limited to the core material.

3) The students will encorporate a greater use of technology into their understanding of the essential learnigns. They shoudl use the internet and other resources to research, discuss, evaluate, and compose writings that are based on the topics that we are studying. These documents will include but are not limited to lab reports and discussion papers.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Grading Processes

Today in Astronomy, we talked about grading (by we I mean the students and I). I started by listing possible categories for IC. Next, I asked the students to write down what they thought about each category. (what the meaning was, what it should include, what good and bad examples are etc.) We had a large group discussion about this. SInce it was first hour and the seniors are not quite with it, they really did not want to participate. I had a hard time with the silence. The students would even turn their eyes from each other. I am sure that they were uncomfortable with the discussion. Then I had the students write down what percentage of the course should each category be. This is where it got interesting. I had some students who were really into this and others who could care less.

I had the students pair up and try to convince each other of why the persentages should be the way that they decided. Then they were to agree on percentage assignments. Next, the students had to pair up with another group and do the same thing. The groups kept getting larger and larger until we were back as one group. We then decided as a class what the percentages should be.

Some students left happy and others were unhappy. The group of students that concerns me is the group that did not care. Do they really have no input? or has no teacher ever asked them? I wonder what this will look like if I do the same activity with a single assignment and not the course? I know Cara has tried this and I am excited about trying it also.


I saw this and it got me thinking about what we are trying to do.

"Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual."

-Authur Koestler

Sunday, January 15, 2006


I find it very interesting as I post to this blog and the "Fisch Bowl" that most people are making one post. Isn't this suppossed to be a conversation? Does everyone have but one opinion? (I am saying this to myself as musch as to others if not more...)

If we have a hard time doing this, how do we get the students to participate more?


I recently found an article in a printed source about LCD displays and how they are made/work. It is written for the high school level. I would like to make the source available to the students so that they can look at it. I do not know how to go about this. Any ideas?

Second Semester

Well, it seems like it has been some time since I last posted.....

This week, I took my classes to the computer labs and had them send me an e-mail. This seems to work better than when I assigned it as homework. After they sent the e-mail, I had an online assignment for them to complete. This was helpful since some of the mail came fast and others took a little while. (They had to set-up an account.)

I have not given them a blog assignment yet. I am waiting a little bit so we can have some discussions in class first. When I asked the students about blogs, only a handful of them said that they used them before so I wanted to wait.

There seem to be a lot of topics that I could choose from this semester to blog about. Maybe my brain is now thinking about them.

I tried Amanda's idea of introducing the semester as a key concept and then having the students attempt to tie everything to that concept. I am overly excited about trying this and I think it will help the students see the big picture.