Friday, October 27, 2006

What a month!

So there have been a lot of things going on the past month. (Has that really been how long it has been since I last posted?)

Football is coming to an end and that should free up some time for me to focus on other things.

The applications for this years Toyota International Teacher Program were sent to me this month and I had a little envious feeling about the teachers who will be applying this year. What a trip...What a trip...

My two year old and I played in the snow. I think that it was the first time that we have done that. It will not be forgotten anytime soon.

AP Chemistry is keeping me very busy and I am having a difficult time finishing all of the work (labs, assignments, notes etc.) for this class.

My first year chemistry students are having a hard time doing the things that they need to do to finish the course. Some of them are starting to ask: "Why do we need to know this?" I would have thought that with all of the new activites that I am trying and the way that the class is structured (more student centered) I would like to think that this question had answered itself. I wonder if the stuedents are aware of the changes? Does this class look any different from the others? How can I use the computers to design student led activities for calculations and problems that the students have no idea about? The basic concepts in chemistry are easy to interpret using the computers but when we enter untis based on math concepts with chemical equations the students have a very hard time explaining them.

I see how the computers are easy to implement in classes when some of the background information has been covered but how can the consturctivist approach be applied to a chemistry classroom? When the information of the course is new how can the investigations be implemented?

The Astronomy class is an entirely different beast. That class is a great place to test new learning activities and see what the students come up with. Recently the students were given all of the unit inforamtion that I would have presented to them and they could complete it in any order. I was a little worried about how that would work but the students were ready to complete all of the work by the deadline that they set! The final project was a brochure that would sell a telescope. When the students asked if their brochure was "okay" I started responding with "Would you buy it?" - Thanks Mr. Fisch for that idea. How could I do this with other topics? I am currently working on the idea for the final project, more to come later.

Since it seems that doing the same old stuff in education is a lot easier than changing things to meet the student's needs I can see why teachers and administrators are resistant to this mode of thought. It asks all of us to think outside of whatever box we started in and that kind of reflection can cause problems. We are asking ourselves to critically think about what we do daily and with all of the other stuff that we have going on we tend to not react well. The thought that those who those who can't...teach seems to be a perception in the business world that would not be correct for our building. I even find myself thinking that if I had some of the teachers in this building earlier in my schooling then I might have been an English major or a history major but my chemistry teaher was the one that helped me find what I liked to learn about. Isn't that what school is supposed to be? Helping the students find their interests?

1 comment:

Karl Fisch said...

Thanks for saving up all your questions for the month and putting them in one post!

Remember, try to separate out constructivism (a learning theory) from teaching practice (a pedagogy). Constructivism would say that in Chemistry what the students currently know (whether it's correct or not) is going to greatly influence what the learn (whether that is correct or not as well). A constructivist approach to teaching and learning would say something along the lines of: assess what the students currently know and understand, then design activities that challenge that current understanding (create disequilibrium) to help them get to a higher level of understanding. Certainly you can still "deliver" some basic background knowledge in a more traditional method, but at some point you need to have them be chemists, not just learn about what some other chemists have already done. Think about what gets you excited about Chemistry and then do that with your students.