Tag Archives: biology

Houston,we have conversation!

new-1

A couple of posts ago I wrote about Thinking and writing about biology, and featured a NING called ‘Principles of biology: bringing life and living things into focus’ created by Sean Nash.  I wanted to show off Sean’s NING because I love the way he teaches biology, incorporating Web 2.0 technologies, critical thinking, creativity, reflection and even poetry. The NING, of course, is perfect for collaborative learning, and brilliant for discussion.

It was a thrill to have Sean comment on my blog, not just as a polite hi, but sharing information about his students and his teaching. It’s worth going back to the post and reading what he says.

What I found most interesting was our little conversation. I had pointed out that Sean’s teaching combined literacy with science.  He commented back:

Science and literacy had certainly better go together. We are in a heap of trouble as a species as it is. We can’t afford to continue to create a scientifically-illiterate populace. Where science and literacy are separate, science is but mystery and mythology to even our brightest.

What happened next really made my day. Two students left comments for me here on my blog.  These comments blew me away; they revealed a love for their learning experiences in Sean’s classes and NING, and an ability to reflect and analyse that our teachers would kill for.

I wanted to post these comments in full because I think they’re worth reading.

Here is what Tori Scott wrote (the bold type is my emphasis)

This is my classes website! I’ve always loved science, but this year was a whole new experience for me. In our class Mr. Nash gives us multiple ways too look at science. There are so many new things to learn that it’s truly fun to experience it in different ways. I came into this class thinking it was going to be him lecturing and us taking notes. This year was the first year that it’s all been so hands on.

This class really makes us think. Mr. Nash will just give us something, for instances a visual, and ask us to write about it. Like what we think it represents and our thoughts and opinions on it. I really enjoy doing this. It allows us as students to share what were thinking. That’s one of my favorite things about the website. Were able discuss and blog about the things we do in class. We each get to share as individuals, which is pretty amazing because each one of us think differently. This also allows us to learn on a completely different level.

I’d have to say that if there is one thing i’ve learned this year would be that science is not black and white. Thats a big misconception i’ve had. Through the year though i’ve began to learn and realize that there is always a gray area. The site gives us the opportunity to talk about it and understand more.

Rachel Huntsman wrote:

I am a student in the dual-credit biology class that uses the blog you have been discussing. I just wanted to let you know my thoughts on our use of the blog.

I really think it is a beneficial way of learning, and would recommend it to any teacher in order to get their students to actually think about learning.

I will admit I was one of the students who took the class just to get this major required science class out of the way before college. However, this coming from a person who really doesn’t enjoy science at all, I have found that I enjoy this class. I feel like I can analyze what I learn and discuss things with other students rather than simply fill out a work sheet and answer test questions.

I honestly think I will retain things from taking this class, and I can say I have benefited a great deal from it.

I also like the idea that other people, such as yourselves, are actually reading this blog and looking at what we are learning and how we are learning. It makes me think about what I will post because I know someone from the other side of the world might read it.

Now, you might have noticed that I’ve recently heard Will Richardson talking about network literacy, passion-based learning, and an authentic readership. Well here it is – an inspiring example of the best kind of learning. It makes a difference when it’s real writing to real people, not just writing what you think your teacher wants and what will get a good mark. As Rachel says, analysing, discussing, learning collectively – not filling out worksheets.

I wish more educators, parents and students could see  how good this kind of learning is. Thankyou Tori and Rachel for sharing and inspiring us.

3 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, Education, learning, network literacy, Web 2.0

Thinking and writing about biology

Sean Nash created a biology NING. One that even I want to join. Why is that so remarkable? Because I’m not a science person.

Sean Nash has created a NING called ‘Principles of biology: bringing life and living things into focus’. Yes, it’s about science. Yes, it contains lots of scientific facts, but it also approaches the teaching of science in a different way.

When I clicked the Forum tab at the top of the NING, I chose a discussion called ‘Synthesizing Respiration and Photosynthesis’. It doesn’t start with a long dry paragraph full of scientific facts. Instead it goes like this:

Take a good, solid read of this blog post. Read it again after thinking about it for at least five minutes. Then come back to this forum and scribble a bit creative commentary on how our study of photosynthesis and respiration allows you to really get at a deeper meaning of the post entitled: Grinding Grain by Dr. Doyle.

What is remarkable? The topic is introduced by a blog post. A blog is a discursive thing. The blog is called Science teacher: breaking out of the classroom into the world. That already tells you something. The blog begins with a poem about grinding grain by Antipator of Thessalonica, 85 B.C., and it’s descriptive in a way that makes you feel the process physically.

I love the fact that the instructions that go with the reading of the blog post recommend a second reading after a few minutes of thought. Thinking is part of the instructions! And what follows is not a summary, not a copy and paste of facts, but instructions to

scribble a bit creative commentary on how our study of photosynthesis and respiration allows you to really get at a deeper meaning of the post entitled: Grinding Grain by Dr. Doyle.

That’s ‘how’ and ‘deeper meaning’ in the same sentence. Now, brace yourselves, but here’s what follows as instruction:

A description in less than 100 words that is sufficiently creative that at least two classmates leave thoughtful, vote-like comments to… would be worth a measly few (yet potentially powerful) extra credit points to add to your pile.

What’s amazing here?

Description, not summary.

Creative. Enough said.

Requiring response of others. Interaction, whereby your description is required to initiate response in another person. Writing about your response, effecting a response in someone else.

Can this be science?

And here’s the clincher:

What do you get from this? What does it make you think of? Does it allow you to see, or understand anything in a deeper way?

Thinking, evaluating, deeper understanding.

Here is one of the students’ responses:

The knowledge we gained through learning about cellar respiration and photosynthesis really helped to understand what he was saying. As he described what it felt like to turn the wheel, “First my right arm, then my left. I can feel my biceps swell. My legs work, too, shifting my weight back and forth with each pass of the milling wheel. My breathing picks up.” I can now easily understand why he begins to breath more readily, and when he begins to describe photosynthesis, and the creation of the wheat I can really follow what he says instead of being more lost than anything else (paragraph 7). The best place I could see that the knowledge was very relevant was when he begins to show how photosynthesis works in one direction, and that cellular respiration sort of reverses the process ((paragraph 7)

I love the reflection on the learning process at the end of the lesson. There are so many things I love about this way of teaching.

Who said that science was separate from literacy?

10 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, creativity, Education, learning, writing