Capstone Project: Best Practices Supported by Technology

Potterville Elementary uses the Battle Creek Math and Science Center curriculum for teaching Science. Last year, after taking 21Things4Educators- Things 1-10, I decided to try and use some of what I had learned and to challenge myself to figure out other “Things” in order to create an ending project for two of the units. For our “Weather Watchers” unit, we created a class video to summarize our learning. For the “Sorting Things Out” unit, we created an e-book with Storybook.

*Projects have images of students and cannot be shared publicly. A link to both the video and e-book is being sent separately to instructors.

For my capstone project, I will explore how these projects supported at least some of the 9 categories of best practice. Since this was an initial attempt, I will also explore some additional ways I could use technology in Science instruction.

  1. Identifying Similarities and Differences

Students were involved in this best practice in both science units. During the weather unit, students observed, collected and compared weather and seasons. Technology was used in small ways. For example, I used my iPad compass during our study of wind and I was able to use  the iPad as a document camera to magnify the thermometer as we learned to read it. As part of the sorting unit, the children sorted “junk boxes” by properties.

As I teach these units this year, I will be on the lookout for places that technology use can support the concepts taught. I’m told that I will have 10 iPads (I had 5 last year) this year. I can see some partner projects where students can take pictures or find images (Flickr/Advanced Google Search) to compare or express what they are learning.  Maybe even some use of tools like FaceJack where trees could talk about their visible characteristics that place them in a certain season!

  1. Summarizing and Note Taking

Both ending projects summarized unit learning. I think this is valuable for youngsters. It gives them a chance to think about what they learned, review, clarify and clear up any misunderstandings.

I would like to take time to have students do more summarizing within the unit. The ending summarizing projects were done mostly whole group with some utilization of small groups and partners. I do a lot of “pair and share” when teaching but I would like to find ways for students to use beginning “jotting” or note taking to express understanding.  Kidblog might be a fun way to discuss or express. Now that I have 10 iPads, I could see posing a question and having children respond on the class blog. Students could use the “Whiteboard” app on iPads to jot or draw responses.

  1. Reinforcing Effort and Providing Recognition

All students in Room 23 participated in the video. We invited our principal to come in and have a viewing and shared it with our neighboring 1st grade class (who all begged their teacher to let them do one!) I also figured out how to post the video on Vimeo and allow parents to see it with a password. (I did not have permission from all parents to post publicly.) The students were really happy to even just watch the video ourselves but were bursting when our principal came in! The parents who watched it on Vimeo all had positive feedback for me. Children enjoyed  the “Properties” e-book. It was made mostly whole group. We decided together what labels to add to the photos. The book was available for them to read on the iBooks shelf on their iPads. It was read more than once!

I favor intrinsic rewards and recognition. I think that this type of project is a really meaningful and enjoyable way to reinforce effort and provide recognition.

I’d like to be able to put more of the “making” of these projects into the hands of the children. I think that as I become more knowledgeable, it will be easier to do some “modeling” projects and then set them loose! (with supervision)

  1. Homework and Practice

We don’t give a lot of homework in first grade science. The “Sorting Things Out” unit has an ending project that we make into a home project. We study buoyancy and magnets. Students make boats at home to demonstrate what they have learned about these two concepts. This year I took iPad photos of the “launch” of the boats of absent kids. I suppose you could take videos or photos of this or other content or experiments and send them home for kids to discuss with parents if they have technology at home. I will be looking for that as I teach this year!

Our iPads do not go home with children and I am not certain that the majority of my children have the tools or knowledge to use them at home. Now that I have a tiny bit of experience creating video pods and audio pods, I can see incorporating them but would have to figure out how it would work with home technology. QR codes might be something I could post online or send home.

  1. Nonlinguistic Representations

Battle Creek Math and Science units are hands on units and are strong in this area. There is a great combination of hands on, writing logs and visuals. My two ending projects explored using video and e-books with the children as the teachers.

I dabbled in using Popplet and word clouds last year as we brainstormed and/or summarized learning. Gliffy has a variety of diagrams to use. For my first graders, I think finding digital images (photos) to express learning is a really strong option. I know some teachers have folders of images for kids to use. Flickr and Advanced Google Search might work too. Many could use Skitch to label their findings.

  1. Cooperative Learning

Cooperative Learning is another area where Battle Creek Math and Science units are strong. With all the hands-on projects, there is a lot of partner and small group work. The projects we did allowed children to work together to decide on content and record it. I put the clips together to create the video without student participation.

I’d like to experiment more with Lino to see if it could be used for cooperative groups at my level.

  1. Setting Objectives and Providing Feedback

Our objectives for the final projects were to express understanding of the learning goals for the two units. For example, the science goals for the “Weather Watchers” unit are: *I can use weather tools. *I can tell about the four seasons. *I know how to stay safe in bad weather. When we made our video, we discussed each goal and arrived at our “script.” Students received peer and teacher feedback as we decided what to record.

I would like to explore using Kidblog to state a goal and question such as: One of our goals is “I can tell about the four seasons.” What can you tell about spring? It might be fun to try Photopeach as well and get photos with captions.

  1. Generating and Testing Hypotheses

My projects didn’t really address this practice but the units I taught did. Science is an area where this is a natural. In our weather unit, students made predictions. One example: Are all areas of the playground the same temperature? We were able to take our thermometers out and find out. In our properties unit we also predicted. What objects are attracted to a magnet? We used magnets and explored a variety of objects.

I’m not sure how to do this better or enhance it with technology. I will be on the lookout as I teach these units this year.

  1. Cues, Questions, and Advance Organizers

Battle Creek Math and Science units use a chart with: What we know/What we think we know/What we want to know at the start and throughout their units. They incorporate “hooks” to get children organized and activate background knowledge.  My projects, of course, were at the end of the units.

I think that some of the video resources on PBS learning and the school YouTube sites might be worth exploring to find some cues and initiate some questions. Once again, Kidblog could be used to get kids thinking.  As far as advance organizers- my favorite so far was Popplet. I’d like to explore Lino.

In closing:

I have attended the Reading and Writing Institute at the Teacher’s College at Columbia University for 3 weeklong sessions over the years. I am always so inspired and awed and honored AND I always learn SO much! One of the things that I learned there is that when I go back to my classroom, I cannot do it all! They tell me to choose one or two things and do them. When those are incorporated (or not,) then choose another. Do it well.

This class has been a similar experience. There are so many things that I want to do. There are so many things I have learned about that I didn’t even mention here. I’ve repeated a few options more than once! I want to move forward, choosing “things” that really benefit the children and enhance their learning and love of learning. I will try to do a few and do them well. I will keep learning and be open to all of the possibilities that keep being introduced to me. Thank you, 21 Things Instructors!

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