ThingLink for PBL in Science
ThingLink is an online software used to make images interactive. This year, I've used it during a project/problem-based learning (PBL) activity, in which students did a series of tasks to collect data on a soil site of their choice (please see my "Model Overview" to learn about how I use Levels in my classroom). They collected this data and saved it for the final activity, the Soil Report, which asked the students to compile all the information they learned about their soil site and to post it on a ThingLink. This ThingLink was then used to make a target on the larger map of Paracini Ponds (the field site we visited), which was also its own ThingLink. The insight I was looking to gain from the completion of this activity was whether students could take scientific data from a field exercise, analyze it, and make a decision about how the land should be used.
Classcraft is team-based, role-play gamification tool that I use for classroom management. It focuses students to self-manage their learning, stay on task, and positively collaborate with their peers. When students are seen positively collaborating, working hard, or helping another student, they earn "experience points" (XP), which allow them to "level-up" and gain "powers" (ability to buy privileges in class). However, if they are distracting other students, not following classroom rules, or negatively impacting the learning of themselves or peers they are deducted health points (HP). If they lose all of their HP, they "fail in battle," which means that a random student-generated consequence is then assigned to the student. The fall in battle causes each student on that individual's team to lose HP and face greater risk of also falling in battle. The sequence continues until either all teammates fall to battle or someone on the team has enough HP to survive. Besides HP, students earn 4 action points (AP) every day. Action points allow students to purchase privileges if they have "learned" a power. The AP allow students to ask the Game Master if a question is correct on a quiz, to automatically advance within a level, or to "teleport" to their locker or the bathroom. AP, HP, and XP can all be impacted by the "Daily Event." The Daily Event is a random event that impacts the game in a positive or negative manner. For instance, the event may give the person with the least experience points 200 XP in the game or it may deduct 15 HP from a random player. We never know what will happen, which is what makes the game so interesting to most students. After using the game for nearly two school years, I have seen my students interacting more positively with one another and accomplishing more in class. It has been an awesome addition to our classroom culture and very easy to implement!
Genius Hour is an ongoing project in which my students identify and explore their scientific interests and passions. Developed every Friday for an entire semester during class, the project provides an opportunity for students to cultivate their research and critical thinking skills while engaging in a topic that is of interest to them. As part of the Genius Hour project, my students connect with "virtual partners" from outside our state in a collaborative effort to authenticate their projects even more. Genius Hour culminates in a demonstration of students' research findings in a format of the students' choosing. This year, I have included the use of Flipboard, an application that allows students to search for a variety of web-based resources and to curate these resources in a visually compelling and user-friendly way.
Experience Based Lab Introductions is a strategy I use to get students to start thinking about their prior knowledge and how it can be applied to a problem or challenge. For example, I use the story about Who Polluted the Clark Fork to set the stage for our water filter lab. The story allows students to use their knowledge-base to answer simple questions throughout the story. As the activity continues, I see students' perspectives change as more elements and variables are added to the story. The stories peak students' interest and bring a call to action into a classroom activity. This strategy is embedded in the Conceptual Change Model, where I'm trying to expose students' beliefs, confront and accommodate those beliefs, and then extend the concept to help students move beyond their misconceptions.