Guided Microscope Investigations
Guided Microscope Investigations are investigations done by two students. The student pairings are usually chosen by the students or made by me as a result of the students’ progress on their current level. During these investigations, students examine slides they've created during labs. They work as a team to complete a task related to the content being covered in class. Students often record what they see in the microscope using Educreations, an app on the iPad. As a result of having a blended classroom where students progress in a self-paced way, I’m able to provide this one-on-one guided instruction without having to worry about what the rest of the class is or should be doing.
Music is used to transition students at the beginning and end of the class period. Students spend the first four minutes of class logging into their learning management system Haiku and Classcraft account (gamification platform). We have established as a class that all iPads (we are 1:1) should be charged and open during this period of time. This length of time is indicated by a 4:34 minute clip of music. During this time, I take attendance, fill out advanced make-ups, and talk to students who have been absent or have questions.The last three minutes in our class are indicated by transition music. This music lasts 2 minutes. It indicates that students can log out of Haiku, close their apps and their iPads. If students are in the middle of an activity, they wrap-up what they are working on either by saving it as a draft or submitting their assignment. If students close their iPads before the music sounds and have stopped working, they are deducted health points (HP) on Classcraft. I do this because I want students to use every minute for learning as I would if I was using direct instruction in my class.
My classroom space is broken into five distinct areas based on students’ needs. The areas are named in accordance with the storyline in our academic game: (1) presentation area (also known as the shelter), (2) lounge area (the beach), (3) counter area (the lookout), (4) teacher area (crash site), and the (5) table area (the jungle). Each area was set up with a distinct vision in mind. The shelter was set-up with two futons and a coffee table all located around the SmartBoard at the front of the classroom. I envisioned this area as a place where student groups could share their learning and present content using their iPads and our Apple TV. The beach area was created to help those students who do better lounging on a couch or in a non-traditional chair while working. I wanted my room to represent the traditional as well as the “non-traditional” student. The lookout area was specifically set-up for students who enjoy to look outside and see nature as they work. It also works well for those who use scenery as a reset in an environment that is often controlled chaos. The crash site was created as a result of the storyline where all students became Plane Crash Survivors (PCSs). The name makes it okay to have a messy desk! It’s also used as a space to separate distracting students from the attention of others in the classroom. Finally, the table area was made for the more traditional student who likes to work at a table or desk or likes to have a hard surface to work on. Throughout class, students can be seen moving throughout the room in accordance with their needs as a learner at that particular moment. I feel the incorporation of the different areas of the classroom helps to build a culture of learning acceptance and risk. It opens up the classroom to being more than just a sit and get environment. It helps to personalize and shape students’ learning. See also Jessi's Overview Model.
Gamification is the process of adding game elements to an environment that is not traditionally a game. I use Gamification as a strategy in my blended learning classroom to motivate my ninth grade students to engage in the curriculum and to buy in to my social and behavioral expectations--all while keeping learning fun! We have two games going on in our classroom---our academic game and our behavioral game. Our academic game is based around the storyline of the Isle of Nosredna and features an island-based theme with a leaderboard ranking based on students' engagement in our self-paced learning environment. Our behavioral game, using the Classcraft online tool, is based on health points, experience points, battles, and powers. Students work as teams to keep each other "alive" and progressing in both games.