New Year, New Format

Happy New Year!

With a new calendar year comes perpetual snow days and eventually a new semester. The main theme of my most recent posts have dealt with taking a new approach with labs. Specifically, I’ve wanted to add more high quality labs that incorporate components of NGSS. I will continue to modify my labs in 2015 and include more of the NGSS components as the new semester approaches.

For many, the beginning of a new year involves creating resolutions. And, hopefully not quitting them! Something that has been in the works for the last month on my end has been modifying the presentation and submission of lab reports for my upcoming Honors Chemistry 2 class. This class is a second semester honors chemistry course made up of primarily juniors. There will be a few 10th and 12th graders, along with one 8th grader that I had in Honors Chemistry 1 last year! It will be quite a diverse group. It is important to note that most of these students go on to take IB Chemistry, IB Biology, or both in their junior or senior year.

With this in mind, I sought out advice from a colleague at my school who teaches IB Chemistry. I also sought out advice from my Twitter PLN (namely @dragan, @ThomsonScience, and @OChemJulie; @CTay0604 also contributed). My goal was to devise the structure of the report based on the IB Chemistry lab syllabus and colleagues’ feedback in order to prepare students for IB-oriented lab reports. The primary consensus was to focus more on data analysis, calculations, error analysis, and extension questions rather than components that could result in increased plagiarism and academic dishonesty (such as materials, safety, experimental procedures/methods, etc.). A Google search also helped as I researched other high school lab report formats (Pascack Valley Regional High School District). Feel free to click here to view my proposed lab report format.

The second part of my post is to describe how I am changing the submission of lab reports. During this past/current semester, I utilized Google Classroom for the assignment and submission of all projects in my Computer Applications course. I have been very pleased with this format and wanted to include this component with the Honors Chemistry 2 lab reports. According to Google, Classroom is:

  • “available to anyone with Google Apps for Education, a free suite of productivity tools including Gmail, Drive and Docs;
  • Classroom is designed to help teachers create and collect assignments paperlessly, including time-saving features like the ability to automatically make a copy of a Google Document for each student;
  • It also creates Drive folders for each assignment and for each student to help keep everyone organized;
  • Students can keep track of what's due on the Assignments page and begin working with just a click; and,
  • Teachers can quickly see who has or hasn't completed the work, and provide direct, real-time feedback and grades right in Classroom.”

Rather than collect every student’s lab report, read through each individual report, and make handwritten comments (which takes time), Google Classroom will permit me to quickly access lab reports digitally, leave comments in the Google Doc, and provide grades which can be imported to my school’s gradebook (or entered manually).

If you are interested in finding out more about Google Classroom, comment below. Or, check out https://classroom.google.com/. I should mention that this is not a product placement or testimonial for Google. Rather, it is a solution I’ve found helpful in how I teach and observe student work.