This year my students experienced something a little new to them on the Chemistry Olympiad. It was a question about the crystal structure of a mineral. I have not been teaching the “unit cell” concept in great detail and started to reevaluate my unit on liquids and solids. This question has been appearing on the semifinal exam of the Chemistry Olympiad for a few years but not the local exam until this year. I actually like it when something like this happens. It allows me to reevaluate what I am teaching in class, provides me an opportunity to learn new things, and brings new material into my curriculum.
Last year, I researched and practiced what I thought to be "flipping the classroom". But, now that I am taking part in a district-wide "High School Blended Learning Pilot", I can say that I was attempting blended learning early in my teaching career. You see, the flipped classroom is really a small subtype of blended learning. So, the goal of this post is to define blended learning and share what my professional development has in store for me during this academic year.
First, I had my students examine the conductivity of a puddle of water the size of a nickel. They checked for conductivity. Then they took a very small amount of sodium carbonate and a fresh puddle of water and pushed in a few crystals from the side. You can still see the crystals in the water but it tested positive for conductivity. They had to explain this. They did the same with a fresh puddle of water and a few crystals of copper (II) sulfate. Again, it tested positive for conductivity but they could still see the blue crystal. Finally, they started again with another fresh puddle of water, pushed a few crystals of sodium carbonate on one side and on the opposite side they pushed in a few crystals of copper (II) sulfate. After waiting five minutes, a solid dull blue precipitate formed in the middle. Also, the drop tested positive for conductivity.
Modeling InstructionTM is specifically designed so students construct meaning without being told what to think and I needed videos that aligned with this philosophy. That’s when I ran across this TedEd talk with Dr. Derek Muller.
Bell Ringers related to the Law of Conservation of Matter.
Last year, I worked hard to teach my students how to fail and I believe it was the most important lesson they could have taken away from my class.
As school districts across the country approach the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, students will be required to develop models to illustrate what occurs at an atomic level as well as apply various mathematical representations in order to explain a science-based concept. However, what opportunities are we providing our students to allow them to explain what they know about a concept? Students should be provided with regular opportunities to develop and explain concepts, which in turn will allow teachers to formatively assess and address misconceptions.
Over the past two years, I have immersed myself in designing mobile games for organic chemistry: founding a company called Alchemie and building a team to develop these games. The first of our games is called Chairs! (The exclamation point comes from the fact that an app called Chairs already existed in the AppStore.) The game Chairs! is what we call our proof-of-concept. Folks were a bit incredulous when we told them we design games that make learning organic chemistry intuitive and fun.
The American Modeling Teachers Association (AMTA) website is the official source for information on Modeling InstructionTM (MI). Whether you are an experienced Modeler or simply interested in learning more about MI, I encourage you to visit the newly redesigned site and check out the available resources.
In a previous blog post, I shared my thoughts about the importance of science teachers (and all teachers, really) supporting their claims about lesson efficacy with evidence. While this doesn’t always need to be a formal research study, it can often be valuable to publish findings that will be helpful to other science teachers.