Check out my App Slam on how to use Project Noah as a science educator. Project Noah uses a social media approach to record, spot and identify species around the globe. Project Noah has a mission to record data on biodiversity and it's current state on Earth.
Tweeting Up a Storm: Engaging in a Twitter Chat with new teachers about gifted students and gifted education
As the 20% project comes to a close, I have learned a tremendous amount regarding ecosystems and how to bring them into the classroom. First I learned that the ecosystem must be supported by the classroom. I wanted to bring an ecosystem into my own classroom at RBVHS but due to power restrictions the ecosystem could not be plugged in. This limits the ecosystem to something that does not require power. In my research, I learned that I can have a powerless ecosystem but would require only living plants and beneficial bacteria. Other animals require too much power to be in the classroom and to recreate their habitat. In the future, I may build vertical gardens as part of the classroom ecosystem. The vertical garden will detoxify the air and add oxygen, this can improve the health of the classroom itself.
I learned about the variety of ecosystems that are possible. Plant only systems require sunlight or a lamp to encourage growth. Marine ecosystems depend on the water type. Freshwater ecosystems can be plants, fungi, bacteria, and animals or a combination. Saltwater ecosystems require more attention to maintain the water quality. In saltwater ecosystems more invertebrates can be incorporated to show their importance in ecosystems. An amphibious environment requires both freshwater and land. These environment require power to keep water moving and heat for the animals. Since amphibious environments are located in tropical climates, the simulated ecosystem needs to replicate the weather. Terrestrial ecosystems can vary between hosting plants, hosting animals or host both.
In the future, I plan on every classroom to have an ecosystem. It is beneficial as a science teacher to show the importance of ecosystems and the need for each part of the ecosystem to be healthy. When I continue onto special education, I will continue to have ecosystems and have the students involved in maintain of the ecosystem. This act will provide responsibility within the students and give them a sense of purpose; skills that are essential to SPED students and non-SPED students alike.
As Chimamanda Adichie warns, we risk critical misunderstanding if we hear only a single story. The single story is just a singular point of view and can leave out important details. I find it extremely important as an educator to listen to as many stories as possible. I need to understand the point of view my students have and their genuine experiences. Knowing their perspective and their frame of reference, I can alter my instruction to specifically suit their needs. For instance, I spend every other lunch talking to this particular student. This student has learning disabilities and often struggles in my Laboratory Biology class. In listening to his stories, I have learned about his culture, his aspirations, his current knowledge and his preferences in life. I learned that he has given up on science because no connection is ever made for him and he cannot relate. I have also learned that he is an amateur scooter rider and hopes to be sponsored one day. I also learned that he will be taking over his father's mechanic shop when he graduates. In learning this information, I have found ways to connect the material and engage the student in the lessons I have also learned ways to be culturally responsive to the local Hispanic community. These lessons are important for educators to learn.
Growing up teachers was always presented as infallible people who were perfect at everything and expected their students to be. This was an impossible goal to achieve and made them a person whom I could not reach out to. In my mind, it always seemed, as though how could I reach out to this teacher, they have never experienced the same thing that I am going through. Because of this experience, I have made a commitment to make teaching transparent. I let students know about the struggles that I have and how I learn how to cope with them. All my students know that I have learning disabilities that interfere with particular parts of my life. For instance, yesterday we were discussing the evolution of whales and I was reading a segment that had scientific names for the ancestors. Before I started to say the words, I warned the class about my struggle with pronunciation due to my learning disability and to understand that it is a life long goal in science to pronounce science words correctly. By having this conversation before tacking difficult reading and vocabulary, the students were more comfortable to try and pronounce the words in front of the class.
Technology has facilitated the unbounded expression of life. As an educator, I can document my story using blogs, tweets, photos, videos, and a variety of other methods. Because of my desire to share my story, all this information is available to those who are interested. Although many students have not investigated these options, they are available if a student ever chooses to learn more about me. These options are available not only to my students but to potential employers, co-workers, fellow teacher candidates, potential teacher candidates, parents, friends, family and anyone who desires to listen to my story. My story is documented in a variety of ways to allow for anyone who wants to listen.
In science, the question comes up on the difference between knowing and believing. This concept comes particularly into play when discussing controversial topics that brush upon facts and beliefs. In a New Culture of Learning the difference between knowledge and belief is made clear. Knowledge involves facts where as beliefs are open for interpretation. (Pg. 91) This is an important stance to take as a science teacher in order to maintain a boundary between teachers, their beliefs and the content delivered to the students.
Digital technologies have opened possibilities for student choice and creative expression. Using digital technologies to produce student work allows for the building of context with the material, creating links and connections, and gives meaning to the content. (Pg. 94) Although teachers are not familiar with digital technologies it is essential that teachers explore digital technologies as resources to use within the classroom and develop skills that are needed to survive in the 21st century.
Technology use is a spectrum amongst users. There are some users who simply "hang out" and visit the resources when convenient. There are some users who "mess around" and briefly explore the content. Lastly, there are some users who immerse themselves in the technology; they are known to be "geeking out." (pg. 101-105) Since digital technology use is a spectrum, teachers must facilitate lessons that will support the variety of users. As a teacher I can use choice to support the variety of students. I can use resources that give opportunities for students to hang out, mess around or geek out depending on their choice and want to interact. Hopefully as more of these opportunities are given, students will dive deeper into the opportunities and shift towards interacting by geeking out.
"Imagine an environment that constantly changing. Imagine an environment where the participants are building creating, and participating in a massive network of dozens of databases, hundreds of wikis and websites, and thousands of message forums, literally creating large-scale knowledge economy. Imagine an environment where participants are constantly measuring and evaluating their own performances, even if that requires them to build new tools to do it. Imagine an environment where users to help them make sense of the world and their own performance in it individually and personally construct user interface dashboards. Imagine an environment where evaluation is based on after-action reviews not to determine rewards but to continually enhancing performance. Imagine an environment where learning happens on a continuous basis because the participants are internally motivated to find, share and filter new information on a near-consistent basis. " pg 106-107 No longer is this an imaginary environment but the reality of the 21st century. To prepare students to strive in this world, teachers must teach 21st century survival skills and incorporate these skills into every lesson. These skills include learning how to learn and relearn, how to collaborate, how to construct, how to build, how to apply knowledge to solve questions and generate new questions, and to be creative and innovative when solving problems. To many teachers entering the professional educator world, the concept of 21st century skills is novel and can be approached with negativity. But teachers need to remember the world that students are currently living in, and teach the skills that are specific to survival of the 21st century. Teachers need to embrace concepts such as the idea that when playing and imagination occurs, learning is happening. As a professional educator, I vow to incorporate 21st century skills and facilitate play, creativity and imagination to prepare my students for like as a 21st century citizen.