Day 82: Energy and Pie Charts

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Physics 11 – Energy has been introduced in physics 11.  So far the students are focusing on the idea of energy storage systems as opposed to something “having energy.” I used a couple of quotes from Richard Feynman to stress that we have a really hard time describing exactly what energy is, but we are not bad at saying where energy is stored.

It is important to realize that in physics today, we have no knowledge what energy is.

Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, “But how can it be like that?” because you will get “down the drain,” into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.

The students were really engaged during this activity and the students demonstrated good critical thinking.  Without detailing it, this work touches on both the First Law of Thermodynamics (the total amount of energy doesn’t change) and the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Dissipated energy never goes down).

Day 81: Consolodation of Sexual Reproduction

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Science 9 – Today was a pretty dry day.  Students were prompted to focus on two learning objectives, and had their choice of activities that they wanted to work on.  I think that a realistic view needs to be taken with students in grade 9. I don’t believe that small details of meiosis are very important for the students to memorize.  It’s the big ideas that they need to know: sexual reproduction results in genetic diversity, meiosis produces gametes with n chromosomes and diploids with 2n chromosomes, etc.  It’s also good to read about the details that makes these big ideas happen, but ultimately we don’t need to assess the small details.  How do I know that I’m sure? I can ask any grade 10 student, even the top students, and they don’t remember the details.  They have no lasting impact.

Day 80: Law of Reflection

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Science 8 – I showed the classes a video of pool balls bouncing on a pool table.  From this, the students were broken into groups and asked to come up with a rule that describes the path that the balls travel when bouncing.  They wrote their rule down on whiteboards, and almost all groups independently came up with the Law of Reflection.  A few groups wondered if the ball always bounces back in a 90º angle.

The students were then asked to shift their rule over to the reflection of light. On their whiteboards I drew where I would place a mirror and a laser. They had to predict the path that the reflected laser would take.  Most students did not have a protractor, but most came pretty close.  The photo above shows one group that came very close.

Day 79: Concept Mapping Sexual Reproduction

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Science 9 – I’ve had significant problems with one of my grade 9 classes this year.  There is constant chatter above what is acceptable, lots of off-task behaviour and people talking out of turn.  However, I recently have discovered a way to deal with them.  I have reduced the amount I speak to them to the absolute minimum. I’ve never spent a lot of time talking in front of the class but I’ve realized is that even the minimum is too much. What I do now is put some basic instructions on the screen at the beginning of class and let the students start their work or investigations.

Today’s class I started with instructions to produce a concept map based on readings from the textbook. There is a lot of text in this section with lots of vocabulary and concepts.  Before too long I was prompted to speak in front of the class because of a need they had, not me.  They weren’t sure how to do a concept map, so I briefly worked through the main points. The students worked very hard for the rest of the class.  There were several good concept maps produced:

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Day 78: Peer Instruction on Projectiles

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Physics 11 – Today it was time again for more peer instruction. I had gone over the basics of projectiles with the class fairly briefly.  Somewhat different to how projectiles are covered in BC, I delayed introducing them until after we had done unbalanced forces.  At this point students can clearly identify the single force acting on the projectile and how it has constant acceleration downwards, and constant velocity horizontally.  Sequenced like this, projectiles do not have any new concepts in them.

This first question required two votes, but the students had almost 100% correct on the second vote.  The next question I knew would be more difficult:

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The students had only one piece of the puzzle to figure out this question, and a few students picked up on it.  Most did not, even after two votes.  The concept that helps answer this question is that the time a projectile spends in the air depends on the vertical motion. Specifically, the more vertical distance traveled, the longer the time spent in the air.

I’m continuing to use Plickers for peer instruction, and it is working very well.  The software has improved over the past year and the voting appears to be more reliable.

Day 77: Karyotypes

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Science 9 – With a bit of luck, the morning before class I came across a nice website about karyotypes from the university of Arizona.  The website and its activities have students learn about chromosomes, karyotypes and genetic disorders in an interactive manner. I wouldn’t call this an transformative use of technology, but there’s no question that it was both informative and engaging.

Students are presented with an incomplete karyotype of a patient, and they have to fit the remaining chromosomes into the karyotype.  The nice thing about this website is that it is neither java nor flash based. This allowed the students to use their smartphones and tablets.  I had to take the classes down to the library however, in order to get wireless internet access.

Once the karyotype is finished the students have to see if they can find what might be wrong with it.  Are there any extra chromosomes, missing chromosomes etc.  From this, they then can determine what genetic disorder the patient might have.

All in all, it was a really good activity. I finished the class by going around to each student and asking them what they learned during the class.  This brief interaction served as way for both formative assessment, and for getting the students to formally summarize the two big ideas they would have learned (matching chromosomes to a karyotype, and determining a genetic disorder from a karyotype).

Day 76: EM Spectrum

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Science 8 – Today the class learned about different types of electromagnetic radiation.  Students were split into groups of 3 or 4, and each group was assigned a spectrum to learn about: radio, microwaves, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, x-ray and gamma rays.  Students had two main tasks.  First, they summarized the information in the textbook using a 20 word GIST.  The idea with the gist is that the text is re-written using exactly 20 words. The reason for using a gist is to promote close reading and determining the most important parts of a section of text.  It forces the students to think critically about the text rather than blindly copying words from the textbook to a notebook.

Their second task was to prepare a whiteboard in order to present their findings to the rest of the class.  The whiteboards were completed with varying degrees of success. However, most students learned from the presentations: both the content and with improving presentations.

After class I took the GISTS and copied them to give back to the students.  These gists can help serve as reference material for the students.