Archive for category Best Practices in Education

“Blab” Reports!

I need to start this post off with a confession: I got a B in Chemistry when I was in high school…and I’m not a B kind of guy.  I didn’t get a B because I tried hard and just wasn’t a science person, I got a B because I had a great lab partner.  I just didn’t like the class.  Now, I loved the experiments…totally my personality to test things out, make things explode, tear stuff apart (my wife HATES that), but I just didn’t understand the need for those ridiculous lab reports!

LAB REPORTS!

I hated them!  I honestly didn’t know why I even did them…I would turn one in, the teacher would put some grade on it, give it back to me,and then it was organized in two ways: (1) I crammed it deep into the abyss of my backpack or (2) I stealthily placed it in the trashcan on my way out.  I never seemed to get the connection that I really needed to be learning from each of these experience (something I now realize as an adult and educator), and since I never held on to them, I wasn’t able to evaluate my learning at the end of the year.

My guess is that if you walked into the average high school Chemistry class today, you would find a room FULL of students just like I was.  Good kids, smart kids…they just don’t get the need for a lab report (or any other report for that matter).  But what if there was a way to make things like lab reports more interactive, something that could use pictures, videos, a more, while also being easily kept in order for looking back on?  Well…there is!  Blogs are your solution!

Blogs:

Many of you probably know what a blog is, but just to me sure we are all on the same page, here is a brief synopsis:

  • Blog = online web log (kind of like a journal)
  • Blogs are ordered sequentially
  • Blogs are electronic and therefore can have things like pictures, videos, and hyperlinks used inside them!

Blogs + Lab Reports:

So how would a Lab Report  look in a blog?  Well, let me show you…but before I do, I want to give you a few questions to think about while looking at it:

  • How could the fact that it’s housed online help develop your students learning over time?
  • How do the pictures impact the presentation of the facts?
  • How does embedding video help students learning over the long haul?
  • How can this intereactive lab report impact students differently than a paper copy?

Ok…that’s enough questions…now go take a look at the “blab report” (humorous combination of the words “blog” and “lab report”…laugh with me…makes it more enjoyable!)

Sample Lab Report

http://samplelabreport.blogspot.com/2009/07/experiment.html

So, what did you think?  Here are a few ideas that I found from this:

  1. By hosting this on a blog site, the student really can’t “lose” their lab reports!  They can always go back and look at what they did in the past and reflect on decisions or lessons they learned from their experiments.
  2. The pictures help them pay more attention to what is actually happening in the experiment while also helping them remember what things may need to be set up differently next time.
  3. The video really MAKES this page…they can actually re-live the experiment after it is over…look back at what ACTUALLY happened!
  4. By letting them take an interactive lesson (a lab) and chronicle it in an environment that allows for interaction (a blog), you have made this a memorable experience…one that they will probably really LEARN from!

Blogs are simple to set up, simple to use, and simple to maintain…sometimes it’s just hard to think of a way to use it in your classroom!  Hopefully this just pushed you in the right direction a little bit.

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Powerful Practice Instead of Painful Practice

There are basic skills that form a foundation in each of the core subject areas.  Students who cannot quickly recall basic math facts struggle with daily mathematical problem solving.  A child who doesn’t have his sight words memorized struggles with reading fluently.  Poor spelling can cause a student to have trouble writing.  You get the idea.  These foundational skills must be mastered if we are going to help students build the complex concepts that they need.  We know we need to provide opportunities for students to practice these basic skills but it takes time and traditional practicing methods are often boring.  Adding a dose of technology into your skill drill-and-kill can grab a student’s attention and keep them interested long enough that they just might remember the facts.

Here are three ideas to make skill review more fun:

1. Raps on iPods

Catchy tunes and rhythm can often aid in the memory process, so it only makes sense to pair our reviews with music!  Examples can be found all over the internet and here is a fantastic example found on TeacherTube:

You can then take the songs and videos and load them onto iPods for students to review anywhere!

2. Video Flash Cards

Power Point slides saved as jpeg files can make great video flash cards to practice math facts, sight words, or vocabulary.  Load the slides into Photostory or Movie Maker.  Have students record the answer, pronunciation, or definition.  Flash cards can be viewed at the computer or loaded onto an iPod for portability.

3. Websites

There are a number of great websites that provide opportunities for students to practice basic skills.  Many of the websites mimic traditional methods of practice (i.e. flashcards), but they add color or animation to grab your attention or make things interesting.  Other web sites hone in on students competitive nature by presenting the skill review in the form of a game where students can earn points for correct answers or speed.  I’ll include a few of my favorites.

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Math:   Spelling: Vocabulary:

http://www.mathnook.com

http://www.mathnook.com

http://www.multiplication.com

http://www.multiplication.com

http://www.spellingcity.com

http://www.spellingcity.com

http://www.funbrain.com/words.html

http://www.funbrain.com/words.html

Repetition of basic skills and information is important, but it doesn’t have to be dreadful.  Take some time to add a little technology into your rote practice of skills and I guarantee you will grab students’ attention and keep it!

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