Sunday, December 11, 2011

Trusting the Process, and the Processors

 by Julie Rea

Teaching the humans we have in our 9th grade classrooms this year has been challenging.  They are masters at disengaging, “forgetting” assignments, logging time at school until their real lives start.  Failing a class is a non-event for them, to be met with a shrug of the shoulders.  A majority of our students are satisfied with doing just enough work to pass and keep their parents and teachers off their backs.  It has been very challenging. 

We have been introducing project-based learning, and struggling to teach the students how to participate in and contribute effectively to groups.  In geophysical science, my co-teacher just introduced a unit on Newton’s Laws with a project on forces in sports.  Students are to answer the question:  How can we use forces to improve an athlete’s performance in hockey, baseball, rugby (the sport of their choice)? 

On Friday, I went to the science room to help the groups as they worked.  The situation looked promising as I walked in the room.  Students were in their groups, and there seemed to be lots of discussion.  Full disclosure here:  I am an external processor.  I do not know what I think until I have said it.  To me, discussion is a good sign.  One group of students caught my eye:  two boys were standing, and two girls were sitting, everyone looked glum, and no one was saying a word.  To me, this is not a good sign.  Deep breath and approach: 
How’s it going?  
What sport did you choose?
What is your question?
We can’t think of one.
Hmm.  Do any of you play basketball? 
(one student raises her hand.)
Great!  So what area of your game would you like to improve?
I don’t know.
Let’s think about all the parts of basketball—what do you have to do to play basketball?
Dribble.  Shoot.  Be fast.  Be agile.
Good!  So dribble, shoot, run—which would you like to study?
There are different kinds of shots in basketball.  Which is the most interesting to you?
Well, I’ve always wondered why so many pros are bad at foul shots.
Ok, so are you thinking in there?  Are you all internal processors?  Am I bothering you with my questions?  (I am related to some internal processors, and they have shared that, at times, talking is an annoyance.  I sympathize, but cannot empathize.)
Well, I’ll let you process those thoughts, and I’ll be back.  

5 minutes later. . .No one has moved, everyone looks glum, no one is talking.
             How’s it going?
Got a question?
Hmm.  You could always think about equipment in basketball.  Hey, I know.  I always see players rubbing their shoes before they go on the court.  Wonder why?
To get the dirt off (this is followed by a look which says, Do you have a brain?)
Well, maybe forces play a part in that.  Can you think which ones?
You might want to look at your notes, or on-line to see what forces might be involved.
Well, I’ll let you process those thoughts, and I’ll be back.

5 minutes later. . .No one has moved, everyone looks glum, no one is talking.
             How’s it going?
Got a question? 
             Hmm.  Well, I was thinking about that shoe thing.  (I am getting desperate now.  The project guidelines say that they must have a question by the end of the period.)  My son played basketball in high school and college.  You know, in college the team buys your shoes for you, and one year my son was really disgusted with the shoes the coach had picked out.  No one on the team would wear them.  Can you imagine why?
            They said they were too heavy!  Do you think shoes could really make a difference, like in jumping?
            Ok, well, you process some more, and I’ll be back.  (Exchange worried looks with co-teacher.  We have been having similar discussions with other groups, and those groups have been making progress.  We got nothing here.)

5 minutes later. . .three of the students haven’t moved, but they are looking at me expectantly, and the group leader is approaching me where I am working with another group.   She is holding a notebook, and has a look of quiet confidence.  She holds the notebook up, and I read a perfectly wonderful question about forces and the lay-up shot in basketball.  We do a high five, and I say “well done” to the group.  They smile, and the boys finally sit down. 

            Here are my take-aways.

·      Wait Time works.   All those silences up there?  They were big, long, empty silences.   Doug Lemov (Teach Like a Champion) includes wait time as one of the championship techniques.  It can be painful, but it works.  Kids need time to process—my co-teacher and I had already been thinking about and discussing this project for some time.  We were familiar with it; the students needed time to catch up.
·      No Opt Out, another of Lemov’s techniques, works.  I kept circling back to be sure that something was going to come out of this group.  If necessary, we would have been there for some time after class, or after school.  It wasn’t an immediate No Opt Out, but it was in play.
·      Trust the process.  Project-based learning works.  Struggling is part of the process and is good for students—I almost blew it by inserting myself too much in the process.  I needed to let the students struggle, and be patient with the struggle.  Self-esteem comes from struggling and overcoming, not from writing down what the teacher said, however brilliant and insightful that may have been (I thought my shoe question was both!)  The pride on the faces of this group at the end of the process was palpable.  It wouldn’t have been there if we had given them the question—either as part of the assignment, or as they struggled to come up with their own.
·      A group of internal processors can work!  Quite possibly NASA already knew this, but I would never have thought it.   If these internal processors had been in groups with external processors, would they have gotten the chance to cogitate, ponder, wrestle, and finally succeed?  Is this another grouping criteria to consider?  If internal processors benefit from the space to process internally, would external processors benefit from learning how to work in a group in which everyone has to talk to think?  I want to investigate more about how internal processors work, so I can be more helpful to them.  If you have suggestions about resources, or are a self-aware internal processor willing to share, please let me know. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Creativity, Cycles, and Cowboys

By Sean Wheeler
Danelctro Guitar
 I did theater in high school and my first go at college.  Doing a show was a huge creative process that involved tons of creative choices, tremendous team work, and a constant adrenaline kick that started at auditions and peaked on closing night.  For anyone that's done it, being in or working on a play is a life defining experience.  In theater, we call the last week of rehearsals "Hell Week" though it's really anything but hellish.  In reality, it's an extended creative flow that is both exhausting and massively exhilarating. The days immediately after feel almost lifeless and all-to-mundane.

The same goes for playing music.  I've was in bands off-and-on throughout my teens and twenties.  I was never really any good, but I did some good stuff.  And, again, there's nothing like playing in a band when the music hits a point that transcends anything going on in real life and the instruments almost play themselves.  It's also the whole reason anyone who plays music does it in the first place.  Time slows down, individuality merges into community, and the last note is always met with a laughing "wow" and then an exhausted silence.

Athletes, painters, gardeners, craftspeople, all of them and many others go through a similar experience.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's work on "flow" has been tremendously influential in my thinking concerning teaching and my work with The American Youth Foundation at Camp Miniwanca.  As a person who has experienced this sensation through several experiences of my own, I fully believe that the creative act is my most immediate access point to flow.  

Which brings me to the fact that I haven't posted anything for over a month.  Though the school year keeps moving on, and the first big phase of the Wikiseat project is behind us, I've found myself recently in the place that happens just after one of these flow experiences.  A silence, an exhaustion, a letting-out of breath.  Rather than beat myself up over a too-long absence from posting anything here, I've come to recognize that sometimes the silence is needed.  Less needed, than simply real.  It's just the result of doing some great creative work with an incredible group of students.  Everything has it's let-down.  It's a part of the bargain. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

LHS2.0 WikiSeat Project: Ladies and Gentlemen...

by Sean Wheeler

No way. 

Today has easily been one of the greatest days I've ever experienced in a classroom.  The students did it.  They knocked this one out of the park.  I couldn't be more proud, and to be honest, surprised, at the work that was turned in today.  We had a great time seeing everyone's work.  There were tons of stories to tell, celebrations to be had, and risks that paid off.  In the afternoon we had a chance to talk with Dr. Nicolas Weidinger, the creator of the WikiSeat project, via Skype and it was a perfect cap to a tremendously rewarding day.  There were so many people helping us in this project and we can't be thankful enough to the friends, family members, and colleagues that  shared in the work. Wow!

There's so much to say about all of this, but I'll start by going back to something I included in the first TeachingHumans post on August 15th.  If you're new to following this project, I'd suggest checking out the GoogleDoc that guided my process in teaching the unit.  The experiential learning graphic from that document is really on my mind as I look forward to the next steps.  This is really where the learning is going to sink in and I'm going to be able to gauge what the students are taking away from the project.  

We just did it.  No doubt.  But now comes the "What?", "So What?" and "Now What?" parts.  Nic was great in laying out a few challenges for the students (more about that in the next post), and I have a couple of my own to add.  I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to ask those questions and see what the kids come up with. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I'd Like Middle School Kids to Know As They Enter My High School Class.

By Sean Wheeler

Foundation Forms Set

My friend Alex, a middle school teacher, asked me what I'd like middle school students to know as they entered our high school classrooms.  While obviously a bit utopian, I was surprised to find myself really talking about foundational, and somewhat predictable, skills.

"1.  "Google It" - I want students entering 9th grade with a sense that they can find anything they want on the internet.  I would love to see students who "Googled" their question before they raised their hand.  It's not that I don't want to help, but I'd love to have students walking in the door who know that they can be their own first resource.

2.  Registering for things and basic internet ability - In 2.0, our students have to register for a pretty wide array of internet services, apps, and accounts.  Our students register accounts for Picassa, Moodle, Blogger, Voicethread, Wikis, Email, DropBox, Google Reader, Google SketchUp, SlideRocket, usually all within the first six-weeks of class.  The more familiarity our students have with setting up and managing internet accounts, the better.  This is even more true for "netiquette".  Issues of internet identity, the permanent nature of internet publishing, cyber-buillying, appropriate use, and civil conduct are significant lessons that we currently teach.  Any help at the middle school level on any of that would be helpful.

3.  Open-source software, copyright, and sharing - As students become not only consumers, but producers, of content, a keen awareness of what's available, what isn't, and what can and should be shared is crucial. This is an area in which our students have a good deal of expertise, and we'd be wise to engage them in these conversations as soon as we can.

4. Back-up everything and have everything everywhere - Our students should be able to access everything they do, wherever they are.  This really stems from the big push for portfolio assessment that you and I heard alot about in college.  The kids need to use cloud computing and services like DropBox to manage their files/portfolio.  Likewise, students should understand that data loss occurs and that they need to take precautions against it.  For example, sometimes students write an email, blog post, or forum contribution and the internet or web service "times out".  At this point, they often come running up to me saying they've lost everything.  Students need to take precautions such as writing everything in Word or GoogleDocs and then copy/paste it into their post or email.  Even something as simple as hitting "select all" and "copy" commands before hitting "publish" need to be taught early on.  If nothing else, it cuts down on student frustration."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Wikiseat Project: The First Wikiseats are in!

by Sean Wheeler

Wikiseat by Analise

It's working.  The first four Wikiseats have come in and the kids are rocking it so far.  The Wikiseat above was created by Analise.  Here's what she said in her Wikiseat Manifesto two weeks ago, just as she was about to actually start real work on the project:

"I have been bullied about being a nerd, most of my life. Yes that's only fifteen and a half years but it wears and tears at you. I like to read, I openly admit it. I like to think of this as being a non-conformist. "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist". My friends have always been the ones that say: they hate school, they hate the teachers because they make you do work, they just want to get it over with. When I think of classes and teachers and working, I try to think of the good things and focus on them. Knowing what to look forward to in a lot of things helps get you through the hard things.

In my mind those rules apply to the whole world. You can’t do anything more if you have already given your 100% best and someone else doesn’t like it. “To be great is to be misunderstood”. I learn to get scholarships so I can follow my dream. When families say they're tight on money, cut their money in half, that’s what my family has to do to send two children to college and another through high school with expensive athletics and extra-activities. The chair can help me be more calm, more focused. It can help with my work efficiency with my grades and with my sports. Having little to no extra stress on an already stressful life is a blessing to me. But this is the real world, not a fantasy. Things don’t come easy, and I don’t want them to. I was raised to never except things you haven’t earned. I will not take a grade I do not deserve. This seat project will help because it will be made completely from our hands and in doing so, we have all rights to get the grades based on our work."

Here's David's chair and Wikiseat Manifesto.  It's interesting to note that the form of his idea changed, but the function didn't at all.

Wikiseat by David

"My Wikiseat needs to be mine. Not just a chair that has my name on the bottom of it. I want to make a chair that has so much of my personality into it; you wouldn’t even have to ask who made it. I want to not even have to put my name on the bottom of the chair. And I don’t mean that I’ll paint it my favorite color. I mean that I'll design it in the same way as my art style. I want to put things I like all over it. I love to rock, so I’m making a rocking chair. I don’t want a bland square wood rocking chair. I want to build a chair that would never get mixed up with any chair in the world. My chair will be a nonconformist. It will be more than a representation of my personality; it will have its own personality.  My chair will rock to a different beat than any other chair ever. Yeah, it may turn out completely ugly. But I won’t care. I’ll never care. I’m going to build a chair for me, and I don’t care if you think I could have had a better idea. I don’t care if a rocking chair is a stupid idea. I like the idea, I love the idea, and it will be my utmost greatest creation. I want a masterpiece, and I’m ready to work for it."

Nickolas wrote a great Wikiseat Manifesto and the results really matched up with his intentions.

Wikiseat by Nickolas
"As Ralph Waldo Emerson said in Self Reliance, "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide". If you were to design a chair by looking and using other peoples designs then what is the point of you building one? There would be no point because you are not trying to stand out or be extraordinary but you are just copying someone else's work. "The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried." If you just give up because others say that you won't be able to complete or make your chair and you believe them then your not even using your own thoughts. When you think to yourself that you can't do something it is mostly because you are acting lazy and or even trying. When you say that to yourself you just ruin your self-confidence and self-esteem. When you actually try something you will realize that you most of the time can do it even if it takes you a couple tries to do it. "The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them." When you just do things to please others you are most of the time not pleasing yourself. Therefore you are not even using you own mind but using others to see how they want you too look or do something their way. If you listen to them all the time then you mine as well not even be there because you are not thinking for yourself but focusing on you peers decisions. If you make a chair that is different but you like it then make it don't let other people say that "your chair is ugly you should throw it away", but don't even listen to them. Do what you want because you will feel better knowing that you stand out in the crowd but are not just another average person like everyone else."

Roy's chair might win for the most solid construction so far.  He really turned in a great looking Wikiseat and I actually used it a bit in class today and can vouch for it's consideration of height and comfort.  Here's his Wikiseat and what he wrote in his Wikiseat Manifesto.

Wikiseat by Roy

"Thinking about "Self Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson helps me with my chair that I'm making. If someone tells me I can't do it, I won't listen to them. I'll still try. Or if someone tells me that my chair looks goofy or dumb, I'll think to myself thats it's what I like and what they say isn't going to change the way I think about this project or the design of my chair. "Envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide. " This means that there is nothing special about your creation when you copy someone else's idea. And that if you do, then you're nothing except for an imitator. I will try not to copy any one else's idea while making my chair. I will make it all original with my own creation. I will take Ralph Waldo Emerson's words into consideration while designing and building my chair to make it 100% mine."

I think the students' work speaks for itself.  I'm impressed at their follow-through, commitment, and engagement in this Wikiseat project.  There is so much to be learned from all of this, and I can only hope that the reflective process that will follow will be as deep as I think it will be.  Stay tuned and leave a few comments.  I'm very interested in what anyone else makes of this.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Preparing to do the group project

 By Foyn McDevitt

We start out with a three part assignment that will help the students define themselves.  They were asked to consider their  actual, ideal, and perfect day. Secondly, they had to  write a letter to a grandson or granddaughter, and finally draw a picture of what they think they will look like at either 43, 63, or 73 year of age.

The first exercise, has three pie charts. Their actual day as it unfolds, then their ideal day and then their perfect day. I try to convince the classes that to simply divide their perfect or ideal day in half and just put sleep and video gaming is not realistic. I want them to think more openly, but if that is their ideal or perfect day, then so be it. Their average day must include all of their responsibilities as well. 

The letter is explaining  their younger days and letting their grandchildren know how they grew up. The last part of the assignment is to draw a picture of how the students think their future will turn out. The students can share this work with their group members and, if they want, the class. This is both an ice breaker and a great way for the students to introduce themselves to each other and me. It also gets them to start thinking about the present near future and distant future. I also do one, but I'm old and boring yet the students get a charge out of my view. 
My being involved is important to let them know I am in the class to learn as well. I am not the oracle of knowledge ready to pour wisdom in their ear but to guide them to information and let them decipher it as they see the need. 

This assignment gets the groups to realize each member is not that much different and  the group may have more in common than they think! So when the groups start on their sculptures they are a little more open and willing to listen to other ideas. 

Project Based Small Group Learning

By Foyn McDevitt

I wanted my class to start out by understanding what we were going to be about this year, project based small group learning. This statement usually comes with groans of agony by 9th grade students. They have been burnt by group members doing little work but reaping the benefits. Well our project based small group work is done a little differently than they may be used to doing.. Each member has his or her part. Together they must coordinate their work with the other group members work. This way every member has a part. If someone is not working then I can help and get that person on task, with the assistance of the group. If one person chooses to do substandard work, then they receive the lower grade. The group will lose no more than ten percent of the total grade due to one person not working. This still shows the group must work together and also stops the group that says “no one will work in the group but me”.  One person may choose not to communicate with the other members because it is easier to go solo, but if they lose ten percent they could still get points but their own actions will  lose credit. I am trying to teach them the importance of learning together. The different points of view will help you understand your opinion on a subject is not the only opinion. Others have a say and it may be different but their view is just as valid.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Wikiseat Project: Emersonian Wikiseat Manifestos. ( If you want to make a chair out of TVs, make a chair out of TVs.)

by Sean Wheeler

Ralph Waldo Emerson in a chair.

Last Friday we dove into some more Ralph Waldo Emerson as a way to get us thinking about our approach to the Wikiseat project.  Here's what we read:

Excerpts from, Self Reliance (1841), by Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.
Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events. Great men have always done so, and confided themselves childlike to the genius of their age, betraying their perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seated at their heart, working through their hands, predominating in all their being.
Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. I remember an answer which when quite young I was prompted to make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune me with the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying, What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within? my friend suggested, "But these impulses may be from below, not from above." I replied, "They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil's child, I will live then from the Devil." No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it.
What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
 For nonconformity the world whips you with its displeasure. And therefore a man must know how to estimate a sour face. The by-standers look askance on him in the public street or in the friend's parlor. If this aversion had its origin in contempt and resistance like his own, he might well go home with a sad countenance; but the sour faces of the multitude, like their sweet faces, have no deep cause, but are put on and off as the wind blows and a newspaper directs.
 The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.
 A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. "Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood." Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood. 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1841
After spending the whole day on the text, (btw - flexible group scheduling is great!), I asked the students to think about all of the ways that Emerson's text connect with our Wikiseat project.  They are about to start heading off to their own workspaces, teaming up with friends, calling up uncles, etc. and I asked them to end the day by writing a Wikiseat Manifesto.  I explained that a manifesto is a statement of both principles and intent.  I asked them to adopt the principles set forth in Self-Reliance and combine them with their intent to design and build their own Wikiseat.  There are so many great responses.  So many students wrote epic manifestos, and I'll be sharing them here for awhile, but here's what Courtney wrote.  Following is the prompt that the students received, and Courtney's response.
For this journal assignment, I'd like you to write a personal manifesto in relation to our work on the Wikiseat Project and our work on Emerson's, Self-Reliance.
manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions.  I want you to write a passionate and inspiring statement that relates Emerson's principles to your intentions on carrying out the Wikiseat Project with a high degree of success.
"I am one of those kids that can’t stand school. I’m the person that complains about being at school all day every day. That was true up until this year, when we learned about Ralph Waldo Emerson, and were introduced to “the chair project.”  “Self reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson makes it clear that you are who you are and no one can change you and that being yourself is key. “There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide;” What Ralph means by this is that if you don’t do what comes from your heart then you are just following someone else’s idea. I do not want to follow, I want to lead.
                When we were introduced to the chair project, my ideas were pretty basic. I planned on making just a basic chair. That would be a followers thought, but now I am thinking more on how to make my chair “me.” I want people to look at my chair and know that I made it and that it expresses who I am. Only I can think up my idea. My chair is going to be different, creative, and unlike no other.
                Ralph says “What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think.”  This is very inspiring because if you think about it, most decisions people make are based on what other people think. For example when you get dressed in the morning, you don’t want to wear something that your friends don’t like, because you don’t want to be made fun of. Be yourself. If you like “hippie” outfits, then wear a hippie outfit. If you want to make a chair out of T.Vs, make a chair out of T.Vs. It is important to do things your way and if others don’t like it… then that’s too bad, because you know that it is always fun to do something out of the ordinary. This is what lead me to the idea of my collage chair."

Wikiseat Project: Chair Design Journal #4 - Meta-Learning Goals

by Sean Wheeler

After asking students to outline the steps that they will take to get materials and begin work on their Wikiseat, and after asking them to discuss their plans to document their work at home, I asked them to do write down a few learning goals that were more personal and over-arching.  Following is the prompt, and a whole slew of responses that really impressed me.  I'm especially glad to see the studentsreally investing in these goals.  There is a real sense of determination in this writing and I'm starting to feel optimistic about our results.

I would like you to be very specific in telling me what you'd like to get out of this project besides a chair.  What will you know about yourself and how you learn by the end of the project?

“When you first told us that we were going to be making chairs, I thought you were joking, or that we were going to make design ideas and send them to a chair company. It will be a big accomplishment for the people who complete this chair project, and I'm excited to see how these chairs look."
  • Justin
"I'll get if I'm good at building things. The only time that I can remember building things is when I was little and I played with Legos. I would also like to spend time with my grandpa, because I don't really get to see him that much lately."
  • Branden
"By doing this project, no actually by  simply preparing to do this project, I've already learned that I'm still a procrastinator. I'd like to get out of this project most a sense that I'm overcoming that."
  • Doriyan
"I really hope to learn how to use my originality in school. I think I have a strong imagination. But since school , I haven't been creative with myself. I hope to put my imagination out there for the whole world to see."
  • Jumoke
"One thing I hope to learn is keep on working, even if it's a difficult exerience for me. Another thing I expect from this is to learn to be patient. I know this will take time, so patience will be a major factor in this."
  • Owen
"What I would like to get out of this project is to learn how to use old materials to make something new."
  • Roy
"I want to get out of this a sense of pride and knowing that it's okay to screw up thing sometimes. Not everything is going to be perfect but you can't let it get you down. I want to learn about myself that I don't always have to "go with the flow".  I can stand out. "
  • Jenna

"I'd like to discover a new side of myself. i want to find out whether i am the handyman or the guy calling the handyman."
  • Alex

"What I would like to get out of this project is to get the satisfaction of knowing that I have thought of this project that I thought to be really hard, then actually building it. At the end I will feel so proud of myself. I will know that if I put my mind to something I can accomplish anything."
  • Dan
"Besides the chair, I am hoping this is really going to help my learning and the way that I go about doing other projects and my school work. Usually, when I get homework or a project I don't think I can do or that I don't understand I kind of just ignore it and make a bunch of stuff up at the last minute. I want this to be over at the end of this project and I think I will learn that I can do something that I have never done before and succeed."
  • Alison
"Something I am hoping to get out of this project is to learn how to finish something I started, and to be proud fo myself and my work. I will know about myself by the end of this project that I learn better when things are more hands-on and fun."
  • Bailey
"I hope this project increases my ability to operate tools and to learn to do more hands-on work. The designing of the chair is important because I don't want to make anything "normal", I want my chair to stand out so that instead of me looking at others chairs to see how to make mine they will do that with mine."
  • Nickolas
"I would really like to learn how to stick to a project once I start it withough giving up. Usually, when I do a project for school by myself, I wait to the last minute to get it up and it usually doesn't turn out well because I gave up during the process. When I do something that's not related to school that's difficutlt, most of the time I give up half-way through. I want to avoid doing that from now on and I feel like this project will help me reach my goal."
  • Sarah
"What I'm trying to get out of this project is making an object all by myself and being able to stick with it. Even if i don't finish it I will not stop trying. Which I think is the real point of the project. At the end of this I will learn how to accept failure and to not give up. Chair or no chair."
  • Emmet
"By the end of this project I hope to think like a real constructor would think and learn about being handy like a man. By the end of this project I am sure to figure out that things don't come easy. You have to really sit down and evaluate what it is that you want to, because sometimes just doing it as you go will lead you nowhere."
  • Jasmine
"The thing I want most out of this project would be spending time with my dad and having something that shows and will have memories of just my me and my dad doing something."
  • Gabrielle
"I would like to get something that me and my dad did together and know that its homemade and not just bought and maybe someday I can show it off to my kids someday and tell then that anything is posible even if you dont know to do it."
  • Samantha
"I have a pretty close relationship with my dad, but I'm hoping that it can grow through this project."
- Lillian

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On My Mind.....

by Ken Kozar

I have been thinking about different ways to incorporate formative assessment into lab activities to make lab reports just a little bit more authentic for my students.  One of the tools I have been using is Voicethread.  Voicethread transforms media into collaborative spaces using video, voice, and text commenting.  I believe it hold students a little bit more accountable than the traditional lab write-up.  Here's an example of one of my student's pH investigation.  Any thoughts?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On My Mind......Form and Function

By:  Ken Kozar

I've been thinking a lot about form and function lately.  Our kids are building all sorts of things like marshmallow towers and chairs and I keep hearing Sean say that form follows function.  Kids are designing wiki seats but are first describing what function they want their chair to serve.  The design or form of their chair then follows. 

Form follows function is a long-standing principle associated with modern architecture and industrial design in the 20th century.  The principle is that a shape of a chair, building, marshmallow tower, etc should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.  But.....does this long-standing principle apply to biology and biological systems?  We've all heard it before in biology..."form fits function".  Meaning, an organism is designed or structured in a way that will help it perform a certain function.  Lets look at a couple examples.

Jean-Baptiste Lamark's discredited theory of evolution states that an organism's anatomy is structured according to functions associated with use, in other words, the "theory of use and disuse".  For example, a giraffe possesses a long neck in order to reach leaves high up in trees.  By contrast, Charles Darwin stated that form precedes function as determined by natural selection.  Lamark - form is altered by function and Darwin - variations in form allow parts t function "better".

Proteins are macromolecules that fold into very precise 3-dimensional shapes.  This shape will ultimately determine its function.  Smaller subunits or monomers called amino acids link together to form proteins.  There are 20 naturally occurring  amino acids that can link together to form a dizzying array of combinations to form proteins.  These amino acids possess a variety of chemical and physical properties.  Each sequence gives the protein a unique profile along its chain.  This profile then determines how the protein folds and ultimately interact with other proteins to form complexes that are crucial to our survival.  Hence, the amino acids sequence (form) ultimately determines its function,  since the amino acid sequence determines the structure and structure determines function.

So I ask you......does this long-standing principle of "form follows function" fit biology or is it the other way around?