Thursday, July 22, 2010

Roger Ebert Gets Me Thinking

There are so many good reasons to follow Roger Ebert on Twitter. Here's just one post.

I could never reason out how a sewing machine worked. On Twitpic
I could never reason out how a sewing machine worked. on Twitpic
Click for a bigger view.

I'm thinking how I'd introduce a 4/5 grade physics motion, design, and mechanics unit with this illustration.
First I'd ask kids to imagine how a sewing machine works. I might give them a needle and thread and scraps of cloth. I'd ask them to draw a diagram or act out what they think happens in the machine. I'd ask them to share their theories and speculate some more. Then I'd show them thread components, (the bobbin and the thread coming off the spindle and through the needle) and have them fuss some more. Then I'd show the machine in action and open the little door that holds the bobbin while the machine is running. Surmise, surmise, surmise. Ultimately I'd show them RE's fabulous illustration.
There are so many key concepts are in play here! Things you could return to, too, like tensile strength. It would make a better entree into physics than the Rube Goldberg approach I've seen too many times. That's funny but too explicit-- lots of what goes on in machines is covert, which is a great reason to use them to get kids theorizing.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

PBL Camp: A Community Comes Together

Edutopia’s first-ever PBL Camp is in now high gear, with campers jumping into active discussions about project ideas relating to the Gulf disaster. Tomorrow is the start of Week Two.
It’s still early, but already several themes are emerging.
PBL Campers are a generous group. We’ve had experienced teachers volunteer to mentor newcomers, and three PBL pros—Jane Krauss, Tristan de Frondeville, and Telannia Norfar—on call to dispense timely advice as PBL Camp Counselors. Karen McMillan (@McTeach) has gone out of her way to help teachers get comfortable using the various tech tools we are introducing throughout this four-week adventure.
Teachers are eager to collaborate. This week, we’re encouraging Campers to buddy up with a colleague or two (or more) on a project planning team. Collaboration has already started in the discussions at Edutopia, where teachers are quick to recognize the value of working together.
We’re all learning in plain sight. PBL Camp is unfolding publicly, with planning conversations taking place online at Edutopia, on Twitter, and on a planning wiki. Unlike most PBL resources, which typically showcase finished projects, PBL Camp opens a window on the planning and brainstorming stage. All the resources, webinars, and discussions are being archived here.
Opportunity keeps knocking. PBL Campers are part of a bigger community of educators who are looking to turn the Gulf disaster into meaningful learning. We have made wonderful connections with Teachers Teaching Teachers (thanks to co-hosts Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim). Eric Brunsell, assistant professor of science education from Wisconsin, is sharing his ideas and resources for engaging science projects. And more connections are in the works.
Of course, we'll find ways to stay connected as a community once camp ends and teachers start implementing these amazing projects with students. Till then, let's camp!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Let's Camp!

Today was the kickoff for Edutopia's PBL Camp. The big goal is to turn the Gulf disaster into meaningful learning opportunities for students. We had excellent turnout for the webinar (which will be recorded and available online soon), and that leaves me hopeful about where this group is heading.
The Wordle image above captures campers' reflections on this question: What do you hope your students will remember most about the project you plan this summer? (We used Wallwisher for brainstorming--check out the PBL Camp Wall here.)
In many ways, we're using PBL methods to plan and implement PBL Camp. It's a team effort all the way. As facilitator, I'm collaborating with Betty Ray, Edutopia's Community Manager. Many more colleagues have agreed to play a role in the weeks ahead.
Like most worthwhile projects, this one has involved considerable advance planning so that participants can hit the ground running. And, we're using technology tools where we need them to do important work (including a wiki for project planning, online discussion groups and Twitter for conversations, and Delicious for tracking resources).
The four weeks of PBL Camp will follow the arc of a project, starting with an open-ended question (How will you make the Gulf oil disaster relevant for your students?), and ending with a celebration of learning. In between, of course, comes the fun of getting hundreds of teachers working together to plan engaging projects.
So as Betty proclaimed at the end of our kickoff today, "Let's camp!"

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tinkering Under the Hood

At ISTE we got smart and crowd-sourced thinking routines, methods and tools that support inquiry in PBL. Take a look and add your ideas to the Wallwisher walls and Google Doc. (All links show in one place on the final slide.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

It matters what you call it.

It matters what you call it.
Many of us will be studying the BP Deep Horizon oil well disaster with students when school starts again. As you begin, how will you refer to it? I've been ruminating on this because I think it's important that we frame the study by naming it precisely. I hear "Gulf oil spill" tossed around but that's inert. "Gulf" says where, "oil spill" says what, but how about greater specificity? Who was responsible? What failed? What is the scale of the thing? I propose we call it what it is: the BP Deep Horizon Oil Well Disaster. Do you have a better idea? I'd like to hear it.

It matters how you see it.
How will you help kids visualize the scope of the oil well disaster? Here's a terrific visualization tool by If It Was My Home, a Google Map overlay you can place right over your town to get a sense of the sheer size of the oily mess. Notice that If It Was My Home cares about how we talk about this too - It's not a spill, it's a disaster.

In his blog Teaching Science 2.0, Eric Brunsell, Asst. Professor, University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh presents infographics links and plenty of other resources you'll find useful for studying the BPDHOWD. He starts off with a video and prompt to get viewers thinking (I'd press students' media literacy into service to figure out point of view) and follows with advice on how to center in on a project by "messing about" first.

Meet Camp Sergeant Suzie and the Edutopia Campers
Suzie Boss is heading up Edutopia's PBL Summer Camp where all "campers" will work together to whittle out projects relating to the oil well disaster. A thousand campers signed up in just two and a half days so you can't join, but you can certainly see everything going on, including the discussions and weekly webinars. Learn more here.