Thursday, June 25, 2015

Taking it to the next level

Over the course of the last 18 months, I have expanded the tools I use in the classroom greatly. I have met with other educators and tried new things. It has all been to the benefit of my students. I recently shared my Virtual Hike/Bone Identification lesson and lab on Twitter. Here, I build on the 142 character limit to give you some additional highlights on how video has enhanced my science lessons.

In April 2014, I returned from a spring trip with two bones I collected on a family property. I took the bones into my seventh grade science class. The goal was simple: have them identify the bones. We worked through the identification as a class. I led Internet research and students came up with their conclusions. Little did I know at the time that it was just the beginning of what would become one of my favorite science lessons.

In December 2014, I returned to the same family property on another trip. Out for a hike, we came across a mostly intact animal rib cage. I returned to the location with a large bag and collected the bones. With the help from my two trusty sidekicks (ages seven and four), I took video of the hike up the hill. Later in the trip, we took another hike and this time collected an animal skull. We also took some photographs along the hike. The video and photographs from the trip would provide exactly what I would need to guide my students through this bone identification.

First, I posted on Twitter images and a preview of what would come upon our return from the Christmas vacation.

Second, I got to work on the video. I created a virtual hike with the video I took and added in some of the still images as well.

Third, I rebuilt the bone identification lab around the virtual hike.

I walked the students through the hike. (Pun fully intended here.) They were to take notes on their observations. Once they completed the virtual hike, the students were then broken into groups and rotated through different stations. Each station had a different bone (or group of bones) to identify. I provided them with a worksheet to fill in notes as they visited the different bone identification stations. They had a chance to revisit the virtual hike and collect more information from the bones on a second day. Students also used personal electronic devices and the two classroom tablets to research. They then took the information they had collected and did a lab write-up.

This enhanced lesson allows the students to explore and inquire. I was so impressed with everything they did with this lesson and the outcome was fantastic!

So, what's next? How else can this lesson be enhanced?
Google Forms

The next step would be to take the worksheet and make it into a Google Form. Groups can then fill in the Google Form and ultimately submit the lab write up through Google Drive.

Video is the "thing" I have decided to continue pursuing in new ways. Sixth grade lesson: I used it to enhance a series of lessons on earthquakes. I showed news footage from different earthquakes, including the 1989 Loma Prieta and the 1987 Whittier-Narrows earthquakes. Then, I took my own video showing the how Whittier looks now. This included a class discussion as we viewed videos. We also examined National Geographic videos.

Also, I used a summer adventure to enhance lessons with all three levels of science (sixth, seventh, and eighth). I took video at Lassen Volcanic National Park. I brought back resources from the visitor's center there. I put different pieces of the Lassen experience into difference lessons as they fit with the science. This video was shown to the sixth grade class.

Among the tools I have built into my teaching toolbox, or my Swiss Army Knife of Education, if you will, I have found that video can be used in a multitude of ways and is especially helpful in bringing the outside into the inside of the classroom. It enhances the learning experience for my students. It helps to build in differentiated instruction that has done well by my students who may need a little something more. I have a ways to go as I continue to work with video and I look forward to actually doing it better and better.

The best part is's worth trying. The only failure comes in not trying, as "they" say. So, if you haven't already done so, give it a try. Bring the classroom to life by enhancing a lesson with video.

Next school year, as I take on a new role where I will actually be teaching some of the technology I use, I will have the students do different things with video themselves. One significant step will be creating a video yearbook.

How and why do you use video in your classroom? How will you take it to the next level? Share your thoughts here or post a response on Twitter with #ScienceRocks and/or #EdTech