Today we had a great lesson with using circuits. Having just learned the symbols and how to create circuit diagrams, we moved onto circuit construction with series and parallel circuits. One of the best free resources out there for electricity comes from University of Colorado, PhET (phet.colorado.edu) using the circuit construction kit the students were able to make their drawings into online circuits, then use the equipment to make the physical circuit.
Having the mobile cart of netbooks was a great addition to this lab. We were able to bring a laptop to each work station and have students connect the diagrams, simulations and physical circuits. The students were incredibly engaged and started testing out their own circuit ideas. This allowed another level as well as a chance to practice computer skills. It is also beneficial, as many companies will use simulations to test before making costly prototypes.
The lesson started out with learning the basics and having students build simple series and parallel circuits, but quickly turned into challenges and problems that students needed to use their knowledge and critical thinking skills to solved. Students were told they were hired by a brand new game show that required contestants to flip switches to light up their answers. They had to figure out how to wire it, test it as a simulation and then physically build it.
Netbooks/Laptops have been an amazing part of my science lessons as it gives students an opportunity to become more engaged in science. It is preparing them to meet the needs of higher education and employers who use technology with science hand in hand.
The first week back always brings a mixed amount of emotions for the students. Some wish the holidays could have kept on going for weeks on end. Most are happy to return and for a variety of reasons. School can be a social outlet with friends, sports and academic support. To some though it can be a break from home and a refuge. I am happy to be back into the routine as both a classroom teacher and a graduate student myself.
Today I had 11 teachers come into my grade 9 applied science class and then over to my grade 11 chemistry class. It was a great experience to showcase some of the work I have been doing and also to talk to educators for feedback. We used the class set of netbooks to look at some great simulations (http://phet.colorado.edu), YouTube videos and news articles. The grade 9’s looked at solar systems and used online animations to explore the planets as well as test their skills at making a functioning orbiting system themselves. The grade 11’s discussed greenhouse gas emissions and the tar sands (oil sands) are represented in the media. We then did a virtual lab on gas laws and graphed the results in Excel. The teachers that visited checked out my class site (http://sites.google.com/site/scienceatcedarbrae) and really enjoyed the engagement of the students.
I love the blended learning environment I have established in my classroom with all the different aspects coming together. This semester I felt I have moved into not just using technology and showing other peoples work but had the students actively participating and using technology to create information (wikis and YouTube). True learning takes place when the students are using critical thinking, prior knowledge and creativity to share their own generated information.