Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Starting to craft my class

Adding 1 components to a system, especially a major one, changes everything. So, with the addition of FLE3 how do I do labs? lectures? class discussions? Perhaps more importantly, how will I contextualize these old activities? I've tried to create a self-sustaining constructivist environment, but this aint no easy deal. Sure, some days or some lessons go great, but keeping the log burning is hard.

I have high hopes for what FLE3 can help me do. I want that to be the center of students program. It will create the context for everything else. Let me work through this... I show students some cool video/movie about the topic of study. I show them some dissonant event, they experience directly the topic of study. Somehow I must get them focused in the right direction with some data, story, or whatever. From there, they will write question as they come to their mind.

What do I do with this interest and this body of questions? Somehow I must get these questions organized around the cognitive goals of the course. In the "Interrogative Model of Inquiry" by Jaakko Hintikka and Matti Sintonen I need us--the class--to focus on the 'big questions' the explanation-seeking kind. Starting with this level of question will help bound the conceptual space (does this question help us understand the big question?). I like that. Perhaps I will create the big questions based on the cognitive goals, then students will write their questions on sentence-strips and then cluster them around the big question they lean towards. Questions that didn't seem to head towards any of the big questions could be in an, 'interesting other questions' or some such.

I wonder if putting the questions on a synchronously edited map using Cmap software might be a better ideas since I don't even have a bulletin board in my new room! I must be careful using correct names for the different 'bubble maps'. Anyway, this could be a cool way with me coming up with the big questions, based on the different parts of the curriculum, students clustering their lower level, more factual questions around them. Then, each one of the lower level questions could become a FLE3 thread-starter. This might lead to a way to integrate lessons into a FLE mediated Inquiry. I know these kids like leading their own inquiry and I know they like structure and predictability--maybe FLE3 on certain days and the whole panoply of lessons on certain other days... I don't know, I don't think I like it, but it would help me, too, to provide some structure to my activities...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Why this Blog?

This blog is for me. I need to think about how I'm going to create my, 'computer-enabled science classroom' this year. And unfortunately there is a dearth of people with whom to help me reflect on this to the depths to which I need. Additionally, this will serve as a journal of where I've been and what I've thought on this topic, certainly useful things to me irrespective of whether I get alzeimers soon or not. If wayward surfers happen upon this page, well, you're forwarned...

What is a 'Computer-Enabled Science Classroom' or CESC? It's something I dreamed up in the spring of 1994 when I visited Saturn School in St. Paul. There I saw these funny/sorta cool student desks with Mac SE 30's couched under them such that the screen was visible through a glass port in the desk top. I really loved the idea of the resources of a computer, un-restrictively available to the science learner. My change in the infrastructure idea was simply to put a computer not in a 1 person table, but to place 2 computers under a 4 person table. Of course the idea wasn't birthed, full-form at that point at all. It was in 1999 that I wrote a grant proposal for this CESC to Medtronic Foundation which they funded. I built the tables that summer and fall 1999 I had 12 computers slung under 6 tables.

To make a long story, short, over the last 5 years I've had lots of experience working with this system. And unfortunately for myself and many others, there has been little stability in programs here in Minneapolis, I've had to change schools twice, each time because my school was being closed! This year I'm at a new school, once again I chose a school with 90% + students who received free and reduced lunches. It is a program that is only 4 years old and so is still developing... I have high hopes for this program as I think it has a good administrator. I figure if I can get the CESC constructivistically working in a middle school such as this, I can get it to work anywhere...

The othere issue I've had is that my LAN server has been problematic for me, an overworked science teacher. After burn-out 100+ hours EACH year, I finally get the network running properly. Thus, I haven't been able to use the LAN as I've wanted until Jan. or Feb. of each year!!! That is so frustrating I can barely believe it. Again, I have hopes this year of getting it working before the students get there. I will NOT upgrade to Mac OS X 10.4 server this year... I hope the changeip script works and I won't have to re-load server software... Anyway, let's assume I'll have the computers up and running in 2 weeks on the first day of classes. How can computers enable science learning in my classroom, this year?