Modeling Workshop – Day Seven

The second week of the advanced modeling workshop is moving along at a good clip. The primary activity that dominates our days is the development of materials (assessments, practica, labs, etc.) for our unit. The pace can feel intense at times though it has not overwhelmed us yet. A few key pieces of what we have accomplished include:

  • a final storyline that details what models we are developing, how we are deploying them and how each activity serves the models
  • a working rotational inertia apparatus (prototype)
  • a fun practicum involving a balance beam, two bathroom scales and an additional weight
Much of my evenings are spent reading articles, writing more material and completing the small reflective assignments we are given. Tomorrow begins the process of testing some of the materials with other groups. I’m looking forward to getting some feedback and the chance to see what some other groups have developed. 

Today’s discussion developed out of an article by Eugenia Etkina regarding weekly reports as a means of determining student understanding and allowing students to reflect on what they have learned in the past week. The three questions students are asked to address in the weekly report are (1) What did you learn this week?, (2) What questions do you stil have?, and (3) If you were the teacher, what questions would you ask this coming week to make sure students understand the material? I’ve wanted to begin including some reflective writing in my courses for the past few years, but I hadn’t found the right prompts nor the right delivery system. Dr. Etkina has come up with these great prompts that allow for some really amazing insight into what students think they know and what I might be doing a poor job teaching them. However, in the article we read, she had only 17 students, so managing this much reading and providing meaningful feedback was manageable. I’m really lucky in that I typically have between 50 and 60 students in a year, but even that would quickly become overwhelming and I know I would let these slip to the bottom of my to-do list, especially if they are hand written.

Our group had asked during the discussion about electronic submission and then I recalled this awesome post by Chris Ludwig – Blogging in the Science Classroom: The Worksheet is Dead . I think student blogs would be a fantastic way to implement this and Chris’s idea of using Google Reader to manage them is brilliant. Not only could I provide feedback directly to the student, but other students could comment as well and even set up their own readers if they wanted to. Seeing that they each had questions would also make it easier for them to ask questions during class and alleviate the ever-present attitude of “If I don’t get it the first time, I’m stupid.” thought process. I’ll most likely pilot this in my AP class next year as they are used to my crazy new ideas.


  1. Love Eugenia’s stuff. I, too, am looking to implement those next year, but on a six-day cycle. Combine that with this “Taxonomy of Reflection”: and I am stoked.

    I think I am going to use Posterous blogs b/c it’s so easy to add video, photo, and documents directly into posts (the few steps the better)!

    I hope I can keep on top of it all!

    1. Thanks for the comment and sharing that resource Frank. The breakdown of reflective practice for both teachers and students was interesting. As I write here more often, I’m seeing it more and more as my own weekly report, so I can use the suggested questions he poses alongside Eugenia’s.

      I’ll have to check out Posterous. I’d considered using Blogger since our school has adopted Google Apps for Education, but sadly they don’t include Blogger with it yet. Someone today recommended Edmodo as well. So many choices.

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