Using Augmented Reality in the Classroom

One of my focuses this semester has been using technology to engage my students into the assessment process.  I want my students to experience learning in a way that may be new or different than their previous experiences.  In my Health 9 class we have just finished creating some drug awareness posters using augmented reality. This is what our class projects looked like:

We created these posters using Pixir and a free app called Aurasma.  We found Aurasma to be very intuitive and easy to use.

When I visited the Calgary Science School @DMcWilliam told me they were using some augmented reality for their student projects. I recently had some time to look a little more at CSS’s Connect Blog and figured that augmented reality would work very well with the posters we were going to make in Health.

Augmented reality allowed my students to tell a story with their posters.  They were able to create a two part story reflective of the choice presented by drugs.  Students were intrigued and proud of the final result to the point that other students were coming into my class throughout the day to see what their peers had created.  Other teachers saw this project as well and there have been so many other ideas centered around augmented reality in a very short time.


Engaging My Students With 3-Act Math Problems

I really want my students to become engaged in the process of Math and I have been looking on blogs, asking other teachers, looking around Twitter, doing anything I can think of to find out what other teachers are doing.  I ran across Dan Meyer’s blog last week sometime and over the weekend decided to develop what Meyer calls ‘Three Act Math Problems’.  Basically these problems use technology to video tape, photograph, and annotate something from everyday life.  Students are shown this video and then ask questions.  Once we decide on a question we are going to answer students break off and work out the math.  At the end we get back together, discuss what we did and imagine how we could take this further.

This whole past week I have been doing Three Act Math problems for the first 10 – 15 minutes and have seen engagement increase consistently.  I think the students really appreciate the idea that:

1.) We are answering their questions.

2.) The things we have looked at are things that are relevant to them.

An Example: Yesterday we looked at a National Post article that stated we are going to melt down 85 million kg of pennies in the next year.  One student knew copper was worth a bit and so wanted to know how much money we’d make off the copper.  The students then determined they needed to know how much one penny weighed (although at the end we realized this was irrelevant), the percentage of copper in one penny and the price of copper.  Once we found these numbers (there was a helpful info graphic with the article) the students were able to work out mathematically how much money we would make off the copper in 85 million kg of pennies.

We have only been doing Three Act Math problems for almost a week however the class is already beginning to ask great questions as well as come up to me with their own ‘Acts’ to base questions around.  Students are becoming less afraid to ask questions and more focused when we cover particular aspects of the curriculum.  My hope is to continue this at the beginning of every class as a way of engaging my students and helping them understand how Math can help answer their questions about the world around them.

Our Meeting With An Archaeologist

In my Social Studies 9 class I have really been trying to focus on engaging my students (sometimes it works, sometimes I learn from it and try again).  We are just beginning a new unit on societies of the past and we thought it would be cool if we could talk to someone who actual studies these societies as a living.  Que the drum roll…….. Enter Doctor Chris Foley from the University of Saskatchewan.

Photo by: Jessica Finson

Okay, well I don’t think he looks the same as Indiana Jones however his job sounded just as exciting as in the movies.  Dr. Foley shared with us what it is that he does, where in the world he has been, and some of the spectacular discoveries his teams have made.  It was an unique experience being able to hear from someone who not only does the stuff we are studying for a living but is immensely passionate about it as well.  Dr.Foley was an amazing storyteller and had so many interesting anecdotes along the way.  I asked some students afterwards what they thought and they all agreed that this was a great experience for us. Meeting with Dr.Foley allowed us to put a face and voice to the content we were studying as well as offering us an unique perspective from someone that we would not normally meet.  I would definitely do this again in the future!

In order to make this meeting possible we used Adobe Connect.   Adobe Connect is the web-conferencing software that our division uses however I think it is very similar to Elluminate, a  (possibly less expensive) program we used to meet in my ECMP 355 class. The program allowed us to set up an online meeting place where both Dr.Foley and I met using a URL we were given when @jeffwalters27 created the space

Our Adobe Connect session with Dr.Chris Foley

Our Adobe Connect session with Dr.Chris Foley

for us. There were some issues that I think extended from our unfamiliarity with the Adobe platform however the overall experience with Adobe was good.  A tool like Adobe or Elluminate give presenters more versatility however I think you do give up some of the intuitiveness you would have with Skype or Hangouts.  I think in the future I would look for a platform that would be more comfortable for our expert to use or I would make sure I knew the capabilities of the networks and hardware that either of us were working with.

This was a great learning experience, not only for my students who got to meet an actual archaeologist, but for me as well.  I think connecting with an expert is such an important step whenever it is possible (something I took away from my visit at the Calgary Science School).  With the technology available to us all it takes is an email to set meetings like this into motion.  Looking back on our meeting with Dr.Foley there is no way that I could compare with both the knowledge and passion that he has for his field.  Meeting Dr.Foley and being able to ask him questions has helped my students and I become more engaged and excited for our new unit.  Yay internet!

My Favorite Unit So Far

So I’ve completed my internship at Estevan Comprehensive High School and man was that a blast!  Internship was such a challenging, rewarding, revealing process and I was able to grow so much in such a short time.  This semester I’m sticking around Estevan and subbing while finishing up my final class for my Education degree.

It was thinking about project ideas for my final class that I started thinking back to the different units I taught in Physics and Chemistry this last semester.  I was trying to think hard about what types of learning opportunities worked the best…did some work better than others?…is there one type of approach that works best?  I came to the conclusion that there is more than one way to teach something however what I found for myself is that when I really focused on student engagement at the beginning of the concept they seemed to have a better handle on it in the end.

The engaging activities I used usually took the form of something that at first looked like it had nothing to do with science (I think that was part of the reason my students seemed so engaged). There was no better example of this seemingly unrelated engagement than our unit on chemical kinetics

The Lesson

We were beginning Chemical Kinetics and I had recently seen a new Ted Ed video, “How to speed up chemical reactions (and get a date).”

I began by showing the first couple minutes of this video:

We didn’t watch this video all the way through.  We stopped when the narrator pulled out his construction hat and was about to redesign the school.  I wanted my students to understand their purpose (getting students to collide) and how they could accomplish this thinking for themselves.

We branched out into groups, students were contractors for an hour, and they designed floor plans for schools where there would be a high likelihood to get a date to a dance.  It gave me goosebumps seeing the different ideas that groups had…and the things they were coming up with were synonymous with the different ways we could speed chemical reactions.

When we watched the rest of the video at the end, and tied what we did to chemistry, students were already confident with the idea and we had a good place to start for our study of chemical kinetics.  The rest of the unit was never boring as we were constantly making reference, in some form or another, to relationships both in the real world and in chemistry.  We came out of chemical kinetics with a good understanding of the important concepts…and I don’t think anyone in the class ended up going to the next dance without a date.

Microteaching – Vascular vs. Non-Vascular

On February 3rd I taught a 10 minute lesson on the difference between vascular and non-vascular plants to my classmates. Micro-teaching to my classmates provided me with an excellent opportunity to receive valuable feedback on my teaching practice.  I was able to get an outside perspective as well as information on how I made my ‘students’ feel.  Having a set model to teach to provided me with a structure to follow and I found that my method (Concept Attainment Method) lent itself very well to the sciences.  I found it was useful because it is particularly good at comparing different things which science (especially biology) involves very often.  I thought this method provided a good opportunity for students to create meaning in their own words which hopefully helped with understanding.

It was great having a video of my teaching in order to view and reflect on afterwards.  Having this to play back has helped me to see some of the things that I didn’t realize I was doing.  One thing I found from the video is that I never spent enough time at the beginning of the lesson explaining the process of what we were doing to my students.  I think if I was clearer at the beginning students would have been less confused and hesitant once we began the lesson.  In response to this confusion I did emphasize halfway through that, “confusion is good right now” which the students and observers recognized as helpful to the class.  Another thing that I picked up from the video is that I could have slowed down and took my time more.  I remember at the time feeling like I was rushing although upon watching the video I saw I had more than enough time at the end and could have asked a couple more questions to gauge understanding.  A third thing I noticed is how small I write in front of the class.  This wasn’t so much of an issue in a class of 10 students close to you however in a larger class I definitely need to keep this in mind.

The student and observer feedback that I received was extremely positive.  It was said that I had a very good, comfortable presence on a lot of the comments.  I found this comforting because sometimes I feel nervous and that I am rushing.  Knowing it doesn’t appear this way is nice.  Everyone also enjoyed the visuals that I provided and how I incorporated them into the lesson.  I could have made my printing neater however some students said that combined with the visuals served to engage them.  One thing that really stuck out was how everyone said I did a good job of relating the vascular tissues to something my students were familiar with.  I appreciated this comment because in ESCI we are learning that making a connection between what science says and the students know is the most important role of the teacher.  When I used Landon’s circulatory system example to extend into what vascular tissue does the class said that it was far easier to make a connection than when they were presented with complex scientific terms.  Finally another comment that was repeated often was that I did a good job of emphasizing why we should care at the end of the lesson and providing examples of what the differences may mean in my students lives.

I felt like this process helped me to gain confidence first in myself and second in the practices that I have learned in education so far.  I really enjoyed this model because I felt like I was building to a better understanding as I went along.  It got me excited to watch my class slowly come to an understanding of the concepts I was presenting them (in their own words).  This process has definitely given me a lot of meaningful feedback to consider moving forward.   I think that experiences like this help me to become more comfortable with myself in front of the class which in turn allows me to focus more on my students and how they understand.  This process has served to affirm that the theory I’m learning is extremely practical and that I am capable of applying it in the way it is meant to be used.  I’m excited to have more opportunities to teach and learn more about myself and my teaching practice.

My Vascular vs. Non-vascular Lesson Plan

My Student and Observer Feedback:

Beauty is…

On Tuesday I taught a Grade 7/8 Health lesson on body image during my field placement.  I tried to just introduce the topic and then allow my students to examine it further on their own.  I would of never of thought of trying this during one of my first visits but the more I’ve been visiting this class I have been learning the classroom management that I need in order to have my students succeed at activities such as these.

I began the lesson by showing a quick commercial produced by Dove:

After this video I split the class into groups of three and gave each group a marker and a sheet of poster paper.  (I split them into groups myself beforehand in a way that combined different styles and personalities in order to make the groups as productive as possible.  I strongly suggest this for any type of activity like this until you have developed the skills in your students that they need to succeed at this kind of thing.).  I then had them list first all the ways that the model was altered in the commercial and then list other examples of unrealistic representations of beauty they have seen in media.

The groups then took turns presenting their posters.  I thought this worked great especially in regards to the second question I posed them.  A couple students had been to Disneyland recently and so this sparked a discussion about the amount of makeup that the Disney princesses had on at the park.  All the students were engaged and seemed to be very interested in what some of their classmates had discovered during the activity.  I definitely felt like this provided me a great chance to try some structured inquiry and also to examine some representations of beauty in media.  I would definitely do this again and even had some of the students saying “great lesson” to each other as they left for recess.

O Canada!

These last two weeks for my ECS 300 field placement I have done a two part lesson tying O Canada together with Remembrance Day.  These lessons helped me to learn a lot about what it means to teach from the students perspective.  To begin the conversation I showed this video from the Oilers playoff run a couple years back:

I used this to discuss what feelings of nationalism can feel like and to begin a discussion on what O Canada can mean to different groups of people.  After some discussion time I then showed the students a video of First Nations Veterans talking about their experiences in World War II. I used this video in particular because of a discussion we had in class a couple of days earlier where Joanna Landry from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner came in to talk about the importance of incorporating First Nations content into our lessons. I thought this was a perfect opportunity to do so and the students were all very interested.

After this video we had some more time for discussion and then I told them to keep the idea in mind that different people have different perspectives when it comes to Canada’s anthem/ Canada.  The next week in class we began with a discussion where many of the students said that they were more mindful during O Canada of other groups sacrifices for their freedom.  I then introduced an assignment which took the rest of the class.

For this assignment I divided the national anthem into individual lines and randomly distributed them amongst the class.  The students then drew a picture of what that line represented/ made them feel.  I told them there was no right or wrong answer which they seemed to struggle initially with this but in the end they all did a great job.  My plan now is to use a digital storytelling tool to combine their pictures into their own version of O Canada.

A couple of things I learned with these lessons:

– It’s important to understand the students perspective.  For example not many of them were old enough to remember  the Oilers playoff run.  I just assumed that it was common knowledge but found myself having to go back and kind of set the stage when I received a bunch of blank stares.

– Also these students had a hard time just expressing what they felt on paper.  I encouraged them to brain storm and gently nudged them in the right direction but as a teacher it is important, I think, to scaffold some of the skills required for this kind of exercise beforehand.

-Classroom management is so important.  I don’t think I could of gotten through this lesson just starting out because I didn’t have the classroom management skills  that I needed.  As my classroom management gets better, I find it easier to make a connection between the material and my students.

Here’s my lesson plans from the last two weeks:

Part 1

Part 2

Grade 7/8 Phys Ed.

This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to teach a physical education class to the Grade 7/8 split I have my ECS 300 field placement with. My field placement partner and I decided to split the class into two where I took half for 20 minutes and then we had them switch and so I then had the other half for another 20 minutes.  We decided to do a volleyball class because this was something that a couple of the students had mentioned they were interested in this subject.  Co-designing a lesson plan provided me to use some of the things I have been learning in ECMP 355, particularly the use of Google Docs to collaborate.  Working together we came up with this lesson plan:

Teaching volleyball falls right into my comfort zone as I’ve had numerous experiences both playing and instructing in my time with the Huskies.  In hindsight this experience was a little different compared to past experiences.  In the past I’ve ran teams or camps where students attending wanted to be there and get better at volleyball.  In this environment I had a mix of students who wanted to play, others who wanted to watch, and others who had a hard time staying focused.  I found myself adapting the drills as best as I could on the fly in order to keep everyone as engaged as possible, definitely more intensive than my past experiences.

All in all it was a positive experience and I look forward to more experiences in the future where I can apply what I am learning about myself and education.

Rocks Can Be Cool Too!

Today I had the chance to teach a lesson about classifying rocks and minerals in the grade 8 class I’ve been placed in for my ECS 300 field placement.  This was an amazing experience!  I thought classifying rocks could be kind of boring but the way the students reacted was the exact opposite.  I began by holding up one rock after another over a tank of water asking the students, “Will this sink or float?”.  Sure enough every rock sunk to the bottom, they thought I was dense just to ask a silly question like that.  Eventually I reached my pumice rock, dropped it in, and would you believe it floated!

After this the students were hooked.  Not telling them why this happened but instead that some rocks have different propertiesI put them into groups and had them organize the 11 samples I had brought.  I told them they could organize them anyway they wanted as long as they could explain why they did it that way.  This worked out amazing, some groups went by colour, others by size, others used ‘prettiest to ugliest’.

This lead into a discussion about how rocks actually are classified with the students having already discovered properties such as colour and lustre (I was ecstatic).  I also introduced hardness, streak, and cleavage/fracture and had the students examine these properties together as a group.  Finally I had the students re-organize their collection based on what we had discovered about rock and mineral properties (SUCCESS!).  Below is the lesson plan I made for this class.  It would of been nice to have more time in order to cover some topics more in depth however the inquiry based approach I took was very effective in grabbing the students interest and encouraging them to explore on their own.


Today was my first opportunity this school year to do something that resembled teaching.  For my ECS 300 lab we were tasked with teaching a half an hour lesson from the Grade 6 to 8 curriculum and today was my turn so I chose a lesson on Currents & Climate.

I taught the lesson to my peers in the lab but I think that is probably more intimidating sometimes than being in an actual classroom will be.  I was very anxious at first and ended up planning and revising my lesson a couple of times making sure I knew the content well.  This is extremely important and paid off because sometimes things don’t work. Today that meant the projector I rented took all class to warm up.  I was able to move on though so no harm done and ended up drawing extreeeeemely rough diagrams on the blackboard instead (I at least intended to use some of the stuff I’ve been learning in ECMP 355).

We were also able to practice pre and post conferencing like it should be done with my coop when I’m an intern.  I found this was extremely useful and probably one of the most important things I’m going to experience over the next year before becoming a teacher. This helped me to relax and tell myself I was actually ready beforehand as well as giving me a set of eyes for feedback to help me improve.

I found this very practical and had lots of positive feedback from my classmates, this only helped to get me even more excited for the opportunities to come.

Here is a video from teacherAJH on Youtube where I got the activity I used in class for a starting, engaging activity to spark discussion.

As a conclusion I used this news story to bring my lesson full circle and provide a real world application.