Making the switch

September 23, 2007

I think I am making the switch. I am finally seeing how the tools that I use are all fitting together to make a complete picture.

Today while looking at digg.com, one of the web 2.0 news services, I saw this article on a new scientific discovery and got an idea. The article discusses the recent discovery of conclusive proof that the raptors actually had feathers. The feathers on raptor fossils are significant from a scientific standpoint because it provides evidence that dinosaurs were the predecessors of modern day birds.

A great way to introduce this lesson would be to use multimedia to show students the current view of raptors. Film clips from Jurassic Park or shows on the Discovery channel such as Walking with Dinosaurs from youtube could activate students’ prior knowledge of dinosaurs.

With the use of a tool such as webslides, students could then view the web site with the article or link to the primary source of the research. The students could view the websites with annotations by the teachers to support the students’ current level of understanding of the material or add additional information or questions to enhance the instruction.

Students could then work in their groups to discuss their findings to their peers. This would allow students to come to their own conclusions from the information that they are presented. The assessment could be the presentation of their findings and conclusions via a posting to the class website or some other tool that would allow them to present what new ideas they synthesized and not a high tech presentation with little to no substance.

Students would work in the same manner that other scientists around the world are by looking at the new data from research. The article was posted on the 20th of this month, two days ago, and students could be researching about the discovery tomorrow the 23rd. This changing of ideas also illustrates to students the way in which scientific knowledge changes and gets refined in light of new information from researchers.

So could this lesson be taught without computer technology? Absolutely but technology allows the instruction to be much more fluid and connected. The teacher could run off all the articles, write on them and make copies for the class, but the exchange of information would likely not be as fluid.

Another point that should be made is that sound research supports the techniques used to teach this way. Lev Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development is easily accommodated by designing the instruction just beyond the level that students are working by choosing resources and adding annotations using the webslides application. Vygotsky also stated that language levels are aided by students’ exposure to vocabulary. Reading articles from the field of interest definitely exposes students to vocabulary. Gerome Bruner spiral curriculum could also be accommodated with teaching in this manner since every student can learn something each time the topic is revisited. High school students could learn on a different level about the article on raptors just on a different level as the middle school or elementary students.

I know this post is long winded but when I saw the article on digg I was struck with some ideas that all seemed to fall into place using this cool article about dinosaurs.

The next question is, could I teach this way with technology? The answer is regrettably no. My school has a computer a lab, but not enough to accommodate my classes.

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