Court is in session

I hope you are all getting to be better problem solvers and critical thinkers after the activities and reading assignments we’ve had lately.

In order to get a better idea of what this looks like in the classroom, I’ve invited Gretchen Thomas to walk us through a critical thinking software program called Science Court, by Tom Snyder Publishing.  I hope you enjoy your day today.  It should be something a little bit different from what you do in your other classes. 🙂

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Solving Real Problems

Part One: Problem-Based Learning and Critical Thinking
Many of you may have grown up hearing about Jack and the Beanstalk. On the surface it seems a harmless fairytale, but there are many things one can consider from this story. Poverty, theft and murder are a few of the big ones. Argumentation and civics are two broad areas that can lend themselves to many classroom lessons.  Watch this video of Jack and the Beanstalk and consider what points of view can be argued as well as how one can learn about the court system by using this story as a launching point.

Problem-based learning is a method of teaching centered (obviously) around a real-world problem. Students are given a complex problem, and must work in groups, often with guidance from the teacher, to solve it. It often involves several steps and many investigations into unknown content. A great deal of learning takes place, which is then applied in meaningful ways.

Consider a roller coaster. Many of you have ridden one before, although some of you may be very scared to, or haven’t yet had the chance. Let me tell you, Disney World has some of the best ones!!! But let’s take a look at this video for some new coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Anyway, imagine a coaster – what it looks like, what it feels like, and all the things that had to go into the design, development and marketing of it. With a partner, brainstorm a list of ALL the issues and concerns involved with creating (designing and building) it, testing it, and advertising it to the public.  Which Georgia Standards (especially middle or high school) might align to some of the items on your list?

Part Two: Solving the Digital Divide.

While we’ve seen many ways that technology could benefit our students, many people are afraid that recent technology is creating gulfs or divides between people.  We’ve talked about the divide between digital natives and digital immigrants or old and you.  Today we’ll discuss in small groups 4 more of these “digital divides”.   You will be assigned to one of the groups below.  For each group, read the resource listed, and then answer the questions below.  As you work to solve problems, use the 4-step Student Problem-Solving Process on page 160 (page number at the bottom) of your book to come up with a solution.

  1. The divide between Males and Females. Explore this website.
  2. The divide between Rural and Urban.  Read this article and this one too.
  3. The divide between Rich and Poor. Look at this Slide Share presentation. Figure out what’s important and what’ not.
  4. The divide between Developed and Developing NationsPlay this graph (it shows changes over time). Play around with the variables (I’ll show you how).


  1. Provide a short summary of the issue for the class.
  2. How does technology create a divide between the groups?
  3. What type of data source did you use to learn about this?
  4. Where else can you go for more data on this issue?
  5. What is one possible solution to the problem?
  6. What’s one thing you could do in your future classroom to help solve this problem?

Do the Reading Guide for chapter 4 (critical thinking).  It is due in one week (on Wednesday).  This is the last reading guide (If you’ve already turned in 4, then you don’t have to worry about it) and it’s the last chapter in our book that we haven’t already read!  If you’ve already turned in your 4 reading guides, at least scan the chapter.

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Getting to the point

Our class is winding down! We have only 4 weeks left to go! We’re going to be moving quickly for the next few weeks so please make sure you read the blog on the days you aren’t in class so you can keep up.

Hands on activity
Our next topic is problem solving so we’re going to do a group activity related to problem solving (it’s also one of Gretchen’s favorite science activities).  In groups of 4, using the 3 bamboo skewers and clay, create a structure that balances/remains steady by the point of one skewer.

Problem solving group discussion
Within your group – respond to the following questions:

  • There are 2 types of problems: open-ended and close-ended. Which was the balancing activity?
  • How is the balance activity an inquiry activity?
  • Could the balance activity be considered problem-based learning?
  • When have you experienced the problem-based learning approach in your classes? (What is problem-based learning?)
  • How is this connected to critical thinking? For that matter, what IS critical thinking?

Here are the NETS for problem solving (and other related areas):

Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources. Students:

  • identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
  • plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
  • collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.
  • use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.

Well be working with problem solving and critical thinking over the next three weeks.  In a lot of ways they overlap.  So we begin reading chapter 4 next time and start to combine the ideas of problem solving and critical thinking.

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TLAT #2 Design and Reflect

Today we’ll work on finishing our TLAT #2.  Remember, it’s an absence make-up day, so if you come it will help clear one of your absences.

Take time to describe your lesson in detail, using the 4 paragraph structure i recommended.  I hope you are learning something, and you can reflect on that in your section 5. Once you complete the TLAT, take the following steps to include it in your website.

  • Log into Google Sites and create a page called TLAT #2
    • Choose Insert. Then choose Document.
    • Find your Design Guide and select it.
  • Log into Google Docs and locate your copy of your lesson design guide.
    • Change the sharing settings to Public (anyone on the web can see it).
    • Make sure you do NOT change the editing settings. You don’t want anyone to edit your work but you.

Finish your TLAT. It’s due Monday at the beginning of class.

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TLAT #2 Decisions and Peer Review

Today we’re deciding which TLAT activity we want to implement. We’ll decide by evaluating our ideas and choosing the best one. Let’s take a look at the design guide. I have included five criteria that I believe are important to designing lessons that inspire creativity and innovation. You should choose three and list them in table 3.1 and 3.2 on your design guide. I would recommend using my top three in your list, but certainly you are free to include other points instead. You’ll need to add two to have five total. Consult your book (Chapter 5) as a guide.

After you type those in, work with a partner who will read through and evaluate each of your ideas. Type your partner’s name beside 3.1 so I’ll know who it was. Explain anything that isn’t clear to your partner (although that means you probably need to write a clearer description). After your peer evaluates your work, now it’s your turn. Read through your ideas again and honestly assess their value.

Once you’re done, complete sections 3.3 and 3.4. Here’s an example of someone who thoroughly explained why s/he chose an activity. Your description doesn’t have to be as lengthy; the point is to clearly connect choosing the activity the criteria you selected.

Once you’re done with Section 3, go ahead and begin Section 4. Make sure you provide details. I’ve given a little more guidance this time, to make sure you have a clearly elaborated lesson. There were lots of 10s last time, but also some 9s and 8s because you lacked clarity, or 6s and 7s because you simply weren’t thorough. I want to award all 10s this time, so do your best!

Friday will be an “absence make-up day.”  I know a lot of you have several absences, so if you want to have one of those absences cleared, come on Friday.  If you don’t need to come for absences, or don’t need help, then by all means work at home.

Remember, these are due on Monday.

  • Finish Section 3 and 4. We’ll work on 5 on Friday.
  • Your TLAT is due Monday at the beginning of class. I will post directions on Friday’s blog to remind you how to embed it.
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Thinking like a teacher again

We’ll start today by showing any late straggler movies that want to be seen.  I really enjoyed watching movies last time, and I look forward to more of you creativity.  We’ll also talk briefly about your comments on wallwisher about the Sir Robinson TED talk.

Today is the moment we’ve all been waiting for: TLAT #2. If you haven’t guessed by now, this project will focus on the NETS standards for creativity and innovation. As a reminder, here’s our focus:

Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology. Students:

  • apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.
  • create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
  • use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.
  • identify trends and forecast possibilities.

Here’s the second TLAT design guide, and we’ll be using the same class rolls we used for the first project. Don’t forget to save a copy of the design guide in Googledocs so you can edit it. As you’ll notice, you’ll need to do some brainstorming. We looked briefly at a few days ago, but now it’s time to really use it to generate some thinking. You may want to use some of the tools from two weeks ago, so be ready for exploration. Today’s goal? Finish Section 1 of the TLAT design guide. Here’s the schedule for the next few days:

  • Monday 03/28 – TLAT #2 Section 1
  • Wednesday 03/30 – TLAT #2 Sections 2 and 3
  • Friday 04/01 – Sections 4 and 5
  • Monday 04/04 – Due at the beginning of class, embedded in your online portfolio (website)

Finish Section 1 of your TLAT. We’ll be moving on to Section 2 and 3 on Wednesday.

If you get done early, begin your chapter six reading guide.  It’s due next Monday.

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View Party

Put on your finest tuxes and gowns…it’s time for the academy awards. Remember that your stories are due at the beginning of class, whether you’re present or not.

We’re going to get in small groups of four and watch our videos. It may be difficult to listen on some of the PCs, so choose your location wisely. You can also use the teacher station and the back editing station if needed.
As you’re watching, ask yourself “What does this story help me understand?” For instance, did you gain more insight into the author’s life? Did you learn about a new topic? Did you get some good life advice? All stories do not unfold the same way, and all learning cannot be summarized by what you can answer on a test.
Choose one video from each group that the whole class should watch. We’ll watch them as time permits.
Think about the process. How were you creative? What was fun about this project? What challenges did you encounter? How was time a factor? What could’ve helped you be more successful? What are some things to keep in mind as you design opportunities to enhance creativity?
Watch this TED Talk by Sir Ken Robinson (20 minutes). On Wallwisher, list one or two points that stood out to you (whether you agreed or disagreed). Use direct quotes when possible.
If you want to get a head start on the Chapter 6 reading guide, you it can download it here. It won’t be due until April 4th (a week from Monday), but since we don’t have much homework this weekend, you may want to get  a head start.  Ignore questions #5, 9, and 12 (about webquests).
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