Blogs are your friend!!!
Okay, I am a firm believer in never having to re-invent the wheel. There are so many great educators in the world and many of them share their ideas and lessons freely on the Internet. I ran across one such lesson which utilized technology to help 7th grade students learn about photosynthesis. Educator Tara Raymon’s blog details a very nice lesson that is highly engaging for students. You can access the lesson here.
Some Assembly Required!
Now every school site is different in terms of its technology resources and every teacher has different teaching styles. That means that you cannot simply go to a blog and tell your students to start working on the instructions verbatim. Some changes will be necessary because only you know your technology resources, skills, and the students who are in your class. Taking the time to evaluate the lesson and adapt it to your own classroom situation is vital to students successfully mastering the concept. I have 7th grade technology courses once a week for 45 minutes of instruction. That means that a lot of what we do is built upon previous lessons in the technology lab. Using what the students already knew, I adapted the lesson with only minor changes to help the students garner a firm grasp of the material.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again… OPEN SOURCE OPENS DOORS!
I’m a firm believer in the open source movement. It helps schools to drastically reduce operational cost of technology while putting quality materials into the hands of teachers and students. For this lesson I utilized Mozilla Firefox as well as Tux Paint. I know what you’re probably thinking… ‘Tux paint… isn’t that for little kids?’ Well yes… and… well no. Yes little kids can utilize tux paint (and they do so regularly in my class). However I explained to the 7th grade students (who were already familiar with the program) that they would need to broaden the use of the program . That I expected quality work from them. And I was not disappointed in the results.
My Adapted (only slightly) Version of this lesson
So here’s how it all works.
I provided students with URLs to the materials by utilizing TinyURL to help them see the benefits of using a web 2.0 tool to shorten URLS and to ease in their entry of the URLs into their Firefox browser.
Students are asked to type in http://tinyurl.com/jh6kg into the address bar of their browser. This, of course also allows me to assess if students know what a URL is and where to correctly enter the address. Strict attention to detail is necessary because an incorrectly typed URL will not lead to the correct page. This is something that is vital for my students to learn before they get to the 8th grade when they will be taught HTML and CSS using only text editors.
This takes students to the NOVA website where they can launch the flash animation Illuminating Photosynthesis. I instruct students that they are to explore this animation and to pay careful attention because they will be expected to produce something with what they are learning.
After visiting this site, I ask students to type the following URL into their address bar: http://tinyurl.com/qtfywl Once more I ask them to explore the entire site and to pay careful attention to the material.
I ask students to open Tux Paint. They are expected to produce a picture depicting how photosynthesis and respiration occur in plants and animals. This must be representative of a cycle. I inform students that I am looking for creativity and for everything to be neat and labeled.
I also instruct students on the popular hot-key command ALT-TAB to switch between the full screen view of Tux Paint and their Firefox windows. I allow this so that their affective filter is lowered with regards to trying to memorize the entire respiration cycle.
Students save their work and then are told that they can type in the following URL into their address bar: http://tinyurl.com/4qkjvkw, this is a very fun and interactive review of photosynthesis and all the students loved finishing with this portion of the assignment. I was thoroughly impressed with the level of creativity and mastery that my students demonstrated in their pictures of the respiration cycle.
So, What’s your Story?
So what’s your story? Have you used tux paint to help students demonstrate mastery of a topic? What are your thoughts and questions? If you try this lesson, please comment, I’d love to hear how you used it or altered it to make it work for your class. Was it a success? A failure? Share your story, we’d love to hear from you!
*Note: the pictures here are actual student work in progress… Not completed but on a great start!