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Resources University

The future-you festival

Originally posted on August 6, 2017 @ 9:00 am

In my first year at my current school I was one of the grade 10 homeroom teachers. At the time, the grade 10’s were the eldest grade, the school having only opened the previous year with all grades up to grade nine.

That year our Head of School organised for some parents to come in on an afternoon to speak to our grade nine and ten students about their various professions.

The session lasted a couple of hours while different parents rotated in front of our small cohort of 18 students to tell them they needed a passion.

The next morning the feedback in homeroom was less than excellent. The major theme that came across was that the kids would have liked some choice about what they saw and who they listened to.

Later that year I was given the chance to set up the university counselling program and part of that required me to organise careers day.

In the first year I was responsible for it (my second year at the school) my main aim was to introduce choice for students.

That year we held it in May and the event ran from after lunch until 7pm. From 2pm until 4pm we had a series of career focussed workshops. These were bookended by a keynote and plenary session. The latter were compulsory for all students, but, during the time in-between, students rotated through workshops that they had previously signed up for.

After the plenary from 4pm to 5pm we held a short university fair, hosting universities from Switzerland plus a few others.

Following this we hosted an author who spoke about her book and work that supports international students making transitions to study at international universities.

In my second year, the academic year just finished, we moved the date back to March. Unfortunately, with the extra classroom hours I was working, I simply didn’t have the time to organise a university fair – the amount of time that goes into simply emailing contacts is extraordinary. However, we did run an evening event again this year. This was organised by my colleague in the schools marketing department and took the form of two guest speakers, with dinner and wine for attendees. Next year we have decided to call this part of the evening “future-you conversations”.

This year I am hoping to expand what we do slightly with morning skills based workshops on top of the afternoon career focussed workshops. These will be run in conjunction with inspiring futures who offer two days of their advisor time to members. We bought membership for next academic year.

Grade 12 will have a session on interview skills to support students who will have interviews as part of their university applications but also as many of them will be interviewing for jobs in the next 12 months.

Grade 11 will have a session on persuasive writing for their personal statement. This will hopefully provide them with some raw material with which to begin their personal statement drafts later in the year.

Grade 10 will have a session on cv writing as they will be looking for work experience this year as they have a work experience week in June.

Grade 9 will use the inspiring futures career investigator.

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Resources Teaching & Learning

New DP Biology site launched (but still under construction!)

Originally posted on July 28, 2017 @ 12:28 pm

So I have moved over my DP biology resources to a new google site designed for delivering the course. You can view it here: 

In my first school I worked with a colleague who made workbooks for her students, that were tailored to the 2009 syllabus. The kids loved them. At this time I was still working on a paper basis with large lever arch folders, and photocopying the exercises that I wanted to give to my students. To simplify my planning and preparation I thought it would be easier to copy my colleagues idea and collate all of my exercises into workbooks for each subtopic that I could simply print and hand out to my students. It took me a few years to develop these workbooks and then the syllabus changed.

For the first two years of the 2016 syllabus I worked on updating my existing workbooks to bring them in line with the new syllabus. By this point, I had moved school’s twice and had been exposed to quite a few different pedagogical approaches and philosophies, as well as different levels of technological tools with which to teach. It seemed the time had come to convert totally from paper to digital.

I share this website as a resource for other educators and their students but please be aware that, while I certainly welcome discussion, critique and comments, I have designed this website with the following purposes in mind:

    • To consolidate my existing resources and methodology into one digital space.
    • To structure the course that I currently teach to my own students into one place for my own students to access.
    • To provide a structure to the exercises that I use in class. It is NOT intended to be another content heavy IB site

There are plenty of IB Biology content-driven resources out on the web, some of which are truly excellent. This is not intended to be such. Instead the aim is to provide structure and exercises to query and engage with content-driven resources, like website, video and textbooks.

If you wish to feedback please remember that in addition to creating this website I am:

    • A full time teacher with other responsibilities in my professional life and a young family.
    • Preparing this work, primarily for my own personal professional use.
    • Making no claims that their are no mistakes in this website, please check carefully and if you feel so inclined drop me an email to let me know.
    • Making no claims that the exercises, ideas and resources are entirely my own original work. Please see my acknowledgements page for details.

 I am intending to follow this up with a google site dedicated to MYP Biology and another for guidance counseling. I will keep this blog purely for noting down my thoughts when and if they occur!

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Resources University

Out with the old…in with the new

Originally posted on July 23, 2017 @ 9:00 am

I started this website and blog in April 2016. Partly, this was to allow me to play around and learn how to set up a website and partly to enable me to share resources for IB Biology that I had created, in the hope that I would find more interaction with other Biology teachers online.

The last academic year has probably been the hardest of my teaching career for a number of reasons. Having a young family with two daughters under the age of two has certainly been a factor but my guidance role very much absorbed my time throughout the year; certainly more than the official 20% time I was contractually obliged to spend on it.

My DP classes have been fairly successful but I just haven’t had the time to devote to my lower grade teaching simply because I was still teaching a new subject – TOK – and becuase I was still setting up the guidance program – working with my first grade 12s in this regard and improving the process for the grade 11s and 10s (2nd year for those cohorts).

As such the website hasn’t developed in the direction I originally planned. I have been finding WordPress a little too clunky with which to build a website dedicated to IB biology. While it is obviously possible to do so I simply haven’t had the time to invest in this project this year between teaching, guidance and family life.

Time constraints considered, I now find that much of my thinking is lately taken up with my guidance program and naturally this means that most of what I want to write about is to do with the issues I face in this area. Writing my blog is primarily a way for me to get my thoughts straight with the added bonus of inviting comment and further discussion from colleagues.

So going forward I plan to:

1) Continue a blog at this website, writing about guidance and education issues as they crop up and time dependent.

2) Stop adding biology teaching resources, plans and ideas to this website, but build a new platform that I can also use for teaching based on google sites.

New google sites was created last year and I first tried using the platform as a wiki for a biology teachers workshop I led. It is super simple to use, although it does have a raft of limitations that I am hoping will gradually be removed over the next few years.

With inspiration from a colleague I began creating workbooks tailored to the IB Biology course for my students in 2012/13. This year I massively overhauled them to bring them in line with the new IB syllabus but also Ron Ritchhardts thinking routines (still a work in progress).

The development of a website feels like a natural extension of this work – the exercises in the workbooks need to be transposed to website form and no doubt this will take time, but I feel that I am getting some clarity on the direction my digital presence needs to take.

 

Categories
Resources University

A list of good open questions for use in teaching…

Originally posted on August 24, 2016 @ 9:00 am

“A great question is one that gets us all thinking…students questions give us a glimpse into what they are thinking, what issues are engaging them, where their confusion is, where and how are they making connections…where are they seeking clarification?” Richhardt et al 2011

Counseling

  • Why do you think you want this versus that?
  • How will your long term plans be impacted and why?
  • What would you lose if you didnt do that, and why?
  • What would you do if you could do whatever you wanted and why?
  • Write down the first thing that comes to mind when you think of college?
  • If you could say one thing to your parents what would it be?
  • Write down one message to your children?

Teaching

Questions need to focus on learning and not on work, using the language of inclusion (we not I or you)

Give praise for the effort not for the outcome = growth mindset.

  • I was wondering if…
  • Can you say more about that?
  • Im not following you can you explain that in another way?
  • Questions that model an interest in ideas
  • Questions that construct understanding
  • Questions the clarify and facilitate thinking
  • What makes you say that?
  •  What does that tell us?
  • What questions are surfacing for you?
  • What do we see?
  • What do we think we know?
  • What else do you notice?
  • Can we explain this?
Categories
Resources Teaching & Learning

Practical & Teaching Resource: Genetic Databases

Originally posted on April 3, 2016 @ 9:10 am

Preamble

One of the challenges I have found for teaching the new (2016) IBDP Biology syllabus is getting up to speed with the new content as expressed in the understandings, applications and skills sections of the syllabus. This has been particularly true when this new “content” implies an understanding of new technologies such as the huge rise in bioinformatics databases. To make matters worse, I am the only biology teacher in my school and I have been acutely aware of this when, stumbling across new requirements, I have had no one to bounce ideas off (or steal resources from! :))

So what do you do when you have new content that you have not taught before, that relies on an understanding of bioinformatic technology that wasn’t widely available, or covered on your masters in ecology eight years ago and you have no colleagues to help you? You go back to the drawing board…

When planning my course the year before I had shunned ordering the text book written by the chief examiner for the subject for my students on the grounds that it was too big and heavy. I had opted for a slimmer, light-weight textbook that was written by an old colleague. However, In preparation for times like this, I had purchased a copy for my own reference, not to teach from the textbook, you understand, but to refer to when I was unsure of exactly how much depth a topic needed going into (and therefore how much classtime to devote to it) or what the chief examiner had in mind when he wrote the course as part of the curriculum review committee.

While I applaud the move away from a list of learning statements as we had in the old syllabus, statements from the understandings section, like this one from topic 3.1 Genes:

The entire base sequence of human genes was sequenced in the Human Genome Project”

often leave me wondering how much time needs to be allocated to them. This is where having a copy of the chief examiners textbook comes in handy.

The Practical

Earlier this term I was teaching the IB Biology core topic 3 – Genetics and while planning came across the following statements:

3.1 S1: “Use of a database to determine differences in the base sequence of a gene in two species

3.2 S1 “Use of databases to identify the locus of a human gene and its polypeptide product”

These along with several other “application” statements in 3.1 an 3.2 left me slightly bamboozled as to how to approach teaching this, seeing as I had never used these kinds of databases in this way myself, and whats more I was left asking the question – aren’t the kinds of databases that these statements refer to way too complicated to expect 16-18 students to be able access?

Anyway, the instruction was there so I had to do something with it. In the end I referred to the Allott & Mindorf (2014) textbook along and the inthinking biology teacher resource website and combined and adapted two of their practicals to use in my classroom. The result is below:

  1. I designed a practical protocol worksheet which is available here, which could be printed out and handed to students. There is QR code which, when scanned, links to the following video.

Download (PDF, 70KB)

  1. I made the following video that takes students through the worksheet. They can be used together.

Reflections

The video and the activities together take about an hour or just over to complete and do count towards practical hours on the PSOW. I am hugely indebted to the work of Allott & Mindorff and David Faure at inthinking to be able to produce this. Students are able, if they have a mobile phone and QR scanner to link directly to the film and follow the instructions. Alternatively the video can be played on a projector. Students could also complete this as a homework task but this couldn’t then count as practical.

I think that the video and the activities could be broken up into smaller individual activities as I think this may help students to process exactly and clearly what they are doing. These databases can be complex to navigate and contain a lot of information which can be overwhelming for anybody who is new to this area.

While I personally like this part of the syllabus and think that there are some possible IA ideas here, especially when combined with evolutionary studies, I can’t help but think that this material is a bit too advanced for 16-19 year old students, particularly for SL students. It is fairly niche and I would be interested to know how many universities would cover this type of bioinformatic content in their first or second years.

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