Astronomy in the Classroom

I’ve been looking into astronomy for my free inquiry and have been considering some ways that I might incorporate what I’ve learned into the classroom. I thought it might be a challenge to find ways to do it that did not revolve around science and physics, since those topics are definitely beyond my expertise.

I was surprised at how easy it was to find resources, particularly specific lesson plans just through a quick google search. There were tons of great examples, but my favourite was one that I found on constellations. It’s cross-disciplinary, somehow managing to involve graphing, using online navigation tools, reading legends and creating their own stories all in the span of two short lessons. (Check it out here!)

I’m really excited about incorporating some of what I have learned about this topic into my classroom. I did not expect to find as many potential applications as I have, and I’m particularly interested in looking more into how this could be a great topic for some kind of cross-curricular unit.

 

Teaching Reflection 2 (Vic High Observations)

I recently had the opportunity to observe a senior English class in a work block where students were workshopping their compare and contrast essays. I had the opportunity to engage with some of the students when the teacher suggested that they ask me questions about their work. This was a great experience for me, particularly because it raised some questions for me about how I will teach writing skills.

First, this experience demonstrated to me that students will have certain expectations about what I will know as an educator in a room. For example, one of the students asked me about using the word “whom” in her essay, which is a word I generally avoid in my own writing. I was able to answer her question about whether it should be used in context, but I was careful in giving a full explanation of its use because it’s not something I am particularly familiar with. This prompted me to think about how I might respond to students in my classrooms when they ask questions I do not know the answers to, particularly in cases like this where the question is not open ended and there is some expectation that I should be an authority on the subject matter. I did not come to any strong conclusion, but my goal is to find a way as a teacher to be honest with students about what I do not know while maintaining their faith in my ability to teach them.

I also had the opportunity to help a student with a paragraph she was formulating. In this case she did not have a particular question and just wanted general feedback. My immediate inclination was to explain to her directly how I would choose to structure the paragraph. However, I realized that this might not be particularly helpful in terms of her own skill building process because it would mean her skipping the step of thinking through what kind of organization might serve the information best. In this case, I realized presenting students my own way of doing things in such an explicit manner might ultimately get in the way of them learning how to work through the process themselves. This demonstrated to me that coaching students towards the best output without considering other factors might not be the best way to support learning.

Teaching Reflection 1 (Vic High Observations)

This Wednesday, I had the opportunity to observe and support learners in a Learning Strategies class. This was an excellent learning experience for me particularly because I would likely not have chosen to observe this class, but having done so was incredibly valuable and I am intending to return. It also challenged my expectations about which students I would learn the most from engaging with.

Several of the students worked independently throughout the block, but a group of them finished their activity and I was able to help them with other class work and engage with them about personal projects they were working on. I observed a huge change in the students from the start to the end of the class, not only in terms of how they interacted with the adults in the room, but in how they interacted with each other. The majority of them went from silent and independent to eager to share what they were working on with me and their other classmates. Their teacher used some simple strategies to encourage this, asking students simple questions about their favourite childhood books that the students and myself as an observer could build upon to have a conversation.

I also observed a student that I had seen having difficulties participating in another class being much more willing to interact with me and with other students in this classroom environment. This emphasized to me the value of interacting with students on their own terms through whatever they are passionate about, which in this case was personal artwork. I would like to explore this further and learn how to use this kind of non-academic engagement with students as a starting point to move towards meeting curricular outcomes in a way that works for the individual student.  This also appeared to be a major goal for the teacher, who had students filling out questionnaires with the intention of them contributing directly to their own IEP and making it more user-friendly for teachers. Overall, I was surprised by how valuable this block of observation was for me and I learned a lot about how I might work with learners who are not as immediately invested in classroom activities.

Snapchat News? (Multiliteracies Blog Post 3)

Today at Vic High I had the opportunity to present my inquiry project on teaching current Events in the Social Studies classroom. I had some great conversations with both students and teachers about what is covered and what maybe should be covered in classrooms. A number of them came up with some events and issues that I wasn’t familiar with myself.

With the idea of multiliteracies in mind, this lead me to think about where educators and students are getting their news. Physical paper newspapers now come second to a number of other modes of presenting news including websites, television, and radio. In terms of more in depth news coverage, there are documentaries and podcasts on almost anything you can think of. The way information spreads in a world where there are a seemingly infinite number of news sources has always fascinated me, but it was interesting to consider how an increasing number of not only news agencies but news modes changes things. Major news outlets have television stations, publish articles online, and make content for their own apps and other social media apps.

In particular, I’ve been surprised to see major news sources like CBC , NBC, and CNN making content specifically for Snapchat. (Pretty much every major outlet is engaging with consumers this way—here’s a list of some of them: https://mediablog.prnewswire.com/2018/07/26/11-news-agencies-to-follow-on-snapchat/). These Snapchat articles are the ultimate form of multimodal expression, using text, music, other audio, video, and interactive components.This is such an engaging and concise way to consume content, but complex stories are condensed into soundbites. In addition, it can be hard to follow up and learn more about these news stories since there are no links that connect you to information outside the app.

Ultimately, I just ended up with more questions than answers. Is there a “better” or “best” way to consume news? Is any news mode inherently more reliable than others? Is any news mode inherently better suited to going more in depth? What works best for students?

Teaching “Conventional” Literacy (Multiliteracies Blog Post 2)

In the context of multiliteracy, the big question that I have been considering lately is: What does this mean for me as an educator in spaces where my job is to teach “conventional” literacy? How does a broader understanding of literacy as including things like financial, musical, digital, and mathematical literacies inform my ability to teach reading?

The concept of multiliteracies is undoubtedly valuable, but it was not immediately clear to me where it might fit in to my own teaching practice when I first learned about it. In English and Social Studies, the classic concept of literacy as reading and writing is still relevant, and these are still the “literacies” I will most often be teaching.

The graphic novel workshop was useful to me in terms of considering how teaching a basic concept like setting up a story can be taught in a visual way. It led me to consider how an approach like this would be useful in terms of supporting learners who might need additional visual components to comprehend a story. However, I’ve also seen firsthand how something like a graphic novel can be used to introduce advanced concepts through my own experiences studying “Maus: A Survivor’s Tale” and “V for Vendetta” in upper level university courses. My takeaway from this is that supporting literacy with a multimodal approach can be more than just a means to help those who struggle with the basics, it can be a means of enhancing the learning process for advanced students.

The recent workshop on technology integration models was also useful to me because it emphasized that a single concept can be taught in a number of different ways. In particular, the SAMR model demonstrated that the same learning task might be taught in a number of multimodal ways. For example, I might be able to support students in building their reading skills by integrating technology and visual or audio components. Alternatively, advanced literacy skills could be taught through more transformative technology. In my observation at Vic High today, I observed students working on a project where they had to create their own piece of dystopian fiction to demonstrate their understanding of the genre. They had the option to write a short story in conventional or graphic novel form, or to create a short film. This was an excellent example of how basic “conventional” literacy skills can be a learning objective in a lesson that also allows students to build visual or digital literacy skills.

Multiliteracy in the English Classroom (Multiliteracies Blog Post 1)

My high school English class experience reflected an understanding of literacy as simply reading and writing. The new curriculum, however, clearly recognizes the value of a multiliterate approach, and this is the most evident in how the English curriculum and class breakdown has changed dramatically even since I was a student. The fact that what used to be English 11 is now broken down into Composition, Literary Studies, New Media, Spoken Word, and Creative Writing indicates to me that the new curriculum recognizes that students have varying strengths and interests in different forms of literacy.

At Vic High I sat in on an English Composition 11 class that was exploring the topic of biography. The class watched interview videos, looked at online celebrity biographies, read interview questions, and considered how to write their own. This led me to consider a biography, which I would generally only associate with classic written content, is something that we actually read, consume, or experience in a multitude of ways. There are clearly benefits to using a variety of modes of presentation: by incorporating online articles with photos and text, videos, and written activities within a single class, students get a more dynamic experience and an overall more interesting lesson.

Another strength of this method might be that students who struggle to engage with certain materials have the opportunity to take on the same topics and learn the same concepts in a form that works better for them. Students who zone out during a video might engage better with physical materials in front of them and students who may not be strong readers could benefit from having topics reinforced through other modes.

My major takeaway from my school observations and this course so far is that it’s important for lessons to be multimodal because the rest of world is inherently multimodal-and that’s what we’re preparing students for.

Constellations and Myths

For my exploration of astronomy as part of my free inquiry, I wanted to look at some of the myths surrounding the constellations. Myths are relevant to me as both a future English and Social Studies teacher- I recently completed a project that involved a myth based legend for a Comparative Cultures 12 class.

In the western world, the myths we associate with constellations come predominantly from Greek mythology. I took at a look at the myth behind the constellation Cancer (just because it’s my star sign). The myth behind Cancer the Crab is part of the story of the Greek hero Hercules and his twelve labours. It describes how Hera sent the crab to grab Hercules by the heel and distract him from his task of fighting a Hydra, but Hercules crushed the crab under his other foot. Zeus then placed the Crab into the sky to commemorate Hercules’s victory and remind Hera of her failure.

Cancer

The Native American myth tells the story of how starts came to be. It tells of a world where there were no stars, meaning that the “animal people” struggled to find their way in full darkness and went to their creator for help. The creator tells them to collect sharp stones which could be made into stars. A coyote was asked to help smaller animals make pictures in the sky with these stones, but the coyote was not helpful and some of the pictures were incomplete. The story says that the coyote howls because he never finished his own picture and he is filled with regret.

Comparing these two myths give some context for how we might understand astronomy and myths about it differently depending on cultural lenses. In addition, without even looking for particular formats, the first resource I found for a Greek constellation myth was written, while the first resource I found for an Indigenous myth was a recording of an Oral  story, which reflects how each type of story would likely have been told.

Data Safety

This week, we had the opportunity to learn about data safety from a few classmates that explored the topic for their tech inquiry.  We watched a trailer for “The Great Hack” (which I still have to go check out) that provided a bit of context for the issue.

I knew a little about the topic, but was still surprised by some of the things I learned through the presentation. In particular, the idea that we essentially pay for “free” apps and services by giving away our personal information and data was logical but had simply not occurred to me. This provided some context for why we might be resistant or unwilling to push back against data sharing. The idea of targeted ads was also familiar to me, especially ads for UVic’s teacher education program, which consistently pop up on various different social media platforms that I subscribe to.

Looking at the issue from the perspective of how it affects minors was also very relevant from the perspective of a future educator. I was shocked to hear that it’s legal and possible for hundreds of thousands of data points to be compiled about individuals before they are legally adults.

The idea that your physical location is essentially available to people at all times is also a little alarming, as is the idea that this data provides knowledge about who you’re in close proximity to, which can be used to further the ends of whatever party is accessing it.

Distributed Learning

This week, we had the opportunity to look at some of the ways distance education can take place. From our class discussion, it seemed like for the most part all of us that have taken online classes have had relatively the same experience. Traditional online classes often feel depersonalized and without in person connections to teachers an other students it can feel like you’re teaching yourself material with little support. However, trying out

One of my classmates raised an interesting question about the cost associated with synchronous learning technology, and I was surprised to hear how affordable it was. In addition, considering how it might be a less expensive alternative to other solutions was particularly interesting.

I think it’s also worth considering what courses are well suited to being taught online. Sometimes it might be the only viable option, but how close it comes to mimicking an in class experience depends on the subject material. For example, my experience taking Physical Education online taught me a lot about phot and video editing, and putting together presentations, but I learned almost nothing about physical health or wellness. The fact that it was possible to work through the class successfully without actually doing very much significant exercise or trying any new activities indicates to me that the course was not particularly effective. However, even a course like PE might work in an online format if done well, maybe in the form of video check ins with a teacher paired with actual gym and outdoor activities.

Overall, I’m far more on board with online learning options than I was before going into this class. I think the idea of synchronous learning is key, and it addressed my concern about online learning being an isolating process. I’m not sure if I will ever seek out the opportunity to teach in this format, but I’ve realized it might work for me more than I would have ever thought.

Youtube and the Universe

For this post, I decided to explore some YouTube videos on the topic of astronomy. I have been seeing teachers use brief “crash course” style videos in classrooms fairly frequently and have found they can communicate ideas in an efficient and engaging way. I wanted to try learning about a topic for myself through this process since I’ve observed it being so effective.

I really enjoyed this video in particular, as it broke down some very complicated ideas and made them simple to understand, even for someone like me with no considerable physics background.

For this post, I decided to explore some YouTube videos on the topic of astronomy. I have been seeing teachers use brief “crash course” style videos in classrooms fairly frequently and have found they can communicate ideas in an efficient and engaging way. I wanted to try learning about a topic for myself through this process since I’ve observed it being so effective.

I really enjoyed this video in particular, as it broke down some very complicated ideas and made them simple to understand, even for someone like me with no considerable physics background.

I’m glad I tried out this approach to learning about a topic that’s entirely new to me. It worked really well in terms of orienting me to a topic that would otherwise be relatively inaccessible to me. I’ll definitely consider using videos like this in my classroom, especially when I’m introducing an unfamiliar or challenging topic to students.

I’m glad I tried out this approach to learning about a topic that’s entirely new to me. It worked really well in terms of orienting me to a topic that would otherwise be relatively inaccessible to me. I’ll definitely consider using videos like this in my classroom, especially when I’m introducing an unfamiliar or challenging topic to students.

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