Friday, October 4, 2013

eLearning2 in the High School Chemistry Classroom

Edina High School Chemistry teacher, Gavin McLean has begun incorporating student devices into his instruction. Last year, 9th grade students were given the option to participate in our eLearning2 initiative.
Last spring, McLean recognized that those students would be coming to the high school with devices, and began brainstorming ways that he could incorporate them.

Early on, he worried about student devices in his lab space. He saw potential for students to enter their observations electronically, but worried about devices getting damaged if they were on the lab surface. He took it upon himself to build stands that students could use in the lab. Color coded for each station, they provide students with a stable platform to set their Chromebook, laptop or tablet on. 4 Chemistry classrooms are now outfitted for students to bring devices.

I had a chance to stop by a lab to see students in action. They have been were doing some identification and entering in data into a shared Google Doc. In other labs, McLean has used Google Forms, depending on how he wants students to interact with the data afterwards. In a measurement unit, he incorporated inquiry by first having students go out into the hall to measure. Some had calipers, some had meter sticks, tape measures, rulers and a trundle wheel. He had them fill out a Google Form with their results, then when students got back into the room, He showed the data. "Who was correct?" This gave the students greater insight into the importance of units when doing observation!

Students in his class with devices commented that they mostly are using it in Chemistry and Pre-AP English, though some are using it for math, as they can access the electronic version of the textbook without having to lug it around. As you can see in the picture, some students still try and get by with just their cell phone. This works well for forms, but is not as effectively if students have to edit a Google Doc. Especially docs that include tables. 

One student in the second period I observed said, "sometimes what I do for homework is so redundant!" He wished one of his teachers incorporated quizzes in Moodle, so that if he scored well on certain problems, he wouldn't be required to do those for homework. 

McLean is excited about the potential, and recognizes that incorporating student devices in the classroom is going to be a process. He has found that almost every student in his 1st hour has a device, but about half in his 5th hour class do. As eLearning2 expands, and more and more teachers incorporate student devices in their instruction, those numbers are bound to increase. McLean notes, It feels a bit more "real world," and "21st Century," even though he knows there is still a place for paper and pencil and always will be.

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