Wikis – Positive Results

Just a quick update about our Bio wikis.  As I was surveying the student work, I noticed just how creative my Biology students are becoming.  Not only are they using wikis in the ways that we discussed in class for their portfolio, they are finding their own unique ways to build their pages.

For example, students create a page to respond to the specific portfolio requirement.  Early on in our wiki use, we discussed creating the information in a powerpoint slide and saving it as a jpeg. It was a quick and easy way for students to visually organize their resposes.  Today I noticed that one student was using Glogster to create and display information on her webpage.  Other students have added flashing text to draw attention to specific topics.

I also noticed the use of a digital story to explain the concept of evolution.  This student had selected pictures that they had taken and created a video as a response to this requirement.  They incorporated text to to highlight key concepts and explain how their story connected to and explained the concept of evolution.  It was one of the most creative options I have seen students use. 

I can’t wait to see what their portfolios include next week.

Tracking Bio news on the wiki….

Recently, I added a NEWS link to our class wiki.  Every Monday is news day and students give examples of Bio news in the world.  Last week a student linked up a news story.  She gave a quick overview of the concept on the wiki and briefly presented it to us in class.  We then followed the link to the news website and watched a quick video about the oil spill.  This lead to a great class discussion about how events in other parts of the world are connected to us in Saskatchewan.


Quizlet – Online Flashcards Tool

In my search for online flashcards, I cam across a program called QuizletA free resource availble to help you review vocabulary and concepts.  Besides being a great review tool, you can share your review with others or search for reviews that have already been made. Study, create and share are the words the website uses to describe itself. 

It is a great reviewing tool to use in your class or for students to use. Quizlet lets you enter terms (vocab, questions, etc) and their definitions (answers). It then creates multiple ways for students to learn the information. For example, they can use the familiarize option to practice with flashcards. The learn option allows them to have to type in the answer. The test option randomly generates different types of questions (multiple choice, matching, short answer, true/false). The test can be regenerated with the style of question that the student wants to practice. There are two games as well (Scatter and Space Race). The website also includes a voice version of the games. Terms can also be printed out as flash cards and regular text.

The great thing about this site is that you just need to enter your basic content and it formats it into multiple versions. It would also work well for students to create their own reviews. If you are interested you can sign up for your own free account and start creating flashcards.  There is also an app for that. So if you want to study on your iPod or phone, now you can:)

Sample Biology Quizlet example

Bio 20 students have recently used quizlet to review our unit.  Each student created a quizlet review on their assigned topic.  Once complete, each student posted the link to their quizlet review on our class wiki.  Now the students have many reviews to work from.

So What about Life after High School….

As I met with students and parents at our most recent parent student teacher conferences, one idea kept repeating as I chatted with graduating students. Have you considered how our in class discussions about learning styles, note taking and study strategies might be connected to your life? Most of the students answered, “it’s good for us to learn about how we learn, but my study strategy already works well for me.” And I replied, “that’s great, have you thought about how this class can help you prepare for learning after you’re done school?”

Over the course of several conferences, we discussed the following ideas:

1) Have you actually tried any of the new study strategies suggested?

~ I encouraged students to continue using the strategies that have been working for them, but to also consider the opportunity to learn new strategies. Because what if you find something new that works or it works better. If you never take a chance to try out a new strategy, you’ll never find new ways to help learn and remember new info. I asked students to consider our class a safe place to try something new. For example, try your regular strategy and select one concept to add a new strategy. Try flash cards, making a song, drawing a picture or color coding your study notes. After the exam, reflect about that new method. Did it help? If it did, great you’ve found another strategy to add to your learning toolbox. If it didn’t, that works too. Although it does take work to try something new, you’ll never know the potential benefit until you try. After all if you find one new strategy that works, it may give you one more way to deal with new learning situations in your future.
2) Have you thought about how you are going to take notes next year?

Lots of students think that note taking will be easier with a laptop, but have you ever tried taking notes with one? Personally, I’ve found it a little bit more challenging because all of my shorthand symbols don’t work on the computer. Practice will of course make it easier, but when do you plan on trying that out? I suggested to students that they should try it out in advance. When the first day of classes arrives next fall and they are stressed out about being in a new location, they at least have a plan for taking notes. Why not talk to your teacher and bring a laptop into class on a day when you know the teacher is going to be lecturing. You can try out your lap top note taking skills, moreover, if you ask in advance you can likely get a copy of the notes (just in case you miss something). It gives you a safe place to try out something new.

– Even if you aren’t considering a lap top, you may want to test out your own note taking skills and compare them to the teacher handout or powerpoint. It will give you an idea of what strategies you need to develop before classes begin in the fall.

3) Have you considered the technological tools available to you?

– There are many tools available that will help you create flash cards. For example, Quizlet. This program enables you to create your own set of flash cards and then offers you many ways to study the material. For example, you can view typical flash cards, be asked direct questions, play games with the terminology or practice a test (including your choice of fill in the blank, matching or multiple choice.) You can also print out a page of your terms and explanations or print it out as a set of paper flash cards. The other interesting thing about Quizlet is that there is an app for that:) Quizlet is available for use on your iPod. So imagine you could be waiting for your next class, listening to music and reviewing vocabulary at the same time.

– Another example is Microsoft Office’s Onenote program that allows you to create your own collection of information. It works like a word document, however, you can easily insert pictures, powerpoint slides and other info. (It also pastes the website that you borrowed if from for you.) If you have a tablet or a touch screen you can easily write on the document or highlight info. It is a quick way to organize your thoughts and sort through information.

So the next time you come across a new learning strategy, take the time to try it out.  You’ll never know if it will make learning more interesting until you try.