Day 1

Today was absolutely brilliant!

Some background first: over break, I read Quiet and this reminded me how important it is to able to work alone.

I had the expectation that students must be able to work alone, I spoke about it in terms of their study habits, and emphasized how quizzing/testing is a solitary endeavor. However, time in class definitely emphasized working in groups.

So, if I buy into the group being ‘smarter’ than an individual, then each member has to be able to contribute, each individual has to know something. I realized I had failed to effectively use the power of collaboration because I had failed to practice my students’ skills of working alone.

I realize I’m a late bloomer and am sure most others already knew this, but it was quite an epiphany for me. Thus, bringing us to today.

On previous Day One’s, I’ve tried a variety of activities (with various levels of success), ultimately reverting to having the students create blog, diigo, Dropbox, etc. accounts as well as register with the UT homework service. Just using the first day to take care of business.

I wanted (needed) this semester to be different. With Quiet still reverberating in my mind, I read a twitter exchange about a ‘mystery cube.’ Curious, I started my search and read this post and followed the link to this post which referenced the subversive lab groups. [Confession: I had tried the subversive lab groups in the past, but, as previously written, booming success isn’t the phrase I would have used.]

I combined and modified all of this into today . As students walked through the door, I handed them all 24 cards from the subversive lab groups. After I spread them around the room so they were sitting alone, I told them to organize the cards; only when they finished, did I put them in groups. The group had to come to consensus on categories and the cards included as well as be able to justify why. After a bit, we discussed similarities and differences between each person, modifications made within the group, and the cards that posed the greatest issues as they organized and why. [One group argued that Florida & California should be with the Disney characters.]

After finishing the discussion, we moved to the cube on the floor. I used the modified cube and had the students write on a piece of paper individually what number was on the bottom and why. After they all finished, I put them in different groups and gave them one rule: each person had to give their answer & reason before any discussion could commence. After getting a consensus within each group and sharing between groups, I gave them my answer and reasoning. In both classes, my answer was shot down because of the process I shared – they found the inconsistency! It was awesome!

Most importantly to me, I think I was able to effectively emphasize and practice how this semester is going to be structured: work will be done individually before any work is done collaboratively.

Overall, the discussions for both activities were fruitful, engaging, and active; and I feel this is in part a result of focusing on the individual before the group. A practice I had lost sight of and am thrilled to have r-discovered.

Working for PED

I was paid $300 (though I will not receive this for another 4 weeks) to work for my state’s public education department (PED) developing an end of course (EoC) exam for a class that is neither required for graduation nor guided by state standards; though, several of us have articulation agreements with local university or community colleges and it is this agreement for post-secondary credit that defines the goals for our courses.  This work was spread over five days: a two-day assessment conference (the theme was formative assessments, Solution Tree was the primary contributor) and the latter three on the actual EoC; but all five days were scheduled from 8am to 5pm, with several 1-1.5 hour large-group trainings interspersed during the EoC work time.  The goal was to create an assessment to serve as a final exam for the course, which counts for 20% of a student’s overall grade by state mandate; though it was not to be comprehensive, only covering about 60% of the content; and is to be given in a three week testing window which begins a month before the end of the semester.  It was to be approximately 50 questions, should take a student about 70 minutes to complete, and all the questions were to be multiple choice.  Each question the group wrote had to have a typed version (template provided) and a hand-written version to give PED ‘authentic work.’  In addition to the actual test, we also wrote a blueprint: a document outlining the standards and the learning goals to be addressed under each standard.  It is to be reviewed, approved, and pending approval (not sure by whom), posted on the PED’s website by October.  All the courses with an EoC have a blueprint posted on the PED website to ensure teacher access, however, not all the blueprints there are current.  The last two documents we were responsible for were an answer key for the test and a document that tracked how many questions per standard were assessed, evidence that a question actually assessed the standard, the depth of knowledge of the standard as well as each specific question, and the percentage of questions in a standard at or above the standard’s group-assigned depth of knowledge.

Discussing anything about this work could cost me my license and, therefore, my job.  On top of this, if it appears that scores on the EoC I worked on are really good (and a statistical analysis by the PED verifies that the scores are statistically too good), then there was probably impropriety and my license could be pulled and I would lose my job.  This could even apply to the other teachers in my district if their scores are statistically too good, I must have done something improper, I could lose my license and therefore my job.  We were warned during the three days we were working on the EoC not to discuss it outside of the rooms we were working in, this especially included not criticizing the process, the actual test, or the PED while we were wearing our name tags, which included ‘…Public Education Dept.’ on them or we would face sanctions, up to and including, the loss of our license.  If I make any public comment, being considered an educator first, that is seen as criticizing the test or the process, I can face sanctions, up to and including, the loss of my license and my job.

The recurring reason given for this work was to ensure all students taking this course (and all the EoC’s being worked on, ~29 this year, there have already been a dozen in the previous 2 years) would cover the same material no matter where they were; a grass-roots Common Core ideal allowing teachers across the state to compare their students to everyone else’s.  [The reason given for the previous dozen was to provide an alternate-demonstration-of-competency (ADC) for students who failed to pass the state standards based assessment (SBA).]  The EoC is not designed to be used as a means of getting out of a class, like a clep test, as only a teacher of record can determine whether any student has earned the credit for a course.  In addition, the data generated by the test would also be used in the Value-added Model for teacher evaluation.  The actual cut-score to determine proficiency on this test will be determined in the future, after it has been taken and the scores have been norm-ed to find the score that roughly 50% of the students received.

Let’s recap.

  • I worked for ~$5 an hour
  • I wrote an EoC for a course that is not required for graduation (it is an elective) and without standards because my state has no standards for the course
  • This test is supposed to make the course uniform across the state; however, it’s not uniform between post-secondary institutions
  • The uniformity is the primary purpose of the EoC, not teacher evaluation
  • It is supposed to be a standards-based test, but it’s normed
  • The scores from the EoC will be used in my teacher evaluation, but the ‘proficient’ score for students is unknown
  • The six of us that wrote the test and agreed upon the standards (from another state) to base the test on, have an unfair advantage
  • I cannot tell another teacher what standards the test is based upon or I could lose my license
  • The test will be given starting this December because we have block scheduling at various high schools (including all the schools in my district)
  • School starts this week or within two weeks for most schools in the state
  • The blueprint, which roughly outlines the standards and learning goals and assessable content, may not be posted until October
  • The test itself is to serve as the final exam and the state dictates this to be 20% of the course grade
  • It is not to be in any way comprehensive of the course content
  • It is to be given before the course has ended (two weeks of ~85min block classes equate with four weeks of ~50min year-long classes)
  • I am the only person qualified to determine whether a student should earn credit in my course, but the earned credit cannot be used by a student to demonstrate proficiency
  • If my students, or another teacher’s class I might have come in contact with, do statistically too well on the test, I probably did something improper, and I could lose my license.
  • I was warned not to publicly disagree with or express dissent from the PED during the EoC writing process (or at any time as I am a professional educator first) or I could lose my license


Title and final comment changed/eliminated because of what has been written in the final bullet.

Coulda Woulda Shoulda

I had the opportunity to discuss the idea of Flipping yesterday – I was conscripted for the assignment – and was both terrified and excited.

My plan started with a PollEverywhere multiple choice question asking the participants if flipping was new, if they’d heard of it, or if they equated it with videos.  From there, I’d begin my spiel focusing adding/deleting to what I’d say based on the numbers from the poll.


Then, the discussion ebbed and flowed around the responses to questions I created from the Flipped Learning pdf.  I wanted to push the idea that many of them, based on their response, were already heading down the flipped path: they were adjusting and modifying instruction based on what students needed, they were modifying their environments as needed, etc.  The next step was up to them, how did they see themselves moving forward.  I used a couple of questions from Jon Bergman’s “Questions before you flip;” however, I kept it a little too open.  The questions didn’t guide the discussions in the way I had hoped.  And, suddenly time was up, and I hadn’t helped them accomplish anything.  My one goal, to give them something to move forward with on their own, had not materialized; I’d failed.  Ugh.

Not everything was bad.  I know my beginning was sound; though, I should have let the participants give me their definition of ‘flipping,’ i.e., an open-ended question instead of the multiple choice.  My presentation, the launching pad for the time-block (thanks to the help and feedback from folks on Twitter: Doug Ragan, Kristin Gregory, Marcia Powell, Marc Seigel, & Julia Winter — Thanks to them again!) was solid and did let me address a few key ideas.

The most important piece of advice, though, I didn’t take to heart: sharing my story.  I ended up getting too caught up in not wanting to influence how ‘flipping’ was perceived, I forgot to show what I do.  (This was also the most important critique for improvement I received from a colleague I work with who attended.)  I use videos, it works for my classes; I think it works great for any science class.  All I had to say was, “it may not be what’s best for you & your subject;” but it would have given them an idea, a place to start.  I failed to give them this starting place, I failed to give them a concrete example.  I was afraid the ‘technology’ would seem to overwhelming; I would be reinforcing the perception that flipping is just videos.  

Continuing in this vein, should have been to show my day to day use, like what I do to track 1) that the video notes for class are taken and 2) how well the students understood and could apply the information from the videos: my flipped questions.  I could even have discussed my growing desire to change these questions to something more open-ended and why I feel that change needs to take place; how the responses determine what I need to re-explain at the beginning of class and how I might need to tweak what’s done in class to address common misconceptions.  In addition, I could have pointed to the other ways I’ve flipped my class by showing the explore labs and simulations, i.e., not videos, I use for each major concept/unit.

Once, this had been done, I should have focused in on a few steps to flip a lesson.  This would have made flipping seem do-able and would have provided a stepping stone for each teacher upon leaving the room.

First, how do they want to curate their resources.  This means, I would need to know who already had a website (an oversight that hit me the last 15 minutes of my session).  If you already have one, this question is answered.  If not, then, do you want a website, a wikispace; do you want to use Dropbox, Box, GoogleDrive (an obvious choice especially since every single person in our district has a google account); do you want a blog?  Associated with this would be determining what students do, and do not, have access from home; then, having a plan to address those without access.

Second, in my mind, would be determining if a video is the right choice.  There are so many videos already out there in all subjects done by other teachers, that they could have found a couple to explore related to the topic they would want to flip.  If a video is not appropriate, what would be: an article to read that requires a written response to be brought in or blogged about?  I don’t know, but they do: they know their subject, they know their students (I don’t have to know this and I forgot that).  Again, the follow-up to this, what can you do for those without access?  For videos a USB perhaps or a DVD or the first five minutes of class or something I haven’t written…a chance to discuss this with others in the session might have turned up other ideas.

Third, determine what will be done during the face-to-face time with the students to build upon and apply what they had just designed as their students’ homework.  The crux of the flip: how will you focus this crucial learning time to help the students grow and internalize the material and concepts.  How will you utilize the community to help each individual?  When thinking about this, they could have also discussed common misconceptions they already know to anticipate as well as determine what assessments, whether formative or summative or both, they would use to check for student understanding and growth.

I think these few changes would have made my session so much better.  I have two hopes now: 1) I did not turn anyone away from the idea of flipping; and 2) I will get to redeem myself in the future.  I guess that’s the beauty of living and learning (and failing oh so publicly).

I leave you, though, with a question:  what else should I add to my list of three?  What have I forgotten?

Playing with Chemicals

photo (1)

Data requirements for lab.

This week, I had the AP students do some very simple labs focused upon law of conservation of mass, but connecting it to stoichiometry. Students mixed a white powder with a liquid to produce a gaseous product (massing beakers initially, with and after, see image at right), share their data on the board, then graph the class data on a TI calculator (see image below).

photo (2)There were a couple of points to this. First, the initial share was with total mass before and after and the students see they don’t match — the gas was lost. This means different data is needed, but it still has to come from what they collected. Why not compare the mass of the gas (that lost mass) and the mass of the solid? When this is graphed (solid mass on the x-axis, gas on the y), a linear relationship is evident; further supported by the linear regression done. [I’m reading my notes from this summer, one-finger-typing my lists and such and my students were waiting on me; even made a point of telling me to just ask them what to do next time as they do this all the time in math. They enjoyed that way more than they should have.] We do discuss just what the linear equation means (y=mx+b). In this case, y = 0.502x +.055, the slope tells them that 0.502g of gas is produced for every 1g of solid used and that there’s error because ‘b’ has a value other than zero (the error in the class data).

Then, the second point of the discussion — the part I did not carry off as well as I wanted — determining the ‘ideal’ relationship for this solid and this gas. Enter the chemical reaction (just in case they had not determined it was baking soda and vinegar) and I place the molar masses of each substance underneath, totaling the masses of reactants and products to show the masses are equal, show conservation of mass. This wasn’t exactly a revelation to this group, but I didn’t let them tell me what the ideal equation for the line should be: the total mass of the gas divided by the total mass of the solid. This is the point that gets us to stoichiometry. As soon as you start comparing the masses, ideally seeing that molar ratio behind the mass comparison because molar masses were multiplied by coefficients, you are performing the basics of stoichiometry calculations.

They answer four questions

  • How good is your point? Explain. [Their point on their graph has a smiley face above it.]
  • How many grams of gas should you lose? Explain how you know.
  • ? g of gas if 5g solid used? Show 2 ways.
  • ? g of solid if 5g gas produced? Show 2 ways.

All of these are answered by evaluating the graph and their point on the graph

  • it’s good because it’s close to the ideal line
  • more or less gas should have been lost — based on whether it’s above or below the line (getting to another rabbit trail in the discussion about the source of error: below the line, not enough gas produced; above the line too much; and what could have caused this)
  • the first way, find it on the graph; second way, calculate by multiplying masses (factor label)
  • the first way, find it on the graph; second way, calculate by multiplying the masses, but inversely as the gas needs ‘canceled’

The goal with this set of labs is to have the students (1) want this ‘proved’ again to see this truth with a different reaction; (2) lead to other questions like what the graph would look like if the amount of solid is varied with the same amount of liquid or vice versa, keep the solid constant and vary the liquid; i.e., predicting limiting reagents. Again, the whole point is to get them to take the data, see the linear relationship, but ask why and want to see more data to prove it — not exactly carried off in this way. Instead, I had them do the lab several times, plug in our data, examine the graphs produced, and see that, “yup, it’s linear, again.”
My problem here was my approach. This would work well for chemistry if I fix the conservation of mass introduction & link to the results — what does conservation of mass mean? reactants should equal products, so we balance the equation, but is there another way?…work to masses of reactants and products and what this means for the lab, compare the line produced to the ideal one they find…ask if this is the case all the time? is it predictable? Push for the questions because it’s new. AP, on the other hand, should be about predicting the results, predicting the graph, predicting the ideal line. This information is not new it’s review, so, I needed to take it to that point instead of getting caught in no-man’s-land between new & review where I lost some of the effectiveness of the enterprise.

[Thanks to Jim Cortez for sharing this during our summer APSI.]

Exploring Chemistry

I’m liking the challenge and the potential impact of ‘exploring’ each concept before students actively study as I attempt to implement explore-flip-apply. My twist, though this is blatantly stolen, is to have the students reflect on &/or explain the exploration in a blog post.

My post is coming up prior to any data to support an assertion of actual improved outcomes and increased learning. However, the questions asked, exposing the interconnections between concepts, was absolutely amazing today.

WaterElectrolysisThe activity, using a 9-volt battery to eletrolyze water, is part of my first unit and I wanted it to both review and set the stage for stoichiometry. There were four questions I wanted them to answer:

  • What is the balanced chemical equation?
  • Is there qualitative evidence to support the balanced chemical reaction?
  • Could you collect quantitative data to ‘prove’ the balanced reaction? How?
  • Can you draw a particle diagram(s) that models what’s going on in this reaction?

I had the equipment out — battery, sample cups with tacks, small plastic test tubes, and two different salt solutions — and we got started. One of the first questions asked was how to capture the gas in the test tubes. This is not a question to be taken lightly, since the point was to have the captured gas push water out of the test tubes to visually see the difference in the amounts. Rather than let the students struggle, I made a mistake I think, I showed them what to do — fill the test tubes with the salt solution, invert, and quickly fill the sample container with more solution. The whole apparatus is now placed upon the battery. Immediately, bubbles begin forming, an unmistakable difference in rate apparent. The students get theirs going.

I wanted them to work alone to answer each question first, thinking about them while they watched the reaction, then using their ideas during discussion. Again, I think I jumped the gun a bit — struggling is not something they enjoyed — and I cut this time too short.

We jumped into the group discussion with the first question and a uniform response was provided, a balanced equation for decomposition of water. I jumped to the last question here, I’m leaning toward making it the second question next time, and, again, a confident reply of ‘sure’ from the group. The second question was the first divergence from my script: how can you know that the gases are actually hydrogen and oxygen? The observations also helped to push this question forward from left-field. After a bit, all the test tubes lost the apparent doubling of gas in one test tube versus the other; there was still more in one, but it didn’t look like twice as much. To try to show this, I introduced some UI to the solution and filled the tubes and sample cup again. One complication, the salt solution used sodium bicarbonate.

Shifting our focus again, during this time of waiting and watching, we jumped to the third question; surprisingly tougher than I thought. They were still focused upon how to measure the products, how to verify they were oxygen and hydrogen….I just wanted them to think how a balanced equation had to be based on an equal mass before and after. So, I kept trying to push them back to the law of conservation of mass, the law behind a ‘balanced chemical’ reaction. Again, I gave in, and just told them this.

Concluding the UI variation….

Gases are now being produced in a blue solution, but bless it, one of them begins to lighten (I won’t go so far as to say it turned yellow, but it did become less blue). This lead to what exactly this change in color meant. We take a turn into pH, the equilibrium of water ionization and baby steps to electrochemistry. Using the equilibrium equation as a new starting point, I try to encourage them to work out what’s ‘left’ when each gas is formed, pushing them to visually separate the equation in their mind and the bell rings.

I try to frantically throw information at them as they ready for the next class and assure them we’ll do a quick finish-up tomorrow, in class, and their blog post will be due tomorrow now, too.

[Follow-up: so quickly refocused upon goals from yesterday, added some explanation about self-ionization of water, rewriting the equilibrium equation twice. Without going into detail on redox, so just in terms of particles, if hydrogen is removed (or oxygen), seeing what is left behind helps to explain why the indicator changed color, why the pH is different. I’m really hoping this turns into a seed to reap from in future concepts.]

Anatomy Re-do: Muscle Breakdown

My goals in Anatomy need modified. I need to streamline my standards and tweak my learning objectives for this course. The existing objectives I operate under were slightly modified from the local community college when work was done on an articulation agreement (i.e., students that earned an A or B would also receive credit from the community college upon enrollment).

To that end, I’m going to attempt to organize the presentation of material and practice activities, attempting to link these to the purpose/goals/objectives of each system. This is a process I’m going to go through for each system.

The Muscular System is first for one reason: the amount of anatomy and physiology content. This is the first system where the depth of physiology becomes an issue: everything from the details of the action potential by way of the electrochemical gradient to the chemical cascade leading to contraction to the metabolic pathways responsible for energy production allowing contraction, not to mention the Cori cycle and Oxygen debt. Basic anatomy includes micro- and gross anatomy (as seen in the skeletal system) including knowing certain muscles, i.e., memorizing their names, and the method of nomenclature, but is complicated by the three tissue types, by the impact of the microscopic arrangement upon the actions of the organ (banding, sarcomeres, SR and T-tubules, endo- to epimysium, fascicle arrangement) and the conformational changes associated with contraction, not to mention the difference in isotonic vs. isometric contraction, and linking it to origin/insertion and action. There’s a lot of information and a fair amount I’ve left off this list.

Below, I’m listing the current objective & items/activities I use. Below that will be the potential change or questions I have about the changes and I would greatly appreciate suggestions and critiques.

System Introduction

  • Body Atlas Video segment “Muscle and Bone” — bridge from skeletal system to muscular system (25 min)
    • backchannel during video for comments and questions

1. Describe the properties and function of muscle tissue

  • Flipped 6.1 — gross anatomy notes: intro to muscle function, quick review of different muscle types (both tissue and functional skeletal), nomenclature, origin/insertion, lever action, movements, muscle names/locations (14.52 min)
    • Quick listing of the functions of the muscular system
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion

2. Identify the principal axial and appendicular muscles of the body; including identifying origin, insertion, and action of ten muscles

  • Blank Anterior & Posterior Muscle Man — fill in blank chart
    • Identifies key muscles of the body
    • Done individually, in class
  • Anatomy ColorPlates Packet — copies of relevant pages in the Anatomy coloring book of major axial and appendicular muscles
    • Anatomy is visual; this provides reinforcement of knowledge
    • Done individually as homework
  • Flipped notes 6.1 — gross anatomy notes: intro to muscle function, quick review of different muscle types (both tissue and functional skeletal), nomenclature, origin/insertion, lever action, movements, muscle names/locations (14.52 min)
    • Does provide different images for principal muscles of the body
    • Understanding nomenclature reinforces anatomical awareness and provides leeway in remembering different names
      • Ex. Rectus Femoris vs. Rectus abdominus — found in the thigh or abdominal region; remembering the ‘rectus’ means straight bonus information
    • Quick review of the requirements of origin or insertion, linked to basic body movements (setting stage for function of muscles)
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Skeleton Diagram Insertion/Origin/Action — blank skeleton and skull in which specified muscles are drawn/colored according to origin/insertion attachments; i.e., deltoid is drawn from deltoid tuberosity on humerus to clavicle on posterior view.
    • First few done on board in front of class to demonstrate just how each muscle should be drawn and information listed
    • Individually fill in worksheet; work in small group to look up/determine origin/insertion/action in class
  • String Lab — students, in pairs, attach one end of the string (i.e., the looped end) to the appropriate location of the insertion and take the other end to the origin. Pulling on the origin end, they simulate the movement/action of the muscle.
    • Collaborative work to ‘act out’ with purpose in class
    • Focus upon ten specific muscle actions
    • More clearly presents why a particular muscle produces a particular action

3. Contrast Skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle in terms of structure and function

  • Flipped notes 6.2 — information on structure and function of three muscle types; detail of microscopic organization of skeletal muscle; neuromuscular junction (14:02)
    • Detailed differences between muscle types
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Muscle Tissue Flowchart
    • Reinforce structural differences

4. Describe the organization of skeletal muscle: (a) at the macroscopic level; (b) at the microscopic level

  • Flipped notes 6.2 — information on structure and function of three muscle types; detail of microscopic organization of skeletal muscle; neuromuscular junction (14:02)
    • Progress from fascia/periosteum to epimysium to myofilament, banding within the sarcomere, organization of thick/thin filaments, including SR and T-tubules.
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Anatomy/Physiology ColorPlates Packet — copies of relevant pages in the Anatomy and Physiology coloring books of microscopic anatomy
    • Anatomy is visual; this provides reinforcement of knowledge
    • Done individually as homework

5. Explain the key steps involved in the contraction of a skeletal muscle fiber: (a) discuss the physiological changes required to contract and relax a muscle fiber; (b) discuss the protein conformation changes necessary for contraction.

  • Flipped notes 6.2 — information on structure and function of three muscle types; detail of microscopic organization of skeletal muscle; neuromuscular junction (14:02)
    • Neuromuscular junction anatomy
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Flipped notes 6.3 — muscle physiology (33 slides)
    • Sliding filament theory, action potentials (electrochemical gradients, Na-K pump, graphing AP), and energy sources for contraction
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Physiology ColorPlates Packet — copies of relevant pages in the Physiology coloring book
    • Processes are visual; this provides reinforcement of knowledge
    • Done individually as homework
  • Sliding Filament Theory Video — students devise video to simplify changes in protein conformation into 4 steps
    • Point is to instruct peers; posted to website
    • small group project, done in class
  • PhET Neuron Simulation Lab — simulation of action potential and physiological changes responsible
    • Individual or group, in class or homework depending upon time
  • Rabbit Muscle Lab — teased sample of muscle receives different treatments, contraction observed under the microscope
    • differences in contraction noted
    • done in class, students work in pairs

6. Compare the different types of muscle contractions

  • Flipped notes 6.3 — muscle physiology (33 slides)
    • Sliding filament theory, action potentials (electrochemical gradients, Na-K pump, graphing AP), and energy sources for contraction
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Pushing the Limits: Strength video — animations of contraction, provides explanation of the power of the body and extremes of what the body can do
    • backchannel during video for comments and questions

7. Describe the mechanisms by which muscle obtains and uses energy to power contraction; distinguish between aerobic and anaerobic endurance

  • Flipped notes 6.3 — muscle physiology (33 slides)
    • Sliding filament theory, action potentials (electrochemical gradients, Na-K pump, graphing AP), and energy sources for contraction
    • Done individually; checked via flipped questions to identify any lingering misunderstanding and provide analytic of completion
  • Exercise & Cellular Respiration Lab — impact of exercise upon rate of carbon dioxide production
    • changes in carbon dioxide production noted as amount of exercise changes
    • done in class, students work in pairs
  • A Perfect Storm in the Operating Room — case study
    • interrupted case study on malignant hyperthermia
    • students answer packet questions and turn in a group report based on the last set of questions
    • small groups during class

Summary Activities

  • Disease Glog — a digital poster providing a ‘story’ about a disease
    • basic explanation about the disease, including appropriate statistics
    • explains what homeostatic imbalance is responsible for the disease
  • Blog Post — Muscular system, either or below
    • anatomy of muscle, explaining, with detail, the relationship between form and function within the system
    • physiology of muscle, linking to homeostasis for the body and how homeostasis maintained within each organ


First, it is glaringly obvious I must make changes to my videos — they need streamlined and topic/concept focused: just pics and labels for major muscles, just nomenclature, just origin/insertion, just sliding filament, just energy, etc., eliminating nice-to-know-but-not-essential items. Also, some just need to be slides, slide rocket would do the job. Some need to be augmented with Popcorn Maker: more interactivity, more quick quizzes (translation: low risk, formative assessment) during the notes for contraction and muscle energy. This would also create a more effective use of the JITT and ConcepTests ideas in my Anatomy class, allowing the recap/discussion the next day to address the issues identified during the notes.

Second, embrace the limited scope of some objectives. Looking at number 1, muscle function is basic knowledge. List it and move on. A similar change needs to occur with number 3, differences in cardiac, smooth and skeletal muscle. There’s a table in the textbook listing the differences between the tissue types; this is enough to address the objective. Simply point out the table and mention the Cardiovascular and Digestive systems will go into the depth of the specific muscle types, just like this system is used to present/discuss details of skeletal muscle.

Contraction differences, number 6, could be eliminated. As future chapters will go into greater detail for cardiac and smooth muscle and since I’m limiting the tissue differences to be presented, the only item left here is isotonic and isometric. This can be a component of context, posture vs. running for example, but does not require its own standard.

Thirdly, move in the direction of explore and develop curiosity (i.e., explore, flip, apply from flipteaching and Ramsey Musallam’s blog). This is where I’m weak.

My first thought is to make the “string lab” be the introductory activity. See if students can figure out where muscles must attach in order to produce known movements. Then, send the blank muscle man home to fill out as homework; check it first thing the next day. This would frame the nomenclature discussion. This also could lead into the microscopic anatomy: fascicle arrangement in names, leading to a review of micrographs, leading to a discussion of the structure behind the banding.

Another change is to keep the anatomy and physiology of contraction together – I’ve separated them the last couple of years. This separation hurt rather than helped this concept. The PhET lab would be done first, before even starting contraction, but right after the microscopic structure above. This sets the stage for the physiological/anatomical changes responsible for contraction.

The last concept is energy. I’m thinking the exercise cellular respiration lab should be done first. Then, the rabbit muscle lab. After the notes on energy sources/pathways, the case study. It becomes a summative application, requiring students to pull it all together.

All of these changes I hope will also make the disease glog and blog post more impactful. Allowing students to tell about one aspect of muscle function and the lack thereof.

My remaining questions: where to put in the videos? They are great stories and the backchannel during is always interesting, but is that enough to keep them? As for the color plates: limit to essentials, but should I have the students identify the essentials? Which means the students choose the muscles to know origin/insertion for, rather than me defining the list…good idea?

Should I eliminate more? Is there something I haven’t even thought of?

Please share any and all comments/suggestions. Thanks ahead of time.

A Class App: TheAppBuilder vs. AppsBar

Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 11.04.36 AMI have a class app.  Just writing that makes me feel cool.  The image is the icon on your device and, if you click it, you can see the whole thing.  Fair warning, it’s slow to load the first time.

The inspiration was from a student last semester, attempting to navigate through the websites, “Why don’t you just have an app?!”  I liked the idea, but was clueless about how to go about doing it; so, I shelved it.

Then, last week I started looking into building my own app.  A quick Google search for ‘free app maker,’ provided TheAppBuilder and AppsBar.  Both were supposed to be easy and flexible.

There were a few things I needed to accomplish with my app.  My first goal: simplify navigation to the websites.  The second: have one-click take them to a particular page, like the flipped notes or UT homework.  Lastly, include basics like contact information for the school and Google Voice.


Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 12.12.59 PMThis service provides a wizard to walk you through each step of the build process.  There are several app types to choose from, like general business, education, family, etc., pre-loaded with different ‘pages.’  This doesn’t really matter because you can change them to completely customize the app to your needs, but it’s a nice place to start for a newbie.

Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 12.27.25 PM

Menu & Preview

You can choose a different color icon for each page from the library.  Though there are several icons to choose from, you can easily upload an image from your computer, too.   As you add a page, it is presented on the main screen as a preview: see it before you publish it.

The other big plus with this service, when you publish it, they check it over, make sure it works, immediately give you the HTML5 for android and iOS devices and publish it in Google Play for free.  (An aside: once you start an app or publish an app, there’s no ‘delete’ button.  Your management page shows all your trial runs in perpetuity, until you email them asking for help deleting.  Then all those trial runs disappear.)

The downside to this app builder is the inability to layer or create a hierarchy or list of pages.  Every page is right there on the screen or in the opening navigation; this felt…clunky.  There are list options with predetermined functions: discography for music/album promotion, menu for real estate/restaurant, social links for Facebook/Twitter.  But that’s the issue – they’re predetermined and cannot be altered.  I could not use any, save the social network, for links to multiple websites.  Additionally, image customization did not extend into the pages, except for discography, which did not really produce the look/feel I wanted.  Therefore, everything I wanted students to access, each website, each webpage, had to be on the home screen, producing a jumble of icons.

Trial one was a semi-success – I built an app and put the link on my website, I just wasn’t that crazy about it.

[Note: the above picture was taken after I attempted to duplicate my success in TheAppBuilder by embedding websites in lists, etc.  Could not duplicate what I figured out I wanted.]


Screen Shot 2013-07-21 at 11.22.09 PMIn the beginning, it didn’t seem that different from AppsBar.  You have several examples to choose from, again with pre-loaded sections, or you can choose build your own, clicking on a couple of the sections (webpage, youtube, event)  to use as a starting point.  The next screen requires you to register and then you’re in to the menu to modify/customize your app.

Screen Shot 2013-07-25 at 9.32.55 AM


Adding sections, choosing icons (only grayscale), modifying the menu order, all pretty straightforward and not too different from the previous tool.  Adding items is intuitive, the control panel is self-explanatory, and you get to preview each section below the work area.

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 2.08.48 AM


However, this is where the first major difference arises, not in what is shown (it shows the pages and lets you click through them just like appsbar), but in the aesthetics of the final product — it’s sleek, not clunky.

I had to play for a while: manipulating the sections, looking at what I could do, deleting, adding; deleting and adding the same sections.  Through this trial and error, I discovered the next major difference.   A welcome surprise — the ability to modify either the ‘news’ or ‘list’ sections.

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 2.39.53 AM

Modified List

I had the option of

  • add item – like a post with an image, title, date (optional, unlike appsbar), and description
  • add subsection – add a webpage, youtube, event, all the possible sections, within the overall list (gold!)

This flexibility allowed the one-click option to get students to the three websites and specific pages (flipped notes by course, UT homework for all Chemistry sections) by allowing me to group them into a list; minimizing the number of buttons to navigate.  It also allowed me to do more than an About/Welcome section, i.e., wasted space.  I could, instead, create a list/news section explaining the class and the tools and the goals of each; my Footprint section.

Publishing the final product gave me an HTML5 code immediately, but TheAppBuilder does not publish anything to any App Store for free.  You also have to pay if you want to remove the only ad in the app, the “Try It” button.  This is not a big deal to me, first I’m cheap (I looked for free app makers for goodness sakes); and, second, it’s a great tool, why shouldn’t someone ‘try it’ and make their own?

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 2.58.33 AMThe biggest diffulgity I had was adding an image to the splashscreen for the different Apple devices (one of the options under the customization option in the menu bar).  The images had to be the exact size for each screen.  I tried using the crop tool in Preview (the Mac version of a PDF reader), but it wasn’t good enough.  Enter GIMP (freeware Photoshop-like tool).  After a bit of playing, crop the image then scale it to a specific size, and viewing the results, I was able to produce the correct size for each.  I was done.  Finished is best.

The only thing left was to get it readily available to students — a QR code.  The first tool I used was Kaywa: free QR generator, nothing fancy; you do have to pay for analytics, but not something I need.

Qr-myappisvir-600_2Then, I stumbled upon QRphoria.  Not your standard QR code.  You can change the colors, make it look like water or paneling or whatever, use text (as I did in this one), change the encoding redundancy, then save it as a jpg or png file.

Now, does this help my cool factor or just prove I’m a geek?

I do know the answer & I’m sure my students will remind me should I forget…

“I trust you”

I utterly failed my AP Chemistry class this past semester. It was my first time teaching it (feels like a lame excuse) and I failed to do basic things.

The test is the point
My eye was not on the prize. Everything in the class should be geared to the test – it’s AP Chemistry. The students are graded based on the AP material; based on their understanding of the identified concepts. The provided curriculum is the vision of the class. I did not cull the information from the book or limit the context of information surrounding various topics, rather, I presented everything as equally important. I did not focus my efforts, much less my student’s efforts, in order to prepare them for that day in May.

The schedule matters
Because of the audit, the entire course was mapped out, every topic and lab scheduled. The problem? It was merely a suggestion, I could make up the time later. See, I can wing it pretty successfully (let’s say I’m flexible). AP is not a class that can be winged. The schedule cannot be viewed as merely a suggestion; it must be adhered to. It is the assurance of a certain amount of preparation each student should expect upon entering the class.

Reviewing is not optional
This is critical. The test is a Big Deal. The students hadn’t seen some of the material since their first chemistry course. I didn’t take the time to help them put everything together, linking concepts and ideas, finding/showing the overlap. A commitment of time is critical to an effective review; critical to a best effort performance by each student.  Teaching and learning of new concepts cannot go to the Friday before.

Practice tests are a must
I did not adequately utilize whole practice tests, simulating the actual AP test. This is really a component of the review I realize.  I used stand-alone tests, comprised of multiple choice and free-response questions; even incorporating the timed nature into the last one.  It’s more a matter of letting the students see what it’s going to be like.

So, as a group of students were discussing their AP scores in various classes, I began speaking with a student enrolled in AP Chemistry this next year.  Lamenting about my failure by discussing what had to change, a shortened version of the above, she responded, “I trust you.”

…what do you add to that?

Becoming More

For all my angst with the Linchpin, Seth Godin makes a very valid point about ‘shipping.’ For those, like me before a few months ago, unfamiliar with ‘shipping:’ it is doing whatever it is we’re typically afraid to do, for whatever reason – fear, failure, fear of failure, etc.

This week I shipped. I shipped three different products. For the first time, I participated in a summer SC2 event, not just as an attendee, but as a presenter. And, for the first time, I wasn’t scared. I don’t mean I wasn’t nervous. Nor was this my first time presenting, I’ve done presentations before (one day conferences: SC2 and virtually with Teachmeet Nashville). This time was different, though. The difference is I didn’t let doubt consume and influence every decision I made about my presentations. I did not stress about each being perfect (they so are not) or needing to be perfect. I wrote down some notes to remind myself of what I had learned using the tools, resources that helped me along the way (primarily people), and shared my mistakes. Each evening, I made mental and timing adjustments to the next day’s presentation based on the previous day’s feedback. More importantly I had fun sharing ideas and techniques I know are valuable, even when my own use is flawed and not where I want it to be, and requiring myself to use a new ‘tool’ for each presentation.


Screencasting Prezi

View the Prezi

This was the first session — just web-based tools and iPad apps to be used to share class notes and/or create short how-to videos. I used Prezi and kept the info brief. As with the rest of the sessions, my goal was to have the attendees spend time doing. I focused time on three of the tools: showme, screencastomatic, and screenr; and had each make a video with two of the three. The discussion after was where I shared links to other people and sites and resources I thought might be beneficial to a first-time screencaster. Not the best presentation out there, but, I was okay with it as a start. As an aside, this session was up against the keynote speaker at the event, Brandon Lutz (60in60), and I was thrilled a few people showed (though I think it’s because his session was full).

Next time, I’d like to include more discussion about how and when to use this tool; the backwards planning behind implementation. It would also be nice, from a purely selfish perspective, to review something like Ramsey Mussallam’s “Explore, Flip, Apply” approach with others and get their take/ideas. Not to mention, rolling out these new videos to students — website? Dropbox? URL via text, email, etc? This needs to be known before beginning.

Tweeting & Blogging

Tweeting & Blogging in Sci

For two reasons, I used Haiku Deck in this session. First, this was not my first presentation on this topic. I gave a presentation over this a little over a year ago at a one-day SC2 event. The focus that time was on the why you should do it and there was no time to get the teachers tweeting and blogging. I didn’t want to get sucked into that again. Haiku Deck forced me to be to the point, get to the essential ideas. Secondly, the aesthetics — choosing a picture to reinforce the words (or vice versa) added to the overall impact.

I did put a few public notes to several of the slides, but did not spend time on those, except in passing, as we moved to setting up twitter accounts, discussing hashtags, and talking through work-arounds due to district limitations. To effectively utilize the power of twitter in class, requires routine. Again, this is one of the shortfalls I find in my own use. As I mentioned (both in the session and here), I use it as a back channel for guest speakers and for movies/videos in class; I also threw a plug in for #scistuchat (the archives of topics was a selling point here) and a quick look at hootsuite and tweetdeck. We did not get to blogging, except to briefly visit blogger, wordpress & kidblog. And, we took a brief amount of time to see Pearltrees (especially with Google Reader going away) for compiling student blog links; the alternate possibility is having them on a website so everyone can access each other’s. The obvious negative for Pearltrees, it’s not an RSS compiler/feed/aggregator thing (my ignorance here is apparent). This also meant we did not have the opportunity to work through the purpose of maintaining the blog. I was able to share some rubrics for tweeting and blogging as well as the contracts I use in my classes, so, parents and students are clear on the expectations associated with these tools.

Next time, these will have to be split into separate sessions. This would allow more time for depth as opposed to the cursory mention of hashtags and back channels. Plus, let people converse about the possibilities they see with Twitter in class. There are a couple of changes in my own use I’m contemplating. Currently, I have students create a new Twitter handle, a ‘professional’ existence online. Yet, since it’s not them exactly, they will lack the benefits of developing a professional digital footprint. The other revolves around my sporadic use, it’s not routine. I’m thinking of coupling it with my bell ringers or as a component of an exit ticket of sorts. As for blogging, actually have time for each teacher to decide what their purpose would be in their classroom, what outcome do they want to see? Should they be an evolving document? An e-portfolio (like Chris Ludwig uses)? Is this best demonstrated through assigned writing? According to Will Richardson, assignments aren’t real blogging, but if a student demonstrates a synthesis of information, an analysis of thought, isn’t that blogging, regardless of the prompt? What about commenting? Community? Audience? These questions could lead to better rubrics, regional partnerships between classes a la quadblogging, and effective use of this tool in each class.

Popcorn Maker

Springpad - Popcorn Webmaker

View the Popcorn Webmaker notebook on Springpad

Okay, so not an expert or even a novice on this. I actually put this down because I wanted to learn to use it. What better impetus than stepping up in front of strangers and colleagues with a tool you know nothing about to force the issue? This time I used Springpad. I wanted something more structured/scaffolded for the presentation, a guided walk. Loved this! It worked exactly as I’d hoped. In fact, one of the attendees wanted to use it as his organizer for his class units – links, videos, note sheets, etc. Plus, I have to admit, Springpad seems to do everything everyone talks about Evernote doing and it’s a lot less intimidating.

As can be seen in the notebook, I showed a before/after video of Beau Lotto’s TED Talk; let them see a finished interactive video; get an idea of what could be done. My goal was to have them leave with two products: a 6 word memoir & an interactive video to be used in class. A bit audacious for the time, however, if all that had gotten finished was the 6 word memoir, I believed each person would be far more likely to do the second one on their own; success breeds success; playing leads to less fear of failure. After this intro, I directed the participants to find a YouTube video they could modify. I had figured most folks would kinda know of a video they used and would tend towards the known, but I included a couple of channels just in case (see the list). This, actually, was a much slower process than I anticipated. The flaw here was placing it in the beginning; this should definitely have been a last step; the step after producing the 6 word memoir. The second hiccup was the google forms Screenr video I included and had them watch. Shouldn’t have done that; should’ve simply referenced it: here’s a quick rundown for creating a google form and you can review it later as needed. While it was only 5 minutes, it was 5 minutes not spent manipulating Popcorn Webmaker. I also needed to push it and the Polleverwhere info to the end to separate the tools for the two product goals I had in mind. This would have provided more time doing, more time making, which was the whole point of the presentation; and was also the most common theme of the feedback I received. Overall, most seemed to take to the possibilities and some needed more guidance, needed to be nudged to mess up and try again. Hopefully, many will play on their own during the summer and/or will introduce it as a project to their students. One of the possibilities for me is to use this to create a narrated claymation video of a playdoh brain. My anatomy class alredy builds the brain, but adding the claymation, narration and interactive video, the project becomes so much more (and I stole that idea from the gal I worked with in the claymation session).

In essence, going in the midst of colleagues, risking rejection, and finding others willing to go down a similar path of discovery was worth it. The best part, overhearing conversations here and there where people were discussing the tools and the possibilities in their classrooms; that people did find something useful. It also was nice to know I wasn’t being completely self-delusional, that helps, too.

[Link to my google.doc with notes and resources; I tend to leave out vowels but it can generally be figured out.]

Linchpin or Doormat?


Absolutely necessary or essential.

necessary – needful – essential – imperative – requisite


The thing we wipe our feet on coming & going

It’s obvious what I’m reading from my title; and yes, I’m a little behind the pop-culture curve.

You can also tell I’m a bit ambivalent. There is a fine line between being a, or the, doer (responsible, reliable, flexible, a linchpin) going the extra mile to do your job well and being used by those that, simply, don’t. Being used is not part of anyone’s job description, but it is the result when colleagues abdicate their duties/responsibilities and expect someone to pick up the slack, effectively purloining the efforts of others. The reason for this is irrelevant. Yet, to allow it more than once, is my fault (shame me once, shame me twice) and the extent I allow it is indicative of the value I place on the work. Getting used tends to cheapen any accomplishment.

While it is also the height of vanity to think any one person is irreplaceable, when I’m not present, I’d like there to be a gap. I’d like my absence to be noted, felt. I’d like to be a contributor, not a space-saver. I also agree with the importance of doing your best and being your best in all situations. The cliche about attitude is everything is paramount to anyone’s ability to overcome obstacles, to persevere through the challenges, to attain the goal or goals set. And, requisite to accomplishing anything: not being afraid to do the little extra required; work is not a dirty four letter word. Lastly, the importance of giving of your time, your self (not your mere presence), and, that giving is not giving if you give to get; gifts should not have strings

My ambivalence also stems from something I can’t quite put my finger on, something disingenuous. It’s an unsettled, skeptical feeling I have after reading the book. If you are giving to the world around you, a true gift without strings, you’re not focused upon yourself. The whole book, though, is about giving and knowing you’ll be rewarded; the whole book is focused upon ‘self.’ Frankly, focusing on yourself tends to leave little room for others. Plus, I don’t really see the insight in writing that craftsmanship will find a niche in the market; I don’t see the insight when ‘capitalism’ is ‘bad,’ but greed is not discussed; I don’t see the insight in disparaging day-to-day work.

I guess, I feel like the message is to create your linchpin status at any cost. You need to be liked, you need to give, you need to be focused on yourself, you need to…whatever. No, you don’t. There should be a line, a mental stop sign, because you do not have to like everyone you work with (or be liked by them…liking is irrelevant) to do a job well and maintain professionalism, because you don’t have to be stepped on and treated like a door mat to create a linchpin status, because several working together for a common goal can usually achieve more than most individuals. I absolutely agree, to do your job well, to do anything well, requires doing more than the minimum. It does require an internal commitment to being more than average and an understanding that doing this work will probably not result in applause. But, it also requires finding the right people to accomplish a task. It requires looking beyond your self to really find the purpose to make a difference.