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It’s Finally Here!
I’m pleased to announce the Virtual Summer Camp for 2013, the 5th Anniversary of the original!
This year’s Virtual Summer Camp was created with Weebly, a web tool that lets the user create their own website from a variety of templates. In the past, I’ve used different web tools that included Blogger, LiveBinders, Scoop.it, and Learni.st, always looking for different ways to visualize the camp.
Access to all previous camps is included here as well as an array of brand new offerings. The offerings this year are broken into three areas: New Web 2.0 Apps, new Mobile Apps, and a Campfire section that is specific to professional development and global connectivity.
All of the Web 2.0 Apps and Mobile Apps are geared toward Multi-Mediating your professional practice, enhancing singular media content and looking for opportunities to invite multiple versions of content into the learning process.
I purposefully limited the offerings this year for two reasons...24 opportunities are still a lot to investigate AND you have access to previous years Summer Camps that open up multiple opportunities for further resources if you choose to explore them.
I encourage you to not only investigate the offerings in the Virtual Summer Camp but also to investigate Weebly as a Web 2.0 tool. It’s easy to create a website and the drag and drop interface is so easy to use. While it took me awhile to find the individual resources for the camp; it took a minimal amount of time to actually create the Weebly page to house them. This alone could be awesome for students as a demonstration of their learning, allowing them to show and share what they know in a free platform.
I wish you the best of summers! Teachers are amazing, especially in the wake of all the media attention around evaluations and value added measures. I know that you do what you do because you love kids and you value the system of instruction and preparation to move kids to a desired destination. You are rock stars and I am humbled by your efforts, regardless of the bureaucracy and political issues. You do what’s best for kids and I wholeheartedly support that! I hope that you find some useful resources in what I’ve put together for this year’s summer camp.
I look forward to conversing with you and enhancing the offerings as the summer heats up. Keep up the good work and know that you are valued, awesome, and integral to the growth of our country and citizens! You are amazing, and I’m so honored to share this Virtual Summer Camp with you!
Have a great Summer 2013!
Note: The new site is optimized for Mobile Devices too, so you can camp on the go!
Upgrade Your Curriculum now available in the ASCD store
Warning: I just saw Billy Collins speak, so I apologize if I try to be too poetic.
I'm learning that teaching is a dynamic and personal profession. Every day has solidified that I found myself doing exactly what I should be doing. It is upbeat, energetic, and significant. What I have noticed about myself as a new teacher, however, is that I am still a rookie at managing the circus. It's not just about teaching; I'm pretty good at planning a lesson. It's not about being in front of the class; subbing has definitely prepared me for that. It's about the 1,000 decisions you make daily: when can this student use the bathroom, should the students be allowed to use their notes on the activity, should that child really be working that partner, just to name a few. This is one aspect of the dynamic nature of teaching.
The optimistic part of this is that I think these decisions get easier once you start answering them frequently, and seeing how they play out... in other words "experience." And I know we already read about and discussed these things in class, but I'm going to rock the boat and say that it's completely different than when you're in the line of fire. It's the difference between theory and practice (which I intend to have a full blog about later). But you can have a set of automatic classroom management answers, and this will surely help. But the practice of entering a classroom and thinking on your feet is what is most needed to help you become a better ringmaster of the circus.
"What was taken away from my children's education
in order to make them better at taking standardized tests?"
- Alfie Kohn (USA Today, 2001)
Parents send their children to kindergarten full of hope, dreams, creativity, and energy. Teachers don’t use the term “joy of learning” in kindergarten, because students are curious and naturally enjoy discovery at learning centers. Students smile and laugh in whole group, small group, and independent settings. School is a place to learn with friends and to explore how things work. In the third grade, most states begin administering high-stakes tests to students. This is when anxiety begins and students discover that “The Test” is the main thing.
Test Anxiety creates feelings of fear, hopelessness, depression, low self-esteem, and resentment. Some students are naturally anxious and they would develop Test Anxiety on their own. Parents, community members, teachers and administrators are the reason a majority of students develop Test Anxiety. This article will address ways that adults have created a fear of testing and what can be done to redirect the way we prepare for the annual high-stakes tests.
Test Prep Boot Camp
What comes to mind when you hear the term “Boot Camp?” I think of a drill sergeant yelling at the troops, push-ups, and training camp. It does not seem like something that would motivate an eight year old to increase performance. Some schools purchase camouflage t-shirts and the staff walk around in fatigues. There are companies which profit off the Boot Camp mentality by selling camouflage pencils, stickers, certificates, and t-shirts. The final two months of the spring are spent in drill and kill review sessions. While this approach may sound like something from a movie about education, it happens each spring in a school near you.
Test Pep Rally
As a fifth grade teacher, I remember leading our K-5 students in a Beat the Test Pep Rally. We had cheers, songs, and skits like a high school pep rally. At a high school pep rally, students cheer and work themselves into a frenzy as their team prepares to slay their archrival. One year, my students designed a banner to run through (i.e., Friday Night Football). While the Test Pep Rally sounds like a positive approach, it raises anxiety and sends a message to students that this is very important! Don’t let your team, your teachers, or your family down with a low test score.
Test Survival Kit
When I think of the term survival, I think of a hurricane, fire, snow storm, loss of power, poverty, and being stranded in the middle of Mt. Everest without any food. I struggle to see how a Test “Survival Kit” motivates students to do their best on the test. In some schools, the PTA or the teachers create survival kits with a ziploc bag, snacks, a pencil, candy, and a motivational quote or poem. The San Diego Unified School District has directions for creating a Test Survival Kit. What is the opposite of survival? Do we want students to “survive” a high-stakes test or do their best on any assessment that they face in life. Using terms like courage, perseverance, and success to prepare students for a test may be the reason so many students end up discouraged and feeling like a failure.
Test Prep Packets
In the spring, teachers across the U.S. begin making photocopies of sample test items and preparing students for the “big test.” Have you ever noticed how often the copy machine breaks in the spring? Teachers use test prep books, released items from other states, teacher created items, and district assessments to prepare students for the “big test.” As a parent, I have witnessed test prep packets that are over twenty pages long. Teachers tell students, “Don’t worry. We don’t have to complete the packet this week. We will spend the next two months working through the packet so you will rock the test!” In some schools, there is pressure from parents to provide test prep packets. If you are the only teacher not providing a test prep packet, some families may see you as a weak teacher. Test anxiety can be created by families.
Test Prep Strategies
It is sad to see how many days are spent teaching third grade students to completely bubble in the circle. Our students have Instagram, XBox 360, Skype, and iPhones. Do we really think they need more than one class period on filling in the circle? Test prep strategies include the process of elimination, reading for the main idea, using your scratch paper to solve problems, pacing yourself throughout the test, and searching for the ‘best answer.’ It is inappropriate to send students into a test unprepared. However, I believe most of these skills can be taught throughout the year, rather than during the final two weeks prior to the test. All students need to have access to test strategies.
‘Curricular Reductionism’ is another popular method of improving student test scores. Curricular Reductionism is a narrow focus on the tested subjects or exclusion of certain skills and concepts because they cannot be measured on a multiple-choice test. This frequently means that science, social studies, and the arts are taught bi-weekly, bi-monthly, or not at all in elementary and middle schools across the United States. This type of instruction does not support student understanding.
Parent Pep Talks
I have seen more harm from parent pep talks than any other form of test prep. Principals place pressure on teachers to perform and teachers place pressure on students. When parents receive survival kits, notes from their teacher, test prep packets, inspiring poems and breathing techniques, they receive the message.
Parents can create test anxiety by saying:
1. Are you ready for the test? You really need to do your best.
2. This test will impact the teachers you get next year.
3. You have never had a test this big. Please do your best.
4. Are you nervous; because mom is nervous?
5. I am going to pray for you, because this is a really big test.
Test anxiety is a plea for help. We claim to provide a safe learning environment for students. Safety should include mental health and the joy of learning.
The ASCD Whole Child tenants are:
When we review the key terms in a Whole Child school, they do not sound like Boot Camp, Pep Rally, Survival Kit, Test Prep Packets, Pep Talks, or Curricular Reductionism. If students are taking standards-based tests, then schools will be able to prepare students through unpacking the standards and teaching the key skills and concepts outlined in the standards. There seems to be hysteria each spring. Together, adults can support the Whole Child and we may be able to cure test anxiety.
“You are not merely here to make a living. You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.” – Woodrow Wilson
Let’s face it, none of us chose a career in education because of the opportunities for obtaining great wealth. You probably heeded the calling to be an educator because you wanted to make a meaningful difference in the lives of kids, and felt you had the capability of doing so. As President Wilson suggests, we are here to enrich the world – not our stock portfolios (whatever those are!?).
One way we express our passion is through storytelling. Over the years, I have heard many heartwarming stories of how teachers have interacted with their students in ways that made positive and lasting changes in the lives of young people. Oftentimes, however, they were not aware at the time that they had such a profound impact on a young boy or girl.
At a school concert, during my first year as a music teacher, one of my clarinet players was clinging to her father’s promise that he would show up to watch her play her first solo. He never did. I was very young and wasn’t exactly sure what to say to this young 10 year old girl who could not stop crying after the concert. I eventually spoke from my heart and told her, “When I get married and have a daughter some day, I hope she is a lot like you.” Although I was certainly trying to make her feel better, I genuinely had a special place in my heart for this vibrant, sweet girl who worked very hard to be the best clarinet player she could be. Despite my desire to brighten her mood, she grunted a barely audible “thanks” to my comment, and continued to sob until her mother picked her up (her mom also wasn’t in attendance). Thirteen years later, I was at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant with my wife and four children. As we were being seated, I heard someone yell, “MR. ELMENDORF!” When I turned around, I saw the clarinet player, except now she was a 23 year old young woman. (It’s not often that young women come up to me in restaurants and put their arms around me, so it was quite the scene). She asked if I remembered her, which I assured her I did. Then she saw the little girl next to me and said, “Is that your daughter?” “Yes!” I responded. My former student then looked at me with a big smile and asked, “Is she as much like me as you hoped she would be?”
My pastor shared a story in a sermon that has helped me to understand that what we do every day has a lasting impact, even if we don’t notice it right away. It’s called Pushing Against the Rock. It is about a man who was directed to continuously push against a large rock. The man pushed against the rock for a long time with no noticeable results. After many years of apparent failure, the frustrated man questioned what he was doing wrong and why he had not moved the rock. The answer given to him was that he had really not failed at all; he was called to be faithful to his cause, and he had demonstrated trust in following through with great determination. By pushing against the opposing force of the rock, the man had grown far stronger than before with large arm, leg and back muscles. As a reward for his faithful efforts and perseverance, the rock was moved for him.
As a teacher in the 1990’s, I tried to bring immediate comfort to a distraught little girl and felt like I had failed miserably. I now realize that we, as educators, have been called to be faithful and obedient to our calling to enrich the world, even if we don’t see immediate rewards, or any rewards at all, for our daily toil. In the end, we will all be stronger for our commitment to the cause.
We’ve been using Skype for nearly a decade now to communicate with our friends and family all over the world by voice, video and instant message for free. As teachers, we’ve always contemplated the possibilities this technology could open up, but ladies and gentlemen, it appears that we’ve been living under a rock for some time now.
Allow us to introduce Skype in the Classroom, a collaborative space where users can connect and collaborate with businesses, non-profit organizations, scholars and experts across the globe—even those at the top of Mount Everest! We’ll get to this in a minute.
Once you head over to the site, you can narrow your search by culture, geography, history, languages, math and science to name a few. Once you’ve found your niche, browse away. Here are a few opportunities that stuck out to us:
For English and Art Teachers
We’ve talked about digital storytelling and using comic-book generators to make writing less intimidating for our students, but what if you were to supplement these activities by Skyping with a real graphic novelist—for free?
Meet Stephen McCranie, a graphic novelist of an all-ages graphic novel series (published by Penguin) called Mal and Chad. If you sign up for one of his 25-minute Skype sessions, your students will watch McCranie sketch out his digital comic and learn “fundamental ideas about storytelling and drawing, and how both are essential to making great comics.”
At the end, McCranie runs a Q and A and takes a drawing request from the audience which he signs, turns into a PDF, and sends to your class!
For History and Science Teachers
Everyone should see Yellowstone National Park in their lifetime, but it’s unlikely that you’ve got enough fairy dust to make it happen for your class. Thanks to Beth, a park ranger at Yellowstone, your students can visit the world’s first national park through Skype.
During their session, your students will learn more about the wildlife, geology and cultural history the park preserves. Beth is open to “almost any type of program” you’d like to set up and will even play "interview a ranger" or "guess that park," a mystery Skype game.
Noteworthy opportunities for using Skype in the classroom
Want to physically climb Mount Everest? Neither do we, but we’d be more than happy to use Skype to join explorer Mark Wood on his Everest adventure.
In March 2013, Wood will be leading an expedition through the Nepalese side of the Himalayas in an attempt to summit Mount Everest and he’s looking for 10 schools from 10 different countries to watch him do it.
If your class is selected, your students will not only get to watch the ascent, they’ll also learn about the problems the Nepalese people face because of climate change. In addition to this, students will hear a climate specialist talk about the shifting glaciers and how they impact the local people as well as the rest of the planet."
We’ve only scratched the surface here, so stop by Skype in the Classroom and explore the endless Skyping opportunities for your students and yourself!
For days I have been trying to make sense of what happend in Newtown Connecticut. A senseless crime at an elementary school that left so many beloved dead. Families torn apart and emotionally scarred by this tragedy. I look at the faces of the 27 victims and see a history of people who have touched my life, young students who once filled my first grade classroom, teachers I have coached and mentored; their classroom filled with laughter, joy and passion. This type of tragedy could of happend in any class, or neighborhood, to any child and teacher.
As a professor in teacher education the question "What can I do to best prepare teachers for the "21 Century"changed dramatically on December 14th. Today I think about the 21 century classroom as much more than Smartboards, Ipads, and internet access. I think about the violent crimes that are becoming more and more prevalent in todays' schools and I ask myself what "if anything" teachers can do to prevent these types of occurrences.
When I began teaching in South Central Los Angeles, school lock downs and gang shootings were a common event. When the bell rang to indicate a lock down, we bolted our door and students were not allowed to leave until another bell rung signaling safety. This was not the training I received in my teacher education program, but the reality I faced each day as a teacher. So the question of "how do we address this issue" is so much more complex than bolting a door and hiding for cover, although basic safety is something we often take for granted.
As a society we must also address how we deal with children who have mental illness. I do not believe there are not signs of abnormal behavior that are indicators of a potential problem. We need to get better at identifying these problems and become much more comfortable about having a "tough conversation" after all these conversations are what prevent problems from spiraling out of control. DENIAL only leads to a ROCK BOTTOM that impacts everyone.
Second, we need to shift gears in our society, whereas money has become our most precious commodity, it really should be our CHILDREN. They are the future and if you want to know what the future will look like, then just look at the present. Right now we are dealing with issues of school violence that has escalated from the Columbine shooting in 1999 (which according to Wikepedia is ranked the fifth deadliest shooting) to Sandy Hook (ranked #2). I wonder what the future will hold in ten years when my toddler is entering high school? The very fact that we even have a ranking system of school shootings makes me irate beyond belief. What will the future hold when our society sensationalizes school shootings and focuses more understanding the perpetrator than make some hard decision that will protect our children in the future.
Finally let's not forget the elephant in the room "Gun Control" the very fact that someone can own and freely use guns that hold hundreds of rounds of ammo and at the age of twenty can exercise his "free will" to enter a school and destroy lives is beyond my comprehension. The "right to bear arms" should be changed to the "right to live life". This is a basic right that is not articulated in the United States Constitution but one that is our birth right.
When we examine any problem in our personal life and in society the common denominator is communication. We need to get real about what is happening in our society and make some tough choices that will protect our "right to live".
In my profession I need to step away from my fear about the reality of teaching. Too often we paint a rosy picture to our future educators so that they embrace their new profession with hope and greatness. But we need to let our future educators know that the problems they will encounter in the classroom today is more likely than not one they types of problems they dealt with as a student.
Preparing teachers for 21 Century classrooms is more complex than I could ever imagine. I want my students to know that as future educators they need to know how to advocate for themselves and their students. Too often in my experience I found that problems in education were "brushed under the carpet" either because of a lack of funding, knowledge or resources. As a K-12 teacher there were a few instances where I was threatened with my job because I stood up for what I believed in. As a society, we need to support our teachers with better salary, resources and job training so they can be the best they can be.
We need to also focus on educating the whole child which means taking into account the social, emotional and psychological development of children and not just their academic achievement on a standardized test. When it comes to technology in the school, there is an inherent danger if the focus is on the latest tools and tricks to keep students on task. Teachers also need to know how to connect with 21 Century student who may spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using technology. If the majority of their school day is using technology as well, how will we ever know our students and best support them as they go through the developmental stages of life?
This was written this past summer when I was thinking about leaving the teaching profession and pursuing a life of academic research. My truest calliing however, has not been answered by scientific research but by science education and that is where I happily remain to this day.
A Little Bit About My Story, Where I Came From, How I Became a Teacher, What I Have Learned
I was born in Orlando, Florida on November 27, 1984. I spent most of my childhood outside, playing sports, swimming, climbing trees, and planting gardens. One of my favorite activities was walking along the beach while watching a magical display of heat lightening. After a few close calls involving car accidents in high school, I moved to Tallahassee, FL where I tried to experience and learn as much as possible. After the finish of 5 years, I had earned a Bachelors of Science in Biology (with minors in Chemistry, Math, and Art), traveled around the world, was acting in an activist theater troop, and spending my free time experimenting on the most efficient and less smelly methods to compost. I also had three chickens, a goose, 2 rabbits, a dog, and a beautiful organic farm where I daily fed the birds.
Florida wasn't supposed to be my home forever though so I moved to California and lived with my college sweetheart who was working there as a teacher through Teach for America. After a long period of searching, I got a job as a lab technician. My boyfriend and I were happy enough for a little while but I didn't have my own life established there and could feel deep down in my bones that it wasn't where I was supposed to be yet.
Upon moving back to Florida, I got accepted 2 two PhD programs with Teaching Assistantships, a tuition waver, and a stipend for all 6 years. I had always shined in Biotechnology, it came more than just natural to me, and it was like a sleeping second nature that only came to life in the sterile lab environments I had worked in since starting college. As a undergrad, I had worked in a plant genetics laboratory and botany lab, performing micro-dissections of freeze dried mutant and wild-type plants that I great and took care of as well. Then, after carefully making tiny knives to cut out tiny cells, I would isolate the DNA in those cells and hand it over the Graduate Student who would then be labeling it for all sorts of wonderful genes that would help make plants grow more efficiently without losing their natural nutritious value.
During my junior and senior year of college, while my friends were out drinking, I spent my Friday and Saturday (or sometimes Sunday nights) in the library doing my own independent research on the infection pathway of HIV, past and present medicines to treat the disease, and hoping that maybe a page would be bent in half that allowed me to read something in a new way, leading to a cure for HIV (which I would not then, and never will now nor in the future take the credit for if one were to unexpectedly show up from a morally conscious researcher who had the passion and dedication to actually bring the infected suffering EVERYWHERE in the world for a cost-effective price.)
Anyways, after coming back from California, I found myself sleeping on a very generous friends couch while working in a Biotechnology Lab funded by the Department of Energy. The lab was in the business of genetic engineering plants to do what we wanted them to do: produce as much bio fuel as possible. I was taken in as if I was another member in the rather funny assemblage of characters. I think out of the 12 PhD and grad students working there, not a single person was from the same country and almost every continent in the world was someone’s homeland. I loved the diversity and the excitement of cloning genetically modified sugar cane, inserting new genes, growing roots, stem, or shoots whenever I wanted to, and taking care of the plants as well.
Somehow though, fate, as she has been known to do, took me in a completely different direction. I needed a second job to save up before going to grad school. I was informed about a substitute-teaching job that had opened up at a rather unorthodox charter school. I've never been one to turn down an opportunity to fine tune my interpersonal skills and learn about new people and what they are passionate about. It turns out that those to characteristic traits landed me a job teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th graders math as a permanent substitute for the rest of the school year (this was January) and I was to start the day after the interview.
I had never stood in front of a classroom to teach in my life. The school was a perfect fit for me though... the wonderful middle school children there tended to not wear shoes... started the day with some African drumming and Brazilian martial arts, ate lunch outside with me everyday, and grew their own organic garden. Instead of band, they had "ROCK BAND!" where a former rock star taught them how to play electric guitar, drums, keyboards, and some other synth instruments. Then there would be recitals where they did orchestral versions of the Beetles, the Grateful Dead and Earth, Wind and Fire. They produced wonderful abstract plays, read coming of age books, and had names like River, Happiness, Peace, and Oak.
I spent ALL of my free time for the first 2 months figuring out what it meant to be a teacher. (4 years later, I'm still doing that same thing!) At the same time, I had this idea that if I was really meant to be with my now ex boyfriend in San Francisco, that I would be pulled there. I started developing an urge to apply to teaching programs. After being denied by Teach for America, I applied to 6 of the Teaching Fellows Programs ran by The Project for New Teachers (TPNT). I got an interview with all of them. Flying all over the country was not a possibility so I chose the one in Oakland (my hopes and dreams) and one in Chicago a couple weeks earlier in order to practice for Oakland.
There's a long story about to develop here but I want to save that for another time. I got accepted to CTF and not OTF. Within 3 weeks of being accepted, everything fell into place in the best possible way possible. I was horrified of the cold and the unknown. I had only been to Chicago to interview and take certification tests. I knew the training would be grueling but that somehow, I'd make it. (I did, but not because of my own regard but because of the wonderful support of the other fellows and the ALWAYS positive, supportive, and smile directions of the Chicago Teaching Fellows.
I finished that summer of training thinking that my life had changed so radically that I barely knew who I was... Little did I know that I would have that same realization after every single year of teaching while I stayed in CPS; I have learned more from my students and colleagues about the world, other people, and myself than I ever would have traveling around the world aimlessly for 5 years as a Buddhist or in the peace corps (both sincere desires of mine on many occasions). I even learned more, became more mature, wise, and eloquent than the 6 years I would have spend obtaining my PhD for free.
These past three years have been the most formative years of my entire life. They have completely shaped who I am, and if I didn't love my students and the neighborhoods that I teach in so damn much, I'd keep going on and on about how selfish I am.
Every year, I fall in love with about 120 children, the majority of whom have experienced a life far worse than I previous to this experience could have possibly realized. By they came to class everyday, smiled, made jokes, and, despite their academic deficits, struggled with as much energy as their teenage bodies could muster to understand and comprehend complex biology concepts and scientific-based readings.
I'm writing this today, on June 29, 2012 because I am about to do something that makes me sad in the "your children are moving away to go to college" type of heartbreak. Only I'm the one that might be leaving.
I had a particular tough winter and started noticing signs that it was time to go back to school. There is a saying that goes "after first, the universe kindly observes as you walk astray, as you get further from your path, the life-giving force will gentle whisper signs into your life to direct you back towards your destiny. However, I did what I believe many people do, I ignored them and busied myself in unimportant tasks. When you do that.... the universe starts to scream in your ear so loud that you go deaf, and it might take more than just a few months for some people to recover.
The screaming started this winter... I got caught in a tough position trying to do what I believed was rite, even though the person that I would be exposing had more influence and power than me and everyone had recommended I keep quiet. I have never been the type of person that can let injustices and cruelty happen to people I am capable of helping, and this hit close to home, he was one of my students. If you mess with my students, you mess with their wonky biology teacher.
Things at work got awkward. I had been dating a teacher at another school for a few years, and that relationship came to a bitter end. My student loans came due, I was in a car crash, and had payments for a new car I could not afford. I am not ashamed to admit that I was so overwhelmed at the time that I started seeing a psychology (who I am still grateful to have met at that point in my life and always will be). He helped me let go of things I could not control and to focus on those that I could.
My goal to get my PhD after getting a masters degree had never gone away, it merely went on the back burner. And then one day, I found myself at a Graduate School open house at DePaul. It was obvious to me that after the conversation I had with their Dean of Admissions, that I had no choice but to apply and let the universe help me get back on track. I also applied to Loyola and Northwestern.
Well back to a little bit earlier when I eluded that today would be a big day. My application for all three schools are above their admission requirements, completed online, paid for, and have been reviewed by the Biology Department Graduate School Committees at each school. They have been reaching out for me for a couple of weeks now to get my to send them the rest of my materials my application can be considered complete so they can officially make a decision. I know I made a fantastic candidate, and sometimes knowing who I am and what I'm capable of is a little bit scary. But this wasn't the reason that I didn't send in my official transcripts, GRE scores, and letters of recommendation. I didn't do this because I felt bad about leaving my kids behind and starting a new part of my journey.
The Universe has been whispering to me though, sending me signs here and there that this is the path I need to go in. Of course, as always, I've been ignoring them. Well, I am starting to hear the clearing of a throat before a loud, reprimanding scream and I agree, I am ready.
So today, just moments after I finishing typing this paragraph in fact, I am going to the post office and sending the materials I have, which were already in piles waiting to be sent for the past two weeks. I'm ready. It is time for me to continue of the journey of my life and experience new adventures.
I will never forget the names, faces, and life stories of each and every student that I taught, I will never forget they lessons they have taught me, and most of all, I was always be a better person for having taught on the South-West Side of Chicago for 3 years.
This is the syllbus for the class that I designed and taught this past summer for Northwestern's Center for Talent Development Summer Program for gifted kids. It was an amazing experience that forever changed me.
Course Title: Introduction to Biomechanics
Instructor: Robert Thollander Jr
Teaching Assistant: Aimee Frank
Ever wonder how divers, gymnasts, skaters or skiers flip so effortlessly in the air? The laws of mechanics apply to our bodies and affect the ways we are able, or not able, to move. Through sports and physical exercise, students study anatomy and Newton’s Laws of Mechanics to learn about the physical structure of the human body and its movements. Students also explore developments in sports medicine that have resulted from the study of biomechanics. Discussions, experiments, guest speakers and field trips teach students about this important and exciting area of study.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau
For millions of years the human body has been evolving, yet it still presents many challenges and mysteries. The industry of biomedicine is growing rapidly as scientists research how to understand disorders and cure diseases. Through laboratory work, readings and discussions, field trips and individualized scientific research students are introduced to the fundamentals of this specialized branch of science and critical and analytics thinking skills. Examination of essential biochemical reactions that occur in the body acquaint students with topics in chemistry; physics is included in the form of investigating biomechanics; and areas of biology such as evolution cell biology are explored. This course is an excellent introduction for students interested in the study of exercise sciences, medicine or advanced scientific investigation courses.
How do genes, cells, organs, and systems work in concert to keep the body working correctly?
What happens when there is a malfunction at one of the above levels?
How do researchers design studies to learn about how the body works? What questions do they ask?
How do medical professionals translate research study results into the medical practice?
What careers are available in biomechanics? How do you get there from here?
How does society decide what types of research and treatments are ethical?
How can you be an informed consumer of medical, news, and sports information and practices?
Is “skill” and “ability” inherited or a consequence of environmental factors?
Upon successful completion of this course, students will:
This course strives to give students with diverse learning styles multiple opportunities to access and demonstrate mastery of the material. Specific strategies include open answer tests (ie short answer), flexible groups, research projects, tiered assignments, creative projects, student-driven discussions, student-interest based teaching, in-class structured work time, primary document analysis, among others.
Resources and Materials
Biology Coloring Workbook (Princeton Review)
Anatomy Coloring Workbook (Princeton Review)
The Magic of Reality, Dawkins
Biomechanical Basis of Human Movement, Hamill
Introductory Biomechanics, Keer
Comparative Biomechanics: Life’s Physical World, Vogel
Flash drive for saving information
Notebook/loose leaf paper
Internet accessible computer
Binder/Folders (to organize Handouts)
The pre-test is designed to gauge students’ understanding of basic biology, chemistry, and physics principles as well as their ability to analyze, think critically, and express their thoughts in writing.
A+ 100-97% A 96-93% A- 92-90%
B+ 89-87% B 86-83% B- 82-80%
C+ 79-77% C 76-73% C- 72-70%
D+ 69-67% D 66-63% D- 62-60%
F below 60%
Participation – 10%, In-class work/Homework – 20%, Quizzes – 10%, Writing/Tests – 20%, Final Project – 40%
The final exam will test the depth of students’ understanding of the material presented and experienced over the three weeks. It will ask students think critically and apply their knowledge to solve new problems.
Monday, June 25
What is Biomechanics?
Scientific Method & Research
Characteristics of a Scientist
Characteristics of a Scientists
Expectations and Group Norms
Biology Family Photo Album
The Evolution of Biological Complexity
Letter to Self
The Basics of Cell Life Reading
Cell Structure & Function Review
10 Research Questions Related to Biomechanics
Tuesday, June 26
Homework Review & Quiz
The Magic of Reality introduction and preview
Bias in Research, Fact vs. Fiction, Objectivity vs. Subjectivity
Models, Diagrams, and how we come to understand the world around us
Evolution and Recognitional Characteristics of the Complex Brain
Anthropocentrism and Antropomorphism
Reading: Group and Individual: Ch. 1. What is Reality? What is Magic? & Ch. 2. Who was the First Person?
Diagrams, Figures, and Graphs to depict information in the sciences
Reading: Are Animals Property?
Creation of Origin Myth using Metaphorical Representations of the Scientific Rationales for Natural Phenomenas
Wednesday, June 27
Nature vs. Nurture
Role of Brain in Abilities and Talents
Good Research Questions
Thinking outside of the box
Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Anatomy, Physiology, Psycology, Philosophy, Economics, Demographics… Wait, I thought this class was called Biomechanics?
Group Research and Presentations
Computer Lab Research
Collaborating with other scientists to evaluate scientific research
Applications to Solving Human Problems
Personal Opinion Response: Role of Brain in Atheletic and Academic Ability
Chapter 3: Why are there so many different kinds of animals? Questions and Notes
Three Refined Research Questions
Notes on Peer Presentations
Thursday, June 28
The Makeup of Matter
Overview of Physics:
Forces, Gravity, Inertia, Potential and Kinetic Energy, Speed, Velocity, Acceleration, Mass, Matter, Weight, Resistance, Movement, Dynamics
Falling Objects Lab
Current Events in Biomechanics
Chapter 4: What are things made of?
Lab: Experimental Design
Position Time Graphs
Velocity Time Graphs
Discussion: Is there always a correct answer?
Reading: Devils Gardens
Electrophoresis Lab Report
Design a Creature: Form and Function
Physics of Racecars Problems
Physics Terminology and Diagram Quiz
Friday, June 29
Field Trip Brookfield Zoo
Underwater Dolphin Observations
Identify topic from exhibit for observational field studies
Finish Field Trip Notes
Reading: Chapter 1 Comparative Biomechanics
Monday, July 2
Hydrodynamics of Dolphins
Ecological Relationships, Interactions, Vulnerabilities
Wild Reef Tour and Exhibit
Oceanarium Show: Dolphins, Penguins, Beluga Whales, and Training Aniamls
Shedd Aquarium Notes
Chapter 5: Why do we have night and day, winter and summer?
Chapter 6: What is the sun?
Reading, questions, predictions, summarizations, diagrams.
Re-read Chapter 1 and Create Questions from Reading
Tuesday, July 3
Homework Review and Folder Organization
Movement, Axisis of the Body, Planes, Movement of Planets, Sports Movements, Frames of References, Anamatomical Locations, Degrees of Freedom, Applications for your own Sport
Test (2 hours): Choose 5 of the 10 Essay Questions
The World Without Oil Movie
Review Discussion and Questions, Group/Peer teaching
A Bee Dance: Reinacting the Communication of Bees in a hierarchy of community organization and application of axis, body planes, and biomechanical definions of Movement
Use websites to find and review 10 scientific current events involving Biomechanics
Who, what, when, where, why, how?
Create a scientific NewsBrief!
Wednesday, July 4
Homework Review & Quiz
Deep Space Homer
The Evolution of Biological Complexity
Designing a Robot
Final Project Individual
Final Research Proposal
Activity: Rock Climbing
Conferences with Instructor and TA
Concept Brainstorming and Refinement
Biomechanics 4th of July News Special! Achor People, Telling the world what is new and relevant! (10 minute videotaped presentations)
Chapter 7: What is a rainbow?
Chapter 8: When and how did everything begin?
Final Project Proposals Due
Thursday, July 5
Homework Review & Quiz
Fireworks and Biomechanics Review
Na/K pumps and eating a banana after a long run
Cellular Chemistry: ATP, simple sugars, storage molecules, proteins, DNA, RNA, the life and machinery of a cell
12 Body Systems and Anatomy Introduction
Using Multiple Sources to Synthesize information into a lesson plan and then delivering the information to your peers in a classroom setting (teaching others about the body systems)
Case Study: Devil Gardens part 2
Activity: Assignment of the 12 body systems and anatomy introduction, independent research
Review planes and axis of body,
Notes and Examples from Peer Presentations
Movie: The Body! And Alien Life Forms
Chapter 9: Are we alone?
Chapter 10: What is an earthquake?
RAFT and DIAGRAM 2.0: Connecting all the body systems… working together to complete a task!
Mythbusters Epidode Review
Continue Independent Research for Final Projects
Friday, July 6
Homework Review & Quiz on body systems
Cellular Energetics Part 2
The Brain/Body Connection
Scientific Sources and Independent Research in the Library
Vitalism vs. Mechanism
Skeletal Muscular Suystem
Psycology and Philosophy in Science
Muscular-Skeletal System Lab!
Psycology Introduction and Conditioning Lab
Refining your research topic and question
Peer Review Game
Chapter 2, 3, 4 from Biomehanical Basis of Human Movement
Ch. 2: Skeletal Considerations for Movement
Ch. 3: Muscular Considerations for Movement
Ch. 4: Nurological Considerations for Movement
Research Outline and Evidence
Peer Review and Classroom Academic Integrity
Monday, July 9
Homework Review & Quiz
Museum of Science and Industry
SMART home exhibit!
Field trip to the Museum of Science and Industry
SMART home exhibit!
Observational Field Studies at the Exhibits of your Choice
Work on Final Project
Study for Final Exam
Field Trip Follow Up
Chapter 11: Why do bad things happen?
Chapter 12: What is a miracle?
Tuesday, July 10
Homework Review & Quiz
The Mind Body Connection
Chapter 5: Functional Anatomy of the Upper Extremity
Chapter 6: Functional Anatomy of the Lower Extremity
Chapter 7: Functional Anatomy of the Trunk
Alternative Medicine Group Presentation
Movie: What the bleep do we know!?!
Work on Final Project
Biomechanics New Brief Part 2: 20 current events on new and upcoming technology!
Wednesday, July 11
Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Anatomy Review
Chapter 8: Linear Kinetmatics
Chapter 9: Angular Kinematics
Chapter 10: Linear Kinetics
Chapter 11: Angular Kinetics
Final Exam Review
Work on Final Project
Take home test and essay for The Magic of Reality by Dawkins
Study for Test on Biomechanical Basis of Human Movement textbook by Hamill and Knutzen
Thursday, July 12
Review of Physica and Anatomy
Course Review in Pictures
Making Models, Scientific Presentation Diagrams and Abstracts
Introduction to Biomechanics: Peer Teaching Part 2
Chapter 1: Fundamental of Force
Chapter 2: Gravity, mass, and stability
Chapter 3: Force Analysis: Graphs and Maths,
Chapter 4: Forces and Motion,
Chapter 5: Work and Machines
Chapter 6: Stress and Strain
Chapter 7: Composition and Mechanical Properties of Connective Tissue
Chapter 8: Flow
Chapter 9: Energy and Movement
Chapter 10: Therapeautic Application of Force
Test on Chapter 1-10
Teaching Each other the Review Chapters from the Introduction to Biomechanics book by Andy Kerr
Test on Chapter 1-10 (B.B.H.M.)
Followup on The Magic of Reality
Final Project Due tomorrow!
Friday, July 13
Have a great rest of the summer!
Continue Learning for the rest of your life!!!
Robert Thollander Jr. has always observed the world around us with a sense of wonder and amazement. His enthusiasm towards and passion for the living planet is contagious and if you walk into his classroom you'll find his students working hard on projects that share their newly acquired knowledge. Along with his experiences of researching in the rainforest and bio-genetically engineering sugar cane to make biofuel, he brings Biomechanics alive for his students at CTD. Robert was born in raised in Florida and attended Florida State University from 2003-2008. He moved to Chicago to obtain his teacher certification through Northwestern University and in September of 2009, he began working for AUSL on the West-Side. During the school year, Robert teaches Biology and Anatomy at Collins Academy High School where he combines inquiry-based science learning with literacy and content-based reading to ensure success for all of his students.
“I want to show you that the real world, as understood scientifically, has magic of its own – the kind I call poetic magic: an inspiring beauty which is all the more magical because it is real and because we can understand how it works…The magic of reality is – quite simply – wonderful. Wonderful and real. Wonderful because real.” Richard Dawkins
Robert can best be reach by email at email@example.com.
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Course Content Breakdown
Main Focuses of Animalia Architecture
Multidisciplinary Branches of Science
Organizing Principles (Themes)
Class Format for CTD
Historically Important Peoples and Institutions of Biomechanics
I’ve really gotten into Twitter over the last year or so. As far as social media networks go, I can’t think of a better one to connect people and ideas (truth be told, I only joined Facebook two months ago, so I can’t speak to its effectiveness, and no, I haven’t been living under a rock J). Besides sharing ideas, I greatly enjoy the many different chats designed for educators using Twitter. I am a regular participant in #edchat, and when I can, I love participating in #ptchat (parent/teacher chat) and anything related to science.
I’m also a lover of all things language, an ed policy follower, and a scientific skeptic by nature of my background. So, needless to say, I’m always paying attention to what members of our profession believe the next big educational “thing” will be, and what the inherent benefits and risks of that “thing” are. Some might call my devil’s advocacy and toe-dipping before jumping in “educational pragmatism,” others might simply call it “frustrating.” Regardless, as I’ve become a more frequent user of social media tools, I’ve started to think more and more about PLNs and our use of the term.
PLNs, or Personal Learning Networks, are referred to regularly in Twitter chats, and tend to mean a group of like-minded people who want to learn together. But, according to an excellent piece I read recently in the Teachers College Record, true PLNs should do much more than just bring people together to talk about similar ideas. While I won’t recount the entire study (it is a great read if you have a subscription), the basic premise of the paper I’m referring to is this: Real PLNs have to go beyond simply “talking,” and have to result in actual “doing.” Not only that, but they must do so with actual data as the roadmap. True PLNs, communities that actually operate as PLNs are “supposed” to, take on what the researchers term an “improving stance,” whereby teachers use data to focus on limitations in classroom practice. Weak PLNs spend more time validating their own worth by occupying what is referred to as a “proving stance.” In other words, proving to each other what works and doesn’t work in education based on their own practice, and usually what they believe they do quite well. The researchers also describe how ineffective PLNs use “disconnected talk,” where anecdotes are supplied without fact, and labels, generalization, and “buzzwords” are used regularly. They contrast this to “true” PLNs that use “inquiry-based talk,” where conversation spirals from participant to participant (no one participant “needs” the floor), and questions and discussions are always, always, based on data, and analyses are always, always, explored and reflected upon as a community.
What, if anything, does this have to do with Twitter? As I read this research, I began to think about all the times I’ve tweeted about how great it is to have a Twitter PLN, when, in all honesty, my engagement in Twitter chats is fairly “unPLN-like.” I would be willing to bet, that for many of you, it is the same. Chat discussions are often a hodge-podge of answers to questions that are extremely relevant, but often very general. This “big picture” focus provides a great jumping off point for participants to share their thoughts and beliefs, but very little opportunity to explore and analyze “real” and “crunchable” data. Most responses to questions, while regularly very empowering, provide anecdotes without much grounding, and only occasionally does anyone share/cite actual data. Yes, it is tough to do that in 140 characters. And yes, the fast pace of chats tend to make it difficult to stay focused for more than a second on any one tweet. But, why shouldn’t we make our online PLNs as data-driven and specific problem focused as our face-to-face ones?
Imagine this. . . What if #edchat (or any Twitter chat for that matter) was less about sharing beliefs and anecdotes and more about actually delving into a specific problem to solve? Or, what if (and maybe this happens already), #edchat serves as a general starting point and then members from that #edchat meet up (either virtually or in person) to look at some real data about the topic that was discussed and begin to hash out ideas, solutions, and next steps. In a future #edchat, this group could report back to the others “in attendance” and those interested would take these ideas back to their classrooms, districts, and face-to-face colleagues. True, this would drastically reduce the speed of the Twitter chatting phenomenon, and yes, it would require those of us who participate (like me, for instance) to do more than exchange emails or Skype every once in a while with other educators in my online “PLN.” But, if we’re going to use an educational “buzzword,” we should use it well, and more importantly, our actions should speak louder than our words (both the ones we truly speak and the ones we type).
I would love to experiment in turning an #edchat into a #beyondedchat. If you’re interested in exploring ways to make social media PLNs more like true PLNs, let me know. I would love to embark on a data-driven Twitter journey with you. Contact me through Edge, or you can always find me on Twitter at @fredende.
Deuel, A., Holmlund Nelson, T., & Slavit, D. (2012). Two Dimensions of an Inquiry Stance Toward Student-Learning Data. Teachers College Record, 114, 1-42.