Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Reflecting on Science and Technology PBL

I started off designing this task with a lot of excitement.  I had great visions in my head...engaged students deeply learning about the historical impact of science and technology on our world.

We started off by discussing the impact of science and technology on our personal lives.  I figured this would be a way for students to see that, even if they "hate" science like one student told me, science and technology influenced their everyday lives in a positive manner.  Some students talked their cell phones or laptops and others discussed how medical advances impacted their lives.

This led into the discussion of "best".  We brainstormed what "best" meant and how we could decide if a scientific or technological development was the "best".  You can see their work in the photo above.

To prepare for our work, we did some textbook work to get some background information and we also looked at the curriculum expectations that our tasks were supposed to illuminate.  Since the task was to write a documentary proposal, we watched a documentary in class, so that we had a frame of reference for what a documentary looks like.  Obviously, the students have viewed many documentaries, but this gave all of us the same reference point.  While watching the documentary, which was "Christianity: God and the Scientists", we used TodaysMeet as a back channel.  I value the use of a back channel while watching a documentary because it allows real time discussion of key points and engages the quieter students.

To allow the students an authentic audience for their work, they had to create one-minute pitches to sell their documentary.  I invited teachers in to see the pitches and to ask the students questions.  This made me nervous, because I feel it puts my teaching on display to my colleagues and I didn't want to mess up or appear to be a crappy teacher.  In hindsight, asking my colleagues to come in was a good idea, as it seemed to force some of the students to take the work more seriously because teachers they had before would be seeing their work.  They don't want to impress me; they want to impress last year's teacher!  It was fun hearing students (in a panicked voice), "I know Mr. Richards is going to ask this.  We have to have an answer."  Or "Mr. Nelson's coming?  Now I'm nervous".  Or "Mrs. King's intense!"

What I really enjoyed about this task was listening to the students collaborate.  At the beginning of the task, I sat down with each group to help them create a task list, so each student knew what they were responsible for.  I backed off checking in with them towards the end, because I could heard each group working together, challenging each other and coming up with solutions.  One day towards the end of the project, the students were working so intently that when the bell rang, most of them were visibly startled.  (This gives me an idea for a new post: The Problem with Bells.)

My concern about this task is that I forgot the "history" part of the unit.  Yes, at the beginning we talked about Bacon, Descartes, Galileo, etc. and discussed how technology played a role in the Industrial Revolution.  I'm afraid that in their work the students focused too much on present day and not the historical progression of how the technology changed society.

1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of having colleagues in to see student presentations. I'm so glad you did this. I also really like the "pitch" idea. Getting them to synthesize their proposals into a one minute pitch is a great idea to really help them focus on the most important/interesting aspects of their documentary.
    I wonder about the students focusing "too much on present day and not the historical progression of how the technology changed society." You said that you "looked at the curriculum expectations that our tasks were supposed to illuminate." I wonder what the students did with this after the fact. Might there have been a way for them to have to included this connection in their document proposal?