Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hello World

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink"
                                                                                       ~English Proverb

As I begin to sit down to write my first ever blog post, I find that I am frustrated teacher.  I find that as I struggle to make my class the most meaningful experience I can make it, there are still many students that are not engaged.  They would rather play a game on their calculator or do homework for another class than be an active member of my class.  Although I think some of that behavior speaks about them, I feel it also speaks about my class. 

I have been using the CPO Curriculum for the last 5 years, and have come to the conclusion that I love the hands on style of teaching, but I need to find a better means to make that happen.  At this point, I find myself very interested in Modeling Instruction, and over the last few weeks find myself inspired by Frank Noschese, Dan Meyer,and Paul Lockhart.  I'm sure that list of people will continue to grow as I continue to dive into the Web 2.0 world.  One thing that stands out to me about these three is that they go to great efforts to create a "hook" that gets their students to want to know more.  By selecting the proper "hook," they can have their students realize for themselves how nature works.  I think that may be part of what is missing in my class.  The CPO curriculum provides everything for the students.  They get so caught up in the procedure provided to them, that they miss the actual physics happening in front of them.  They do not need to think for themselves, so perhaps they, in the end, just see this as a different form of busywork.

As I begin to try to create my own footprint in the digital world, I don't just want to parrot what I find interesting, but maybe, try to bring something new to the table.  That is, to synthesize what I find others have done with my own experiences in the classroom.  My hope is maybe there are some other teachers out there that are beginning to think the same way as me.  Perhaps you're ahead of me, maybe you're behind, but as I begin to tell of my journeys into a better classroom experience, I'd love to read your thoughts as well.  

With all of that in mind, I'm not sure a hook is truly what is necessary.  So if I may, I'd like to possibly change the description of that beginning of class prompt, for if all we are using is a "hook," then all we as teachers can try to do is pull our students to the water.  I know I haven't begun using Modeling in my classroom yet, but is that all our students need to be inspired to become active members of a physics class?  Maybe we shouldn't be thinking of something that will pull our students along, but rather something that will make them want to be an active learner:
"You can't force a horse to drink the water,
but you can salt the oats."


  1. Just taking the first steps to recognize there's room for improvement and being open to exploring what opportunities exist tells me you'll be successful... can't wait to read more!

    (You can salt the oats, but you can also hold the horse's head underwater until the water literally seeps into its pores...) :-)

    Good luck!

  2. I am a first year teacher struggling with all these questions and reading these other great blogs as well. I am inspired, almost overwhelmed with new questions and intrigued about how to get closer to the teacher they need.

    I look forward to reading about your journey. I have found the honesty in what other educators write validating and useful in my own learning.

    So here is a short story of my experience last week with hooks. It has been surprising what hooks them and what is just more information coming at them.

    As part of a introductory lecture and notes about the levels of organization of the human body and the nervous system (where many had their head in their hand trying to stay awake even as I told cool stories about the amazing things nerves could do for them), I put up a slide of a drawing of a planaria that was titled, "Can this guy feel?" I said nothing and the questions started to flow within 5 seconds. The slide was a lucky after thought and I hadn't really planned what I was going to say about it very well.

    After a short discussion about this planaria the bell rang. The next day, someone said, "where is the picture of the worm?" I never, ever would have guessed they would be intrigued by this drawing. They asked to see a Youtube video of a real one, so we watched one. Then a video called, "Planaria and Stem Cells" was up next and they wanted to watch that. I said we needed to move on then reconsidered. One student said, "Oh, you are going to let us because it is about cells, right?" I said, yup, and asked them if they knew what stem cells were and could do. (Funny it took me a few seconds to see a huge gift right in front of me). They had led me to a better way to teach them what cells basically are and how different types of cells have different jobs to do, (Structure and function). I also realized I should show a video of embryogenesis for them to see the process of cells dividing (not growing bigger) and differentiating to become different organs and tissues. The video had all sorts of images of planaria regrowing heads and tails and forming two heads after being cut. But they also sat and listened to the scientists talking about how they are using the planaria to study regeneration and stem cells.

    Umm, we are studying the human body. Well, I am game to use this to get to a better understanding of what cells are.

    What I learned, sticking to the enter of a lesson often is not the best way to get to the best understanding of the main idea of a lesson. Exploring the side connections is ? necessary?

    Sorry for the long reply. Good luck with the new blog.

  3. Mr. F and Chris, thanks for the response. Chris I agree that if we have found something that sparks their interest, we should use it to our advantage. I taught Bio my first few years, and was complete overwhelmed by the amount of content. Good luck!

  4. Welcome to the wonderful world of Physics blogging. My modeling workshop was the first step to a new era in my teaching. But it was my blog that really opened my eyes to true professional development. Best of luck to you. Enjoy your modeling workshop it is the best thing I've done as an educator.

  5. Thanks Bryan. I'm really looking forward to it.