Tag Archives: science

Just For the Fun Of It: Teacher Training Challenge

I was part of the Illinois Science Teacher Association teacher in-service recently. I have presented at ISTA conferences before but this time it was different. There were five of us, from all over the state of Illinois and we had never met! We were presenting Next Generation Science Standards in a three-hour teacher workshop. Sound daunting?

It was possible with Google Docs.

I use Google Docs with my students in STEM class. The beauty is real time collaboration. Each student can make changes to a document and everyone in the group can see the changes immediately. Every child is on their own computer, participating.

I created a presentation in Google Docs called ISTA Presentation. Google Docs saved the presentation with a designated URL. I shared the document with my four co-presenters. We then used Google Hangout (like Skype) to discuss our ideas together. I was at home on the couch. Talk about a happy hour!  Each of us volunteered to add slides to the document. It was collaborative and friendly.

We finally met one another the day of the conference. We briefly discussed the presentation, making small changes. I admitted I was nervous but confident. The beauty was I had one small part of one large presentation. I wasn’t freaking out, redoing the slides 5 minutes before the presentation. We all adopted a blind faith attitude.

The presentation went beautifully. Our participant surveys were positive and I met some really great teachers.  The experience opened up a whole new way of presenting.



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Biomimicry and Skype

Several years ago I was at the Monterey Bay Aquarium where I watched a movie about how engineers are using a concept called biomimicry, using nature as an inspiration for design (think Valcro). I wrote down the names of two scientists with the intent of skyping them into my classroom. It finally happened and the experience was amazing for Dr. Frank Fish, my students, and myself. Dr. Fish works in Pennsylvania at West Chester University. His research includes designing high performance wind turbines. He used his research in water organism fin performance to design a wind turbine that stalls (no longer creates lift) at a much higher angle of attack. In addition he is designing a robot modeled after a sea ray. I cold-e-mailed Dr. Fish and he agreed to Skype with us. My students were transfixed. I asked the kids to develop questions but they were so interested in his research, we did not have time to cover the questions. He was in his office and pulled out models of rays, turbines, and a dusty whale fin piece. He was interesting, funny, and very informative. Later my students showed me two science projects inspired by his appearance in our classroom.
I then introduced the Biomimicry Student Challenge (see below). In two weeks the kids will start a design project choice. I can’t wait.


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