Last week I missed the ETMOOC session “Intro to Blogging” hosted by Sue Waters (@suewaters and Sue Waters Blog) and Peggy George (@pgeorge) because I was knee deep in judging science fair display boards from our 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students. And as I sit down to write this I am still about shin deep. 70+ display boards judged twice by a small number of teachers, parents, administrators, and community members takes an enormously long time. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I want these students to receive fair scores and quality feedback. And it’s not that I’m against science fairs. In fact I love science. I love competitions. My complaint/concern is the avenue in which students communicate their science, math, and engineering knowledge at our school and district science fairs.
Each year we order hundreds of cardboard tri-fold display boards for students to share their inquiry projects (click here for more pictures). The problem with this format is that it is limiting. It limits students telling their story by confining them to a predetermined space. It limits students sharing their leaning since no other items other than a science log can be displayed (i.e., no models can be displayed). It limits students interacting with 21st Century technology. Students have so many other interactive tools to use to share their learning and yet we limit them to a piece of cardboard. This is a disservice to learning. It’s almost criminal. Students should be able to use a variety of tools, one of which could be a display board if they chose it.
For the past two years I’ve tried to up the educational technology requirements of my students in terms of their science fair displays. Last year many of my students used qr codes to showcase slideshows or movies. This year I planned on offering a qr code workshop. Unfortunately I was sick on this particular day. When I returned the following day I found out that many teams either already knew about qr codes and had create their own or that some teams simply watched others and figured out what to do. LOVE IT! Students were using services like Kaywa, a legitimate qr code generator. But our students all have Gmail and GAFE accounts. So I showed several teams how to use Google’s URL shortener to generate a code. Using goo.gl allows students to track the traffic to the code. Here’s a screencast I created to demonstrate how to do this.
This year I encouraged students to use the qr code to help tell the story of their project. Once such team used human subjects to determine how various distractions affected reflex time. The connected this experiment to texting while driving. However, the write-up and graphs didn’t do justice to the quality of the project. Therefore the students created this movie to help people better understand what they were studying. Unfortunately, students aren’t allowed to use a laptop or tablet to showcase movies or other presentations. And judges aren’t using qr code readers when evaluating student projects. But maybe they should.
Another edtech tool we are using are infographics. I’ve meant to play around with this type of communication for several months but have been intimidated by the services I’ve looked into. I recently saw a post on Twitter about a teacher using Piktochart. Once again, students are limited to a tri-fold display board to tell the story of their science fair project. Unfortunately this format doesn’t fit all learners. With the rise in popularity of graphic novels and other visual media, infographics are a great tool for students to share their stories. (I’ll share a student’s infographic in just a bit. I’ve contacted her on Edmodo and email for her to share it with me on Google Docs.)
I know this quote from Oscar Goldman from The Six Million Dollar Man doesn’t fit exactly, but I think you get what I’m trying to say.
“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world’s first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. Better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster.”