Introduce preliminary assignments that teach students how to use
these devices in conjunction with clear laboratory or investigative
on the collection process.
As students become
more proficient with
the software and
hardware tools, they will
become faster and produce
creative results without los-
ing time from the curriculum.
Be vague. Once students have expanded their digital toolboxes and are given the necessary time, be intentionally
vague in describing the final product.
Provide the required content, dictate
the number of graphs and tables of
results that you want, and describe
the procedure. But don’t be specific
about the medium of their final product. This will encourage projects that
are innovative and creative.
Consider what happened at our
school when Ben Smith transformed
a typical lab assignment that involved
teaching students about waves using
Slinkies and ripple tanks. Using the
traditional model, he gave students
detailed instructions and created tables
for them to complete. Students an-
swered questions and filled out forms
when they finished their experiments.
—Jared Mader is the director of technology at
Red Lion Area Senior High School in Red Lion,
Pennsylvania. He has been a chemistry teacher
for 10 years.
communicate their work. During the
annual physics field trip to our local
amusement park, the students were assigned to become experts on one ride.
One group used the class iPod along
To draw out creative thinking skills, with a clip-on microphone to record
Smith decided to try a different ap- themselves describing the physics of
proach. He asked students to demon- a rollercoaster. Imagine hearing the
strate how the ripple tank works and
click-clack of the track pulling the cart
to offer some cautions on how to keep up the hill as the students are explain-
the Slinkies from becoming tangled. ing how they are gaining potential
Instead of giving them handouts, he of- energy. And then, as you hear the
fered a list of areas for them to explore. screams of the riders going down the
The final product was simple: De- first hill, they are describing how they
scribe what waves do. Most students are gaining kinetic energy.
created PowerPoint presentations with This was the exact behavior that
pictures and descriptions. However, we are trying to elicit. The students
one group created a music video, for
were taking a tool and applying it in
which students wrote the lyrics and an innovative manner. We keep some
performed the song themselves. They of these examples online at www.
had, in fact, done exactly what the edtechinnovators.com to inspire fu-
teacher had asked. In the context of ture students to stretch toward more
their lyrics, they described what waves creative and innovative work. The key
do. The result was a fantastic and cre- to facilitating instruction that elicits
ative project that was very personal to these types of assignments is to pro-
those students and their learning styles. vide students with the tools, give them
When other students saw this prod-
the time, and then get out of their way.
uct, they questioned why they were
not told that they could make a music
video. A transformation was taking
place among Smith’s students, in both
the group that created the video and
the groups that did not.
With the next assignment, more
groups found creative ways to
—Ben Smith has been a physics teacher at Red
Lion Area High School for 20 years. He and Mader are the science curriculum specialists for L&L.
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