Long time no update

I’ve neglected my journal in (I’ll admit) in a move to preserve my GPA (truth) during the end of a hectic spring semester and not one but two summer school courses.  As I wrap-up my last summer class for the foreseeable future (graduation is the light at the end of the tunnel this coming May), I can recommit to posting here more often especially to preserve and discuss ideas I can use in my upcoming student teaching and/or in my own (eek!) classroom in the future.

Today, let’s indulge in some science with an illustrated video from Minute Physics with the awesome vocal talents of Neil deGrasse Tyson describing the brief history of – well – everything!

Knuckle crackers – keep cracking!


Remember your Mom telling you that cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis?  Scientists have final found out what really goes on when you crack your knuckles and it turns out Mom is wrong.  In fact, there is speculation that cracking knuckles may actually be GOOD for your joints.

That does not mean that it is any less annoying or traumatic to those folks who thoroughly dislike the sound – my husband likens it to nails on a chalkboard – but all of us knuckle-crackers can rest assured that we’re not going to end up with arthritic hands in the long run.

So find a quiet spot or a group of fellow crackers and keep on cracking!


If you have teens in your life or love YA lit yourself – no judgement here I’ve been an avid reader of YA for a few years now – check out my friend’s website: http://teenlitrocks.com/

My review of Marcus Sedgwick’s Midwinterblood was posted today.  Really a fantastic beautifully haunting and uniquely constructed story.  Definitely worth a read or two.

You might also hop around and check some of the other reviews and features as well as checking out the books we’ve read for our Book Club Picks or scoping out Literary Crushes.

Teenlitrocks has been a great way for me to immerse myself in the literature circle of the students I will be teaching when I finish my degree.  Even if I end up in a science classroom, I still see students with their library books and it is a great way to start a conversation and engage students in a more personal meaningful conversation.  If I do end up teaching Language Arts – I’ll be prepared to integrate more contemporary YA lit into my classroom curriculum.  In both cases, I’ll have a nicely stocked library including some of my YA favorites to share with my students.

When the literary and scientific worlds collide…

Medieval Medicine for a Modern World??

In a history of English class I’m currently taking, we did some translation from Bald’s Leechbook – a well known piece of medieval literature written in Old English (which looks more like German than English in case you’re wondering).  We had a good laugh at Bald’s remedies – lots of wine, bits of flora and fauna, poultices and if all else failed, wrapping your patient in a blanket, leaving them in a dark room and hoping for the best.  Hey, if the worst came to pass, at least they were already wrapped in a pseudo-shroud right?

Turns out good old Bald and his fellow medieval healers may have really been on to something.  His recipe for treating eye infections was recently tried out in a lab to combat methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections.  These are the infections that are highly resistant to current antibiotic treatment and can cause serious issues for patients – sometimes even death.

Scientists working with Anglo-Saxon experts were able to actually make the remedy Bald recommends and it was test both on synthetic wounds and wounded mice.  The success rate was a huge 90 percent.  Alone the ingredients did little and diluted the effects were not nearly as successful.  But brewed as Bald suggested, 90 percent of the MRSA was killed. Pretty impressive for a medieval remedy.

Just goes to show that not only are there times and places where our labcoats meet our bookjackets – but that when they do we can expect some pretty fantastic results.

International Women’s Day – Make it Happen

Today is International Women’s Day.  The theme this year is “Make it Happen.”  While there has been some significant progress in women’s issues and gender equality around the globe, there is a still a lot more awareness to be spread and work to be done.  This is not just a battle by women for women, this is a time when men and women need to support efforts for gender equality in all facets of life.

Time magazine offers a breakdown of the progress that has been made since 1995:  Progress is being made, but it is not enough

Women have made amazing contributions to both science and language arts as well as every other field imaginable.  It is time they get equal credit for their achievements, and for women of all ages to have equal access to education, healthcare, wages and receive equal credit for their achievements.

Visit the official UN site for more information and for listings of Women’s Days events being hosted around the globe:


The BIG picture of technology in the classroom

So what does it all mean?  Is technology a boon for the classroom and a way to advance student learning or a crutch being used to falsely engage students without really offering any educational substance?

In the article we read, Technology’s Tendency to Undermine Serious Study, they conclude by saying, ” although technology has great potential to motivate and engage students, it can also change their fundamental ideas about the purposes of schools, potentially to their own detriment.”  I can see their point and I do think there are definitely cases when technology is being used for technology’s sake alone without any thought as to whether or not it is the best way to teach a topic to students.  I think many of us really enjoy technology personally and sometimes, yes, it is easy to fall into the trap of being in awe of a cool new gadget or program without being concerned with its actual inherent value.  This does become a pricey proposition for students in the classroom and I don’t mean fiscally pricey.  Students have very little time to gain a lot of knowledge.  Any time that is somehow wasted is impossible to get back as teachers are always moving curriculum forward.

The turning point for technology as a hindrance or an actual benefit lies in the teacher.  As the National Science Teachers Association chapter on Technology’s Greatest Value said, “Essentially, technology use in the science classroom is most effective when it encourages deeper student engagement with science content, when it is used to support rather than replace what we know about effective science instruction, and especially when it stretches the boundaries of what is possible in the science classroom.”  Making those decisions, that comes down to the educator making the tough call on what is effective technology versus fluff.

In my own experience, I think students sometimes even more awed by what they can do with their own hands and basic equipment than they are with some new gadget.  The classroom I’m in this semester just wrapped up a unit on weather.  The students were tasked with making a variety of weather instruments and got to use them to take actual measurements for the class.  The thrill those students got from learning about and building their own thermometers, barometers, weather wanes, etc was fantastic.  I cannot imagine that they would have gotten the same depth of knowledge had they simply participated in a computer driven simulation.

Using things like the Vernier probes or even the iCell app I used provide a technology that allows students to experience science in ways they cannot easily replicate without technology. And both of them are more hands on than just watching screen.  I think if you aim for interactive technology and technology that makes the inaccessible accessible you are on the correct path.

Really it comes down to balance.  I think in science we’re fortunate to have so many different ways to present the material we teach.  And I do firmly believe that technology belongs in that mix.

Virtual Schooling – my experience

I’m a wee bit tardy in posting this one, but given the rise in online and virtual schooling available I think it is incredibly relevant to consider as both a student and a teacher.  I started taking online courses when I came back to college as an adult student who has a family and works.  Being able to take fewer classes on campus means I have that much more time at home which is a huge consideration when you have a family.

Here’s what I have noticed with what I felt were successful online class environments:  variety, clear expectations and engaging instructors.  These classes presented materials in a variety of ways.  One class has powerpoint style presentations with embedded music samples, images and clickable links.  You could even download the music to keep in your music library.  The assignments were varied and the expectations for assignment due dates, exams and projects as well as the availability of the instructor were clearly spelled out from the beginning.

Another class had textbook reading, workbook materials to complete, panopto lectures, reports and face to face exams.  The instructor also provided a variety of different materials to aid in review for exams like crossword puzzles or fill in the blanks.  One of the biggest high points for this class was that the instructor gave engaging lectures.  When you’re watching a video of what is essentially an instructor going through a powerpoint, their tone of voice, ability to speak clearly without stumbling on words and make the lecture interesting is huge.  This instructor nailed it.

Other experiences have not been so positive.  There was the class with the instructor who not only spoke in a monotone during each lecture, but also stumbled through their notes making frequent errors.  Thankfully, we were well informed about the assignments we were to complete so the class had some positives, but the dry lectures really made it a tough 15 weeks.

i think it is like any other teaching environment – the key is engagement and engagement means finding new ways to present material and keep students interested.  I’d be very interested in getting the opportunity to see how an online K-12 school operates.  I think as education finds itself in what feels like an ever growing fiscal crunch, more of us may be considering jobs in a virtual school situation.

Live long and prosper

No, he wasn’t a classroom teacher, though he did have a Masters in Education.  Or a scientist, though he played one as Spock on Star Trek.  But to so many of us, he was the catalyst that sparked a love of all things scientific, alien and was one of the founding fathers of the science fiction so many of us came to love.  His voice was one that once heard, was not easily forgotten.  How many of us as children and adults have giddily relished our ability to do the Vulcan Salute or mourned our inability to get our darn fingers to do it?

Leondard Nimoy died today and like his famous quote – his legacy will live long and prosper.

“The miracle is this – the more we share, the more we have.” Leonard Nimoy

A lovely short tribute to Mr. Nimoy:  The Man Who Was Spock

Rest in peace Mr. Nimoy.

Cool apps for middle and high school science

For part of a class for technology in the science classroom we taught mini lesson to our peers using technology.  Through the process of choosing and developing a lesson for middle school science, I discovered some pretty nifty apps that translate really well in the classroom and provide students with a hands on, visually appealing way to learn about science – specifically biology for the lesson I created.

I thought I’d post them here so other folks can see if they might work for their classroom planning purposes.

iCell 3-d cell model  – I used this one on my Microsoft Surface to take advantage of the touchscreen capability.  It gives students the option to see and interact with a 3-d model of a plant, animal or bacteria cell.  Each part is labeled with a definition that you can see when you touch the organelle.  The text can be adjust from basic, to intermediate to advanced.  This is what I used for my lesson.  It was free windows store download.

Adaptive Curriculum apps – I looked at several of their apps before choosing to use iCell.  Their apps are interactive, provide scaffolding of learning and built in assessments.  They do charge for their apps, but they are a relatively minimal cost at $1.99 to $2.99 for the ones I was considering.

Apps and screen time can’t replace all learning in the classroom, but it is a nice way to change the pace, keep students engaged and appeal to those learners who may be more visual in nature.

Videos and music for your science classroom

Videos can be a powerful teaching tool and are a great way to appeal to the different learning abilities of students.  Plus, they have the appeal of being on the big screen which students seem to really love even if it is only for a couple of minutes.   I have not used any videos in my lessons yet, but do plan to in the future both to enhance current lessons, introduce new units and to offer students a break from lessons that is still educational.

Here is one site I actually learned about from some fellow students last year.  The videos are short, colorful and cover a wide variety of scientific inquiries from a periodic table song, to answering questions like can plants think, does being cold make you sick and are silent farts worse (a question I’m sure middle schoolers would love to know the answer to). Their videos are colorful, and fun and they offer some really great information.


I’m also a huge fan of the channel called SciShow.   Like AsapSCIENCE, they cover a wide array of topics many of which would be great to use in a classroom.  They do videos on famous scientists, commonly asked scientific questions, and scientific phenomena – all in short entertaining videos that appeal to both the young and older crowd.

SciShow videos

Another favorite of mine are videos and songs done by the band They Might Be Giants.   They put out a great album called “Here Comes Science” a few years back and have numerous videos that go along with it.  They actually have a YouTube playlist just for videos for their songs geared toward kids.  I especially love “Why Does the Sun Shine (The Sun is Mass of Incandescent Gas)” and  “Put It to the Test.”  Entertaining and very very catchy.

I hope you’ll check out the links and find something that you like and maybe something you’ll even use in your classroom one day.    Don’t hold me responsible if you can’t get the They Might Giants songs out of your head!  😀