What your future students think

As part of conference for scientists, bloggers, science educators, and journalists; (ScienceOnline09), Stacey Baker and her students (mostly 9th grade) answered questions about how they use technology to learn biology in high school, and what the students thought about it in a session: Science online – middle/high school perspective or: “How the Facebook generation does it”. Their photo is from their class blog.

Here are some of the tools and thoughts they shared:

The students write a class blog about biology, Extreme Biology,  which won the 2008 Edublog Award for Best Class Blog! Caitlin shared her enthusiasm for the blog before the session, saying how motivating it was when people outside the class commented on their blog, especially scientists.

Students in AP biology use Twitter to pose questions while doing homework, students say “it’s fun and easy and you get instant access”. The teacher sets expectations for the students, by telling them that she will not always be online, and that their help should come from their peers. One student really liked twitter, and created a separate account that could be public. He talked enthusiastically about getting “tweets” from NASA.  Picture shows tweets from Mars Phoenix.  

The students were asked why they would communicate through text if they could talk by phone. They answered that when you write text, you can think through what you want to say first, so it saves time. It’s also easy to multitask while using text to communicate and you can talk to more than one person at a time. They generally check to see if someone is online before calling, and will text someone to ask them to get online (to communicate online rather than texting, which may cost).

The class also uses Ning, a social networking tool. Accounts on Ning are free to educators, others have ad content. Participants must belong to the group to post things and comment. There is a ning network called Synapse for connecting biology educators world wide.  Another example of the use of Ning is Sean Nash’s principles of biology course. This site is a collaborative network linking Benton High School and MWSU via the dual-credit course: “Principles of Biology.”

What about using Facebook for your course? Students described the Creepy Treehouse phenomenon, where they are uncomfortable with teachers using spaces they consider theirs. Students said that they’d make a separate account in facebook if a teacher wanted to use facebook. Just as it’s awkward for students to see a teacher outside of school, it is similarly awkward to have a teacher in a social online environment. Although ning is also a social network, it’s not weird to use it for school because it was introduced in school. Students are introduced to facebook as social website and don’t mix the two. Participants seemed to agree that teachers can “friend” the students on Facebook after they have left the school; teachers find this is a good way to keep up with their former students. One teacher pointed out that you can join a common group without friending people to be able to keep up with them, and can then select what you share.

4 thoughts on “What your future students think

  1. Brandon

    Hello Andrea,
    I am a student of Miss Bakers class as well as an attendee to this years conference. This post is quite a concise overview of our presentation on “How the facebook age does it”. I hope that our presentation was helpful and informative. It is amazing how educational approaches change so often just to keep up with the respective generation. By the way, the organization of this blog is quite impressive. Thank you for attending our session!


  2. Brandon

    This has to be the first blog in which comments don’t have to “Await Moderation”
    Excellent! Instant gratification, please! 🙂

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