Archive for October, 2010

Google Rocks

I have done learning journeys(LJ) for six years now. They come in the same package: visit a place, listen to a talk, walk around, fill in a worksheet and you go home. Tried and tested.

Today’s LJ was a visit to an orchid farm. There was a talk. The students were sitting down quietly. As we were walking, one student said ” it was **** boring.” I asked him, ” Isn’t this better than sitting in the classroom?” He said, “no, we get to play in class.” Then we looked at the orchid plants and there were some CDs hanging above. “What was it for?”, they asked. They had suddenly sprung into life. None of the students could get the right answer. I was wondering why they came alive. It cannot be the prize. Which boy wants orchids (they were offered orchids as the prize), they were not very glam. Then it hit me. The question itself was interesting, it piqued their curiosity. There were all kinds of guesses, chased away flies (they obviously didn’t realise flies pollinated some orchids, the lady just mentioned in the talk), to reflect light (this pleased me as I taught them how a CD works by reflecting light but please…how much light can it reflect, ok we are getting there..). 

One boy whipped out his handphone and googled the answer: it was to chase away birds. He got the answer.He raised both his hands in triumph and shouted, “Google Rocks!”.  He got the flower. He wanted to give it to me, which was my point, it was not the prize.

How do you engage students? By giving them control over what they learnt. By giving them opportunities to make meaning of what they hear. It is not telling them facts (maybe telling them how to get it, but then they already do, the Google did it). I think since it is post-exam, they should be entitled to some choice about what they learnt.

How would I have done it? I would have asked them to bring their handphones, taken photos of orchids, ask them to post it up on a wiki and answer the following questions:

1. Why did I choose this flower? (it is good to value student personal choice)

2. What special features did this flower have? Or maybe, what adaptations does it have to help it survive?

3. Label the parts of the flower in your picture. What does it mean that it is bisexual? How is this an advantage?

4. The lady said the orchids photosynthesise at night? Why is that odd? How is that possible?

I just realise you cannot prepare all these questions in advance, so they have to be dynamic.

Which flower did I like best? The drakaea(picture below). It tricks the wasp into mating with a part of the flower that looks like its counterpart and in the process, the antenna of the wasp picks up the pollen. Isn’t that cool? Why didn’t my students find it cool?

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