Evolving Layered Lesson

An evolution webquest itself evolved into a means for challenging students with different technological skills backgrounds and simultaneously teaching how to look for evidence (or lack of evidence) of evolution. The "Evolution Webquest" process, assigned to my freshman biology class, was to explore different forms of evidence of evolution, explore a PBS NOVA program on natural selection, and then pick a project to research and report on. Possible projects included reporting on the evolutionary history of a local specie, staging a mock debate on evolution vs. creationism, or write an evolutionary explanation of how an evolutionary breakthrough came to be. A selection of websites were provided, and a few days were scheduled in the computer lab. The first day in the lab, the students jumped right over the first two research steps and went straight to the "select a project" step, and began collecting photos and urls. The following day, by scheduling coincidence, we were in the classroom so I was able to review the assignment with the students and answer clarifying questions. The assignment had been left somewhat open to allow for student creativity. The students, however, wanted to know "How many slides does it need to be?" and "How many pictures do I need?" Knowing that 56 identical projects would bore me to watch, and wanting students to focus on presenting content rather than just following a "recipe", I took a different approach. On the chalkboard (yes, I have a chalkboard in my room) I listed across the topics of powerpoint, photostory, web page, animoto, and jing. Then underneath I listed what could be accomplished with each tool. I then challenged the students to choose a project that was out of their comfort zone. The following days in the computer lab were spent pushing students to add to their work (and making sure they addressed the topic question). This approach was not what I had originally envisioned but I was very pleased with how the assignment evolved into a challenge in both research and technology. As a result of the variety of projects, all were viewed in class, generating greater understanding of homologous and vestigial structures and fossil records, as well as exposing the students to a variety of tools. Representative of the variety are a powerpoint on whale evolution, a photostory on evolution of the dog, and a website depicting history of the wolf. Webpage on the evolutionary history of the wolf.

[coming soon - ppt presentation]

1 comment:

daveT said...

I believe that too many teachers would have redirected their students back to research options 1 and 2, and am glad, but not at all surprised, to see you took the new direction. We learn the most when our own students take us down new paths we never considered. William Chamberlain's blog on just this ( http://twurl.nl/zrbqvm )demonstrates to us all the need to keep evolving our own learning & teaching skills.