Thursday, 15 February 2018

Innovative Teaching in Science: Creating Doodle Notes

In my last post I explored the cognitive advantages to using Doodle Notes in the classroom.  Downsides to providing students with a sheet of blank paper and asking them to copy down your doodles is that you lose the time efficiency of a fill-in-the-blank note and their thought process and creativity might be stifled by your own.  For those reasons I created a scaffolding for the Doodle Notes, so that my class time was being used efficiently, students still had opportunities to infuse their own creativity and I could explain why I chose the images and paths that I did… and maybe part of the reason was that I am too type-A that my own doodles would take forever to draw out.  

For the most part, I create my Doodle Notes in PowerPoint (I am learning Adobe Illustrator but the learning curve is STEEP!)  I’ve found I can perform most tasks in PowerPoint quite well, but Adobe Illustrator has some technical advantages.  

 With PowerPoint, I can create quickly.  It is easy to import clipart and fonts that I have purchased.  I can even create custom shapes by using the “Edit Points” option.  There are limitations, but most of these are visual and do not affect the students’ learning (inability to change the thickness of line art, difficult to “lock” objects in place).

Adobe Illustrator has a huge learning curve.  I'm a Science teacher, not a graphic artist!  I’ve been using tutorials and templates to help me along, but these come with a cost - the most expensive being the time it takes to learn and create.  The biggest advantage to using Adobe Illustrator is the masterpiece that is created once the scaffolded Doodle Note is complete.

Either way, students are more likely to go back and study from their Doodle Notes, compared to their more traditional notes.  

With either program, I begin with determining which orientation I think would work best (portrait or landscape), and create a 8.5”x11” slide or art board.  After reviewing what concepts I want to cover, I write out the content on the page (which I later remove for the students to enter) and search for images that support the content.  I consider what the students can color in addition to what they can draw and write.  I start with the key images - that might be the Sun, Moon and Earth for a Doodle Note about solar and lunar eclipses.  As I proceed, and position the image and text elements, I add connectors like arrows to solidify those connections for the students.  A lot of adjusting happens throughout the process.  It does take a lot of time to create, but students start begging for these notes once they’ve had a taste!

In my next post, I will explore how I teach with Doodle Notes to innovate my Science classroom.


The doodle note teaching strategy was developed by Math Giraffe and is trademarked; Please see for more information.

Innovative Teaching in Science: The Cognitive Advantage to Doodle Notes

I’m sure you can recall a meeting or professional development where you’ve been without pen or paper and your mind wanders.  This happens to our students too!  How can we engage their brain if it is wandering around during our lesson?  There are benefits to taking notes, but can we make them better?

The solution I’ve found is Doodle Notes!  

I thought in the past my notes were fairly efficient.  Most of my notes are a fill-in-the-blank style where the student will write the key terms, definitions and problem solve alongside with me on the document camera.  Still, their minds would wander and they might check their phones.  

When I came across Doodle Notes I knew this was something that matched with my teaching style and how I wanted to present material.  These are not just colouring pages, they are a way to keep the mind engaged and activate both sides of the brain.  Plenty of research has been done on the benefits of doodling:
The Harvard Health blog reports that doodling: increases memory, stress relief and focus.  
This TIME article states that doodling, “forces your brain to expend just enough energy to stop it from daydreaming but not so much that you don’t pay attention.”  Doesn't that sound perfect for our students? This Wall Street Journal article states that doodling, “provides an alternative route for learning for some people”, helps the brain remain active and helps people focus, retain information and grasp new concepts. Huffington Post reports even further advantages, that doodling helps you concentrate, improves productivity, creativity, helps to generate new ideas and makes you more present (even though you might not look it).

Creating the Doodle Notes required time, research and expertise in the subject matter (as well as an investment in quality images).  I learned a lot about how to optimize the Doodle Notes for learning from the Doodle Note blog and Sunni Brown’s book, The Doodle Revolution.  

In my next post, I’ll describe how I create the Doodle Notes and how I implement them in the classroom.

The doodle note teaching strategy was developed by Math Giraffe and is trademarked; Please see for more information.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Planning, Instruction & Assessment considerations for Curricular Designs

Here is a comparison summary of the planning, instruction and assessment considerations for the subject, learner and problem centered curricular designs.  Your feedback is appreciated.  

A PDF version is available to download.

Hayes, D. (2003) Making learning an effect of schooling: aligning curriculum, assessment and pedagogy, Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 24(2), 225-245
McMillan, J. H. (2014).  Classroom assessment: Principles and practice for effective standards-based instruction (6th ed., pp. 1-20,  57-64,74-88). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Ornstein, A. C. (1990/1991). Philosophy as a basis for curriculum decisions. The High School Journal, 74, 102-109.
Shepard, L. A. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher, 29(7), 4-14. doi:10.3102/0013189X029007004

Monday, 29 January 2018

Connecting Conceptions of Curriculum, Philosophical Foundations & Curriculum Designs

As I was exploring the relationships between the conceptions of curriculum, their philosophical foundations and curricular designs, I was forming this interconnected web of ideas.  In the visual representation, blue represents conceptions of curriculum, purple represents philosophies, and green represents curricular designs.  Pink areas represent the teacher's role.  You may download a larger PDF version here.

Please provide any feedback you have.

Al Mousa, N. (2013). An examination of cad use in two interior design programs from the perspectives of curriculum and instructors, pp. 21-37 (Master’s Thesis). 
Brown, G. T. L. (2006). Conceptions of curriculum: A framework for understanding New Zealand’s Curriculum Framework and teachers’ opinions. Curriculum Matters, 2, 164-181.
Hill, A. M. (1994). Perspectives on philosophical shifts in vocational education: From realism to pragmatism and reconstructionism. Journal of Vocational and Technical Education, 10(2), 37-45.
McNeil, J. D. (2009).  Contemporary curriculum in thought and action (7th ed.).  Hoboken, NJ:  John Wiley.  Pages 1, 3-14, 27-39, 52-60, 71-74.
Ornstein, A. C. (1990/1991). Philosophy as a basis for curriculum decisions. The High School Journal, 74, 102-109.
Ornstein, A. C., & Hunkins, F. P. (2013). Curriculum: Foundations, principles, and issues (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.  Read Chapter 6, pp. 149-173.
Pratt, D. (1994). Curriculum perspectives. In D. Pratt, Curriculum planning: A handbook for professionals (pp. 8-22). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publisher. 
Sowell, E. J. (2005). Curriculum: An integrative introduction (3rd ed., pp. 37-61, 81-85,103-106). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Conceptions of Curriculum

Through my experiences as a secondary science teacher, and the readings cited below, my understanding of the differing types of curricula has been expanded.  I had previously thought there was just THE curriculum - the standard set by my province that dictates the topics I explore with my students.  This exercise has been eye-opening.  I have enjoyed learning about these curricula and how they connect to my classroom.

I've taken Al Mousa's four recurring conceptions of curricula and summarized them in the images below.  I've ordered them in descending order of frequency in a secondary science classroom.

The Academic curriculum is the oldest form of curriculum, and for good reason.  From an administrative sense, it seems that this would be the easiest curriculum to implement in terms of hiring teachers, meeting specific sets of standards and training educators.  This is how most of use were taught and that makes it easier for us to teach in that way.  The focus on gaining knowledge and skills is easy to market to policy makers because it is logical and unemotional.

The Social Reconstructivist curriculum is one that I particularly enjoy teaching.  It is fulfilling as an educator to promote improvement in the global, national and local sense by inspiring students to address these problems.  This works well in an inquiry-based classroom.  This curriculum would be less mainstream than the Academic curriculum due to political reasons.  It may be viewed that students do not cover as many academic topics, making them less prepared for white-collar jobs (useful for the economy).  Also, the governments may not want their youth to confront these issues (e.g. environmental issues, climate change) because the government's policies are one of the problems. 

The technological curriculum is gaining momentum due to the internet.  Online courses have been increasing in popularity.  At the secondary level, students are opting to take an online course (usually during the summer months) in order to have a spare period or less stressful workload.  This can support a more humanist agenda as well, because it allows the student more time to participate in extracurricular activities focused on the individual.  

Online courses, flipped learning, class websites provide an efficient delivery of content.  The teacher can organize the materials once and then adjust after each semester or term based on student feedback.  The initial input to create the courses online may be more than other curricula, but when considering the number of times the courses are offered this investment is more efficient.  The prevalence of technological curriculum is increasing dramatically beyond secondary school, especially with massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Through my experiences, the humanist curriculum is least prevalent of the major conceptions in secondary science.  I imagine that science teachers would argue that there is great pressure to cover all the topics dictated to us to teach that there is insufficient class time to focus on socialization and building interpersonal relationships.  The focus on the cognitive dimension tends to outweigh the focus on the child.  I have included suggestions for improving the focus on the child above.  Science need not only be taught through an academic lens.

In a similar sense, other non-recurring conceptions of curriculum are not prevalent in secondary science as they are outweighed by the traditional academic, the 

Al Mousa, N. (2013). An examination of cad use in two interior design programs from the perspectives of curriculum and instructors, pp. 21-37 (Master’s Thesis).
Brown, G. T. L. (2006). Conceptions of curriculum: A framework for understanding New Zealand’s Curriculum Framework and teachers’ opinions. Curriculum Matters, 2, 164-181.
McNeil, J. D. (2009).  Contemporary curriculum in thought and action (7th ed.).  Hoboken, NJ:  John Wiley.  Pages 1, 3-14, 27-39, 52-60, 71-74.
Pratt, D. (1994). Curriculum perspectives. In D. Pratt, Curriculum planning: A handbook for professionals(pp. 8-22). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publisher.
Sowell, E. J. (2005). Curriculum: An integrative introduction (3rd ed., pp. 37-51). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Innovation in the Science Classroom: Consider the SAMR Model

I consider myself to be open to innovation but I am skeptical of new technologies.  A number of tools that I have tried turned out to be fluff - not worth the investment.  Why would you use a tool when the original method was more effective to begin with?

As I evaluate which technologies work well in my high school science classroom, I will be using the SAMR model.  The SAMR model is a paradigm that assesses whether integrating a technology enhances or transforms the learning.  SAMR is an acronym for Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition.  A technology’s use will fall within one of these four categories:

Substitution: The technology provides a substitute for other learning activities without any change to the function of the learning activities.  For example, students can make a table of data on paper or with Excel.  Both options provide the student the ability to meet the same objective.

Augmentation: The technology is a substitute for other learning activities with improved functionality.  For example, Google Docs and Word are both word processors, but Google Docs allows for the document to be shared and edited in real time.

Modification: The technology allows the activity to be redesigned.  Google Classroom, for example, allows the teacher to assign homework, videos, ask and respond to questions.  Google Classroom transforms the learning process.

Redefinition: Here, the technology allows for the creation of new tasks that could not have been done without the use of this technology.  Skype, a video conferencing tool, can be used to connect students with anyone around the world.  Students can chat with an astronaut, a researcher or fellow students across the globe to gain new perspectives that they would otherwise not have access to.

I think it is important to note that not all technology or innovative teaching methods are worthwhile.  When innovating, consider whether the developers are educators themselves (or have consulted educators) or entrepreneurs hoping to catch the white whale of Ministry dollars.  I believe the difference here is that educators have the experience to know what is needed in the classroom and have the passion to create innovative resources and tools to aid those needs.  As I proceed with my evaluations of these technologies, you may or may not agree with my opinions.  I will also be considering the opinions of my own students.  Their opinion may have more weight than my own.  It is important to ask students directly whether they enjoy, are engaged with and learn better with a new method.  This can promote their own metacognition into how they learn best.  Which is what we’re really after, isn’t it?


Miller, Matt. “10 Ways to Reach SAMR.” Ditch That Textbook, 5 Apr. 2014,

Puentedura, Ruben R. “Learning, Technology, and the SAMR Model: Goals, Processes, and Practice.” Hippasus,

Romrell, D., Kidder, L., Wood, E. (2014). The SAMR Model as a Framework for Evaluating mLearning. Retrieved Jan 18, 2018, from

Friday, 19 January 2018

Which innovative tools work well in a Science classroom?

I taught my first class when I was 18 years old.  I was fortunate enough to enrol in a Concurrent Education program, meaning I was working on my undergrad while taking education courses, and after final exams in April, I would spend the month of May practice teaching.  It’s been - wow! 13 years since then.  A lot has changed in the classroom since then, most notably the technology.  In that time, overhead projectors have become redundant and  document cameras are a necessity.  Teaching strategies have evolved too.  Thanks to social media, teachers no longer have to wait until a book is published or for a professional development day to be exposed to new ideas.

I’m glad to see tech companies investing in educational tools.  However, not every innovation fits in a high school Science classroom.  I feel Science is a different animal compared to other courses.  The demand on students and teachers is huge.  We have an extensive curriculum to cover that relies heavily on numeracy and literacy skills.  Teachers and students want to have hands-on experiences to amplify the learning, and we have to leverage these experiences with time and safety.  

Which innovative tools work well in a Science classroom?
I’ll be testing out different tools and judging their benefit in my classroom.  For each tool, I’ll perform a cost vs. benefit analysis.  

Cost is more than money:
How much time does it take for the teacher to prepare?
How long does it take students to become proficient?
What is the learning curve like for this tool?
What are the limitations of this technology?
Can this tool work effectively with BYOD (bring your own device)?
Does this tool negativity impact the teacher-student relationship?

Some of the benefits I will consider:
Does this tool improve learning?
Does this tool engage students?
How does this tool affect the classroom culture?
Does this tool improve the relationship between teacher and student?
Does this tool foster independence in the secondary science student?

I have a number of tools and technologies in mind for this review.  If you have an idea that you’d like me to review let me know in the comments?  What innovative tools and technologies worked in your classroom? Which ones were fluff or flops?

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