There are a lot of challenges I face at school, but two stand out to me tonight. One concerns depth of learning with STEM content, and the other involves iPads and deep reflection.

We finished the second day of a four-day unit on kitchen chemistry today, and after two and half months of using our iPad cart in STEM class my fourth and fifth graders are almost at the point where everyone can readily log into their classroom Kidblog sites using the iPad and post text, photos, and an embedded YouTube video when required. Since I see my students twice a week for 50 minute classes, this is a good achievement and a big step forward.

I really like the Steve Spangler hands-on kitchen chemistry activities we’ve been doing, because they not only engage my students but also give them opportunities to explore, measure, and discover some new things about science in a hands-on context. I regret, however, that the way the lessons are currently structured, my students are not getting a very in-depth understanding of how the chemistry of each of these experiments is working. They are more like magic tricks than chemistry experiments.

The other challenge I have regards the iPad cart, and how extremely rare it is in the lives of my students to get to use iPads and play with them. A few of my students regularly beg me to just let them play on the iPads, but of course I want to use them for more productive and creative tasks when we have them out in class. I wish they had greater access to their iPads so they would be able to play with them on their own time, and it would be less of a big deal to use them in class. As we are struggling less to post text and media to our Kidblog websites, we are now at the point where we’re trying to focus on expressing some deeper ideas and doing some more reflective thinking in relation to the experiments we’re doing and videos we are watching. It can be very challenging to get students to reflect and think deeply about the content in a video after they have allegedly watched it.

Those are some of the challenges I am facing this week.

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