Armstrong, Joseph E. .
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: adventures in replacing traditional organismal botany notebooks with portfolios.
Fill-in-the-blank notebooks are an educational abomination, yet the alternatives are few. Students no longer have any drawing skills or patience, and yet they still have need of recording their observations even if they do not realize the future usefulness of good notebooks. Thus based upon this premise began a series of experiments with PowerPoint portfolios to record observations and activities in both economic botany and plant diversity classes. The primary pedagogical problem still remains getting students to make significant observations, as opposed to a “snap a picture and run” approach. However correctly associating and inter-relating various images, data, and text can be a powerful learning experience, or when done haphazardly a complete waste of time. Students find that the basics of Powerpoint are easily learned (a primer is provided) allowing a diversity of materials to be easily associated and labeled, with each slide functioning as a notebook page. Helpful rules include always observing the whole before any of the parts, establishing a discrete sequence for dealing with diverse specimens, and forcing students to answer observational queries before recording any images or moving on to the next specimen. At their best, such portfolios provide a quite good record of laboratory learning, but quality varies widely with student effort, perceptions, and abilities. Early and precise qualitative feedback greatly improves later efforts, as do strict submission deadlines, but avoid the temptation to overly regulate form or provide templates because it stifles creativity.
First and foremost we are all educators, and as in research, technologies and changing attitudes require innovation and adapting to change. Laboratory instruction often lags behind, and is most apt to change by its elimination. And yet laboratory instruction allows experiential teaching not elsewhere available, and so adjusting how students record and present their learning experiences in laboratory classrooms must change to take advantage of digital advances and changes in how students perceive and learn.
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1 - Illinois State University, School of Biological Sciences, Campus Box 4120, Behavior, Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, Normal, IL, 61790-4120, USA
undergraduate biology instruction
Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Location: 554B/Convention Center
Date: Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010
Time: 11:15 AM