Fully remote, fully in-person, or somewhere in a sweet spot between the two. Those are the main safety concerns that are being laid right now in front of the decision makers, on behalf of students, parents, teachers and everyone around them, right at the kickoff of the new academic year. But whichever model prevails, it might turn out to be a temporary fix to a permanent problem. Furthermore, it doesn’t provide an answer to the key educational concern. How to empower the remote so that it can fully substitute the in-person if need be?
This issue is especially relevant to teaching STEM. How will an educator facilitate hands-on, project based learning without projects that students can actually get their hands on? In other words, is the “learning” part of the “distance learning” equation going to be reluctantly surrendered to a lesser evil scenario?
Even as COVID-19 begins to stretch out from a single season into an era, it’s becoming clear that distance learning might be here to stay. But it’s not a reason to despair if you’re a teacher or a parent, or both. Quite the contrary – there are ways to leverage all the good aspects of learning from the comfort of one’s couch and still provide hands-on (or should we say: gloves-on?) engagement.
A groundbreaking study by researchers from Purdue and Harvard Universities (DeBoer et al., 2017) has shown it, using our very own Neuron SpikerBox kit. Online learning, the study has found, yields remarkable results when complemented with at-home lab kits. Students who enrolled in a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and used our bioamplifiers got better grades than their peers who weren’t equipped with the lab kits. More importantly, their self-efficacy was three times higher than that of their counterparts. Both groups followed the same syllabus; both watched videos, took quizzes and virtual simulated labs. The only difference was the chance to do-it-yourself, which yet again turned out to be a source and key to confidence.
Join us on Monday, May 18th (5/18/2020) for a special live-stream featuring Backyard Brains co-founder Greg Gage, breakthrough cancer researcher Dr. Mika Sovak, and Dr. Anthony Fauci as they address the subject Science that Saves Lives.Register for the free event HERE!
These live presentations and Q&As are part of a series of talks which kicks off TOMORROW (5/12/2020) – As described by the event’s website
“X-STEM All Access – presented by AstraZeneca – is an entertaining, educational, and interactive online STEM experience for 6-12th graders. Through a series of daily livestream events, students will hear from an exclusive group of visionaries who aim to inspire kids about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.
“Our moderator, Justin Shaifer (Mr. Fascinate), will take kids on a STEM adventure that is anything but boring with a new set of engaging speakers, brain breaks and Q&A’s each day.”
A Great Remote Lesson Opportunity!
Teachers, this is a great opportunity for your students to engage with leaders in their respective fields of research and science! Focused on a K-12 audience, these presentations are certain to educate and inspire.
To turn this into a “grade-able” opportunity, we recommend students prepare a journal entry before and after the presentation following these guidelines:
Pre-Talk Journal Entry
Which speaker are you most interested in hearing from?
Describe their background, specialty, and contribution to science and public health
Write a question you’d like to hear them answer
Post-Talk Journal Entry
Which was the most fascinating presentation to you? Why?
What did you learn that surprised you?
Did you get an answer to your question?
What new questions do you have?
These simple prompts can kick-start a responsive lesson! If your students are interested in hearing answers from Dr. Greg-Gage, email us a compilation of their questions at firstname.lastname@example.org – and we’ll compile the questions and follow up with answers!
The Khan Academy “2020 Breakthrough Junior Challenge” comes at a time when student engagement in STEM is more critical than ever. If you are a remote student or are a professional (or maybe parent!) educator attempting to transition rapidly into remote/home teaching strategies, this could be an excellent opportunity to turn an at-home-assignment into a tremendous opportunity for your students!
Khan Academy’s 2020 Breakthrough Junior Challenge
This challenge encourages students to investigate a complex idea and then create a video that explains it in an interesting, accessible, and eloquent way!
Here is a description direct from Khan Academy:
“We’re proud to partner with the Breakthrough Junior Challenge video contest again this year. Students ages 13 through 18 are invited to create a short (under three minutes) video explaining a challenging concept in physics, mathematics, or the life sciences in an engaging, illuminating, and creative way. This year, there is an additional COVID-19 category, and students are encouraged to help educate the world about this global health crisis by sharing the science or math behind the causes, impacts and potential solutions. If you win, you’ll receive the college scholarship, your teacher will receive a $50,000 prize, and your school will get a new $100,000 science lab!”
You read that last sentence right: The winning student will receive a $250,000 scholarship, their teacher will win $50,000 worth of funding, and the school will receive $100,000 worth of funding for the renovation or development of a new science lab!
Making Complex Ideas Simple
he mission to take the complexity out of science education is the heart of our work at Backyard Brains. Working with students from first grade through graduate school, Science Communication (or #SciComm) is at the forefront of our minds and work.
If it tickles your fancy, we encourage you to create a submission for the Khan Academy contest featuring an explanation related to Neuroscience (Perhaps even with hands-on demonstrations using our kits)!
If you are a student or a teacher who is seriously interested in using our resources to help create a powerful submission video, do feel free to email us at email@example.com and we will do what we can to coach and support you!
The TED Talk Approach
When we work with student research fellows, public presentations of their research are a part of the gig. In fact, “teaching” a subject you are attempting to master is a necessary learning tool! Attempting to explain a concept to someone else makes you realize your own knowledge-gaps (There isn’t an educator alive who hasn’t been stopped dead in their tracks by a seemingly simple question).
Here are 3 tips to a successful “science explanation” that will keep things fun, fascinating, and snappy:
Focus on the phenomenon
Use simple language
Emphasize the Importance and Urgency of your topic
Can you see how Dr. Gage used those three tips in action in the video above? It works!
Additional Example Resources
For some inspiration, ideas, and to learn from example, check out some of our video resources below, with a few different kinds of examples!