I bought a poster this summer at Yellowstone National Park made by Fairhope Graphics. I do not often buy things like this while on vacation, but I just loved the piece. Yesterday, my class finally took a look at the poster!
Our current unit of learning in AP Biology focuses on evolution. I pulled this poster in and asked students to make observations. It was cool to hear them notice things and make connections. The poster is an infographic style of poster with layers of information. It was interesting to hear them make observations with a focus on one layer and then have another student further explain using information from another layer. I know I am not doing the conversation justice with this description. Trust me, it was cool. 🙂
Wanting to go beyond looking at a poster, I thought of asking the students to create an infographic of the history of existing life in our local area. Though I might save this idea for general biology, I decided it was too time consuming for AP Biology. But, I enjoyed listening to them work with the original poster so much, I was not ready to make that the end. So, we decided to have each student choose an organism in existence today and find information about its evolutionary history. After some discussion, I decided to have students search for already created infographics on their organisms’ evolutions. I then opened a discussion board on our website where students could drop the link and then write about it.
An exciting part of this quick assignment was the inclusion of their own ideas about the infographic they posted. I asked students to add something that wasn’t on the link they found that would contribute to the story the poster was telling. For example, a student could identify what may have happened in a specific environment to make double layers of hair more advantageous for survival than a single layer of hair, as may be the case for the Husky breed of dogs. This piece of the assignment asked students to be creative, yet provide reasoning.
Though a face-to-face discussion of these posters could have been productive, I decided to do an online discussion board. The online board allowed for more time to think and respond. It also saved paper as the students did not have to print any infographic, just post a link. The discussion board also requires students to respond to their classmates’ posts in a way that moves the conversation forward and presents new ideas. Sometimes this process of commenting and responding is more effective through typing than face-to-face. Drawbacks to this method exist, too. I like to hear my students’ voices and I think it is important for them to see facial reactions to their comments. I also have limited opportunity for guidance as the conversation continues. However, I can add comments to the discussion board as it progresses and model appropriate dialogue.
The discussion is ongoing and will continue through the weekend. On Monday, I am hopeful students will return to class ready for that face-to-face recap and anxious to share their voices on these evolutions.