Deeply Engaged

Today I had an amazing Biology class.  My students had individually researched the endocrine system, and this morning they were randomly put into teams using an on-line teammaker.  They loved it. But that’s far from the highlight

Their assignment was to use the information they had gathered, as well as the internet, to identify a number of endocrine problems, using the symptoms given in each question.

I’m guessing many teachers use this format often; however, like me, this may be something completely new to you.  And after today, I plan to use it in every unit, when possible.

Of course, I expected my students destined for medical professions to enjoy something like this, but so did every other student.

Tables were put together.  Notes gathered. Teams assembled. Macs opened.  And they immediately commenced working.

As they worked, I spoke with the EA in this class about different assignments, units and students.  All of a sudden I stopped talking.  Something was very different.

I looked around carefully.  Not one student was off task.  Not one.  That’s not easy to accomplish two days before Christmas break. The room wasn’t silent, but nor was it loud.

But it was something more.  They were deeply engaged.

I watched as they talked to each other.  They went back and forth.  Expressing and testing ideas.  Problem solving. They looked at each other intently, taking turns listening and talking.  Sometimes pushing back, respectfully, when there was disagreement. It was amazing.  I’ve never seen anything like this before in my students.

As I watched, bits of conversation drifted towards my ears, “…it’s definitely hyper-tension…”  And he was right.  “…diabetes, that’s the only thing that makes sense…” They were right too.

No one asked if this would be on the exam.

I realize the caveat of self diagnosis.  Since the rise of the internet, the words a doctor probably most loathes hearing are, “I googled my symptoms and…” And I shared this concern with my students.  I think it’s possible to google your symptoms and come up with 13 fatal diseases, none of which you actually have.

However, I have a friend who is a teacher. A little over a month ago, she wasn’t feeling well.  She had an inkling what the problem might be, and so she went on-line to check.  After she did, she told her husband they needed to go to the hospital.  Guess what? She was having a heart attack.  I shared this story with my students as well.

I think our Biology and health classes need to educate our students in what both health and disease look like.  And how to use technology to delineate between the two.  One day, it just might save their lives.

About shelleywright

I love education & learning, which likely explains why I'm a teacher. My areas are ELA, Sr. sciences, and technology. My classroom is best described as a student-centred, tech embedded pbl/inquiry learning environment. Furthermore, I am Buck Institute for Education National Faculty member
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6 Responses to Deeply Engaged

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Deeply Engaged | Wright'sRoom --

  2. Sean Nash says:

    Isn’t that a great feeling? Being amidst that many curious people… scrambling around in search of meaning… is awesome.

    As a tech specialist, I now only teach one course (marine biology course @ night) but I have some work to share that you might be interested in. Reading your post here made me think about several of the student-led protocols I often used in my Dual-Credit Bio class. A visit to will show you the work my students did for approximately two years. I think you’ll see that we both possess the deep-seated view that general science literacy is a huge underlying goal.

    Keep up the good work here. I’ll be back. Oh, and… which online “teammaker” did you use?

    Happy Holidays,


  3. This gave me chills… envisioning what your classroom felt like during this kind of learning. Thanks for so clearly articulating that, and giving me a vision for future learning scenarios in the classroom.

  4. Stephanie says:

    What a great day when it all comes together:) I am just beginning my journey into a more technology accessible environment and learning everyday. I was just wondering if you have your materials posted online. I want to design more lessons like the one you mentioned and just wondered if it would be possible to see how you set up your Endocrine example.

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