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AP Biology & Inquiry-Based Labs

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Keywords: AP Biology, iPads, Inquiry Based Labs
Subject(s): Biology
Grades 11 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • Communication and Collaboration
  • Research and Information Fluency
  • Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
  • Digital Citizenship
  • Technology Operations and Concepts
View Full Text of Standards
School: Melbourne High School, Melbourne, FL
Planned By: Nicole Golden
Original Author: Nicole Golden, Melbourne
Lesson Plan Rationale:
The students of today are no different from the students of a decade ago- nor are they any different from their counterparts in Africa or Finland. All humans are born with an urge to investigate; this drive for discovery has led to the transformation of the planet. While the students remain the same, their surroundings have changed. To adapt to new technologies chisels and stones have been abandoned for emails and text messages. While staying within the laws of nature, humans have harnessed the power to adapt their world shaping and molding the future from just a few essential ingredients found on Earth.
With that said, not everyone has the ability to get their hands on the latest and greatest technology which we know is needed for the continued advancement of any society.
With the purchase of 10 iPads they will be used in the classroom every day by each student. A copy of “Biology” by Raven & Johnson, 2011 will be downloaded onto every iPad. The eBook that will be loaded onto each iPad also comes with Connect Plus software. This revolutionary new software adapts to the student’s learning needs and is on the forefront of enhancing education on an individual basis. Virtual labs, quizzes, papers, and online conferences or field trips will be completed and submitted to the teacher through Google Docs or email. One of the leading advantages of the iPad is the ability for inquiry-based learning. In my class students will use the following list of procedures to create labs for the class:
• A set of materials and a question are proposed to the students.
• Students will take pictures of the materials and any key steps in their procedures.
• Procedures are created in Pages or Word equivalent.
• Results are documented in Numbers or Excel equivalent to create graphs that can easily be placed into Pages.
• Inquiry-based labs are presented to the class through Keynote, Powerpoint, Prezi, or Google Docs.
• Presentations are shared on BPS Share platform.
• Conclusions are written after classmates have reviewed labs.
• Labs are submitted electronically to the teacher.

In this way, students will be working side-by-side coming up with unique ways of expressing data while sharing them not only with the teacher, but also with anyone who has access to the Internet. Who knows, a student might come up with a better design for a lab than the traditional “recipe” labs we’ve been given. As students learn to set up a control and experimental group all on their own, they are preparing themselves for a future of research in an exciting and engaging way.

Lesson Activities:
Each student will receive an iPad with the eBook “Biology” by Raven & Johnson along with the Connect Plus software. The eBook alone is a huge improvement from the standard Raven and Johnson encyclopedia. Students can highlight sections of the text without ruining the book for following years. They can bookmark a page, click on a word they don’t know and instantly find the definition, or click on pictures which turn into animations. The book includes section reviews, quizzes, and virtual labs that can be submitted to the teacher seamlessly. If this weren’t already enough, the Connect Plus software will enable students to learn at a much more rapid rate- allowing them to advance to material that they don’t already know. The software becomes accustomed to each individual student- with frequent checks for understanding. If the software senses the student needs more time on a given topic, it tells the student “30 minutes more”. The software pulls up readings from alternate sources, along with interactive activities to make sure the student can comprehend the topic before moving forward. Social learning platforms like Google Docs will also be used to create and respond to blogs and construct and post data from lab experiments. My goal is to have students reading the text at home to prepare for in-class discussions and also taking virtual field trips while working together towards the completion of inquiry based labs.
Students will also collaborate with each other to create their own inquiry-based labs. I will set up the necessary lab materials and students will read background information and review the topic before stepping into the lab. At this point students will use the iPad to take a picture of lab materials used or record a video that can be placed in the lab document they are creating. The students will list their procedures and record results using excel or numbers. Results will be shared through Google Docs on our BPS Share platform. Conclusions will be written after results have been shared and reviewed.

Lesson Alignment:
The Brevard Public Schools District has been on the edge of innovation in education for a long time. We are up to date on technological advances, have great teachers and administrators and a wonderful support system from the community.
According to the District Strategic Plan, our vision is to “serve our community and enhance students’ lives by delivering the highest quality education in a culture of dedication, collaboration, and learning”. Our school improvement plan encourages students to “strive for excellence.” We want our students to achieve great things, but we don’t just want them to settle for “I’m going to graduate”. We want them to move on to higher education, to push their boundaries and see what they can really accomplish. We need our students to advance to higher education as soon as they can. There are many benefits to taking an AP course, such as: impressing college admission counselors, develop college-level academic skills, saving money by taking these courses in high school, choosing a major sooner, taking more elective classes in college, and adding a minor or second major more easily (http://collegeapps.about.com/).
According to the operational expectations of the District Strategic Plan, #4 tells us to promote student acquisition of 21st century skills. Most students of this day have had some interaction with computers, but they are not as proficient as we would like to think. Because many of them do not have access to iPads or other tablets, or even to certain programs like Microsoft Office, it is hard for them to become talented with these tools. It is my goal that with the incorporation of iPads, students will become competent in using Google Docs to create and submit reports.
Research has shown that increasing the number of formative assessments by just 2 times per week increases the amount of material retained (Fuchs and Fuchs). When students use the iPad with Connect Plus software, the number of formative assessments will be increased exponentially since the software starts with a pre-assessment, asks check up questions as students move through the material, and concludes with a post-assessment. All of this will be completed before students submit their summative assessments on the topic.
Because my students are taking AP Biology, they do not follow the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards (NGSSS), but the College Board Standards assigned to the Biology course. This is the perfect time to introduce iPads to an AP Biology classroom because the program has gone through a complete revamping. The standards have become more specified- concentrating on depth and not breadth. This offers the perfect opportunity for inquiry based learning because of what inquiry does. It takes students beyond the basic levels of Bloom’s taxonomy and into evaluation. It improves critical thinking skills, which is what our students need to be successful when they leave high school.

Lesson Planning & Implementation:
My plan is for each student of AP Biology to be equipped with his or her own iPad. They will check out an iPad at the end of the 2011-2012 school year and sign a form accepting their responsibility for the iPad. A summer assignment on Ecology will be given on each iPad. The student is responsible for completing the unit through the Connect Plus software and submits the work electronically to the teacher by August 3rd, 2012. In August of 2012, students will meet as a class for the first time. They will use their iPads to take their first test. Students will spend time becoming familiarized with various programs like Word or Pages, Numbers or Excel, and Powerpoint or Keynote. A Google Docs account will be set up for every student. Next, students will be given a rubric to follow so as to have a successful completion of their first inquiry-based lab. Students will use the programs they have become comfortable with using in class to collect their data. They will present these labs to the class and share their labs on the web. Their labs must be reviewed by at least 2 other class members & their names should be noted in their adjustments or corrections to the lab. Each student will store their labs on their iPads and will end up with a portfolio of 8 inquiry-based labs at the end of the school year. These lab portfolios will be submitted to Educational Technology in May of 2013.

Date Description of Activities
May/ June 2012 Students become acquainted with the iPad & are assigned their summer assignment on Ecology.
June/ July 2012 Students use Connect Plus software to become engaged with their summer assignment. Results are sent to the teacher upon completion of the lesson.
August 2012-May 2013
Biology by Raven and Johnson is accessed and utilized as an invaluable eBook which students can highlight, bookmark, & interact with. Students continue to complete formative assessments through the Connect Plus software.
August 7th, 2012 Students take their first summative assessment on the summer assignment using their iPads as clickers.
August 8th, 2012
Students review how to use Google Docs & create an account.
August 21st, 2012 Students work on first inquiry based lab
December 2012 Feedback form provided to students
August 2012-May 2013
Students plan and complete 8 inquiry based labs with the use of their iPad in: collecting data, recording hypotheses, procedures, results, and sharing through peer review & posting results online.
Students’ 8 inquiry based labs are placed into a portfolio that can be accessed through the BPS share platform & will show up as an eBook they created on their iPad.
May 2013 Feedback form provided to students
May 2013 Critique form given to parents
May 4th, 2013
Students’ lab portfolios are submitted to Educational Technology

Lesson Plan Assessment/ Evaluation:
AP Biology students are typically assessed at the end of the school year when they take the AP exam. This exam is undoubtedly difficult and requires the student to think beyond the comprehension and application levels of learning. It is my goal that through the creation of these 8 inquiry-based labs spaced strategically throughout the school year where students are constantly being forced to think outside of the box that students will gain the critical thinking skills and strategies they need to perform well on this exam. The scores range from 1-5 with 5 being “most qualified” for college credit and 1 being not qualified to receive credit. The students’ portfolios will also be assessed both by their peers when they are being reviewed and by the teacher at the end of the school year. A detailed rubric will be provided to each student as to guide the creation of each inquiry-based lab. This same rubric will be used to assess the students’ labs after they are completed and they will be assessed again when I check their portfolios in May.
I will compare my student’s scores on the AP exam with scores from students at the district, state, and national levels. These scores will be reported and shared with parents and administrators. When the scores are reported and the students’ portfolios have been graded, feedback will be provided to administrators, students, and parents. The percentage of students who have scored levels 1-5 will be given to those listed above. The students will receive a feedback form at the end of each semester for me to gain their input on how they feel about the inquiry labs. The teacher will adjust parts of the lab if needed and will use this data to adjust the material for following years. Data will also be reported and shared through http://www.collegeboard.org. I will provide College Board readers with our objectives and an evaluation of the course with the inquiry labs. Students will also be evaluated based on their scores through the use of the Connect Plus software and how they score on their unit assessments. Adjustments will be made to the content covered in class. Parents will also be involved in the evaluation process by critiquing their child’s work. A “critique form” given to the parents and submitted to the teacher will document this.

Lesson Deliverable:
In May, the students will have already had at least 2 students peer-review each of their 8 inquiry labs and the teacher has graded each lab as well. The student will then revise each lab and submit it in their final portfolio. Parents, teachers, and students will have access to these portfolios because they will be shared on the BPS share platform through Google Docs. Upon the conclusion of the 2012-2013 school year, each student will have his or her inquiry-based lab portfolio evaluated by the teacher and submitted to Education Technology. These will also be available as an eBook published by the student. Parents will fill out a critique form where they will be asked to rate their child’s work.

Next year will be my first year teaching AP Biology. The content is at the college level but is taught to 11th and 12th graders in high school. I think the iPad will #1 be a great way to promote interest in taking the course, #2 dramatically increase students' scores on quizzes and tests because of increased formative assessment provided by the Connect Plus software (which is only available on the iPad), and #3 it will increase their inquiry skills because of the 8 planned inquiry based labs they will directly be using their iPads for. Our school has the funding for the software & text, but we cannot afford the iPads. With 10 iPads, that would be enough to cover one for every student in the class.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Students will be able to download the online version of their textbooks from other classes they are taking. This way students can learn on the go by only carrying around an iPad as opposed to 5 different textbooks. There is a tremendous amount of math involved in AP Bio- they will be crossing curriculum by using calculators & formulas on the iPad to answer questions in class. While writing their reports they will also be working on their language skills- spell checker will help.
See "lesson description" above.
Materials: Wacom Tablets
Other Items: 10 iPads, $500 each, total of $5000.00