New tools for old labs


This week was the final week of “new material” in AP Biology, and was also the week when the two final work products of this year’s two final lab activities were due. Neither of the labs were new for this year, but for each one, I took the opportunity to try out a new tool.

  1. Transpiration: We had a really great transpiration lab, which I wrote about a bit here. The data set for this year was really rich, and I liked where things were left so much that I felt that a full lab report was an appropriate work product. The class decided that it would be best if they could have most of April to work on their reports, and they elected to submit the labs on the day they returned from Spring Break. No big whoop here. New Tool: I’ve been seeing a bit more of Kaizena recently, particularly since they integrated their tool into the new Google Doc Add-Ons, so I figured I might give it a whirl. Kaizena allows instructors to leave voice feedback on student work products. After enabling the add-on, you select it, and the document loads in to the Kaizena workspace. From here, it’s very simple to select portions of a document, and leave voice feedback. Once you are finished, you can notify all document collaborators that feedback has been left. I thought this really worked well, and gave me a great opportunity to give my students a more detailed feedback than I might in the normal, typed Google Doc comments. I was able to vocalize my process of reading their work, and comment on what my impressions were on their efforts. One thing to be aware of with Kaizena is that if students post their work publicly, and allow their comment streams to be viewed, anyone with the Kaizena add-on enabled will be able to access their comments. Not a big deal, but something to be aware of. Kaizena was a super easy, very user-friendly way for me to leave good, detailed feedback on the Transpiration lab reports, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is using GAFE for student work submission.

  2. Human Response Time: I always do an inquiry lab on response time during my nervous system material. It’s an easy, cheap, and fun lab to do, and students always enjoy the chance to get really creative in measuring response time among their peers, family, and teachers. New Tool:My typical work product for this lab is an infographic, which I have students create on one of the variety of free-use infographic tools that are available online. This year, I suggested the use of either, or picktochart. Everyone used picktochart, which was a new product for my experience. I actually think it’s the best free infographic creation tools available currently. It has a nice selection of free options, a wide variety of graphic formats, and even allows for different types of templates (reports, posters, etc.) instead of just different theming options. Unsurprisingly, some very interesting products were created.

There’s nothing connecting these two projects outside of the temporal spacing of when they were due, and the larger notion that even when we are doing things that we have done quite a few times, there is always room for useful innovation. If you’d like to see the other products that our class created for these two labs, check them out here (but make sure to leave a comment or two if you do see anything interesting while you’re there!)

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