St. Andrew's College
St. Andrew's College News
August 5, 2016

Blazing New Trails in Chemistry Learning

Teacher Marke Jones has taken curriculum customization to the next level by pulling apart AP chemistry texts and reorganizing them for the OneNote platform.

Permission to use the digital files for AP Chemistry 1 and AP Chemistry 2 was granted by publisher, Edvantage Interactive. Both texts were principally written by Cheri Smith, a public high school teacher in British Columbia whose work is highly regarded in the AP world.

“The company saw this as an exciting opportunity,” says Mr. Jones, of the first such collaboration of its kind with an Ontario school. “I thought they would be more worried about permissions, but they were very accommodating and basically told me to take what I needed and compile it.”

Mr. Jones spent the past summer organizing the pdf pages and considering how to best supplement them with materials such as online references, videos, and lab examples. The resultant “worktext” covers the two-year course curriculum that fits both Ministry requirements and matches his preferred teaching flow.

The worktexts were made available to his grade 11 and 12 students in September. Just last week, the final piece of customization arrived from the publisher in the form of hardcopy texts, complete with the class photo on the cover. Students must make OneNote the primary notebook; however the option is there for those who prefer to write out lab exercises versus using a stylus pen on their tablets.

In this first year, Mr. Jones is looking at ways to best utilize the potential of this resource. The students are now about one-third through, and he continually edits and fine-tunes pages. “By the end of the year I’ll have a new version of this resource, which I’ll repeat annually so it can continue to evolve and stay current,” he says.

Customized curriculums are just one of many ways in which Mr. Jones believes SAC’s model of teaching is enhanced by the supporting technology. For example, Vernier LabPro currently helps his students analyze data in real time, removing the need to go away to plot numbers and graphs for discussion another time.

The ‘sage on the stage’ model of learning is giving way to a more collaborative means learning. “I love it when I’m stumped by a question,” says Mr. Jones, who admits that challenging questions expand his own knowledge of the subject. He finds boys know a lot about social media but not as much about sourcing good information.

“We navigate collaboratively to find the answers online and use it as a learning opportunity. The student won’t care about the answer tomorrow—the moment will have passed.”

Proposed changes to SAC’s chemistry wing are something else Mr. Jones believes will enhance learning. Preliminary plans show state-of-the art labs that will foster more cooperative and collaborative learning labs as opposed to the traditional verification labs.

"The most recent changes and proposed changes to the teaching spaces are resulting in boys being lost in learning for learning’s sakes. It’s all very exciting," adds Mr. Jones.

Story by Cindy Veitch

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