Name: ShaBranda Faison
Role: 8th grade Science Teacher
School: Southeast Guilford Middle School
School District: Guilford County Schools, North Carolina
Subjects/Grades Taught: Science, Grade 8
Degree/Certificates: BS in Biology with a minor in Forensic Science; MS in Instructional Design & Technology; Current Ed.D. student in Organizational Leadership with an emphasis in Organizational Development
Background: I have been teaching since 2007, and I have always taught middle school science. I originally wanted to be a Pathologist before I fell in love with education.
How did you find yourself in teaching?
Honestly, I fell into teaching. I was one of those people who always said I wouldn’t be a teacher because I saw how they were treated. Originally, I wanted to go to medical school. When I didn’t get in on my first try, I came home to decide what my next steps would be. My hometown is very small, so I was going crazy and taking everyone else in the house with me. One day my grandmother called me and said they had an opening at Warsaw Middle School, and suggested that I should apply. I told her I did not know if I was even qualified. To my surprise, she responded very quickly saying she had already called the local board of education. I did qualify. I sent my resume, was offered the job after the interview, and was told that open house was in less than a week. At the beginning of my first day, I was terrified. But by the end of the day, I was hooked! All I could think about were all of the teachers that made me love learning, believe I could defeat giants, and single-handedly change the world. Not once did I think about any of the obstacles that originally sent me in the opposite direction. I wanted to be like Mr. Dempsey, my high school Algebra II and Trigonometry teacher. He was firm, fair, consistent, and I knew he cared even when he didn’t give an inch. He made me believe I could move mathematical mountains although I hated math. I wanted to be the teacher who did that for her students. I wanted to be able to make my students believe they could climb Mount Everest and swim the Atlantic Ocean. I didn’t go looking for education. It found me, and my prayer is to be the kind of teacher that Mr. Dempsey was for me to the students I am blessed to encounter.
What is your favorite thing about Science Techbook?
I don’t have just one favorite thing. There are so many things that make the Science Techbook a great tool. First, it allows you to integrate into the different types of classroom settings. It offers a wide array of tools, such as videos, interactive text features, animations, virtual labs, as well as, open-ended writing prompts that can be easily used to supplement both small and whole group activities and lessons. Second, it is student friendly. This was very important to me because, in many cases, online tools need a lot of modification. They are often too difficult for students to understand and use without the direct guidance or the content is not something a middle school student would be interested in. This is not the case with the Techbook. I can send my students to specific sections, such as the Engage page, and allow them to move through the content at their own pace without fear of them getting frustrated or disengaging because it is too easy, hard, or boring. Third, it helps me personalize and differentiate my lessons more quickly. It’s very easy to create DE Boards and pull specific content based on the needs of the students or use the links from DE in other tools. Lastly, I like that it makes it easy for other content areas to integrate science into their lessons. Because it is based on the Five-E model, my other teammates find it easy to navigate and find supplementary items for reinforcing science and showing content connections.
How has using Science Techbook changed your opinion of your role as the teacher?
Techbook has helped me become more of a facilitator. As an educator, my primary objective is to make sure students learn, build 21st century skills, and grow as individuals. Having 1:1 technology definitely makes being a facilitator easier just because of the increased access. However, it can become time consuming and difficult to create lessons that do everything you need them to do. When students access DE and the Science Techbook, I don’t have to worry if the content is appropriate, if the website has become inactive, or if the interactive activity will work. I can step back and watch them explore, learn, and dive deeper in areas that interest them. The Science Techbook has allowed me to offer more authentic experiences and global connections to the content for my students.
Watch Ms. Faison lead two differentiated lessons simultaneously in her 8th Grade Science Techbook classroom. Students work through one of two Discovery Education Boards depending on whether they are on track to take Biology or Earth/ Environmental Science the next year in high school.
Board Builder Activity – What’s all this talk about the bees about?
Board Builder Activity – Save Something for Later?
What tips do you have for beginning users?
The biggest tip I can give is to keep trying. New tools always seem difficult at first, but we have to be a model of how to face things that make us uncomfortable for our students. It’s like learning to swim. At first you are afraid to get in because the pool seems too deep (large amounts of content to choose from), but then you put on floats and goggles to make it more manageable (accurately labeled materials within the Five-E model). Once you aren’t afraid of water on your face, you start to learn basic strokes (follow model lessons), eventually you move on to more advanced skills (creating DE boards, classes and assigning material), and before you know it you are swimming laps in the pool (integrating DE content into other platforms and differentiating).
What other tools, resources, strategies, etc. do you incorporate with Science Techbook?
I organize my classroom and use resources that allow me to create authentic experiences, make global connections, and fuel students curiosity. To accomplish this, I like to use chunking, flexible groups and differentiation so the lessons are more personalized. In my opinion it is necessary to keep direct instruction short and sweet. I try to give students the basics in a way that is easy to understand and use, and then allow them build on what I give them to develop their own understanding. This way I can be sure they have the required content knowledge, but they work developing critical thinking skills, problem-solving, and necessary soft skills, such as time management, teamwork, work ethic, and self confidence. I have incorporated Science Techbook content using LMS’s such as Edmodo and Canvas. I have used tools and resources, such as Twitter, TodaysMeet, Padlet, Quizlet, Animoto, Socrative, Prezi, LiveBinders, YouTube, Google Earth, QR Codes, and Remind; as well as, worksheets, graphic organizers and different note-taking and text annotation strategies to both deliver and reinforce content. It’s one thing to tell students the International Space Station is using what we are learning about, how infectious disease is affecting the upcoming Olympics, or that sodium is highly reactive. But, it doesn’t really have meaning until they can see it, experience it, and/or manipulate it in some way.
How do you organize your classroom and planning to maximize your students’ learning experiences?
To maximize learning I try to give them guided choices using these tools and resources. I use pre-assessments to determine what they need and structure the lessons to fit those needs in the most effective ways I can. It is important they have choices that are not overwhelming, engaging, appropriate for their level, but still challenging. I have been very lucky to work with supportive teammates, and we integrate each other’s content as often as possible into our own lessons to help students make deeper connections. For instance, my ELA teacher uses science content when analyzing non-fiction text. In my class, I use the note-taking and annotation strategies they see in ELA, as well as, the terminology from different classes to reinforce both my content and others. In education, it truly takes a village to be successful.
How do your students respond to the use of Science Techbook? What do they like about it?
My students responded well to the Science Techbook. They like that it is easy to use and access in general. They also enjoy being able to find information specific to what they like in the form they like to use. Most of my students would say they like the videos. I like being able to send them to specific segments during class, knowing they have the option to watch full length videos at home. Other students have said they like the interactive activities such as labs, animations, and interactive videos the most. And, they express that they like the Techbook articles. They like to research words they don’t know and they like how Techbook gives them the ability to supplement what they read with video segments or interactive activities. This allows students to choose how much they want to learn about a topic.
Discovery Education in Action is a series of webinars, blog posts, and livestreams that share the view from educators using Discovery Education resources. Learn more here: http://www.discoveryeducation.com/what-we-offer/professional-development/discovery-education-in-action.cfm