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Meet Jill Sculerati : Interactive Online Learning in IB Biology using Punnett Squares


With 21 years of teaching experience, Jill Sculerati has planned her fair share of science lessons. Over her last seven years teaching IB Biology she's wrestled with how to help students critically think about one of the foundational elements of her course - the Punnett Square.  Filling them out was usually a fairly easy task for students to complete, but deeper applications such as predicting pedigree charts proved to be much more difficult.


Punnett Squares help predict genotypes.
Students can usually complete the Square without many problems. But it's hard for them to really analyze and see the applications of what these results might mean in more complex real-world cases to predict the probability of specific diseases or traits.  
- Jill Sculerati, IB Biology Teacher



While this problem has been a consistent challenge for Jill, it has grown within the current environment of COVID and online learning.  Jill has always strived to have her students 1) apply content and 2) learn from self/peer evaluations. And she knows that within the face-to-face environment, students benefitted so much from discussion, debate, and sharing ideas. Yet, she notes, "those interactions are just so difficult to replicate in online learning." In face-to-face learning, each of those interactions contributed to a collective whole that helped build everyone's understanding. But online, they seem like separate, distinct interactions. It's harder  to bring about a shared understanding.

Looking for a new way to help solve her problem, Jill turned to Huddle Up to increase student interaction by allowing them to share ideas and feedback with one another.  It has allowed Jill to re-arrange her typical unit (see below) into a blended learning model where the solutions and feedback are organized and structured to help each student improve.



In a traditional unit, Jill would give a few complex genotype scenarios to see if students could analyze the data correctly. If time in the unit permitted, students could peer evaluate one another and possibly engage in a class discussion about a few of the scenarios.

With Huddle Up, Jill had each student upload their analysis - allowing each student to see the solution of others. Additionally, Jill used Huddle Up to structure peer evaluations using a rubric she created within the platform so that each student could see a more detailed view of their strengths and weaknesses as determined by peers. In doing so, a natural learning loop is created allowing each student to improve their original work with data from many evaluators.

Given the last few years of virtual learning due to the pandemic, Jill, like many others, noticed that it's increasingly difficult to maintain the sense of community she had with face-to-face learning. Each student completes work, but it is largely done in isolation. And, attempts at group interaction seemed like increasing students' time online at a time when everyone is concerned about additional screen time.

One of the things that I missed in virtual learning is the connectivity, the feedback, and the real-time conversations because it just doesn't happen like you think it might when they are just looking at boxes on a screen (in isolation).

Knowing the future uncertainty regarding virtual learning, Jill continues to innovate and strive for better experiences for her students.

Having gone through a period of virtual learning, I know what's it like when we were doing IB Biology on [Microsoft] Teams. That [platform] just doesn't have the same interactive nature that Huddle Up has. I have a feeling we might be going back to virtual learning... and I think having the option to do all the things that I do in-class but on a virtual platform is going to really increase the understanding that my students get.

Jill is part of an upcoming case study using Huddle Up to compare the effectiveness of this unit to her previous methods. Her goals for the case study include:

  1. Increased engagement, as evidenced by contributions made within the platform and in-class discussions.
  2. Fewer missing / late assignments as compared to previous units, as documented in the platform.
  3. Increased student learning in the same (or fewer) class periods, as measured by formative and summative quizzes.
  4. Greater student satisfaction in the learning model, as measured by an end of unit survey.

         

Learn more about the unique interactive learning model within Huddle Up in the videos below.

Huddle Up Overview (0:40)



Navigating the Project Homepage (2:12)






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