September 28, 2020
By Kelli Gile, WVUSD Community Resources
Educators are pivoting, adapting, and persevering in order to bring high-level instruction to their students
WALNUT, CA-- Walnut High School science teacher Janice Zhen isn’t letting distance deter her commitment to students.
“I’m doing everything I can to make sure the experience is as educational and fun as if we were in a physical classroom,” the IB and Honors Biology teacher pledged.
“The biggest challenge has been hands-on experiments,” said the 20-year veteran educator who has come up with a few solutions.
Zhen now conducts virtual lab demonstrations via Zoom so that students can still observe, collect data, and make conclusions.
For labs that require common materials, she asks students to search for materials available at home.
The teens record themselves performing experiments and then submit on the Flipgrid video discussion website.
For labs that don’t require materials, such as learning how exercise affects breathing rate, the class is able to participate together on Zoom.
“It makes the learning more fun!” she said.
Zhen delivers live instruction on the Zoom platform and checks for understanding using Peardeck where students answer questions using text, drawing, and multiple-choice.
“I can see their answers in real time and provide feedback,” she said.
“It’s a great way to engage all students and start insightful discussions.”
To encourage collaboration remotely, Zhen often assigns students to Zoom breakout rooms for discussions and completing tasks.
One popular assignment is the Escape Room challenge that requires students to work together while solving different levels of clues.
“Today, you’ll be using the scientific method in order to get out of this room that I trapped you in!” the chuckling teacher said.
Students enjoy applying the information learned in class to solve the puzzles and compete with each other, she commented.
Zhen also keeps the online sessions lively with games of Jeapardy, Kahoot!, Quizizz, Taboo, and Pictionary – all via Zoom, of course.
“What is gold?” freshman Phoebe Chin quickly responded to the ‘What metal is heavier, silver or gold?’ question.
“Congratulations, you scored 100 points!” the teacher chimed.
The next category was Enzymes for 500.
“This might be a hard one,” Zhen prompted, reminding students to keep their hands on the virtual buzzers.
The teacher uses a free version of BuzzIn.live that adds a “cool sound effect to the challenges” and creates online game boards with JeopardyLabs templates.
“It would not be Jeopardy without the buzzer!” she said.
“The next question is: List three factors that might affect enzyme activity,” Zhen recited.
“Temperature, PH, and concentration,” answered freshman Marcus Truong.
“That is correct!” the teacher applauded.
Before the game begins, the biology teacher sends students an online access code.
A big green buzzer pops up on computer screens once they sign in.
Zhen is able to see the first player who buzzes in and wins the opportunity to answer the question.
“Students love the sound of the buzzer which stimulates the competitiveness in them!”
Walnut High School biology teacher Janice Zhen conducts virtual lab demonstrations for students during distance learning.
Walnut High biology teacher Janice Zhen advises students collaborating in a Zoom breakout room.
Walnut High biology teacher Janice Zhen and students participate in virtual breathing experiment.
Walnut High students conduct experiments at home.