Restrict and Ligate

May 23, 2010 at 9:23 am | Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Posted by Dianna Gregg

One week into my graduate education program, it seems pretty cheeky to write a blog in which I authoritatively offer wisdom and advice, so I decided to take a slightly different approach.    I have been reading blogs, and visiting education web sites exploring the topics of literacy and technology in science classrooms.  I have read from a couple of books as well.  But mostly, I have been thinking about which strategies might work well for me, and what implementing those ideas might look like.  I find myself most interested in pre-reading strategies.   In our class, we discussed Schemas, and the need to activate prior knowledge, as a prelude to engagement and learning.  After all, Biology is a subject with a lot of scary terms and hard vocabulary, such as restriction enzymes and ligase for example, which might seem pretty obscure to high school students.  In “Reading Process and Practice:  from socio-psycholinguistics to whole language”, Constance Weaver explains Schemas, and the fact that they intersect with each other, and change over time.  In a chapter on teaching reading in the content areas, in the same book, Marilyn Wilson talks about a variety of strategies that teachers can use pre-reading, during reading, and post-reading to help their students interact with, and understand the text.   She lists 4 goals of pre-reading strategies:  (1) motivate students to do the reading; (2) help them read with an appropriate purpose, and focus their reading; and (3) bridge the gap between their existing knowledge, and the concepts being presented in the reading; and (4) remind them of their prior knowledge that  relates to the lesson subject.

In his blog, A Difference, Darren Kuropatwa talks about how the books “How People Learn”, and “How Students Learn”, affected his teaching philosophy.  He makes three great points I think.  The first surprised me.  He states that the best place to start is with students’ errors, and misconceptions in the topic area.  At first I envisioned arguments or some other kind of pointless exchange, and thought that surely there could be no worse way to introduce a new topic.  After reflection, I realized that a preconceived idea, correct or not, is a personal connection with the topic area, and a discussion about what they think they know would be an excellent place to start.   After our class discussion about how some students may remember erroneous facts and ideas, rather than the accurate info presented later, I would love to hear from teachers who have used this strategy.  Did it work for you?  He also emphasizes that learning “happens is networks, not hierarchies, and that a teacher needs to remember, and explain how the current topic relates to and fits in with, the ‘big ideas’ of the content area.  This idea really resonates with me, because I consciously ‘grope along in my network’ for places to store information and ideas.  Now I know that this isn’t really weird, or even all that unusual.

In his blog, Learning IS Social, Bud Hunt makes a really strong case that learning seldom, if ever, occurs without the interaction between people.   Darren Kuropatwa also stresses the importance of social learning, as does Marilyn Wilson.  Wilson cites research that indicates that student enjoyment and comprehension increase when they read with and collaborate with peers.  Bud Hunt also uses an analogy that I absolutely love.  He talks about why geese fly in V- formations, and a little about the physics that makes that formation an advantage for them.  If you don’t know, each flying bird causes a “wave” of pressure in the air molecules, similar to the wake produced by a moving boat.  Flying in the V-formation allows following birds to ‘body surf’ or draft on the bird in front of them.   After a while the leader will tire, and will drop back in the formation and coast for a while.  Also, a young goose will usually not lead, but will simply follow and learn her way.  Animal behaviorists also believe that the honking flock serves to encourage struggling geese.   Flocks that fly using these strategies are able to fly farther and faster than any single goose could alone.

Right now, I’m that inexperienced goose, drafting on the work and experience of wiser geese in front of me.  Perhaps, some day I will be a leader, with others following me into new territory, or maybe I will always be a ‘rank and file’ flier.  For now, I’ll just honk a thank you to those whose ideas I have borrowed.  Because what I’m doing here is really just cut and paste.  I searched for the specific words education+biology+literacy.  Mmmm… search …oh, there’s one.…left click…drag to highlight…right click…cut!  There’s another one; OK…cut again.  Wow, there is that specific sequence of characters again.  OK…cut.  Now, time to assemble the pieces.  Paste…paste again.  This works great.  Paste…I mean ligate…I mean paste.  Now for another question:  Does it make sense when I tell you that a restriction enzyme searches through the DNA molecule for a very specific sequence of nucleotides, and cuts the DNA at each occurrence?  Ligase is an enzyme that is used in the lab as a tool, to paste together pieces of DNA , even those from different species.  Cut…paste.  Restrict…ligate.  Honk if you think you will remember.

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