Portfolios and Science? They’ve got Chemistry.

noun_814667_C82606What role can portfolios play in a chemistry classroom?

The author of the amazing CHEMJUNGLE Youtube channel is just three floors away from me at an amazing school we share.  I finally got to catch up with her to talk about portfolios, reflection, and community.  This post is meant to help explore options for blossoming Chemists.  That’s where you come in, if you reader know of other great #ibchem teachers out there, please pass this on and ask them to recommend their own catalysts (see what I did there?).

First things first, let’s look at what other chemistry teachers do with portfolios as a platform and resource to curate thinking and compound learning:

Meet: Dr. Jay

aka @Doctor_Galactic

 Curator of .

His portfolio is rich with posts about Chemistry in the Kitchen like this one and a really great initiative to host a live Chemistry Journal on Twitter, check it out here.

MEET: Kaye Chem

aka @chemDrK

Here’s the link to her portfolio. Here’s one of my favorite of her posts on ‘Threshold Concepts,’ and also this post on her school’s Science Journal Club is worth the read.


If you are looking for a broader list of chemists on twitter, check out this resource via @sksilverman

What could we expect from student chemists in the making?

Let’s start with a grade 9 unit.  Here are the Essential Questions:

  1. Why is it necessary to use models to explain the structure of the atom?
  2. How can all matter be made up of so few elements?
  3. Why does Mendeleev’s periodic table prevail?
  4. How do you tell the difference between elements, compounds and mixtures?
  5. Why are chemical equations useful?
  6. What determines the way elements react?

Can we extend their learning and ask them to build community whilst practicing curation and creativity skills?

Here is a series of prompts meant to help students use a wide variety of portfolio post techniques:


Made with Padlet
Documenting our learning serves as a heutagogical tool. Capturing artifacts that demonstrate the process of learning as well as a product, need to be able to be stored, archived and displayed somewhere. Blogfolios give the self-directed learner a hub to document their learning and to make it visible for others. Where have they been? What steps did they take along the way? How are these learning artifacts connected with each other? Documentation OF learning can grown into documenting FOR learning and documenting AS learning, when strategically embedded into the learning process. (Read Silvia Toscano’s Full Post Here)


What could a Worldwide celebration of Chemistry look like?

What if students from around the world were asked to share a post inspired by Chemistry with one another?

Could we ask groups to rethink the way we organize the elements? Ala this example.

Could we ask students to reflect on the year in Chemistry news?

Could we ask students to document their process in designing innovative experiments like this one?

What if we asked students to make key concepts visible, like this example?

In this project we have combined interesting and striking photographs of familiar objects with representations of some of the molecules they contain, which contribute to their properties and uses. The photographs have usually been taken in a laboratory environment, allowing us to contrast everyday items with the utilitarian environment in which we “do” chemistry.

Calling all Chemists–please make suggestions in the comment section below: how would you harness portfolios to have a powerful reaction within their chemistry studies?


Portfolios for Geographers: Mapping out the Mindset


What is the potential for portfolios in a geographer’s world?

Let’s look at samples of Geographers preserving, curating and collecting insight in their virtual worlds:

1. Jeremy Crampton   University of Kentucky Prof in Geography Dept. Originally from the other UK.

“Open Geography”

2. Dominique Moran Reader in Carceral Geography, University of Birmingham

“Carceral Geography”

3. Mark Purcell Political theorist, urbanist, democrat, communist, anarchist, libertarian, and geographer.

“Path to the Possible”

How could we provoke geographers to curate their first post?

Made with Padlet

Which styles of posts work best?

do we need to be one another’s audience?

If we believe that learning happens best in connected communities, we need to be intentional about building bridges in our virtual spaces.  Commenting takes practice.  Here’s the advice I usually give my students:

If your comments are meant to help with the structure of posts, use this as a way to organize your comment:

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 2.39.27 PM

If your comments are meant to help with the critical thinking behind the post, use these prompts to fuel your comments:

Thinking Moves for Blog commenting – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

All comments should follow the guidelines you set up.  These are mine, feel free to borrow/adapt.

What are the most important lines of inquiry we need to continue to pursue and preserve?


WHAT happens when we create content for a broader community?

Made with Padlet

Featured Image Courtesy of Flickr and

Richard Allaway“Coastal Landform – Sea Cave. Pembroke, South Wales, UK”

Starting conversations about spaces


infowidget “Book Club shirt”


I’m extremely lucky to work at an amazing school where the learning never stops.  People are constantly keen to think more about next practice, rather than cozy up to ‘best practice.’

In coming weeks, a group of us will begin a Learning Spaces Book Club. Sustainability is a major component of everything we do at my school, and that means change comes with a mindful check in place: when we ask: is this good for all stakeholders? we make sure that inquiry includes Mother Earth.

I’ve begun to assemble a Flipboard on Learning Spaces.  This magazine is meant to compliment the broader reading we will do. Our first text, is on it’s way in: feel free to read along with us, and join us in the #uwcLearnSpaces conversation to be.

I have to recommend three amazing people who are leading the thought-athon on this topic.  If you aren’t following these big brains on Twitter, stop reading this post, and bring them into your PLN now:




That’s where you come in–if you are reading this right now, and you have a favorite text/resource when it comes to learning spaces–or if you have a great question to ask when it comes to classroom redesign, please share in the comment section.