Tuesday, September 16, 2014

37 Days until Mole Day

This week I am introducing the mole, a fundamental concept in chemistry that we use to measure amount of a substance.  On Friday, I will give my Mole Day assignment, a project that is often one of my fall highlights.

The mole, 602,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 things, is a tremendously big number, used for measuring very small things like atoms and molecules.  It's hard for students to comprehend a number this big, so we celebrate Mole Day doing a project to help us understand how big that number is.  I ask my students to take a common object and measure its mass, volume, and length or something else that makes sense.  Then they calculate what each of those quantities would be if they had a mole of the objects.  Then they compare that to some known quantity of mass, volume, or length.  For example, if you had a mole of dice, they would stretch from the Earth to the Sun something like 63,000,000,000 times.  Students create a representation of their findings and present them on Mole Day.  Extra credit for incorporating the Mole Day Theme (this year: Mole O'Ween).

I have saved a lot of posters over the years -- mole of dice, mole of dimes, mole of post-its.  I have some tshirts, some mobiles.  There was a poem, now infamous, about burning a mole of books, several songs, and even an interpretive dance one year.  This year, the Mole Day project will get a bit of a facelift.  In an effort to help students explore some new resources the project will be digital -- kids must use a digital tool to create their representation.  I have a list of suggested tools like Powtoon and Thinglink and Prezi and Glogster, but it's always great to see what the kids find and use.  It's time to bring this project up to code, especially since the very best Mole Day project I have ever evaluated was digital four years ago:

In the spirit of Mole Day and digital tools, I played around a little with Zaption tonight.  Have you tried Zaption?  Zaption allows you to take a video and add interactive elements.  As with so many web tools, there is a generous free version and a PayForIt Pro version.  I have tried some other tools like this, but I love the way Zaption looks.  

I took a TedEd video about the Mole and added just a few interactive questions.  Here is what I ended up with after just a few minutes of tinkering.  Below is a screenshot of the analytics I can see as it gets used:

Looks like I will get some great info after my students watch it!  I think I will use this Zaptioned mole video on Friday when I introduce the project -- part inspiration, part formative assessment.   Maybe one of my students will use Zaption to complete the project.  Come back on October 24 to see the best of their work!

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