As a class we watched a TED Talk by Willie Smits on the deforestation of Boreo for the palm oil industry. The science described in the video can be challenging for grade 10 students, however it engaged them thoroughly in the topic. During the video, students brainstormed questions they had about the science in an online chat ( or D2L chat tool worked well for us). After the video, we took the brainstormed questions and organized them in a Google Doc. This allowed us to focus in on 10 - 15 big ideas or concepts. 

Some examples: 

  • what is a monoculture? 
  • what products do you find palm oil in?
  • what is climate change? 



After we divided up the questions, students researched their topics and each group created a Voicethread slide. Voicethread is a tool that lets you put up an image, video, document or slide and then leave audio comments over top. This gave students a way to explain what they learned through their research without having to write a long, polished document. The entire activity took us a period and a half and we then watched and discussed the learning after. It ended up leading into a larger, more detailed project. 


Information about Voicethreads can be found here: 


One of the benefits of posting our voicethread online was that someone who had actually been to Borneo and witnessed the clear-cutting commented and connected with us. Another benefit from this learning activity was that students developed language and scientific concepts through researching questions that they had developed. We then had a context to connect our learning to throughout the course. 



Digital Online Safety Notes: 

  • school and board polices must be adhered to
  • parent permission is required
  • terms of use and privacy terms of any digital tool must be considered
  • digital citizenship and literacy learning must be integrated into course, throughout the semester