Category Archives: Constructivism

Analysis Post: A closer look of my ETEC 533 e-Folio

Keywords from every ETEC 533 e-folio post I made:

I have always been a selfishly keen learner.

Selfish, from the perspective that I love to engage in cerebral practices that…

  1. challenge my current thinking;
  2. improve my quality of life and the quality of lives of my loved ones;
  3. keep my career choice fresh and relevant; and
  4. make me less ignorant of the issues facing society and the world, in general.

I am not entirely sure about where my lifelong quest to learn stems from, although I am certain it is not due to solely one event in my life.  Perhaps it has something to do with my parents being educators?  Perhaps I had more positive experiences in school than negative? Perhaps I am a pleaser-type— always wanting to make my teachers and parents, and now husband and children, “proud of me”? Perhaps I have a fear of appearing “stupid”?  Perhaps I just love to learn!

When looking through my e-folio posts for the course, the theme that has surfaced throughout is “student motivation”. I will further sub-categorize this theme by using the most common words from my ETEC 533 e-folio posts, shown in larger font on the above word cloud: (how we) learn and (how we) use.

Student Motivation and How We Learn

My focus early in the course was on student misconceptions. Without question, one of the most influential readings of the course was Vosniadou and Brewer’s “Mental Models of the Earth: A Study of Conceptual Change in Childhood”.  This reading, along with watching “A Private Universe”, really emphasized how students bring in their presuppositions to every learning experience and that their knowledge is situated from needing to explain the world around them (Vosniadou & Brewer, 1002). Prior to this week, I knew that students harbored misconceptions, however, not nearly to the extent that they did and why they did. Understanding that we all have an innate need to explain the world around us, whether it is scientifically based or not, has made me realize that I need to provide more opportunities within my classroom to allow students’ thinking and reasoning to be visible (Linn et al, 2002).

Throughout ETEC 533, situating and anchoring students’ learning has been a key piece that research has shown to foster students’ motivating factors.  The well-intentioned, though outdated Jasper Series week got some of us really excited to anchor learning in real life contexts.  Reading such blog posts that were titled, “Chalk and Talk are Dead” and “Goodbye Rote, Hello Anchored Instruction” exemplify this excitement to an exciting extreme. Although I will not being giving up my digital chalk anytime soon, what I have extracted from the ETEC 533 experience is that teachers of different age groups have different end goals, and hence, different pedagogical approaches, surrounding their practices.

The situated learning strategies that resonated most with me were via LfU (Learning for Use), T-GEM (Technology-enhanced: Generate, Evaluate, Modify) and embodiment. As summarized using Microsoft’s SWAY program:

All of these models naturally incorporate motivational strategies, that help engage students to want to learn.

Ultimately, students need to not only be interested in what they are learning, but they also need to have the appropriate tools in order to make that learning transpire.  Taking into account Scaffolded Knowledge Integration (SKI), in both of the activities that I have produced, incorporating the PhEt simulation for the Gravitation T-GEM and real-time data acquisition apparatus for graphical analysis, every student has an opportunity to make their learning personal and novel (Linn et al, 2002).  This concept also reinforces a key takeaway for students who were in the Spicer and Statford 2001 study analyzing the effectiveness of virtual field trips (VFT).  Students felt that by participating in the VFT, instead of a traditional lecture, that their learning had been personalized, hence they had more opportunity to engage in independent thought. With curiosity piqued (Edelson, 2000), opportunities for relationships to be generated, evaluated and modified (Khan, 2007), and interactions between the student and environment provided (Winn, 2003), self-motivation can be maximized.  In a recent post, I relayed some motivational strategies for educators to invoke:

Perhaps not if you design your practice around a few, simple motivational concepts, as outlined in the paper, “Reality versus Simulation” (Srinivasan et al, 2006):

1.       Design your lessons to “optimally challenge” your students. Like a video game, lessons shouldn’t be too difficult or too easy, for our students to engage with.

2.      Be INTERESTING. There are two key ways:

  • Weave NOVELTY into your lesson. (C+C Music Factory knows this, well.) A very smart person conducted a study that investigated K-1 students’ tendency to utilize scientific language when describing animals.  These budding, young scientists used scientific language more often when describing animals such as legless lizards and hedgehogs than when describing more common animals such as rabbits.

  • Convey a sense of IMPORTANCE and/or VALUE to what is being learned. From my own experience, ever since I began prefacing the Factoring Unit in Math 10 with, “This is the most important unit of the course” language, the unit is no longer one of the weakest units. People seem to take it more seriously when I put it on a pedestal. I also show students where I use it in my Grade 11 and 12 classes, in order to reinforce that this process is not going away any time soon.

Another key reading for myself was Winn’s “Learning in Artificial Environments: Embodiment, Embeddedness and Dynamic Adaptation” (2003).  The importance of coupling students with their environment to foster learning particularly stood out. How can we as educators capitalize on the addictive nature of video games that provide users with appropriate challenge, maximum curiosity, and opportunities to fantasize? Prior to this week, I only considered the affordances of gamification in my pedagogy.  Now, I am considering ways of using the effects of video games within my lessons.

From this post: “Activities that challenge students, pique their curiosity and provide “fruitful” new tidbits of knowledge that can assist them with future problems, are optimal, should the new knowledge wish to be adapted (Winn, 2003).”

From the same post: “As the questions would directly relate to the Vernier activity, students would be able to apply their knowledge the next day, making use of all three mechanisms for adaption of knowledge:

  1. Creating genetic algorithms: the “if-then” rules we construct when interacting with our environment and adapting our knowledge due to collecting “fruitful” information

  2. Rule Discovery: rules would have been crafted during the Vernier activity but then further entrenched by applying the rules to the Peer Instruction questions

  3. Crossover:applying the algorithms and rules in new situations could lead to rules combining into new rules for more complex situations (Winn, 2003)”

Student Motivation and How we Use

Wanting to dive into addressing student misconceptions deeper, I chose this topic as my theme for my annotated bibliography,  “Shut up and Calculate” Versus “Let’s Talk” Science Within a TELE”.   The biggest takeaway from the annotated bibliography was understanding the new roles that educators can be adopting in non-chalk-and-talk learning environments. Previously, the term “Guide on the Side” made me very uncomfortable as my interpretation of what this role entailed was limited to inquiry roles. Now, understanding the merits and dangers of using student-generated analogies (Haglund & Jeppsson, 2013) and stepwise problem-solving strategy (SPSS) (Gok, 2014), will shape my new role as “guide”.

Although I will be putting student-generated analogies and SPSS to the test in the near future, one approach that I have already adopted this semester with all three of my current classes is what I have coined as “Collaborative Quizzing”. In an attempt to create more opportunities to allow students’ thinking more visible, I now allow students to have the option of completing their quiz with a partner. This idea stemmed from our week learning about the WISE platform.  Throughout the platform, inquiry lessons require students to reflect on their learning and to provide opportunities for students to engage with each other about the topic at hand.

From this post: “Personalizing lessons within WISE, conducting class discussions, pushing students to think outside of their comfort zones and acting as the MKO (More Knowledgeable Other) at times, are all important actions and roles for educators to adopt.”

Collaborative Quizzing also came about from watching academically vulnerable students, course after course, year after year, sit through quizzes with their pencils or heads down, or with doodles of sadness strewn throughout their paper. These students will spend 20 to 30 minutes in misery, likely either negatively self-talking or in complete surrender. This is not good use of class time. As a self-described underdog, one of my goals as an educator is to help those who need the most help. So with WISE in my toolbelt and an eagerness to make class time effective, Collaborative Quizzing was born! I am particularly fascinated with the students’ feedback on the process. Overall, the feedback has been positive, and to help meet more students’ needs, I am now making the process voluntary.

As far as assessment is concerned, quizzes did not count for marks in my class, however, what I now do is require all students submit their quizzes after they have corrected their own.  I provide answer keys during the class time and upload the keys onto our Google Classroom, for those students who need more time or for those students who were away. Students receive full marks for fully corrected quizzes, as opposed to how many questions they initially got right. Increased learning interactions with peers not only build on Vygotsky theory, but also LfU theory, in that students are receiving communication directly from their MKOs to aid in the construction of knowledge (Edelson, 2000). It is theoretically possible to then immediately apply the newly constructed knowledge during the quiz and throughout the practice work that the struggling student is likely behind in.

Concluding Thoughts

Perhaps the most significant shift in my pedagogical approach to teaching math and science has been in how I utilize class time. Although five months by post-secondary standards is a very long period of time, in high school, this time is very limited.  During those five months, we teach, reinforce, provide practice time, allow for reading time, show videos, quiz, test, conduct labs, have assemblies, go on field trips, and more.  Like a bedroom closet cannot continually have pieces added to it without being dysfunctional, educators cannot continually add activities to their courses without running out of time. However, at the Grade 10 to 12 level, a reasonable expectation exists that students can and will perform some classroom responsibilities outside of class time.

With the adoption of Google Classroom, I now conduct my labs on Google Docs.  Partners can collaborate outside of class time more easily, allowing for more constructive activities to take place during class time. I have also reduced number of required practice questions with the intent of reducing the amount of in-class “worktime”, freeing up class time for more collaborative reinforcement activities.  Essentially, I am eliminating or reducing individual study activities that are in-class, in exchange for collaborative, technology-enhanced in-class activities.

Photo by Gerberkun courtesy of Imgur.

In an earlier post, I included the following image:

Motivating people to want to learn is a task that is very difficult and at times, impossible, should the approach taken be ineffective.  I do not believe that my grade levels and subject areas allow for students to pick topics that they are interested in, therefore, I need to be creative in how the material is presented and reinforced. I am very eager to take my pre-existing TELEs and make them more “T-GEM”-ized, as I did with “Conquering Mount Gravitation” and more embodied and LfU-ized, as I did with “Life on the Descoast” and “Graph Matching with Vernier”.

What is unquestionably working to my advantage in terms of motivating students to learn in my classes, is that there are not too many teachers in my school that are embracing TELEs. When students come into my class, my approaches are extremely novel and their curiosity and interest receive instant kudos—whether the lessons are effective or not. As I continue to push my personal TELE envelope, I will continue to refine and question my lessons’ effectiveness. Educators are so fortunate to have extremely user-friendly tools available to them, to make this refinement transpire. Theoretically, more educators will adopt TELEs more readily, as more of the early adopters become more fluent.

Soon, “21st Century Learners” will simply be called “Learners”– as they should be!

Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,38(3), 355-385.
Gök, T. (2014). An investigation of students’ performance after peer instruction with stepwise problem-solving strategies. International Journal of Science and Mathematics
Haglund, J., & Jeppsson, F. (2014). Confronting conceptual challenges in thermodynamics by use of self-generated analogies. Science & Education, 23(7), 1505-1529. doi:10.1007/s11191-013-9630-5
Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education, 91(6), 877-905.
Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538.
Spicer, J., & Stratford, J. (2001). Student perceptions of a virtual field trip to replace a real field trip. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17, 345-354.
Srinivasan, S., Perez, L. C., Palmer,R., Brooks,D., Wilson,K., & Fowler. D. (2006). Reality versus simulation. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 15(2), 137-141.
Vosniadou, S., & Brewer, W. F. (1992). Mental models of the earth: A study of conceptual change in childhood. Cognitive Psychology, 24(4), 535-585. doi:10.1016/0010-0285(92)90018-W
Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 87-114.


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Filed under assessment, collaboration, Constructivism, ETEC 533, Jasper Series, Learning models, LfU, Misconceptions, Peer Instruction, Situated Learning, Vernier Probeware, Vygotsky, WISE

Keeping it real: Keeping learning relevant, situated and hands-on

A theme is unquestionably emerging throughout this week’s readings, and linking ideas to previous weeks’ reading, as well. When learning is anchored in real life contexts, students are happier and their construction of knowledge is abundant.

When Third World street vending children are capable of performing complex mathematical processes mentally yet can not perform the same process in a decontextualized problem on paper, how can one not conclude the relevance of situated learning (Carraher & Dias, 1985)?  In another study, visitors to a free local museum were interviewed immediately after their trip and two years later.  Researchers determined that those visitors whose motivation to attend was curiosity driven, learned more and valued the experience more than those visitors who were merely socially motivated to attend (Falk & Storksdieck, 2009). And when researchers surveyed university biology students regarding their experience using a virtual field trip (VFT), as opposed to a traditional lecture, students overwhelmingly reported positively, 80% of the time, although they also reported that the VFT is best to enhance actual field trips, and not replace them (Spicer & Stratford, 2001).

Each of these readings funnel towards the importance of providing anchored instruction throughout educational practices. I think back to why I enjoyed physics more than any other science and it began with taking Dr. Matthews’ first year physics class where he utilized the entire theatre for his demonstrations and he took incredible measures to draw the most incredible, realistic diagrams. He was also incredibly funny, so I spent most lectures in an amused state! Although his teaching style would still be considered “traditional”, he wove realism into his lectures, every class.

Despite being bombarded with Inquiry Learning approaches in my Professional Development, and with Vygotskian Constructivist Theory in MET, I still believe that in my subject areas, senior physics and academic math, lecturing has its place. I do not have time to allow students to discover Every. Single. Concept. Nor can I allow them to choose what learning outcomes they wish to learn about.  My students are future engineers, doctors, and other intensively trained professionals and I am not prepared to sacrifice content for ease and happiness of the learning experience. To students who are not handling the rigour of my courses, I say, it is OK. It is OK to NOT become a doctor.  It is OK to NOT become an engineer. If you can’t take the heat, get out and find a training path that does not require you use math or physics at a high level. That still leaves a HEAP of other, very gratifying professions to follow!

Where I have been “converted” is within the lectures themselves.  I would not even call what I do, “lectures”, to be honest.  Students still write notes, however, the notes are interactively created. With peers, we do numerous reinforcement activities in a non-threatening, collaborative manner. We construct our knowledge at times, but not at others.   My goal is to prepare them for university and college, while providing as many hands on or virtual experiences as possible.

On the other hand, I can see that if I were a junior high or middle school teacher, how I would have a very different perspective.

Well, maybe not for entirely math….

For math, foundational skills are critical and need to be automated at some point. This is not only important for senior high math, but for mathematical confidence and mathematical self-esteem.  When students don’t know their times tables, for example, it is like they are in my class underwater, using an oxygen tank (their calculator) to breathe. They know that if they don’t have access to their “oxygen”, they will die. Being THAT depend on a tool to survive is not conducive for a healthy learning environment.

However, in science, bring on the “fun” learning! Situate, anchor, inquire, Jasper, WISE, and network those communities every day, as far as I am concerned! What ever it takes to promote a lifelong curiosity in science should be the goal of every junior/middle science teacher out there. Moreover, the world is depending on us to make this come to fruition! We are systematically destroying our environment, becoming 40-year-old-still-living-at-home dependent on technology, and perhaps most shockingly, in astonishingly high numbers, receiving our baseline news from Facebook.

<Please prepare yourself to be “should” on. I don’t like to engage in this practice, but every once in awhile, it needs to be done.>

If we do one thing, as a collective of educators, it should be to teach our younger students how to research, and remain scientifically curious throughout their lives.

That’s it!

Easy peasy.

We’ve got this.

Carraher, T. N., Carraher, D. W., & Schliemann, A. D. (1985). Mathematics in the streets and in schools. British journal of developmental psychology, 3(1), 21-29.
Falk, J. & Storksdieck, M. (2010). Science learning in a leisure setting. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(2), 194-212.
Spicer, J., & Stratford, J. (2001). Student perceptions of a virtual field trip to replace a real field trip. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17, 345-354.

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Filed under Constructivism, ETEC 533, Learning models, Situated Learning, Vygotsky

Interpreting Graphical Relationships within an Embodied, LfU Framework

In this activity, Physics 11 students will not only be able to “talk the talk” but “walk the walk”.  Fully understanding position-time graphs and velocity time graphs have plagued rookie Physics students for decades (Struck & Yerrick, 2009). In my own experience, typical misconceptions involve thinking that if the position-time graph has a positive slope, then the object is moving up a hill.  Sometimes students will think that a curve, as shown, means that an object is speeding up initially, then slowing down.  It seems that for as many correct interpretations there are, there are countless incorrect interpretations!

In their study, Struck and Yerrick investigated if it was more effective to have students use probeware to analysis motion then to use video analysis or vice versa.  Not surprisingly, they found that both groups of students had statistically significant improvements to their understanding and that it did not matter in which order the students underwent their inquiries. The authors concluded that since the digital analysis took much longer to undergo, that if a teacher were only to do one of these approaches, that using the Probeware was the most time effective and had almost the equivalent final results.

Without question, the main obstacle that a teacher will encounter when using Probeware, such as Vernier, is the cost. Over the years, I have slowly amassed a set of motion detectors and interfaces, which was also helped by a grant that my school received that was earmarked for improving students’ direct experiences with science.

The activity that I have created uses the Vernier system along with the LfU framework, as outlined in Edelson’s paper, “ Learning-for-Use: A Framework for the Design of Technology-Supported Inquiry Activities” (2000).  Having students move their bodies, to create the graphs motivates and heightens the curiosity of the students.  As the graphs are created in real time, students receive immediate feedback. They must work in groups, so the social-collaborative construction of knowledge is fully activated.  After engaging in a “direct experience” with the equipment, students will then answer questions within the shared Google Doc, to ensure that the principles of physics are not only understood but reinforced.  The questions also serve to provide opportunity to apply the newly acquired knowledge in a meaningful way. Lastly, groups are required to reflect on their key take-aways from the activity, along with an opportunity to state what further questions they may have.

What I particularly like about this activity, is that it also exploits the research surrounding embodied and embedded cognition. No longer should we limit our understanding of cognition to only the one organ: the brain. Learning also takes place when any physical activity is associated with the endeavor. Activities that challenge students, pique their curiosity and provide “fruitful” new tidbits of knowledge that can assist them with future problems, are optimal, should the new knowledge wish to be adapted (Winn, 2003).

To go a step further, I would then follow the Vernier Activity with a Peer Instruction lesson, that reinforced these concepts. Through the Peer Instruction Framework, individuals are able to have their misconceptions dispelled through conversation with their peers.  As the questions would directly relate to the Vernier activity, students would be able to apply their knowledge the next day, making use of all three mechanisms for adaption of knowledge:

  1. Creating genetic algorithms: the “if-then” rules we construct when interacting with our environment and adapting our knowledge due to collecting “fruitful” information
  2. Rule Discovery: rules would have been crafted during the Vernier activity but then further entrenched by applying the rules to the Peer Instruction questions
  3. Crossover: applying the algorithms and rules in new situations could lead to rules combining into new rules for more complex situations (Winn, 2003)

Please feel free to “Make a Copy” of the Vernier Activity or the Peer Instruction Google Slides.  Admittedly, the instructions on the Vernier Activity could use some more media or images.  I would eventually like to create a quick video of how to get the interface set-up and how to optimally hold the equipment to create the graphs. One thing that I truly believe in, however, is that activities do not have to be perfect out of the gates. After an initial run through, it is much easier to know what needs fixing up! This is much more efficient than trying to predict all of the deficiencies.

Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,38(3), 355-385.
Struck, W., & Yerrick, R. (2010). The effect of data acquisition-probeware and digital video analysis on accurate graphical representation of kinetics in a high school physics class. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 19(2), 199-211.
Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 87-114.

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Filed under collaboration, Constructivism, ETEC 533, LfU, Misconceptions, Vernier Probeware

TELE Synthesis: Situated Learning, Jasper, SKI, WISE, LfU, T-GEM

Compare and contrast.

Dare to compare.

Bringing it all together.

However one likes to describe synthesis assignments, few will argue that it is a poor use of time. A chance to revisit each TELE and to create a cohesive thread that can link theory to practice? This is definitely my idea of a “good academic time”!

But how to present?  I’m not one to follow the crowd, unless time is non-existent or I am completely uninspired. In my last course, my group mate utilized Microsoft Sway to present her material for our Project.  I was so impressed with this program, that I was eager to try it myself as soon as I had reason. Woot!  I have reason!!!


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Filed under collaboration, Constructivism, ETEC 533, Jasper Series, LfU, Microsoft Sway, WISE

Traditional versus Non-Traditional: The LfU Approach

Learning for understanding.

A desired goal for most learners, although I did have a student relay to me last week that he really did not want to learn why he was completing his mathematical steps.   He said that understanding “The Why” was too confusing and that all he really wanted to know was what the steps were, so that he would get the correct answer.

Hmmm…. I paused for a moment to process his words.

My lessons are typically longer than my colleagues because for my own learning, “The Why” is a such a critical piece. To teach “The Why” it takes longer than simply teaching steps. It often requires activities that involve students constructing their own knowledge.  “The Why” is often understood better by having peers relay the information in a simpler manner during collaboration time. “The Why” is a time suck, no question!

But this individual did not want to know “The Why”. In further conversation, it was revealed that this Grade 10 student did not realize that 5x meant 5 * x and although he was familiar with the approximation 3.14, he did not connect the number to its symbolic representation. It became very clear to me that this fifteen year old had navigated through math class for a number of years, without wanting to know “The Why”.

So I now ask myself, why and when had the system failed this individual?  And if he had experienced an LfU approach to his mathematical understanding, would he now be in this precarious academic situation? Is he “a victim” of chalk and talk approaches?

The issues that non-traditional educators have with their traditional counterparts is that in these purely “chalk and talk” environments, learners do not fully construct their knowledge through direct experience (Edelson, 2000).  Research also points to the merits of having students communicate with each other to not only transmit ideas but to teach students the art of social negotiation amongst each other (Radinsky, Oliva, & Alamar, 2009).

I can’t help but wonder if this student had had more opportunities to communicate his reasoning and to receive the reasoning from his peers, that he would not be harboring such negative feelings towards “The Why”.

And to diverge but a tad…

For the record, I am still an advocate of teacher-led instruction in the math and senior physics classroom.  In academic math 10, it DOES matter how a solution is presented.  When left to their own devices, students may very well get the answer correct, but with multiple errors in their reasoning.  Notation is also important to be mindful of, as well as learning how to efficiently use a calculator.  On occasion, I will have students “discover their own learning” via inquiry methodologies, but these occasions are the exception to the norm. Instead, I choose to reinforce concepts in more non-traditional ways, both with high and low technology. (I loooooove whiteboards!!)



This is going to be some of the most effective technology I introduce this semester. #esqstory #esqmath #esqphysics

A post shared by Dana Bjornson (@physicsfuntime) on

As well, perhaps it is time that we define what “Traditional” actually means. I feel like some of us have a very strict definition of what traditional classrooms look like. Extremists will advocate that if you are not the guide on the side at all times, then you are a didactic dinosaur who should be made extinct as soon as possible.  Ok… perhaps that it is an extreme impression, but honestly, telling folks in a Masters class that heavily favours  Inquiry Based Learning, that you “admittedly, do direct instruction” feels like I’m in a confessional room with a priest.  If “Traditional” means that the  teacher is talking to a board or screen for 30 to 60 minutes, then I would not consider myself a traditionalist.  However, all “direct instruction” is not considered equal, in my world. I think if I would categorize my approach to instruction, it would be direct instruction/guided inquiry methodology.  My students construct bits of the instruction throughout most lessons, but I am definitely at the helm most of the time. Group work comes into play many times and I have even began to “collaboratively quiz“.

Whether or not someone chooses to demonize my teaching style, is not very consequential for me at this point anyway. I believe in what I do, and have enough positive feedback to make me want to stay on my current path of blending new approaches with tried-and-true approaches. My advice to those who wish to cast stones at others who do not fully embrace new pedagogical ways, is to lay off a bit.  Focus on your own practice.  Mentor those who wish to learn new techniques and embrace your inner honey pot.

Courtesy of Flickr QuotesEverlasting

Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,38(3), 355-385.
Radinsky, J., Oliva, S., & Alamar, K. (2009). Camila, the earth, and the sun: Constructing an idea as shared intellectual property. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(6), 619-642.


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Filed under advice, collaboration, Constructivism, ETEC 533, LfU

Life on the Descoast: My LfU Application in FPC Math 10

LfU: Learning for Use

The LfU framework seems fairly “user-friendly” in that different educators can adopt the framework, yet still allow their own pedagogical styles be honoured. Using combinations of high tech, low tech, modern and traditional, as long as educators create an environment that creates opportunities for learners to be “mcr-ed” (“motivated”, “constructive” and “refiney”) with their knowledge, they are towing the LfU line! The key take away for myself was that LfU focuses on the application of knowledge as opposed to specific inquiry or learning models. (Edelson, 2000)
For those of us who have drank, er guzzled, the EdTech Kool-aid, technology use in combination with the LfU framework is unquestionably going to be a good time. Although prior to ETEC 533, I was utilizing LfU principles unknowingly, what is distinctly different now, is that I am choosing activities with more purpose, as opposed to simple hunches. It is not the first week during my MET experience that I have read about the affordances of constructivism, situated learning and reflection, however, what the LfU framework does, is it packages these principles up in a clear, understandable way. (Similar to Newton’s Three Laws! At least for me…)
So, the topic that I would like to touch on is one that I have taught for my entire career of 18 years—linear equations. I haven’t taught it the same way in all of these years; as technology has evolved, my approach has definitely evolved! Once we have already reviewed the concept of Cartesian Coordinate System, graphing with a table of values, domain/range and a bit of slope, I then move towards equations of lines beginning with horizontal and vertical.

  1. Motivate — Experience Demand and Curiosity
    • Desmos Faces: Through an inquiry process, students eventually construct a simple face using horizontal and vertical lines. There is a collaborative component to the pre-made, online activity, as well.
  2. Construct — Observe and Receive Communication
    • Not gonna lie— I utilize “Direct Instruction” to introduce slope-Intercept Form. In combination with Desmos simulations, my students practice from textbook questions. I show them how to use Desmos to their advantage, when completing their work.
  3. Refine — Apply and Reflect
    • Desmos Art Project: Students recreate a graphic of their choice using a minimum of 75 equations. Students may choose to use higher order functions (curves), but linear equations can also be used entirely. 10% of their mark is based from their reflection. Although some students only share their reflection with me on the Google Classroom, students that opt to publicly post their reflection on the Class Blog will have one of their blog contributions satisfied. I will say that the Reflections have been better quality when I have provided students with topics to discuss.


Please feel free to “Make a Copy” of the Desmos Art Project and supporting documents. Although I have only had two classes attempt this project, it has been very rewarding for my students and myself.  I have only used this project with Gifted Math 10 students so far.  I think for a Regular class, it could work with some adaptations for students who are extremely overwhelmed.

Reflection Guide


This project reflection guide and rubric was gratefully adapted from…


Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,38(3), 355-385.

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Filed under Constructivism, educational apps & programs, ETEC 533, LfU