# Category Archives: ETEC 533

## Rolling out Mt. Gravitation: A T-GEM experience

From a previous post in the ETEC 533 course blog, I laid out a lesson plan that followed the T-GEM TELE format, titled “Conquering Mt. Gravitation”. Because I have an arguably unhealthy relationship with Prezis, I couldn’t resist to embrace another Prezi opp…

So this week, the T-GEM version of Mt. Gravitation was officially rolled out!!!!

Using the PhET Gravitational Force simulation as a data source, students were required to discover the relationships between the dependent variable, Gravitational Force, and independent variables, mass and distance. (Note that the image below can be manipulated with your mouse.)

In previous versions of my project, students were “fed” the inverse square relationship, as opposed to discovering it through experimentation. Also, the process of determining the Gravitation Constant, G, was much simpler since students were instructed to plot F versus m1m2/d^2, which provides them with the value of G directly from the slope. In the new version, the slope is actually equivalent to Gm1m2, and students are not directly told how to obtain G.   Also, throughout the new version, students are asked questions that guide their understanding, as long as concluding questions that test their understanding.  Without question, in the true spirit of T-GEM, the new version provides multiple opportunities for students’ thinking to be challenged and for them to be comfortably “uncomfortable”.

Although my students are still knee deep in the process, most students are on Part 4 of 4 and are inches away from computing G from their slope. They have yet to take on the challenge of the modified questions and I suspect that I will need to provide some guidance here. Although Part 4 is proving to be very conceptually difficult, the first three parts went very well, from an independent learning perspective. I was most impressed with the students ability to determine the inverse square relationship between Force and Distance, with very little support from myself.   As this is our second major graphing endeavor using spreadsheets, students’ digital confidence has improved immensely.

This Friday, will be our fourth and final class day that is devoted to this lab. In the original version, I would have one less day, as it was less complicated and with fewer questions.  Doing the “right thing” definitely can be a class, time sucker!  I know that many students are still unsure of themselves, so it will be interesting to see how the Modification step of T-GEM plays out.

Seeing as this is my first time out of the gates with this version, I have decided to obtain student feedback on the process and to have students do a reflection piece. I am not convinced that this lesson is bulletproof, in that I think it may be possible for students to complete the process and still not understand the concepts being presented. Without question, Mt. Gravitation is still a work in process!

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Filed under ETEC 533, T-GEM

## An Annotated Bibliography: “Shut up and Calculate” Versus “Let’s Talk” Science Within a TELE

Teaching is an honour that I do not take for granted. Daily, I interact with close to a hundred students, within a very personal space, namely my classroom. Although, as an educator, I enact a variety of roles, primarily I serve to help students to navigate along their personal journeys in mathematics and physics. The Piagetian view that children form their knowledge via everyday life experiences opens the doors to their also fabricating presupposed models of phenomena in order to make sense of the adult world (Vosniadou & Brewer, 1992).  My goal as a teacher is to identify these “fake facts” and ideally replace what students once thought to be true, with actual truth. Admittedly, this process is easier said than done.

 I do have some boys in my Science 9 class who are at a lower level, and they definitely like using Slides and being able to create that… because it is almost all boys— but they definitely enjoy using the technology a lot. As far as data, to say that it has increased their learning?  Well… they are interested in using it. (Brown, R., personal communication, January 18, 2017)

In my own experience, the experience of my interviewee and the experience of teachers highlighted in ETEC 533’s “Grounding Issues” videos, utilizing technology within a learning environment seemingly increases student engagement, promotes collaborative working opportunities, and can produce a quality of work that implies that knowledge is being effectively transmitted. Does there exist empirical evidence, however, that can substantiate this plethora of anecdotal evidence, that technology can improve students’ understanding and resolve misunderstandings? The focus of this annotated bibliography is to discuss how teachers can address science-related student misconceptions effectively using researched methodologies in combination with effective technological practices.  I have focused on two methodologies specifically: student-generated analogies and Peer Instruction.  Peer Instruction, formally introduced by Harvard Physics professor Eric Mazur in 1997, is an interactive teaching approach that consists of introducing a problem about which students typically harbor misconceptions.  As individual students vote on their answer (with a paper ballot or other technology, such as clickers), discuss the problem amongst themselves, then revote. Class discussion then ensues, led by the instructor, but often powered by the students (Gök, 2014).

### Resource Selection

Two resources were selected from UBC library collection, Summon, and one resource from the CiteULike database.  The keywords that I used for Summon were “conceptions” or “misconceptions” or “alternative conceptions” or “misunderstandings” or “challenges” or “problems” and “high school” and “students” and “technology” and “strategies” or “solutions” and “peer instruction.”  Despite my attempt to find research with high school-aged students, the papers that I found in Summon focused on post-secondary subjects, a finding which suggests that more research is being done with students whose involvement does not require parental permission and who can therefore as adults give informed consent.  I excluded articles that focused on the existence of student misconceptions, preferring articles that contained methodology that reduces or eliminates misconceptions.  In CiteULike, I found my third article simply by searching through the ETEC533’s Group Folders, specifically the folder focusing on the “Dynamics of Schooling.”  My intention was to find a study that centred on the effectiveness of technology-enhanced learning environments.

### Annotated Bibliography

#### Haglund, J., & Jeppsson, F. (2014). Confronting conceptual challenges in thermodynamics by use of self-generated analogies. Science & Education, 23(7), 1505-1529.

The authors, researchers from the Swedish National Graduate School in Science and Technology Education, aimed to investigate the conceptual challenges that students confronted when generating analogies for complex topics, specifically in Thermodynamics, and how the students overcame these challenges. The authors defend that conceptual change occurs when a student shifts from one theory to another, referring to Vosniadou and Brewer’s framework theory (1992). Building on the Piagetian view that learning requires the accommodation of new concepts that do not quite align with pre-existing knowledge, the authors sought to examine self-generated analogies, over teacher-generated analogies, in hopes of capitalizing on socio-cultural approaches to learning. The study, involving two groups of four preservice physics teachers, required students to create as many entropy-focused analogies as possible, through situations in which students were provided “completion problems” in which entropy was partially explained, and the students were required to fill in gaps, to formulate their analogies. Scaffolding was provided to the participants’ part of the way through the process, so that students’ “idiosyncratic” notions could meet with intervention, prior to students’ creating further misconceptions. The authors identified 23 different challenges within the approximately 20 unique self-generated analogies, six of which challenges they discussed in detail. The most prevalent challenge was that the students only applied lines of microscopic reasoning to the problem, thereby routinely avoiding looking at the problem macroscopically (in terms of the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics). The authors conclude that, although students can sometimes sort the material out on their own, teacher interventions are required to keep the students on the right path. They attribute the students’ inability to look at the problem macroscopically to the “shut-up and calculate” nature of their learning within their degree. Moreover, they conclude that student reliance on their intuition proved to be an effective vehicle not only to confront challenges in their reasoning, but to also come to terms with them.

Socio-cultural learning opportunities that address students’ learning is a practice praised by many learning theorists. It can be argued that although the authors felt that ample evidence was shown to promote using self-generated analogies, their subjects were in their fourth year of their education degrees, in the field of physics.  The external validity of their findings may not apply to high school students, who are far from specialized in the field of physics. Nonetheless, this research open the doors to replicating a similar study that focuses on high school students, which in turn may justify high school STEM teachers carving out time in their semester for more social, conversational learning, and less time with “shut-up and calculate” methodologies.

#### Gök, T. (2014). An investigation of students’ performance after peer instruction with stepwise problem-solving strategies.International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 13(3), 561-582.

A Turkish researcher from the Dokuz Eylul University, Dr. Tolga Gök, dives into analyzing a scaffolded version of Peer Instruction (PI), with two first-year university physics classes.  The quasi-experimental approach was applied to a comparison group    (n = 33, 46% female) and a treated group (n = 31, 42% female).  Both groups received PI; however, the experimental group was also instructed using stepwise problem-solving strategy (SPSS). SPSS is a strategy that breaks problems into three steps: identifying fundamental principles, solving, and checking. Gök builds his case on former studies that identify that, although students understand relevant principles and facts, they struggle with applying this information to actual problem solving. He also points out that PI has been proven not only to increase student engagement, despite students’ background knowledge, but also to reduce gender gaps in conceptual learning, and to reduce the number of students who drop the course. Gök concludes by providing ample statistics that show that SPSS with PI increased students’ physics achievement on tests and on homework assignments. He theorizes that, when students are taught how think systematically when approaching their problems, and can share this experience with their peers, they find problem-solving enjoyable and will diverge from purely “plug and chug” methodologies.

Again, this study involved university students, hence applying external validity in a high school context is not automatic.  The students in this study were relatively close in age, however, to their high school counterparts.  As ideal questions in PI have been vetted to contain common misconceptions, successfully implementing PI within a physics learning environment should theoretically work to dispel physics myths.  This research highlights the merits of SPSS implementation along with PI, something that I have never considered in my practice until now. Challenges in a high school physics class that may not exist in a university physics class would be reluctance to participate due to shyness, language barriers, or lack of confidence.  Also, with smaller class sizes, there may not be enough MKOs (more knowledgeable others) within the room, to make a positive impact on conceptual change.

#### Lei, J. (2010). Quantity versus quality: A new approach to examine the relationship between technology use and student outcomes. British Journal of Educational Technology, 41(3), 455-472.

The author, Dr. Jing Lei of Syracuse University, investigated quantity and quality outcomes pertaining to student outcomes. Ultimately, she reported the data from 133 of 177 students, eliminating students’ surveys which had one-third or more of the responses unanswered and those students using technology due to special needs. Citing that studies vastly differ on whether technology has increased student achievement rates, some studies, in fact, suggest that technology may even harm children.  Lei’s surveys collected information pertaining students’ demographics, technology proficiency, learning habits, and developmental outcomes (self-esteem, attitudes, social skills, etc.), and technology usage rates. To obtain information regarding academic achievement, GPAs were obtained from individual report cards. Nine students with varying interests in communication technology were selected for a single, brief interview. Her data revealed that there was no significant relationship between the quantity of technology used and student outcomes.  Technology use for socio-communication and general technological purposes had a slight increase in GPA, whereas increased entertainment/exploration and subject-specific technology uses for technology had a negative effect. The author points out, however, that none of the types of technology uses had a statistically significant effect on GPA, and that therefore educators would be wise to be realistic about the affordances that technology can provide. Lei continues by asserting that this finding does not imply that technology does not affect learning, as the categories she used were relatively broad and it was possible that factors within categories negated each other. She concludes by suggesting that research into effective uses of technology is required and that traditional methods of evaluation may not be optimal for evaluating said efficiencies.

This article did not detail the technological experience levels or training of the teachers at this school.  Without knowing this information, I am inclined to think that Lei’s results would be different were she to run the experiment in a different school. Technology’s having only a slight influence on student achievement may lead some to conclude that utilizing technology to address scientific misconceptions is not a good use of time. The categories showing slight improvements include socio-communication and general technology, however.  These categories are where science educators should potentially invest the most time in their TELE design. Moreover, how would surveys such as Lei’s be altered should educators specifically address scientific misconceptions using self-generated analogies and/or PI, assisted with technology?

### Analysis of the Issue

###### 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

Filed under collaboration, ETEC 533, Misconceptions, Peer Instruction

## 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!

## Visual Learners versus Verbal-Logical Learners: Does it really matter which one you are?

It turns out that is does.

At least from a mathematical perspective. Visual thinkers tend to do more poorly in Math class than their analytical, verbal-logical counterparts (Clements, 2014).

However, this is not to suggest that visual learners do not bring something to the academic table. Some problems inherently demand a visual approach to most efficiently solve the problem.  Why create a system of equations to solve a problem when a visual time line of the events can organize the information, leading to a correct solution within seconds?

Consider,  for example, the following problem…

“In an athletics race, Johnny is 10 m ahead of Peter, Tom is 4 m ahead of Jim, and Jim is 3 m ahead of Peter. How many metres is Johnny ahead of Tom?” (Clements, 2014)

Visual learners, particularly those of us with a Physics background, will instinctively draw a timeline of these events.  When I approached this problem, I made Peter’s position my reference point, and arrived at the correct answer in less than 20 seconds.  An algebraic, verbal-logical solution would have been a much more tedious process.   Where my strengths lie as a learner, is my ability to abstract the critical pieces of information of a problem via lists and diagrams, then due to hours of practice, I can create equations to model and solve the problem efficiently.  My first instinct, however, is to draw a diagram or some sort of visual, before attempting a more logical approach.

Clements concurs that people who favour visual approaches will tend to use visual approaches for all situations, even when they are not particularly effective. And because of this, visual learners do not tend to do well in courses such as mathematics, because more often, a verbal-logical, algorithmic approach to math is optimal.

#### So how did I succeed in my Mathematics undergrad degree?

I LEARNED how to be more analytical and logical, over time. And because of this, I am able to utilize my visualization strengths in conjunction with my acquired logical strengths, and I became a visual, verbal-logical mathematical machine!!!  (Well, relatively speaking, at least.) Clements’ paper eludes to his own experience with pre-service elementary math specialists who had above-average math aptitude, but lacked the analytical edge. Through collaborative problem solving approaches, visually dominate teachers were able to compensate for their initial lack of verbal-logical skills.

How can we, as educators, use this concept to better service our students?

#### I think we can do at least two things…

1. Put an end of working in isolation. Pair and group students together so that individuals can bring their own strengths to the academic table.  We may have natural tendencies to favour certain methodologies, however, that does not mean that we are unable to acquire new skills.
2. Don’t be afraid to put students outside of their comfort zones. I am not suggesting that we do not scaffold, however, academically coddling them does not allow for optimal growth. As educators, we should channel our inner-Zygotsky and create opportunities for students to work within the zones of proximal development, alongside their peer MKOs (More Knowledgeable Others).

#### In ETEC 533 this week,

…we were asked to investigate a handful of “Information Visualization” sites and programs. For myself, I spent time with NetLogo, Geometer’s Sketchpad, Wisweb, and Illuminations Applets.  I did not spend additional time with PhET, as I regularly use this site in my practice already.

Perhaps it is because it is the end of the course. Perhaps it is because my husband broke his arm last week. Or perhaps it is, “what it is”…  Other than PhET, I do not envision using most of these Info-Vis programs in my practice. Why?

NetLogo— too confusing; I don’t have a programming background; I did not find it user friendly, at all

Geometer’s Sketchpad— the practice activity was cumbersome when compared to the ease of using Desmos; I got into some of the animations, during my short 20 minute, free trial, however. If the BC Government hadn’t essentially removed geometry from senior mathematics, I could see myself wanting to use this program more. Geometry apparently has little connection to LNG…

WisWeb— no Java, no time, no dice; I recognize the lameness of this, however, I think this is indicative of my state of mental exhaustion; I would have liked to have seen the balance applet that modeled algebraic rearranging.; In grade 10 Math, however, I focus on more efficient mental imagery when doing algebraic manipulation.

Illuminations— I will likely spend more time with this site; what is great about this site is that you can easily search for grade and topic specific material; being a gifted education math teacher, there are many interesting topics to dive into and although, geometry has gone do-do bird in senior math, it is still alive and well in the Waterloo Math Contests.

Whether or not you personally like to use a particular program, is not terribly important.  We all learn in our own unique way, therefore it is logical to assume that we will all teach in our own unique way. What is ultimately important as educators that wish to deliver using digital technologies, is that we tap into our students’ intrinsic motivation.

#### Easier said than done?

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:
1. 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.
2. 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.

My favorite moment as a teacher is when I pour hours into a particularly novel lesson, only to receive a less than favorable response from students. Also, do we need to be Bill Nye the Science Guy everyday? Meh. Not every new activity we try will be a home run, that is for sure. However, I liken the attempt to digital photography.  You take a few shots and eventually, you get the “perfect shot”.  And sometimes, our students don’t know what is “good for them”, either. They have yet to go through all of the grades and schools, as we have, so how can they truly know what tools they need to have?

Perhaps when I have a moment to “catch my breath”, I will revisit some of these “info-vis” programs. I am not writing them off completely. One of the best aspects of this career is its non-static nature.  Never say never. If we want our students to keep open minds about methodologies, we had better do the same!

###### 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.

Filed under ETEC 533

## “The Real Deal” versus “Virtual Reality”: I think there is room for both.

OK, kids… Let’s go to the museum!!!

Two hours later, the diaper bag and stroller are loaded.  The kids are strapped into their astronaut-like car seats.  Snacks are packed and at arms reach.  If you are really on the ball, you have a potty in the trunk of your battered-down, spilled-upon, somewhat-off-smelling mini-van, because “when you gotta go, you gotta go”. Extra clothes are tucked into the trunk, since a “blow out” can happen at any time. Once everyone arrives as safely as a NASA space shuttle landing, the only thing that could go wrong at this point is forgetting to pay for parking. (Just kidding… 100 other things could still go wrong; a parking ticket is the least of your worries!)

Although it is a heap of work to make educational adventure trips like these transpire, and I am fairly confident that I did not learn a heck of a lot on trips like these due to spending more time chasing than reading, I always felt like it was time well spent. (In retrospect, would a virtual trip to the museum have been easier?  No diaper bags and parking tickets to deal with, surely would make things less hectic.) Those who have never experienced the “ordeal” of willingly bringing pre-schoolers to public learning places may be questioning why I would even bother in the first place.

In general, who amongst us even go to these types of places? Believe it or not, there are five categories of adults who tend to make the effort  to broaden their intellectual experiences in a public place. In 2000, Falk and Storksdieck began  a three-year study that determined that most of us will fit into one of the following broad categories. They are:

1. Explorers: curiosity driven, science-loving types
2. Facilitators: the adult chauffeurs who are wanting to expose others to scientific learning
3. Professionals and Hobbyists: they have “drank the Kool-Aid” already and can’t pass up an opportunity to drink more
4. Experience Seekers: bucket-list types seeking to cross it off the list; “been there, done that, checked-out-the-gift-shop” type folks
5. Rechargers: these folks just need to get away from their daily grind; relaxation in the form of science absorption (apparently, they have already used up their massage benefits on their medical plan)

What kind of visitor was I back then? I desperately wanted to be the Explorer, but alas, time was spent keeping children accounted for and alive (no exaggeration).  I could make the argument that I was a Facilitator, although pre-schoolers are hardly old enough to really absorb too much scientific learning; for them, it is play-based and social learning, every waking minute. Truth be told, I think I was the Recharger! Getting out of the house and preserving my sanity was my number one goal back then. That being the case, a Virtual Field Trip (VRT) would not have met my needs, however, that is not to say that a VRT would not meet the needs of others, including myself, four years post-pre-school years.

In their study with about 60 post-secondary science students, Spicer and Stratford examined students perception of using a VFT methodology over traditional lecturing practices.  Much later in the school year, students participated in an actual field trip that reinforced the learning that was replicated in their VFT.  The researchers made some interesting conclusions and realizations:

1. Students felt that the VFT made their learning feel more personal, over traditional lecturing. Each student interacted individually with the program, allowing more opportunities for independent thought.
2. Students really enjoyed using the virtual Field Notebook which allowed them to keep track of their thoughts and learnings in a non-linear, textual and graphical modality.
3. Students felt that the VFT contained too much text and information whereas instructors felt that there was too little text and information.
4. Although students spent two to three hours with program, they felt like they needed more time.  Overall, 80% of the student feedback was positive.
5. After having the real field trip, students saw the value of using the VFT to enhance their learning however, they were adamant that the VFT should not replace the field trip.

#### Blending pedagogical modalities would appear to be the most effective route.

Today, parents and educators have a cornucopia of virtual”Science Snack” options available to be used in conjunction with  real-life go-to’s.  It turns out that there a heck of a lot of “Explorers with a Mission” amongst us who spend their time crafting virtual museums for us to learn from and with. Take the Exploratorium Teacher Institute, for example. This is an excellent site for anyone who needs to unharness their Inner Science Geek.  Here, you can watch videos of demonstrations or create your own demonstrations. Creating your own demos is simplified by the Exploratorium folks, as they use everyday materials and the recipe-like instructions have been thoroughly tested so that even the most inexperienced can become experienced without much effort.

Of course there are many a blogger who complile many a list of online learning tools, as well.

Other virtual highlights from the ETEC 533 course have included:

2. GLOBE: “The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program is an international science and education program that provides students and the public worldwide with the opportunity to participate in data collection and the scientific process, and contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the Earth system and global environment.”
3. PhET: “…free interactive math and science simulations. PhET sims are based on extensive education research and engage students through an intuitive, game-like environment where students learn through exploration and discovery.”
4. Chemland: Interactive Chemistry Experiments

These are but a few of the avenues that educators of all backgrounds can take advantage of the affordances of digital technologies. The question that I ask myself, however, is this: Would I want my children to be in front of a screen for the duration of their scientific learning?

Of course not. (That would eat into their Minecraft and Pokemon Go time…)

However, I do believe that these technologies can and will help educators keep their students’ love of learning and interest piqued.

Will these technologies ever fully replace the “real deal” experiences?

Until we can’t leave our houses, I would say no.

Sometimes Mummy just needs to get out of the house!!!

###### 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.

Filed under educational apps & programs, ETEC 533, 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.

## 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.

## 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!!!

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

###### 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.

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.

Exemplar

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