Category Archives: Misconceptions

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

In 1992, Vosniadou and Brewer found that 49 out of 60 children they studied held one of six models of the Earth as what they believed to be true. Only 23 of the 49 used a spherical model. These researchers conclude that, from an early age, we yearn to make sense of the world around us, basing our conclusions mostly on observations and our everyday experiences. It is thus reasonable to assume that students entering our science classes will be harbouring other presuppositions, beyond the shape of the Earth. Socio-cultural learning theory from the likes of Vygotsky and Piaget suggest that students optimally learn from interactions in their everyday surroundings and from those with whom they most frequently associate. Practices such as student-generated analogies and Peer Instruction can help educators maximize learning in a socio-cultural context by promoting “Let’s Talk” science over “Shut-up and Calculate” or “Plug and Chug” science. Although the annotated bibliography in this analysis focuses on students who are either older or younger than the high school-aged students that I teach, this merely keeps open the doors of possibility of external validity, as opposed to closing.  All three studies emphasize the importance of effective pedagogical practices. The challenge of determining what is effective, over what is not, remains to be addressed. In my experience, it is important to have students “buy in” to whatever methodology is being presented. In other words, if the students do not see value in what the exercise entails, then its effectiveness will not be actualized. Going forward, I have decided to carve specific time into my Physics classes for PI by removing designated quiz days. I will provide students with take-home quizzes with answer keys; however, during this newly acquired time slot, we will spend 80 minutes doing SPSS-PI. Using, students will be able to vote privately using their mobile devices for their ultimate answer to the question, and use table-top whiteboards to respond to the framing and checking of the question.  As I already have my Physics 11 and 12 classes authoring class blogs, I will assign each team of 3 to 4 students the task of generating and posting their analogies on the blog. Prior to posting, however, it may be important to provide scaffolding; therefore, students will initially submit their analogy on a Google Doc through which all team members can collaborate and I can provide feedback. As Lei recognized in her study, it is not the technology that makes a difference with student outcomes; rather, it is what we do with the technology that makes a difference. The scope of this analysis is limited due to not finding work that was the most up-to-date and did not use older teenagers as subjects. Further research that extends the work of Hagund, Jeppsson, Gök, and Lei to include high school students and educators who are trained in designing TELEs would be a next logical step. Should educators wish to pursue their own inquiry on a more informal approach, I have found it very useful to poll students near the end of course, to gage interest and effectiveness of whatever new methodology is being adopted. Beginning this inquiry with Eric Mazur’s book Peer Instruction: A User’s Manual is a terrific place to launch!




Brown, R. (2017, January 18). Personal interview.
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. doi:10.1007/s10763-014-9546-9
Mazur, E. (1997). Peer instruction: A user’s manual. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
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
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. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.00961.x
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

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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!

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

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

My First Impressions of WISE: Web-based Inquiry Science Environment

The very first search I made in the WISE platform was “Grade 9 – 12, Physics”.
One lesson came up. (Three really, but only one was in English.)


I am a fan of not reinventing wheels, so having read many pages of research about the affordances of WISE, I was eager to dive into a plethora of ready-to-go senior Physics activities. Sadly, I was not off to a very good start.

So back to the instructions I went and began looking at the suggested lessons on the ETEC 533 Connect LMS. Thankfully, the suggested lessons were well chosen and left a really great second impression! The project that I tinkered around in was the Graphing Stories (with motion probes). Although it was categorized for Middle School grades, I found that much of it also could apply to the current (but soon to be turfed) BC Science 10 and even a Physics 11 course.

Without any trouble, I added another activity and played around with some “steps”. Adapting the “story” to an older student would be fairly easy and I think the project is fairly good “as is”. I am very impressed that the WISE interface can integrate Vernier Motion Detectors, although it appears that not all probes have been programmed into WISE.

Where my hesitations exist with WISE in general, is substituting a simulation with real equipment and real data collecting. I appreciate, however, that WISE opens doors to exploring questions that CAN’T be done in the classroom. I particularly like that the Graphing Stories weaves in the work with the motion detectors– getting students to move their bodies to produce the position-time graphs is fabulous.

For Physics 11, I would definitely add in an activity that utilizes, “The Universe and More’s Graphing Challenge”. Also, I would add in Mazur’s Peer Instruction process to get students’ misconceptions identified and resolved. Both of these “add ons” would layer more elements of SKI, via all four of SKI’s main tenets:
1. Making thinking visible;
2. Making science visible;
3. Providing collaborative opportunities; and
4. Promoting lifelong learning. (Linn, Clark, & Slotta, 2002)
Another limitation with WISE is that on assessment pages, it allows for students to keep guessing when incorrect answers are given. I appreciate the effort to reduce the number of points after each choice has been made, however, for students who are disengaged, they will merely keep guessing until they are correct, as opposed to rereading or rewatching the material. Teachers may have a false sense of what their students actually know, because of this.

Without question, research has repeatedly shown that the reflection process is a critical piece to one’s learning process. This week’s reading reported on a study that 90% of students participate in asynchronous reflections with two or more pieces of evidence, compared to only 15% of students and little evidence, in a class discussion model (Linn, Clark, & Slotta, 2002). Should student blogging not be established in one’s classroom, WISE provides a great way to take advantage of this research.

To diverge a tad bit, I have an overall concern with the lack of face-to-face experiences that we are having in our society. Most of us are likely old enough to remember how tacky it was to break-up with someone over the phone, but these days, a phone conversation “to do the deed” is more commonly replaced with a e-mail or a text. Although, screens engage our students in ways that worksheets can not, having discussions that are not typed has got to be woven into our practices still. And for that reason, combined with the importance of actually using equipment to collect data, I can not see myself adopting WISE to any great extent. I would, however, consider using it for a lesson, or two.

I am such a Moderate, when it comes to teaching!

If you are unfamiliar with Peer Instruction, there is much out there in YouTubeLand.  Here is a relatively short introduction to the process told by Mazur himself:

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Filed under educational apps & programs, ETEC 533, Misconceptions, WISE

Narrowing Down ONE Issue is NOT EASY. (Or is it?)

The first lessons in the course are complete. I have unpacked, then repacked my assumptions surrounding technology-enhanced learning in math and science environments. I suppose it is time to start unpacking, again!!!

The issues that have resonated with me to date, in order are:

  1. How to turn negative early childhood experiences with technology, into positive experiences in the future for students. When asked to discuss an early experience, it was interesting to realize that I had had many negative experiences with technology for 20+ years of my life.  How is it that I overcame this to be the tech-lover that I am today?  How can I help my students overcome their own fears?
  2. Battling screen time addictions. How do we teach healthy screen time usage with our children and/or students?
  3. What are some “best practices” when it comes to weeding out misconceptions in science or math class and does gender play a role? This blog post that I made for my Lesson 2 activity was based on reading some really great work by researchers wanting to explore this topic.  I am not ready to put this issue away yet as dispelling misconceptions is REALLY important in my books.  (How good would I feel if my students left Physics 11 still thinking that there is no gravity in space??)
  4. In technology enhanced lessons, does engagement increase more with boys than with girls?  Is the only way (best way) to rope our boys in is with tech?  How much of an engagement factor does tech play with our girls, since they appear to be doing well with or without tech?

With every major topic choice in MET so far, I have chosen topics that directly impact my practice, wherever possible. If I use that as my criteria, I think that my choice of focus will be on #3: battling misconceptions.  I only read 2 of many studies out there that address this issue.  To examine it through a technologist’s lens will be right up my alley and will directly impact my students, AS I read each study, potentially. That’s pretty cool!

If anyone other than myself is reading this, thanks and sorry! Sometimes it helps to “talk it out” when needing to move into a certain direction.  The apology is for stealing 3 minutes of your time, that you will never, ever get back.  🙂

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Filed under ETEC 533, Misconceptions