Reflective Narrative

Upon initial review of the ETEC533 course outline, I sensed a hovering of anxiety. I immediately emailed the course instructor, Dr. Samia Khan, for her advice. Was I qualified to take a course that demanded significant prior knowledge and commitment? Would I be able to follow the content as I have only taught mathematics and sciences at an elementary level? Would I be able to achieve a justifiable level of success? Dr. Khan responded appropriately, with assurance that the decision was all mine.  And although the course content contains many highschool and graduate level studies, transferring knowledge and content to other contexts was highly plausible.

 The following reflective narrative is a synthesis of the ETEC 533 course contents in connection to my own progress and growth as a STEM educator. 


It was during the Schulman (1986, 1987) readings that the first significant relevation occurred. Schulman (1987) details the history of teacher training and poses questions regarding the knowledge base of teachers, the conceptualization of this knowledge base, the processes of pedagogical reasoning and the effects of educational reform. Through this questioning and subsequent responding, Schulman offers critical insights into the development of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK). Following are selected quotations and corresponding reflections that impressed my thinking. Some phrases have been made bold for emphasis:


[P]edagogical content knowledge is of special interest because it identifies the distinctive bodies of knowledge for teaching. It represents the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular topics, problems, or issues are organized, represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction. Pedagogical content knowledge is the category most likely to distinguish the understanding of the content specialist from that of the pedagogue. (Schulman, 1987, p.8)

A comprehensive definition of pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) is offered here. Schulman uses phrases as “distinctive bodies of knowledge for teaching” and “diverse interests and abilities of learners” which emphasize the need of intentional individualism for both instruction and learning. Being distinctive as a pedagogue {not just a content specialist} requires the combination of knowing what to teach and knowing how to teach it best.


outrageously complex activity of teaching” (Schulman, 1987, p.11)

This description of teaching first made me smile, and then brought me to consider how teaching is not a simple task of template lesson plans and repeat redundancies. Teaching is an evolutionary process demanding continual processes of transformation and reformation.


 “[T]eaching is conducted without an audience of peers. It is devoid of a history of practice” (Schulman, 1987, p.12).

“One of the frustrations of teaching as an occupation and profession is its extensive individual and collective amnesia, the consistency with which the best creations of its practitioners are lost to both contemporary and future peers” (Schulman, 1987, p.11).

These statements hold fascinating insight into the isolation of teaching. Internet technology has helped partially dissolve this isolation with affordances to share and store practices through social media, blogs, online curricula stores, etc.


Transformations, therefore, require some combination or ordering of the following processes, each of which employs a kind of repertoire: (1) preparation (of the given text materials) including the process of critical interpretation, (2) representation of the ideas in the form of new analogies, metaphors, and so forth, (3) instructional selections from among an array of teaching methods and models, and (4) adaptation of these representations to the general characteristics of the children to be taught, as well as (5) tailoring the adaptations to the specific youngsters in the classroom. These forms of transformation, these aspects of the process wherein one moves from personal comprehension to preparing for the comprehension of others, are the essence of the act of pedagogical reasoning, of teaching as thinking, and of planning — whether explicitly or implicitly — the performance of teaching. (Schulman, 1987, p.16)

In essence, Schulman is providing a comprehensive description of effective PCK, with the initial establishment of content being supported by pedagogy, and then the two coming together distinctively, yet in complement. In describing the act of teaching, or the transformation of content from teacher to student, Schulman uses the following verbs: preparing, representing, selecting, adapting, tailoring, reasoning, thinking, planning and performing. Teaching, indeed, is an “outrageously complex activity”!

Mishra and Koehler (2006) embrace Schulman’s ideas on PCK, yet take them further by incorporating the element of technology. Following is a foundational description of TPCK (Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge):

TPCK is the basis of good teaching with technology and requires an understanding of the representation of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of the problems that students face; knowledge of students’ prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge and to develop new epistemologies or strengthen old ones. (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p. 1029)

The writings of Schulman (1986 and 1987) and Mishra and Koehler (2006) have helped me to dissect my own pedagogical practices in regards to incorporating TPCK. While reading Schulman (1986), my deficiency in content knowledge was convicting as I recognized my tendency to seek growth in pedagogical knowledge while minimally considering content. While synthesizing ideas from the LfU {Learning for Use} instructional model, a more cohesive understanding of the role and relationship of content and pedagogy within TPCK and inquiry began to emerge:

[t]he LfU model requires highly structured inquiry-based processes such as “hypothesizing, collecting and evaluating evidence, and defending conclusions based on evidence” (Edelson, 2001, p. 362). Furtak (2006) describes guided scientific inquiry as inquiry when the teacher knows the answer, but is cautious with the power of suggestion. In Linn, Clarke and Slotta’s (2003) article on WISE, a more structured approach to inquiry is also suggested: “If inquiry steps are too precise, resembling a recipe, then students will fail to engage in inquiry. If steps are too broad, then students will flounder and become distracted. Finding the right level of detail requires trial and refinement and, in some cases, customization to local conditions and knowledge” (p.522). Through the explorations of various technology-based inquiry environments, it is evident that the teacher and/or designer is an expert in processes and in content, allowing for processes of inquiry to be experienced and developed, while supporting inquiry problem-solving and refinements through in-depth knowledge of content. (Holder, 2017, February 24)

Further evidence of the development of understanding of the role and relationship of content and pedagogy within inquiry is found within the comment thread of my LfU synthesis post and can be read here: Finding One’s Place Through Inquiry.

The readings and discourse on PCK and TPCK offer preparation for the four instructional frameworks presented in Module B. When soil is tilled and enriched, the growth of the seed is more assured, and a bountiful production is more probable. The gathering and instilling of ideas during Module A provided rich preparation ground for the sowing of effective TPCK during Module B. The acts of careful reading, discourse, and transferring of learning to pedagogical practices effectively transformed in my own pedagogical thinking and understanding.

Following is a brief overview of the process and production accomplished through each instructional framework explored during Module B. As a final synthesis assignment for Module B, a visual representation of each framework is offered in comparison to the T-GEM model. These visual representations are also included in the following overview. (The full Module B synthesis post can be viewed here: TPCK and Learner Activity – A Synthesis of Four Foundational TELEs.)

Reflective Overview of Four Foundation TELE Frameworks

Instructional Framework: Anchored Instruction

Technology Enhanced Learning Experience (TELE): The Jasper Woodbury Problem Solving Series

A Description of Anchored Instruction:

[Anchored instruction] aims to help students develop the confidence, skills, and knowledge necessary to solve problems and become independent thinkers. Taking advantage of the emerging video and multimedia computing technology, its major features are the use of problem-scenarios to elicit students’ problem-solving goals, strategies for solving these problems, and the connection of knowledge with daily life. Based on the theories of situated learning, cognitive apprenticeship and cooperative learning, anchored instruction makes it possible to provide life-like inquiry situations, in which students can easily explore the content and which facilitates the teaching of mathematical concepts and problem-solving strategies. (Shyu, 2000, p.58)

Related Postings:

Thinking Out Loud –  A Conversation on Anchored Instruction

Reshaping Instructional Design –  A Tale of Jasper Series Inspiration


Visual Representation:


Future Pedagogical Endeavours:

Through the ETEC 533 discussion, one posting has inspired me to move forward with the learning acquired through the Jasper series related viewings and readings. Allison Kostiuk, an elementary teacher, began designing and writing complex problems reflecting realistic and relevant narrative for her students. Kostiuk chose to complete this type of narrative by “incorporating the names of … students throughout the problems, investigating daily issues that arise for … students, and further personalizing the problem by using pictures of… students encountering the problem” (Kostiuk, 2017). This idea of designing personalized problems for students resonates with me as the thought had previously crossed my mind while working through the readings and viewings on the Jasper Series. However, I had not taken time to act upon it. Although designing complex video-based instruction is not plausible at this time, a dramatized audio story or simple dramatic retelling could be viable in presenting students with many of the similar design features as evident through the Jasper Series. Incorporated design features would include video-based or audio-based formatting to increase motivation, narrative with realistic problems, generative formatting, embedded data design, and links across the curriculum (CTGV, 1992). (Holder, 2017, February 10)

As a distance learning teacher working with multi-grade students from family units, presenting situated problem-solving scenarios on a monthly basis is a goal for the 2017-18 learning year. These types of problem-solving opportunities are ideal for multi-grade families by affording opportunity for the older to help provide scaffolding for the younger and the younger to be exposed to a higher level of concepts. Recently, I began orally narrating personally situated problem-solving scenarios to my grade three daughter. Each problem required approximately five steps to solve. It was fascinating listening to her talk through her thinking i.e. “First I need to figure out how much time I will be at _____.” Talking about thinking is a process interestingly discussed in the study by Vye, Goldman, Voss and Williams (1997), supporting the use of narrative to problem solve, reason and affirm learning in mathematics and sciences.

I have begun penning a brief situated problem-solving scenario to present to my students. Initially, I thought it would be challenging to come up with a minimum of 14 steps to solve within the narrative, but this has not been a concern as the story evolves. What I am finding challenging is embedding the clues within the narrative. More time is needed to invest in the writing before sharing with others.

Instructional Framework: SKI (Scaffolded Knowledge Integration)

TELE: WISE (Web-based Inquiry Science Environment)

A Description of SKI and WISE:

The [SKI] framework has four main tenets including (1) making thinking visible, (2) making science accessible, (3) helping students learn from each other, and (4) promoting lifelong learning (Linn, Clark & Slotta, 2003, p.524). 

The WISE authoring software supports knowledge integration through its technology features and curriculum design patterns. These patterns are based on our scaffolded knowledge integration framework as discussed in the next section. Designers can thus create inquiry projects that incorporate tested patterns, or even take advantage of an existing WISE project and modify it for their topic area. Once a project draft is completed, the design team decides how to test the project and creates an assessment plan. Usually the test occurs in a class taught by a teacher who is a member of the team. Design team participants observe the teaching and, based on their observations as well as the progress of students using the project, iteratively refine the project.  (Linn, Clark & Slotta, 2003, p.524)

Related Postings:

Plate Tectonics: Reshaping the Ground Below Us

Wise Instruction: Inquiry, WISE and Model-Based Learning

Visual Representation:

Future Pedagogical Endeavours:

SKI and WISE are extensive in their intricacies of design and inquiry. Even as I have been reviewing my notes in preparation for this posting, more clarity of the intentional features placed within WISE to increase student depth of understanding have surfaced.

As my first encounter exploring modification of models occurred through the WISE lesson, I realized in my own teaching practice, models have been typically used to represent, not to change ideas. The processes and effects of peer review and model modification as indicated in the study by Gobert, Snyder and Houghton (2002) is convincing of the power of model modification in both a technology or non-technology based learning experience.

As an educator, I am not certain that I will use WISE specifically, mainly due to my teaching context. However, the specificities of inquiry incorporated into WISE and the four tenets contained within SKI are foundational guidelines that I hope to maintain in designing all future lessons for my students.

I appreciate this definition of inquiry offered by Linn, Clark & Slotta (2003). This definition has helped shaped my understanding of the grand possibilities, yet the specific fidelity of inquiry.

We define inquiry as engaging students in the intentional process of diagnosing problems, critiquing experiments, distinguishing alternatives, planning investigations, revising views, researching conjectures, searching for information, constructing models, debating with peers, communicating to diverse audiences, and forming coherent arguments. (p.518)

Instructional Framework: LfU (Learning for Use)

TELEs: My World GIS  and  World Watcher Software

A Description of LfU:

The model is based on four principles that are shared by many contemporary theories of learning: 1)Learning takes place through the construction and modification of knowledge structures. 2)Knowledge construction is a goal-directed process that is guided by a combination of conscious and unconscious understanding goals. 3)The circumstances in which knowledge is constructed and subsequently used deter mine its accessibility for future use. 4)Knowledge must be constructed in a form that supports use before it can be applied.  (Edelson, 2001, p.357)

Related Posting:

Finding One’s Place Through Inquiry (A focus on place-based learning through LfU)

Visual Representation:

Future Pedagogical Endeavours:

Edelson’s (2001) article on LfU and the Create-A-World project shifts the purpose of a TELE from being a situated inquiry environment to enhance student learning, to being a situated inquiry environment that requires the student to enter into a relationship with technology through the embodiment of learning. This embodiment of learning, I believe, reflects the enactivist theory of cognition and is evident within the LfU framework. Although my understanding of enactivism is still developing, following are some quotations from my readings and blog postings from Module C: Lesson 1:

The learner’s interaction with the surrounding environment can be viewed as a biological interaction and a way of knowing. Metaphorically, the learner is an organism interacting with and within its environment. In effect, both the organism (the learner) and the environment evolve and are changed through the interaction (Proulx, 2013). (Holder, 2017, March 18)

A student’s Umwelt is the environment as the student sees and knows it—a limited view of the real world, ever changing as the student explores it and comes to understand it. (Winn, 2003, p.12) 

Enactivism is an encompassing term given to a theory of cognition that views human knowledge and meaning-making as processes understood and theorized from a biological and evolutionary standpoint. By adopting a biological point of view on knowing, enactivism considers the organism as interacting with/in an environment. (Proulx, 2013, p.313)

Although “environment” in enactivism is referring to the learning environment, and environment in the LfU TELEs is referring to a more literal sense of the word i.e. geographical, the metaphor of the learner as an organism interacting in and with the environment, and the adaptations that occur for both through this interaction are pronounced regardless of the meaning of the term.

As detailed in my posting, “Finding One’s Place Through Inquiry“, place-based instruction and learning can be enhanced through the incorporation of a LfU framework and the use of GIS and GPS tools. In my own teaching practice, knowing one’s immediate environment – backyard, park, neighbourhood –  is essential knowledge prior to learning about the whole wide world beyond. Using GIS and GPS to explore, map and analyze the student’s immediate environment can be connected to situated problem solving, including relevant environmental concerns.

Following are ideas to incorporate LfU and the use of GIS and GPS tools with elementary level students. These ideas were developed by fellow ETEC533 classmates and were shared within the LfU forum. I appreciate the sharing as I took a more theoretical approach to LfU during the lesson week.

The idea I have thought about the most is an integrated curriculum unit that is hinged around science and social justice. In a MET course, last term my partner and I developed a Google Classroom unit for a grade three students (but could be adapted to any grade level) on Testing Materials and Design. Geospatial technology could be incorporated easily into this unit. In the module 6 activities A) Build a better amusement park and B) Imagineering a cross curricular blended learning module geospatial activities could be added. For the first activity Build a better amusement park students could use any of the geo technologies to look for an area that they could build on. Is the terrain suitable, is there enough space, is there room for growth and so on?

For part B students are introduced to the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: William Kamkwamba. William used his knowledge of science, his imagination and found materials to create a windmill for his town. He harnessed the only natural resource available and used it to better the lives of the villagers. Students could use Google Earth technology to view the African landscape and look for other suitable locations to build wind turbines, or perhaps look at ways to harness water or the sun to base their Imagineering project on.(Sverko, 2017)



When considering Learning-for-Use and working with GIS in terms of my own classroom and teaching, the first unit application that came to mind was around natural resources/rocks and minerals. When exploring ArcGIS through searches like “mineral exploration in British Columbia” and “natural resources in British Columbia” a variety of titles related to geological features, mineral occurrences, mineral potential, major natural resource projects, natural events, and so on were found…. Students could not only identify areas of mining, logging, and so on, they could also then layer on bodies of water nearby to discuss effects on waterways; they could layer on towns and cities to discuss how to process the resources most effectively/economically; they could look for other areas of potential resources; and so on. In addition, when reading Bodzin, Anastasio, and Kulo’s (2014) article on Google Earth, I wondered about having students use this program as a way to identify how the management of resources looks from a “bird’s eye view” in terms of location, environmental disruption, and land reclamation. (Sikkes, 2017)



If I were to choose one activity to develop I might focus on using these maps for measurement and geometry. I liked the Google Earth activity of adding paths and polygons and how it could relate to our “Frolicking Friday” adventures. Every Friday we take our learning outside to our local area. Often this is in the form of treks down in the gully beside our school, and walks to our neighbourhood gardens and parks for various activities connecting to the science, socials studies, language arts, arts education, physical and health education, and math curriculum, thus beginning to foster spatial thinking by guiding these outings to be cross-curricular (Perkins, Hazelton, Erickson, & Allan, 2010). When I searched maps of our local area (Kimberley, BC) there were not many landmarks noted on our small town. It would be a worthwhile activity, then, for students to use these maps and add landmarks important to them and then measure distances using the measurement tools to begin to form an understanding of how long these distances take when we are walking them during our Frolicking Friday time. (Kostiuk, 2017, February 25)


Instructionl Framework: T-GEM

A Description of the GEM Cycle:

Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education, 91(6), 877-905.


Simulation technology has specific affordances for teaching science. Simulation technology appears to afford T-GEM teachers and students with the capacity to: compile information between variables in order to generate initial relationships, push values to extremes or in increments to assess the scope of the relationship, and provide an environment to make comparisons between data and visually draw attention to patterns and contrasts using graphs and animations. Students are able to test assumptions, dynamically regenerate graphs, and view graphics at the molecular level with computer simulations. Simulation technology may also afford students with the capacity to engage students in multiple GEM cycles in one classroom period, beyond what could be accomplished in the scientific laboratory. (Khan, 2011, p.228)

Related Postings:

Staying Afloat: Sink and Float Density T-GEM

TPCK and Learner Activity: A Synthesis of Four Foundational TELEs

Visual Representation:

Future Pedagogical Endeavours:

While exploring the four foundational frameworks within Module B, assignments requiring the transfer of knowledge gained through the course readings to a practical technology integrated lesson plan were both enjoyable and extremely valuable for me. Such is the case with the T-GEM lesson.

The T-GEM cycle is a framework that can be used across a plethora of STEM topics and concepts. I appreciate the feedback from peers and Dr. Khan in response to my T-GEM lesson as their words have helped define the GEM cycle more effectively for me in regards to its processes and inclusions. Following are excerpts of feedback to help guide future T-GEM designs:

The simulation seems to provide data on the three variables but not the definitive relationship. I would be keen to see if students would be able to develop that relationship on their own instead of being provided the formula outright. ~ Darren Low

I love it when there are picture books that help introduce the concepts and give the students another way to access some of the information. I use read alouds like this with my intermediate students as well and they always really enjoy story time. I think we do not do this enough with the older grades. ~ Winchellera

The cyclical nature of GEM was also evident with 2 GEM cycles. This is an important component of GEM. (Sometimes the G is followed by E and M and then another cycle of E and M). ~ Samia

A few ideas for elaboration: in the generation phase, it might be possible for students to ask each other questions based on their T charts, for example why did that object float float? In the Evaluation phase: given the selected objects, which ones are anticipated that won’t make sense to the students? Using anomalies in the way that I think you have developed is a potentially very powerful method. Clark Chinn writes more about this in his famous paper: Chinn, C. A., & Brewer, W. F. (1993). The role of anomalous data in knowledge acquisition: A theoretical framework and implications for science instruction. Review of educational research, 63(1), 1-49, and it was a method suggested in the case study an the Private Universe. In the Private Universe, when students suggest that the Earth is closer to the sun in summer as an explanation for the season, an anomalous piece of information is that the earth is actually closer to the Sun on Jan 04 than July 04. ~ Samia

(Holder, 2017, March 3)


Keeping with the metaphor of Module A as tilled soil preparing the learner for the sowing of the seeds of Module B, Module C is the abundance of fruit. While Module B focused on specific instructional frameworks, Module C flourishes with an explosion of ideas, concepts and considerations when selecting TELEs to enhance these frameworks.  This explosion requires much more personal inquiry in order to sift through the affordances and practicality of specific simulations suggested through the course material and peer discourse. These simulations and other inquiries that have emerged through the course and are relevant for my teaching context, have been collected here: The Inquiries


Related Postings to Module C:

Individualism, Immersion and Evolution (Embodied Learning)

Making Sense of the Chaos – Thoughts on Role Play in Mathematics and Sciences (Embodied Learning)

Authentic Learning with Nature (Knowledge Diffusion – Network Community)

Financial Literacy for the Elementary Student –  Coin Box Simulator Through Anchored Instruction (Information Visualization)

Model-Based Instruction and Learning – A Better Understanding through NetLogo (Information Visualization)

In closing, I have chosen the following quotation. ETEC533 has been a transformational course that has instructed through its design, content and practices. I am a better learner and educator because of it and for this, I am grateful.

In the learning-technology-by-design approach, emphasis is placed on learning by doing, and less so on overt lecturing and traditional teaching. Design is learned by becoming a practitioner, albeit for the duration of the course, not merely by learning about practice. Learning through design embodies a process that is present in the construction of artifacts (such as online courses, digital videos, and so on), which is often located in the interplay between theory and practice, between constraints and tradeoffs, between designer and materials, and between designer and audience. Learning technology by design affords students the opportunity to transcend the passive learner role and to take control of their learning. The move to design-based activities has implication for instructors as well. Design cannot be taught in conventional ways; design is experienced in activity, depends on recognition of design quality, entails a creative process, is understood in dialogue and action, and involves reflection in action. (Mishra & Koehler, 2006, p.1035)