Tag Archives: Implementing Technology

Financial Literacy for the Elementary Student – Coin Box Simulator Through Anchored Instruction


Financial literacy is highlighted throughout the elementary grade levels in the Content area of BC’s New Curriculum. Most paper-pencil curricula address money identification, counting coin and dollar amounts, and one or two step word problems connected to money. However, these paper-pencil activities minimally equip students for financial literacy skills and applications. While exploring the information visualization simulators during this past week, the elementary and middle school simulations from Illuminations were easy to understand and seemed quite plausible to implement into already developed curriculum.

Literature Support for Lesson Cornerstones: 

In a study conducted by Srinivasan, Pérez, Palmer, Brooks, Wilson and Fowler (2006), engineering freshman students who completed learning using MATLAB did not experience what they perceive as an authentic experience. The students felt that their experience was disconnected from real expert experience because they manipulated a simulated system rather than a real-life system. The researchers conclude that a probable reason for this disconnect is that the students “need/want authenticity to be able to make connections the experts make with the simulation” (Srinivasan, 2006, p.140).  This perception from the students leads educators to consider the value of real-life experiences in connection with simulated experiences.

Transferring simulated experiences to real-life experiences is supported through the study completed by Finkelstein, Adams, Keller, Kohl, Perkins, Podolefsky and Reid (2005). In their study, students in a second semester introductory physics course, who had used a simulation first to design a circuit system, were more successful later in designing real-life models. These same students also achieved greater success on related exam material that was completed two months after the simulated and real-life circuit building experience (Finkelstein, 2005). Due to these findings, authenticity of learning through the transferring of knowledge from simulation to real-life experience is a main cornerstone of the following lesson design.

In addition to authenticity, two lesser cornerstones, rich content and goal challenge motivation, are also incorporated into the lesson design as supported through the writings of Srinivasan et al. (2006). A pre-test assessment begins the lesson in order to determine prior knowledge and the optimal area of learning for the individual student. As well, this pre-test assessment can be used to determine pairings/groupings throughout the lesson activities. By providing rich content within the lesson plan, this affords opportunity for students with less prior knowledge to acquire new knowledge before exploring the simulated and real-life experiences. Building prior knowledge within students is critical for their success as Srinivasan et al. (2006) state, “Prior knowledge accounts for the largest amount of variance when predicting the likelihood of success with learning new material” (p.138). In regards to gaining knowledge of the student’s optimal area of learning, this connects closely to Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development, but is also supported by goal oriented motivation when learning goals are neither too steep, nor too simple: “If learning goals are too steep for a learner’s current context, learning is not successful. On the other hand, when learning is simple for the learner, the instruction can become over-designed and lead to diminished performance” (Srinivasan, 2006, p. 139).

Lesson Overview: 

The following lesson incorporates the instructional framework of anchored instruction. This has been accomplished through a narrative multi-step problem solving feature. The three cornerstones highlighted in the section above are evident within the lesson: goal challenge motivation {decided by pre-test assessment}, content-rich material, and authenticity through real-life application.


Pre-test Assessment:

Provide paper-pencil assessment including photos of Canadian coins asking students to identify individual coins.

Addition questions for pre-test assessment may include:

  • How many quarters makes a dollar? How many dimes? How many nickels?
  • Show 3 different ways of making one dollar using a mix of coin types. Draw coins with labelled amounts to share learning.

 Include two ‘making change’ questions that require student to calculate amount of change from $1.

Content-rich Material: 

Read and discuss Dave Ramsay’s book entitled, My Fantastic Fieldtrip on saving money.

Provide pairs of students with real sets of Canadian coins with accompanying anchored money solving problems. Problems may require students to interact with other students in the class or with the teacher. An example of an anchored money problem solving scenario follows:

Macey has been saving her allowance for seven weeks. She has a saving goal of $20.00. Each week she receives $1.50. Three weeks ago, Macey decided to buy her sister a rubber ball for her birthday which cost $1.00.  She used a loony from her savings . After seven weeks, Macey wanted to exchange all of her quarters for loonies, but she also wanted to keep half a dozen quarters for when she visited the candy machine at the grocery store when she went shopping with her mom.  She knew that several of her classmates had loonies that they could exchange for her quarters. (At this time, go around to your classmates and exchange your quarters for loonies just like Macey wanted to.) Once Macey exchanged her quarters for loonies with her classmates, how many loonies does Macey have? How much money does Macey have all together? How much more money will Macey need to save to reach her saving goal?

Simulation  Activity:

Illuminations –  Coin Box {elementary level}: Initially, direct instruction is required to demonstrate how by clicking on the cent icon in the bottom right corner, the student can see the amount of each coin as they are  US coins and difficult to decipher visually. Direct instruction should also be provided to guide the student to the “Instructions” tab and show the subtitled areas “Modes”. Student can then have time exploring the “Activity” section using the dropdown menu in the top left corner. Student should have ample time to explore all five activities including: “Count”, “Collect”, “Exchange”, “Change from Coins”, and “Change from Value”.

Transfer to ‘Real-Life’ Context: Students should have opportunity to transfer the simulated learning to a real-life context. An example of a real-life context is provided below, however adapting this to uniqueness of the learning community is recommended:

Cookie Sale –  Each student bakes one dozen cookies to sell to classmates and other students at the school. Pricing: 1 cookie = $0.40, 2 cookies = $0.75, 3 cookies = $1.00, 4 cookies = $1.25, 5 cookies = $1.45, 6 cookies = $1.70. This activity allows for assessment by the teacher through observation. Student’s accuracy and ease of providing change could be assessed using a simple checklist. Students should work in pairs  or small groups to help ensure that change to buyer is accurate.

Self Assessment/Reflection: A reflection activity is to be completed by each student. This activity requires the student to reflect on and share about growth and relevancy of learning. A self assessment printable is here:

Self Assessment

Finkelstein, N.D., Perkins, K.K., Adams, W., Kohl, P., Podolefsky, N., & Reid, S. (2005). When learning about the real world is better done virtually: A study of substituting computer simulations for laboratory equipment. Physics Education Research,1(1), 1-8.

Srinivasan, S., Pérez, L.C., Palmer, R.D., Brooks, D.W., Wilson, K., & Fowler, D. (2006). Reality versus simulation. Journal of Science Education and Technology15(2), 137-141. doi: 10.1007/sl0956-006-9007-5

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Plate Tectonics: Reshaping the Ground Below Us

Web-based Science Inquiry Environment (WISE)

Project: Plate Tectonics – 

Renamed: Plate Tectonics: Reshaping the Ground Below Us – ID 19738

WISE is theoretically based on the Scaffolded Knowledge Integration network (SKI) which includes the following four tenets: 1) accessibility to science, 2) making knowledge visible, 3) learning from others and 4) promoting autonomy (Linn, Clark, & Slotta, 2003). In piecing together a unit study for middle school students (grade 6-8), incorporating these four tenets of SKI into the non-technology based areas of learning is intentional to enhance visibility of knowledge and opportunities for peer review and critique. The WISE Plate Tectonic project is being used as a final assignment within a geology unit based on the structure of the earth, the surface of the earth, plate tectonics, and earthquakes and volcanoes. A few authorship changes have been made to the Plate Tectonic project mainly to include a Canadian perspective. These changes include the addition of Canadian map images showing placement of volcanoes, earthquakes and mountain ranges, along with appropriate text. As well, small alterations have occurred in the subtitles of the lesson outline.

The geology unit includes three resources, two non-technology based texts and one project from WISE. The two non-technology based resources that have been chosen are faith-based resources as the school that I work for is an independent religious school. The Geology Book by Dr. John D. Morris is a textbook, but includes detailed and colourful diagrams illustrating the inside of the earth and side views of how the earth’s surface is formed. A Child’s Geography: Volume 1 by Ann Voskamp includes conversational style writing, hands-on activities, real world extensions and a living book list of extension readings. Talking about thinking is incorporated into both of these resources through oral narrations, discussions and the sharing of written work for peer critique. Learning is made visible through notebooking and hands-on model making.The table below illustrates the order of the unit with how resources will be completed in conjunction with each other.

In designing this unit, the four tenets of SKI are intentionally incorporated in addition to, or through the use of each resource. These four tenets provide a framework for students to work through an inquiry process as described in Inquiry and the National Educational Standards with students thinking “about what we know, why we know, and how we have come to know” (Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education, 2000, p.6). Linn, Clark and Slotta (2013) more specifically 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). The following table analyses each of the three resources and aligns them with the four tenets of SKI as well as the inquiry processes described by Linn, Clark and Slotta in the above definition.

Scaffolded Integration Knowledge Network Processes of Inquiry Geology Unit Resource
Accessibility to Science – {content, relevancy, real-life application} Diagnosing problems

Planning investigations

Revising views

Researching conjectures

Searching for information

WISE Plate Tectonics
Researching conjectures

Searching for information

Revising views

The Geology Book
Revising views

Researching conjectures

Searching for information

A Child’s Geography
Making Thinking Visible Constructing models

Communicating to diverse audiences

Forming coherent arguments

WISE Plate Tectonics
Constructing models The Geology Book
Constructing models A Child’s Geography
Learning From Others Diagnosing problems

Critiquing experiments

Distinguishing alternatives

Revising views

Debating with peers

WISE Plate Tectonics
Critiquing by peers

Revising views

The Geology Book
Critiquing by peers

Revising views

A Child’s Geography
Promote Autonomy Diagnosing problems

Critiquing experiments

Distinguishing alternatives

Planning investigations

Revising views

Researching conjectures

Searching for information

WISE Plate Tectonics
Researching conjectures

Searching for information

Critiquing by peers

Revising views

The Geology Book
Researching conjectures

Searching for information

Critiquing by peers

Revising views

A Child’s Geography

Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education. (2000) Inquiry and the national science education standards. Washington, DC: Author.
Linn, M. C., Clark, D. and Slotta, J. D. (2003), WISE design for knowledge integration . Sci. Ed., 87: 517–538. doi:10.1002/sce.10086
Slotta, J. D. & Linn, M. C. (in press). WISE Science: Inquiry and the Internet in the Science Classroom. Teachers College Press. Retrieved from https://edx-lti.org/assets/courseware/v1/634b53c10b5a97e0c4c68e6c09f3f1b6/asset-v1:UBC+ETEC533+2016W2+type@asset+block/WISEBookCh1-30209.pdf
Web-based Inquiry Science Environment.(1996-2016). Retrieved from https://wise.berkeley.edu/


Filed under Inquiry, WISE

Exploring Technology in Math and Science Learning Spaces – Interviews


Teacher L is a distance learning teacher working for an independent school in British Columbia. In the past, she has taught high school math and science courses in both public and private brick and mortar schools. She has also spent two years teaching overseas. Teacher L is presently working with students from grades eight to twelve, facilitating math, science, physics and chemistry courses. She has been working as a distance learning teacher for the past eleven years and through her job has the opportunity to work from home.

This interview was conducted through a synchronous Zoom meeting session, using video and audio features. Teacher L was situated during the interview at her home work space in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia, while I was in a quiet conference room at a nearby library in Edmonton, Alberta. 

When considering three keywords that could summarize Teacher L’s teaching experience intersected with the implementation of technology, the following words and phrases surfaced: isolated, stretched-thin, and low-risk. All three of these descriptors have a tinge of negativity associated with them, but through the interview with Teacher L, the negativity is balanced with a positive outlook towards future possibilities.


As a distance learning teacher, Teacher L faces some issues of isolation. Throughout the interview there is little indication of collaboration efforts with colleagues or professional development in the area of technology. When asked how she has learned to incorporate referenced types of technology into her learning space, she admits that it is largely “through trial and error” and that “you just need to jump in”. When prodded to share if colleagues have been a useful resource in helping learn new technologies, she seemed unsure and responded with “I guess” and then mentioned that she has “emailed the Zoom people to see how to make things work” when initially setting up a Zoom conference room for her students. Although Teacher L does not seem to have much collaboration with other teachers, she is self motivated to learn new technologies, but feels that her teaching assignment is too broad and is too demanding of her time and energy. She states, “I think there are definitely programs, and like I said these labs and stuff out there, that could enhance it [student learning experience], but this is my own shortcoming that I need to find, or spend time researching and getting those programs, or finding those websites that would do more. When I think of technology enhancing learning, I think of those things that you can send the student to help them in a more practical way. Ultimately that is what I would love to add more of to the courses.” From an earlier portion of the interview she shares some hopes and frustrations: “One thing that I haven’t used, but I would like to use but it’s challenging, and to be honest because I have so many courses I haven’t been able to look into it as much, but there are online labs that are for chemistry and physics, but I haven’t implemented them as much as I would like. I feel like I haven’t implemented a lot.” 

Teacher L has implemented some use of technology within her teaching, course delivery and student learning requirements, however this implementation of technology is mainly used to instruct students through a delivery system. For communication with students, Teacher L mainly uses email, Skype and Zoom meetings. Her preference is now Zoom as she can “have a face-to-face and … hold up a diagram, but there is also the whiteboard option”. She describes the whiteboard option as one of the most beneficial technology teaching tools that she uses “because the ones [students] who are struggling need that more visual back and forth … that we can actually do with the whiteboard to go through the problems”. As well, Teacher L is using a Learning Management System called Canvas which allows her to set up courses for students to access content and assignments and then submit assignments, complete tests and receive feedback. As described in the interview, the younger grade eight and nine students require some teaching time to learn how to use Canvas, whereas the grades ten to twelve students were able to use it more intuitively. In response to challenges of use by the grade eight and nine she states, “Initially with Canvas, a lot of them were having issues putting the right thing in the right place and knowing how to use it. Next year, I need to start out differently with the students. Let’s take some time to learn to use this well.”

At this time in Teacher L’s career, ease of use of technology for both herself and her students is the key to a successful learning space. Perhaps our interview may spur her on to incorporating more complex uses of technology into her course design, but for now she asserts that a new technology must be “easy for them [the students] to open …, and see what they need to do, and easy for me to implement.”

The following Interview Analysis document includes portions of the interview transcript aligned with analysis. The analysis connects patterns and ideas from other teacher interviews presented through the ETEC 533 lesson.

Interview Analysis

A Poetic Reflection:

There can be a lot of talk about lack of accessibility,

a lot of complaining about unpredictable connections.

There can be the fear of the unknown,

of not knowing where to start,

or knowing what it means.

Fearing failure

 from the lack of control.

There can be the giving up and the giving in,

or there can be the G0-getter that keeps on giving

and persevering

and struggling

and reconnecting

and disconnecting

and redirecting. 

The onus is put on whom?

Who will accept the responsibility?

Who is willing to move beyond ease and the conventional

And take a risk beyond what is now? 

What is placed in this learning space?

Not rows of pupils facing front – 

with a sage on the stage  

and a static page at hand.

There’s integration and intersection

of mind and machine, 

of hand and tool, 

of sight and sound,

There’s learning the rules

of not right and wrong,

but of how and why.

There’s discourse and recourse

and collaboration and cooperation.

There’s inquiry and error

and trying again.

And assessment is not so quantified, as qualified

not needing to be scored,

but needing to be shared. 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Interview

Video Cases – A Synthesis

It is Teacher E (Case 8), the science instructor of teacher candidates, who summarizes well educational technology as it weaves itself through many of the case video samples. He asserts that technology use within the classroom should be used to enhance student learning and should be integrated with other subject content. These goals of technology use can be seen throughout the case videos, as both students and teachers share that their experience with technology enables students to understand content more easily and more in depth. Although ideally, technology should be integrated with other subject areas, students and teachers admit that there is a significant learning curve that occurs in order to efficiently and meaningfully use the technology. In Case 2, Teacher M communicates that he introduces the graphing calculator to students in grade eight. By the time the students are enrolled in grade eleven, they are able to use the technology to learn content, rather than use time to learn the technology. In Case 3, a grade 12 Physics student admits that it took her a year to move through the frustration of learning the new technology. However, now that she has developed the necessary skills to implement the technology, she is able to complete the learning more easily and with a deeper understanding. This understanding is evident through her engagement and problem solving abilities within the video.

In Case 1, a reference is made to the New BC Curriculum that is beginning to be implemented in 2016/17 for grades 10-12. One of the teachers mentions that the Content of the new curriculum is the topics through which to practice the Competencies. As the Physics 12 teacher (Case 3) describes technology as evolving his teaching from being transmissive to transactive, this idea of practicing the competencies through using technology, while gaining a deeper understanding of content is highly evident. Students are collaborating with peers who are not necessarily their friends, managing their time and resources, problem solving and integrating technology appropriately – all of these activities are considered both competencies and important life skills!

A final observation is that of the educators who are implementing technology within their learning spaces. There is almost a tangible enthusiasm expressed through the screen as they share about the activity occurring among their students. All of these educators are experienced educators with at least a decade of teaching experience, and all of them have been willing to invest in learning meaningful technology either on their own, through collaboration with other teachers, or through professional development opportunities. These educators were willing to take risks and challenge the status quo of a traditional learning space. They faced challenges, but were willing to work through the challenges, viewing them as part of the learning process and keeping a positive perspective. Conversely, most of the preservice teachers and new teachers shared hesitant or even negative perspectives on using technology in significant ways in their classroom. The two most common reasons for hesitancy were lack of knowledge regarding the technology – how to implement and how to problem solve, and the amount of time necessary to teach students how to use the technology efficiently and effectively. I found this interesting because I would have assumed that the newer, and typically younger, teachers would be more capable and confident in exploring new technology than older teachers, but this is not evident within the videos, overall.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Uncategorized