There were a couple of projects that intrigued my interest as they related directly to what I would be teaching next in my science class. After exploring both of them, I settled on How Does Heat Energy Move. This one explores the different ways that heat energy is transferred. This project covers the types of heat transfer and allows for student predictions, experimentation, data recording, and reflections or revisiting previous ideas to allow for changes in knowledge and understanding.
This project begins with a bit of an introduction for the students but, since most of them will not have had much experience with the concept previously, I would want to do an Anticipation Guide or KWL with the class to gauge their prior knowledge before starting to get an idea of where they may need more support as they go through the project. The project itself meets all of the requirements for the science expectations covering the transfer of heat and required little adjustment. There are places where the students can investigate scientific phenomena through digital examples which display the transfer much more effectively than doing a physical experiment, and there are places where the students can pause the project to conduct some physical experiments on their own.
The main drawback to both the projects I explored was the use of temperature probes as part of the equipment linked to the graphing system within the project. We do not have access to these probes and rely on school thermometers to measure the temperature for class experiments. I adapted this part of the lesson to use the thermometers but since they are not connected to the graphing link, the students need to create the requisite graphs by hand. This is unfortunate as noted by Slotta & Linn, when students constructed a graph by hand, they often lost sight of the purpose of the experiment and were distracted by the graphing procedure. In contrast, when they could observe the probe collecting data and watched the graph form automatically on the screen, they were able to notice important qualitative characteristics of the system (Slotta, Linn, 2009). For instance, they could actually see the plateau when the water begins to boil, rather than try to deduce this from their data. I have seen this disconnect in the classroom when students are recording the data and creating the graph by hand. Although they record the data accurately and create the graph accurately, they are not able to make the connection to the energy being used to change states instead of heating the water. An adjustment or inclusion I might make here would be to include a visual of some sort, video or digital experiment, which shows the graph being created as the water boils so the students could make the connection more easily. It would make more sense to them to watch it after they had done the experiment themselves.
These projects would fit naturally into my classroom as the students are quite familiar with using a variety of digital tools and programs. It would take them a short time to figure out the logistics but they would soon be able to move through the project quite independently. There are plenty of ways for the teacher to scaffold the information for the students as they work through the project, and dispel any misconceptions as they arise. The project provides a good mix of digital technologies and hands on experiences, to give the students an opportunity to practice the necessary skills. Following the TPCK model, the content of the project follows the curriculum expectations closely and allows the use of technology to deliver the content, as well as allowing the students to prove and explain their understanding within the project. This allows the teacher to give students timely feedback as they work through the project, rather than waiting for a culminating activity at the end. It combines many of the 21st Century Learning Skills that are a necessity for students to be successful today, in a fairly user friendly digital environment. I am looking forward to using this in my classroom for our next science unit.
Slotta, J.D. & Linn, M.C. WISE Science: Inquiry in the Internet in the Science Classroom. Teachers College Press. 2009
Your points about graphing were fascinating for us to consider, and I look forward to comments from the class regarding generating graphs by hand vs using probe generated graphs. In terms of cognitive affordances, what additional affordances do you think might be at play when the graph is generated with the visualization you proposed? For example, you mention: which shows the graph being created as the water boils so the students could make the connection more easily. What kinds of scaffolds might Furtak or Kim suggest to provide in the case of an automated graph where the goal is to make students’ thinking visible? Thank you for you getting us thinking about these questions, Samia
In your post you mention ” For instance, they could actually see the plateau when the water begins to boil, rather than try to deduce this from their data. I have seen this disconnect in the classroom when students are recording the data and creating the graph by hand. Although they record the data accurately and create the graph accurately, they are not able to make the connection to the energy being used to change states instead of heating the water. An adjustment or inclusion I might make here would be to include a visual of some sort, video or digital experiment, which shows the graph being created as the water boils so the students could make the connection more easily. It would make more sense to them to watch it after they had done the experiment themselves.”
In the paper by Linn et al (2003) they mention how the actual process of having students create a graph by hand becomes more about the process of graph making (do I have a title, are my axis correct, did I make the graph right?) than interpreting the results. I am wondering if the process of graphing was to make inferences about the scientific occurences would it be better to provide students with the graph made and labelled either on paper or digitally so the lesson becomes about understanding the data and interpretation and leave the graphing lesson (the creation of a proper graph) for a different unit?
Funny you should mention that about having a prepared graph for the students showing the results. I do have one where it demonstrates the plateaus as an ice cube melts into liquid, then the temperature rising as the water heats up, then another plateau when it starts to boil. I have actually done the experiment with the students and then shown them the graph but they still seem to have a disconnect between what happens in the beaker and what is drawn on the paper. I think if they were able to see it in real time and have the corresponding lines created on the graph as they registered the temperature changing in the beaker, they would be able to make the connection more easily. They do not seem to have had a lot of experience interpreting graphs, more of how to create them. Many of them have no real understanding of the purpose of graphing information.
I would love to have a set of those probes to use with the program.
I really enjoyed reading your response and you have drawn attention to an incredibly important issue with your discussion on graphing. My school also has only thermometers, so my class would be in the same position as yours. I have a class with very diverse learning needs (as is the norm today) and completing the graphs for this project would be both time-consuming and difficult for many of my students. The graphing would prevent them from being able to learn independently, and they would be forced to rely on an adult (or peer, depending on how much difficulty they were having) in the room, rather than being able to interact collaboratively with a peer (and therefore, feel like an equal). In contrast, the probes would allow students to be “wowed” by the science behind the technology they are using and I think would actually contribute to the enthusiasm an engagement my students would have in learning the particular concepts of this project.
Yes, I agree, that although creating graphs is an important step in the process, I am not sure that it needs to be done by hand. Students lose the impact of what is happening with the science when they have to focus on the mechanics of the graphing. I love the idea of the probes, but am wondering at the efficacy of the programs that require the specialized materials in order to use them. I am currently searching for a similar graph that shows the rise in temperature and the plateaus experienced when water changes states with the application of heat, so that when they create their own graph they can see the connection to the one they are watching.