“Learning environments that concentrate on conveying to students what scientists already know do not promote inquiry. Rather, an emphasis on inquiry asks that we think about what we know, why we know, and how we have come to know” (National Research Council, 2000, p. 5-6)
The projects available through WISE, and the theory behind the concepts of WISE and SKI, provide an opportunity for students to engage in a variety of interactive activities to support the development of critical thinking and inquiry, as well as increasing engagement and motivation. Based on the four tenets of Scaffolded Knowledge Integration (SKI), “(1) making thinking visible, (2) making science accessible, (3) helping students learn from each other, and (4) promoting lifelong learning,” (Linn, et al., 2003, p. 524) information is delivered through a variety of techniques. This allows for students to engage in the learning process through multiple senses, and for information to be received and interpreted through a range of learning experiences (i.e., visual, auditory, and tactile) as students view images and videos, and then respond by answering multiple choice questions, predicting, hypothesizing, and writing or drawing. This mixture of mediums takes into account various learning styles and supports learning as well as retention of information for students.
In terms of the structuring of student learning, the WISE projects provide various supports to scaffold learning for students in a more independent environment, which is beneficial for educators as well. The WISE projects guide students through the learning process, with step-by-step instructions and information delivery to appeal to a variety of learning styles. This connects well with Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development which can look different depending on the setting, but “can include people, adults and children, with various degrees of expertise, but it can also include artifacts, such as books, videos, wall displays, scientific equipment and a computer environment intended to support intentional learning” (Brown and collaborators, 1992, 1993, as cited by John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996, p. 198-199), as students are given the opportunity to move from assisted learning, to more independent learning and output, through the guidance provided by the projects. Linn, Clark, and Slotta (2003) discuss the fact that the WISE platform “incorporates an inquiry map to communicate the patterns that students follow to investigate a topic. The map enables students to work individually and independently on their projects, rather than constantly asking the teacher for guidance on what to do next (Feldmann, Konold, & Coulter, 2000; Edelson, Gordin, & Pea, 1999; Linn & Hsi, 2000)” (pp. 521-522).
There were many aspects of the WISE projects that I really enjoyed, and I generally found that projects offered a very good mixture of information, key terms, visuals, videos, and inquiry, allowing students to access and build upon their prior knowledge, as well as encouraging deeper-thinking through scaffolded instruction and activities. Gobert, Snyder, and Houghton (2002) discuss being “scientifically literate” as “understanding science content, having scientific process and inquiry skills, and understanding the nature of science, i.e., what is taken as evidence (Perkins, 1986)” (p. 1) and these points are supported through the WISE project framework.
I chose to explore and customize the existing WISE project titled, “What Impacts Global Climate Change?” (ID 9028), created in November, 2015, and owned by Crystal Mosteiro. The project is listed under “Earth Science” and is aimed at grades 6-8. The summary details the project as follows: “Students investigate how energy from the Sun affects global temperature and their role in global climate change.” While there were many aspects of the existing project that I thought were well done, there were some changes that I felt needed to be made to adapt the project to fit my personal teaching style.
The first change I made was in the “Introduction” section of the project. The existing project started students off with a title that said “How do my actions contribute to global climate change?” along with three bullets explaining what students will learn in section 1 of the project. While I feel this is a great question, and the learning intentions for the particular section were clear, I did not feel that the entire project was properly introduced, and I felt that prior knowledge and misconceptions were not adequately addressed. As a result, the first change I made was to create a new “activity” (I put it at the very beginning of the existing project) to “hook” students’ interest and then to attempt to access prior knowledge and misconceptions. I started by adding three “steps” to my new activity section. The first two steps were the “hook” and consisted of two different photos taken from NASA’s “Global Climate Change” site. The first photo showed an image of the Alaska Range, Bear Glacier in 1909. The second photo showed a picture of the same glacier in 2005. Pictures were shown in separate steps (1909 image first, 2005 image second) and students were asked to respond to each picture: “1) List at least 5 things you notice in this picture 2) Why are each of these things important? (OR you may ask a question related to each of the 5 things you noticed).” While I did enter these into the actual project, I am tempted to do these as a “paper-based” activity (as a t-chart) as a class prior to beginning the project. Following students’ submissions, I would like to do a “whip around” together as a class and have each student tell me one of their responses to the questions online (or on paper, depending on how I would end up doing it). Following this, I added a step to access prior knowledge and potentially identify misconceptions that asks two questions that relate to major concepts behind the project: “What is global climate change?” and “Is global warming real?” Again, I would want to discuss students’ responses together as a class to enable students to collectively share prior knowledge, and also to attempt to dispel misconceptions students have prior to beginning the lessons.
The next major change I made was to add a video, also from NASA, titled “Following Carbon Dioxide Through the Atmosphere.” This is a short video that I feel students will find interesting, showing the movement of Carbon Dioxide through Earth’s atmosphere over the course of a year (September 2014-September 2015). I believe the video could also prompt some wonderful class discussions about carbon dioxide emissions in our world.
My final major change was to add a hands-on project where students are asked to create a model to demonstrate one thing they have learned/found particularly interesting which answers one of the initial (introduction) project questions, “Is global warming real?” While I have obviously never used this WISE project in my classroom, so I do not yet know how students will respond, I am envisioning models that could incorporate recycled materials, plasticine, and natural materials (found outside), and so on. Models will be 3-D and students will write paragraphs to explain how their models effectively demonstrate the reality of global warming.
One thing that I did not like about this project and I would hope to change in the future is that the majority of the “questionnaire” questions did not provide students with immediate feedback (although a few did). One thing I loved about the “What makes a good cancer medicine?: Observing mitosis and cell processes (ID: 9924)” project was that the match and sequence questions provided information once my answers were submitted. Adding this feature to the climate change project, would allow students immediate feedback (correct/incorrect) to their responses, as well as providing information to explain why their answer was correct/incorrect which I think is valuable.
Alaska Range, Bear Glacier [images]. (1909; 2005). NASA: Global Climate Change. Retrieved from https://climate.nasa.gov/interactives/global-ice-viewer/#/1/4
Following carbon dioxide through the atmosphere . (2016). NASA. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2016/eye-popping-view-of-co2-critical-step-for-carbon-cycle-science
Gobert, J., Snyder, J., & Houghton, C. (2002, April). The influence of students’ understanding of models on model-based reasoning. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), New Orleans, Louisiana. Retrieved from: http://mtv.concord.org/publications/epistimology_paper.pdf
Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538.
Mosteiro, C. (2015). What impacts global climate change? WISE. Retrieved from http://wise.berkeley.edu/previewproject.html?projectId=9028
National Research Council. (2000). Chapter 1: Inquiry in Science and in Classrooms. Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9596.
John-Steiner, V. & Mahn, H. (1996). Sociocultural approaches to learning and development: A Vygotskian framework. Educational Psychologist, 31(3/4), 191-206.