My WISE Exploration: Getting Real with Graphs

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.)

Sigh.

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. 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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Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538.

2 comments

  1. Hi Dana,

    I agree with weaving in class discussions is a critical piece that can sometimes be missing from elearning. When teaching science and socials I like to have numerous class discussions to give students the opportunity to explain their thinking out loud and to listen to their peers. This gives them to opportunity to build on each others thoughts and for the class to come to a consensus on whatever matter we are discussing. I also find that this helps them in writing their own reflections on their learning.

    1. Hi Tyler, It is fabulous when a great discussion takes place! I tried something new today— collaborative quizzing. I haven’t counted quizzes for marks for a number of years now, so I thought that I would take it a step further and have pairs work together to work on questions. Not surprisingly, the marks improved. I am not sure if substituting a solo assessment for a collaborative assessment will have negative effects, but based off of the discussions that were happening today, I know that my average to below average students were brought up more notches than had they been assessed traditionally. Cheers, Dana

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