Collecting Plates


For my WISE exploration, I chose to tinker with a unit on Plate Tectonics (ID: 19749).  I really liked the way the original author set up her/his unit.  I made a few changes to reflect some elements that are important to me.  First, I replaced a number of static diagrams with GIFs.  It seemed silly to me to show dynamic processes with a static image – if the technology can demonstrate the concept more accurately, then do it!  Second, I did away with the “Extra Credit” section.  These always feel like the domain of mark counters, and I don’t want my students motivated by that.  The irony was that many of the most interesting activities that the original author created were dubbed “Extra Credit”.  I kept the activities, but dropped the moniker.

For my lesson (directed at grade 8 students), I am going to begin by having students generating driving questions with the ultimate goal of using the questions to motivate student inquiry.  Each student will generate questions and do some initial information gathering to see if their inquiry is generating interesting, satisfying information.  The WISE will be a source of information for them and act as a jumping off point for their big questions.  Students will investigate their questions with the goal of creating a record of their inquiry in the form of an experiment, a presentation, a video, a podcast, etc..  Each student will participate win a roundtable where they will ask questions about the work, methods, and research of their peers with an aim to improve their inquiry skills through collaborative discussion.  Finally, my students will reflect on their process – assessing their learning, highlighting areas they are proud of, and identifying difficulties they had and how they can address then in their next inquiry.

One of the key goals of WISE’s and Scaffolded Knowledge Integration is to make science accessible (Linn, Clark, & Slotta, 2003).  One of the ways that access is improved with the WISE, is that it is available to the student whenever it is needed.  Unlike a teacher, who is accessible during class time, or a text that, for many students, requires interpretation or guidance for understanding, the WISE can meet the student wherever/whenever they want to learn.  Giving students this resource is another way to manage the proliferation and entrenchment of misconceptions.  In the movie A Private Universe, access to visual models seemed to help students break down their incorrect impressions of scientific concepts/processes.

Finally, the WISE format lends itself nicely to providing timely feedback to my students on their understanding. Hattie & Tamperly (2007) describe feedback as a tool to reduce disparities between understanding and performance.  The marked ‘quizzes’ and predictive writing in the WISE would allow me to keep an eye on student understanding and respond promptly with questions, corrections, or prompts to help shrink the gap between student understanding and performance.



Hattie, H. & Timperly, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.

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


  1. Hi Joshua,

    We can check out your tinkering-thanks for including the ID!

    I like you’re idea of the student generated question which launches them into inquiry. In what ways might WISE’s inquiry map help your students? How might you modify it for your particular group?

    You have also raised an affordance of WISE-that they can work on it outside of the classroom and access a visualizable model in a project. Like you point out with the Private Universe, these models can support student understanding that may go beyond perspective drawings in textbooks that might be misinterpreted. A check in with the teacher in either case is necessary.

    Thank you for weighing in on inquiry (and the map),

  2. Joshua,

    I also tinkered with the Plate Tectonics unit. It was interesting to read about your changes as they are quite a bit more dynamic than my own. Incorporating GIFs to demonstrate the movement of processes described in the unit is brilliant. Within my own unit, I incorporated other text based resources, but adding in a animated visual i.e. GIF or video should be included as well to enhance visualization of learning. I also appreciated your perspective on the “Extra Credit” portion in connection to student motivation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *