LfU, as a design approach, and arcGis, as a technology, seem particularly fitting for exploring topics in the Trees and Forests unit of Alberta’s Science 6 curriculum. Primary topics in this unit include: Identifying trees, examining tree growth, looking at human impacts of the use of trees and forests, and identifying an issue around trees and forests, the various perspectives on this issue, and actions that might be taken.
Within the LfU model, there are 3 major areas to address: Motivation, Knowledge Construction, and Knowledge refinement (Edelson, 2001). To create motivation students must “Experienc[e] the Need for New Knowledge” (Edelson, 2001). In Kulo and Bodzin (2012), whose work focused on creating an energy unit using the LfU model and geospatial technologies, this was accomplished through an inventory of students’ home energy consumption and the effects, presumably environmental and economic, on using different sources to achieve our energy needs. This introduction helps to link a topic that seems to have little to do with a student’s daily life with significant consequences. In delivering a Trees and forests topic in this manner, I would need to identify a similar motivating question that would prompt students to look beyond their day to day lives and that has significant impact. Examining students own use of forests and forest products might be a good jumping off point as they may be unaware of just how many of their activities and every day products utilize a forest in some way.
The knowledge construction phase “results in the construction of new knowledge structures in memory that can be linked to existing knowledge.” (Edelson, 2001). Since a student “constructs new knowledge as the result of experiences that enable him or her to add new concepts to memory, subdivide existing concepts, or make new connections between concepts.”, I would need to design experiences that connect to my students’ home environments and experiences. While the forest use survey would begin this process, Edelson (2001) notes that the phases often overlap, I would need to extend beyond simple recognition scaffold students in exploring how forests could be used and what the impacts of such use are. In this section, we could leverage forestry map overlay from arcGIS to examine how our local forest has changed over type. Examining the dates of policies related to different local forest use areas may help us determine how local governments have attempted to manage human forest uses. Examining trends in forest size, composition, and density would allow us to gauge the effectiveness of some of these policies.
The final phase, Knowledge Refinement, students are guided to organize their knowledge in a useful manner. Declarative knowledge is made more accessible at a future date through its application to a task thus helping to code it as procedural knowledge (Edelson 2001). In Kulo and Bodzin (2012), This was accomplished through creating a fictitious island and developing a plan for addressing its energy needs. A similar process could be employed for my topic through creating a fictitious forest area and managing the proposals of several stakeholders who would like to use the forest. Students would develop regulations for forest use and choose which proposals to approve or deny.
In the LfU framework, teacher and student roles are largely defined by the constructivist framework. As a teacher, I would need to scale back on the raw transmission of facts and instead create experiences that would allow students to uncover connections and trends. My role would entail more the curation of generative data sets that the distribution of facts. The role of student in the constructivist/LfU classroom is also significantly different. Students must become active meaning makers instead of passive recipients of facts. To be successful in this type of environment, student must become activists of a sort. They must identify problems upon which to apply their new knowledge if it is to be successfully transformed into long term procedural knowledge.
Bodzin, A. M., Anastasio, D., & Kulo, V. (2014). Designing Google Earth activities for learning Earth and environmental science. In Teaching science and investigating environmental issues with geospatial technology (pp. 213-232). Springer Netherlands. http://www.ei.lehigh.edu/eli/research/Bodzin_GE.pdf
Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology-supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,38(3), 355-385. http://ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1002/1098-2736(200103)38:3<355::aid-tea1010>3.0.CO;2-M
I found your application of the LfU model on the topic of trees to be cohesive and well thought out. You mention the need to scale back raw transmission of facts among all the other activities that are more student lead. As I think on the constructivist model more, I fear the danger of giving students too much control over their learning in fear that there is a chance they construct wrong information. In that sense, do you think didactic lecture style fact telling does have its rightful in the LfU cycle of motivation, knowledge construction and knowledge refinement?
Concepts like “policies related to different local forest use”, or “trends in forest size, composition, and density” may be challenging concepts that may need incremental lecturing so students are exposed to the correct knowledge. Other constructivist activities along with this would definitely go along way to help students use the knowledge to solve contextually appropriate problems. Didactic lecturing does get a bad reputation when used alone, but I wonder if there is actually a conscious need to reduce it when it is supplemented with other activities.
Thanks for sharing,
Good Morning Vibhu,
Constructivist teacher is certainly a totally different mind set. I think many people tend to see constructivism vs direct instruction as an either/or proposition or that we must discard all our traditional tools when we make the transition to constructivism. I’m not so sure that this needs to be the case.
In constructivism, the direct instruction takes more the form of error correction during the conclusion/summary phase of a lesson or topic. We still need to use good pedagogical practices like checking for understanding when engaged in constructivist activities.
Overall, it really seems like constructivism is direct instruction backwards. Begin with experience and application, identify problems, acquire facts and techniques to solve them.
With regards to the activities, this seems to me to be one of the major changes to the teacher’s role. We need to create and/or curate accessible data sets for our activities. For my examples this might include selecting example policies, rewriting them in more accessible language, or creating exemplar (fictitious) policies for an area that has seen high human impact.
In this model we have to move from conveying facts to conveying the experiences and problems that led to the creation of them in the first place.
I found your application of the LfU model on the topic of trees to be cohesive and well thought out. You mention the need to scale back raw transmission of facts among all the other activities that are more student lead. As I think on the constructivist model more, I fear the danger of giving students too much control over their learning: a chance they may construct wrong information. In that sense, do you think didactic lecturing has its rightful place in the LfU cycle of motivation, knowledge construction, and knowledge refinement?
Concepts like “policies related to different local forest use”, or “trends in forest size, composition, and density” may be challenging concepts that may need incremental lecturing so students are exposed to the correct knowledge. Other constructivist activities along with this would definitely go a long way to help students use the knowledge to solve contextually appropriate problems.
Didactic lecturing does get a bad reputation when used alone, but I wonder if there is actually a conscious need to reduce it when it is supplemented with other activities.
Thanks for sharing,
I enjoyed reading your ideas on applying Learning-for-Use methods and GIS to a trees and forests unit. Forestry is a major resource in the area where I live, so it plays a big part in many students’ lives for a variety of reasons. Many students have parents who work in the forestry or logging industry, we have a lumber mill in our town, we have had a major wildfire affect a community 45 minutes away within the last few years, many local homes still use wood stoves to heat (although the number is reducing), the pine trees in our area have been affected by the Mountain Pine Beetle, forests play a major role in the beauty of our area (I live in small town in northwestern British Columbia) and so on. As you have pointed out, there is so much potential in trees/forests for exploration and inquiry from a student-centred perspective, especially in allowing students the opportunity to connect with the local and then pushing them to consider forests on a more global scale. As we harvest more and more natural resources, it becomes so incredibly important for students to understand the impact on the local and global environments. As you point out, “Examining students own use of forests and forest products might be a good jumping off point as they may be unaware of just how many of their activities and every day products utilize a forest in some way.” The more students can actually recognize their own consumption and impacts on the environment, the better we may be able to prepare for a future filled with difficult environmental decisions.
I love your idea to have students develop a fictitious island and then address energy needs and/or stakeholder proposals. This would be a terrific way for students to access facts and concepts, then analyze, evaluate and synthesis what they have learned before applying it to a new and creative environment. This project would also allow for use of programs like Google Earth or GIS environments to provide visual and interactive learning experiences for students to build upon (i.e., layers to show evidence of deforestation and reforestation, environmental impact, etc.). Another thing I really like about your idea is that it is cross-curricular, allowing students to approach the project from a variety of perspectives. It allows for the inclusion of science, social studies, math, language arts, and even fine arts – then you could go for a hike in a forested or clear-cut area and include P.E. as well (maybe even involve students in the reforestation process by planting new trees)! Thank you for sharing – your ideas are clearly laid out and have provided the rest of us with some great ideas for educating our learners about one of Canada’s important natural resources!