Chalk and Talk is Dead…

Chalk and Talk is Dead …

How Do We Make Student Centric Learning Mainstream?

One of the problems in education is that we seem to be eternally in a circle of doing the next best thing. Bandwagon jumping should be an Olympic sport for consultants and administrators.  While consultants are expected to show classroom teachers the new and exciting that often translates into abandoning older techniques that work. Administrators hear about a new idea from the consultants and believe it means drop everything and do this NOW! Why does common sense seem to fly out the window? I am constantly reminded of the phrase, “Common Sense is not so common”.

My role as an educator is to look at my curriculum, understand my student’s individual needs and decide how best to present the material. Yes, some days that does mean I do direct teaching. But I do not use this method all day every day for every subject, which historically has been how students were taught. Technology has afforded us the opportunity to open new worlds to our students. My school is very manipulative poor. I do not have the materials to run labs and simulations in my classroom for each subject. Technology to the rescue. I can do the next best thing, videos, animations and simulations on devices.

In our posts so many of us in the MET program talk about the same things: we need teachers to buy in to using technology WELL (Well here means to enhance lessons and expose students to new ways of thinking- it does not mean have students read text on the screen and answer in a private word document- at least in my opinion), we need training time for teachers and time to try the technology, we need decreased curriculum expectations so we can do justice to the material we are teaching and not feel like we are trying to sprint a marathon. We need reliable, accessible devices and lots of band width. If we take these things as agreed upon synthesizing the information from the four technology formats we have looked at becomes a little less daunting.

I spent a lot of time looking at Anchored Instruction (Jasper Woodley), the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE) Project which uses Scaffolded Knowledge Integration (SKI), Learning for Understanding (LfU) using  the geographic visualization and data analysis environment (GIS) and the technology enhanced Generate, Evaluate and Modify (T-GEM) format of Chemland. While I realize, I viewed these processes from the point of view of an elementary educator of grades 6-8 I also tried to look at them from the point of view of a primary educator and a high school educator.

My first thought was this: Kids are always more capable than we give them credit for. In varied doses, I could see using each of these methodologies with every grade level. All four choices are based on constructivist pedagogy where students construct their own knowledge versus being told information and expected to regurgitate it on old fashioned assessments. While some examples that were provided in each lesson were perhaps grade specific the actual pedagogy could be adapted to all.  I could see anchored instruction being successful with all grade levels.

A review of the four methodologies:

  1. Anchored instruction is based on case-based learning (Hallinger, Leithwood, & Murphy, 1993), problem-based learning (Duffy, Lowyck, & Jonassen, 1993) and project-based learning (Dewey, 1933) (Khan, 2017. ETEC 533 Class notes, Module B week 5).  Students solve problems based on real life situations that they can relate to “the assumption is that given an authentic context where mathematics is used students will develop a sense of agency that involves them in identifying and posing problems and systematically exploring possible solutions (Khan, 2017.  ETEC 533 Class notes, Module B week 5).


  1. According to our class notes (Khan, 2017. ETEC 533 Class notes, Module B week 5):

WISE stands for the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment.

The WISE research team’s goal is to help prepare math and science students to consider he Internet as a learning resource. But WISE researchers recognize that just making science and math facts available on the Internet does not necessarily mean that learning will occur.

WISE scaffolds student inquiries on pivotal science cases and allows teachers to author their own cases to fit with their curriculum.

The foundational principles involved in WISE include: the scaffolded knowledge integration (SKI) framework, cognitive apprenticeship, intentional learning, and constructivist pedagogy.

  1. LfU and GIS

The goal of LfU is to incorporate real life problems into learning activities so that the material becomes meaningful and students are better able to recall what they have learned when it is relevant (Edelson, 2011 p. 356). The LfU model is based on four principles that incorporate constructivism, constructionism and situated cognition:

  1. Learning takes place through the construction and modification of knowledge structures.
  2. Knowledge construction is a goal-directed process that is guided by a combination of conscious and unconscious understanding goals.
  3. The circumstances in which knowledge is constructed and subsequently used determine its accessibility for future use.
  4. Knowledge must be constructed in a form that supports use before it can be applied. (Edelson, 2011 p. 357)

Learning for Understanding (LfU) uses My World GIS (Geographic Information System) a geographic visualization and data analysis environment

My World researchers have been exploring the hypothesis that scientific visualization, incorporated into inquiry-based learning, can enable students of diverse abilities to develop an understanding of complex phenomena in the Earth and environmental sciences.

  1. According to our class notes (Khan, 2017. ETEC 533 Class notes, Module B week 5):

T-GEM using Chemland

Technology attempts to support and scaffold students’ making connections among various abstractions..T-GEM stands for Technology-enhanced Generate-Evaluate-Modify. T-GEM is a teaching and learning approach used to foster learners’ conceptual understanding and development of inquiry skills. These outcomes are fostered when teachers ask their students to generate rules or relationships, evaluate them in light of new conditions, and modify their original rules or relationships.

Chemland is a suite of computer simulations and interactive tools representing relationships of macromolecular phenomena in chemistry, such as the relationship between heat capacity and particular compounds.

Key words from each:

  1. Anchored Instruction:

case-based learning

problem-based learning

project-based learning

authentic context

identifying and posing problems

systematically exploring possible solutions

  1. WISE/Ski


intentional learning

cognitive apprenticeship

constructivist pedagogy

  1. LfU

scientific visualization

inquiry-based learning



  1. T-GEM

scaffold students’ making connections

foster learners’ conceptual understanding

development of inquiry skills




What do each of these methods have in common? They are all active learning scenarios where students construct their own knowledge in a given area. Each one has its strengths and is worth using in the math and science classroom in specific modules or units. Utilizing the strengths of each format would create a dynamic class where students actively learn and construct their knowledge. Each method also provides students with an opportunity to adjust their thinking and identify their misconceptions. The important part is that they all allow the student to be active learners.

How are each of these methods different? They all use a different format to allow students to construct their knowledge whether it be by video cases, simulations or using interactive maps to solve problems. Each has its own nuances, examples and structure.

How does all this impact my teaching? I can see using these methods in my grade 6-8 class. They are all effective methods for active learning in a given scenario and all seem like they allow for cross curricular connections. For example, I could see using the GIS maps to allow students to discover the Pacific Ring of Fire. They could manipulate the base maps and see what areas are highly populated and highly volcanic. No matter which base map they choose to use they could then do some integrated math by choosing different zones to draw on the maps and calculate the total area involved. Students could then zoom in on maps and plan an escape route for a highly-populated area. They could look at modes of transportation available and distances that would need to be travelled.  Students could choose a method and look at the cost feasibility. You could follow the T-GEM model here allowing students to generate ideas about escape routes, evaluating their choice with specific examples and then allowing them to modify their choice if they feel another route is more desirable. This could lead directly into the Jasper Woodley unit on Trouble at Boon Meadow. This could lead into the unit on flight that would incorporate PhET simulations.

Totally exciting!

As a visual for this unit, I created an infographic. I used gears to represent content and methodology as they are parts of a whole machine that must work cohesively if the machine is to function at all.

The funnel leads into the active learning and from there sharing and collaborating. In the end, this machine creates collaborative, critical thinking problem solvers.

Synthesis Infographic



Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992a). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 40(1), 65-80

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

(Khan, 2017.  ETEC 533 Class notes, Module B week 5).

Khan, S. (2012). A Hidden GEM: A pedagogical approach to using technology to teach global warming. The Science Teacher, 79(8). This article was written about T-GEM with middle-schoolers.



  1. Hi Catherine,

    First of all, great graphic on piktochart! I always debate which platform to use, and chose Canva last week, but yours looks good on this one too. I love the gears you chose to incorporate to represent the active learning and ever-turning motion of learning, and like how you integrated the funnel as well, it is all very fitting. I also appreciate how you integrate the learning theories into your specific teachings with the example of how one can lead to the other in your exploration of the Pacific Ring of Fire. I also found your keywords for each theory a clever idea and helpful to keep in mind when trying to differentiate between them.


    1. Hi Allison,
      I find piktochart really easy to work with so it is my go to. The integration of the ideas into the Pacific Ring of Fire activity and subsequent activities just sort of came to me while I was thinking about how I could use these TELE’s in my teaching. It just occurred very organically, and easily.

      The keyword idea was sort of born out of necessity. My brain felt a bit overwhelmed by all the jargon and terms of the four TELE’s and I kept getting confused. The key word creation really helped me categorize and organize my thinking.

  2. Hi Catherine,

    Well done as usual! I loved your infographic – I have never used Piktochart, but it was neat to have an example of what is possible through the program. I also really enjoyed the metaphor you created with the gears (content and methodologies) of the machine and the machine’s ultimate creation of “collaborative, critical thinking problem solvers.”

    I thought you did a terrific job of summarizing and synthesizing your exploration of the four learning environments over the past month. I really appreciated your point that education appears to follow a circular pattern “of doing the next best thing.” I have a good friend who is a retired teacher in her mid-60’s. When we talk about “new” initiatives, she always laughs and tells me whether I like them or not, to just wait a couple of years and everything will change again. While today, digital technology is changing rapidly and new applications are appearing in education on a frequent basis, it is interesting to me that this “bandwagon jumping” (great term!) has been occurring for many, many years in the field of education. I feel that we ultimately return to tried and true methods, but not before we drop them for “new” initiatives that may or may not work. That, and there are so many new initiatives and technologies today that it is literally impossible to keep up, and it is very difficult to determine what applications are a ‘best fit’ for our diverse classrooms and needs. What works well for one teacher, might not work well for the next. What I really enjoyed about the TELEs presented in Module B was that I felt that they were all adaptable, not only to different classrooms and learning environments, but also could be adapted to meet the needs of a diverse range of learners.

    I really enjoyed reading your example using GIS for a project based around the Pacific Ring of Fire. This seems like such an interesting application of various knowledges and skills to ‘real life’ scenarios and experiences. The way you have laid out the project, allowing students to manipulate and layer base maps, evaluate escape routes and financial feasibility, consider transportation, and so on, would not only promote engagement, motivation, and collaboration between peers, but would also, as you have pointed out, allow for cross-curricular connections which are so important in our classrooms filled with curriculum standards and limited time. I can already imagine how science, social studies, language arts, math, and art could all be integrated within this one project. One thing I wonder is how you would have students present their learning to you? Do you envision a final project that is paper or digital technology based? Would students present orally to you?

    Thank you for sharing, Catherine!

    1. HI Mary,
      Piktochart is super easy to use and although I have a paid subscription (for when I am feeling less creative and want more ideas and options) I did this on the blank one that is free. The free subscription includes a few templates but lots of choices with lettering, shapes, lines etc. As I mentioned it is easy easy easy.

      In regards to your question on assessment I would hope that I could morph my usual assessment techniques to something more unique. For example, some of the assessment I would love to happen just by sitting and talking with the student or partners. Asking questions, listening to answers and having them (in a non-threatening way) justify their choices.
      With the escape route activity, I would like to try and turn it into a “pitch” competition. Each team pitches their idea of the best escape plan including cost, number of people who could be moved etc. The pitch would be like a presentation and therefore could be assessed using a rubric or similar.

      As a final project ideally I would like to have the students document their learning from start to finish in whatever way appealed to them. They could create a digital story, movie, combination. As they progress through the modules they could begin with their thoughts before they did any research, document their findings and decisions and then identify any self-misconceptions they found and finally what they thought the most important thing they learned was. This would not just be limited to information but perhaps they found that they learned their partner knew a lot about avaiation, or that they really enjoyed making digital stories. Hope this helps answer your question.

      1. Your ideas for assessment all sound excellent, Catherine. I love the “pitch” competition idea for the escape route – what a great way to engage the students (especially the boys who tend to love competition)!

Leave a Reply

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