In module B we explored four foundational technology-enhanced learning environments (TELE). These were Anchored or Situated Instruction featuring the Jasper Series, Web Inquiry Science Environment (WISE) and Scaffolded Knowledge Integration (SKI) using the science and math based WISE projects available on their website, Learning For Use (LFU) model with MyWorld GIS and ARCGIS mapping systems, and Technology – Generate, Evaluate, Modify (T-GEM) demonstrated with Chemland.
The advantage of TELEs is the affordance to provide creative technology integration that supports effective pedagogy in the science and mathematics classroom. Technology proficiency for students and the integration of technology into the classroom is critical for today’s 21st century learners. However, in order to maximize positive results, the pedagogical approach of technology should be encouraging students to make the activity and the content personally meaningful (Barab, 2000), which these four foundational learning environments accomplish.
This synthesis compares and contrasts the four TELEs explored throughout this module in different ways. First I created a graphic web using Inspiration, in order to organize my ideas and understanding into categories. This allowed me to synthesize the roles and affordances of each TELE. The second comparison took the form of a Venn diagram allowing me to consolidate the similarities and differences between the four TELEs. These diagrams are included below (follow the link for readable copies).
The Jasper Series was based on providing a real life context for solving mathematical challenges for students. It allows for a much more student centred approach to using mathematics than traditional text book lessons. This series also addresses the age old question of “why do we have to learn this?” as the math is embedded in the stories and within the challenge. This method promotes a method of learning which is rooted in reality and anchors the concepts to problem, providing students with a real purpose to understanding the math rather than just learning it out of context and by rote. The video itself is not customizable, however I think the challenges could be changed or modified in different ways to suit the information provided in the video.
(I tried out the Rescue at Boone Meadow video with my class of grade 7 students and found they were engaged in the story (context) and were quick to figure out what mathematical information was required in order for them to try to solve the problem. None of them whined about it being too hard or too much for them).
WISE and SKI – was a specific platform providing a wide range of topics that made science accessible to students and made thinking visible through simulations and models. It allows for collaboration as well as a student paced model as they can work through the project at their own pace or one suggested by the teacher. Teachers can modify the projects to fit their own classroom expectations. Although there is a wide variety of projects available on WISE, they are all specific in nature and generally address a specific scientific concept.
LFU – MyWorld GIS – is a framework which allows for many constructivist principles, such as learning through constructing and modifying existing knowledge, learning is initiated by the learner therefore the learner is engaged in order to build upon pre-existing knowledge and understanding. This platform is easily modified by the student or the teacher just by choosing different data sets with which to manipulate the maps. In Learning for Use platforms, the use is quite specific in that the data here is specifically around maps, mapping, and geographical information. These premises could be integrated into other areas of curriculum, but still with a specific purpose.
T-GEM – Chemland is a specific platform aimed at secondary or post-secondary students. The ideas are sophisticated and although the students can manipulate the simulations to some degree, they are focused on one aspect of the concept. Teachers cannot modify the simulations to suit the conditions in their own classrooms. The T-GEM framework is easily adaptable to other types of simulations where students can manipulate the data, evaluate, and modify their understanding as more information is acquired.
As a middle school teacher in an elementary school setting, I found some of these platforms intriguing and suitable for use with my students, and others I found way too difficult for them to manage without frustration, or the concepts were too advanced for the curriculum. However, all of them followed the tenets of constructivism and problem solving. These approaches such as anchored instruction, problem solving, scaffolding, knowledge construction, and evaluative reasoning, should not be limited to just mathematics and science, but could be applied to all areas of the curriculum. One of the greatest affordances of the TELE is the power of visualization and being able to add a visual image, model, or simulation to the students learning experience.
Two key concepts in my evaluation are student misconceptions and constructing new knowledge. Misconceptions are identified, created or dispelled by constructing new knowledge and modifying thinking to adjust for the new understanding. With guidance from the teacher, along with built in reflections in the technology, misconceptions can be corrected or modified. This is an important step in order to make sure that misconceptions are not perpetuated or new ones created. I now have a much greater awareness of how students create misconceptions, and how to find efficient, meaningful ways to dispel these misconceptions.
The incorporation of TELE is something all teachers can benefit from, particularly those in math and science disciplines. Pedagogy matters when it comes to any instructional tool and why the implementation of any TELE should be rooted in effective teaching strategies and not just something used without purpose. My pedagogical approach and purpose for using technology is the most important factor when it comes to choosing a platform to use with my students. Teachers must use technology with intention and purpose, the ability to modify some of the TELEs speaks to this, whereas others would need to be chosen carefully to make sure they fit the parameters and meet the needs of the lesson and the students. Although I strive to make this a priority in my own teaching, I realize that there is so much more out there than I can integrate to make my students learning environment much richer.