Handheld Technology, Climate Change and Kinesthetic Learning

In addition to Winn (2003), I have deliberately selected two articles that provide insight on my TELE assignment and future teaching environment (as I plan to implement my TELE project for my students in September). The second article was on the integration of handheld technologies in a WISE project (Aleahmad & Slotta, 2002). The third article surrounds student conceptions of global warming (Niebert & Gropengießer, 2013). Both of these articles are complementary to my purpose because for my TELE I am interested in redesigning a current WISE project on global warming and cater it to my grade 7 students in September. From the three articles it has demonstrated that learning occurs when there is interactions between internal conceptions (e.g. cognitive), external activities (e.g. scaffolding) and environmental influences (e.g. handheld devices, experiments, etc.). Learning is complex and requires what I informally call, kinesthetic learning where students need to be physically active participants in the learning process in an embodied and embedded way that requires them to adapt and modify their conceptions. In Niebert & Gropengießer (2013), researchers analyzed scientists and students’ conceptions of climate change using the Model of Educational Reconstruction (MER) approach where they used misconceptions as starting points to recreate learning activities to target them.I found this perspective implicated a teaching strategy where I could use a version of a “Knowledge-Wonder-Learn” activity to assess my students’ prior knowledge about climate change. Misconceptions would appear here and I could utilize them to cater lessons to address them. The article also emphasized the challenge for students to grasp a concept like the greenhouse effect because it is not easily visualized by students microscopically (e.g. global warming as progressed through hundreds of years_ and therefore, it makes it difficult for them to understand it. However, through hands-on experiments and activities, students can visualize the issue of climate change visible and operationalized so that they can then reflect on their misconceptions about this topic. In the third article by Aleahmad and Slotta (2002), it showed how to integrate handheld technologies into an already technology enhanced learning environment such as WISE where it expanded the opportunities for collaboration and scaffolding. Students would use handheld devices, which I assume could be iPads and tablets these days to obtain data from the outside world (e.g. surveys, field observations) and enter them into the same database so that the entire class can use the data for further learning. With the topic of climate change, using handheld technologies students can conduct interviews with scientists, take pictures of the environment (e.g. evidence of global warming), and collect field data (e.g. sea level, water quality) and pool them together with other students. This makes the learning authentic because students can explore and share different information. Since WISE is typically a partner project, integrating handheld technologies will allow groups to collaborate with one another to provide further scaffolding opportunities.

Questions for discussion:

  1. What are some potential constraints of Winn’s (2003) proposal of a learning environment that consists of embodiment, embeddedness and dynamic adaptation?
  2. Are there other suggestions you can provide about integrating handheld technology into a topic related to climate change?
  3. Is it possible that some learning activities (e.g. experiments and other hands-on opportunities) are not effective at challenging students’ misconceptions about a topic and if so, what can an educator do?

Aleahmad, T. & Slotta, J. (2002). Integrating handheld Technology and web-based science activities: New educational opportunities. Paper presented at ED-MEDIA 2002 World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications. Proceedings (14th, Denver, Colorado, June 24-29, 2002); see IR 021 687.

Niebert, K., & Gropengießer, H. (2013). Understanding the Greenhouse Effect by embodiment–analysing and using students’ and scientists’ conceptual resources. International Journal of Science Education, 1-27.

Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 87-114.


  1. In response to your question, “Is it possible that some learning activities (e.g. experiments and other hands-on opportunities) are not effective at challenging students’ misconceptions about a topic and if so, what can an educator do?”, I think that providing students with choice in how they learn is important. That being said, it is also difficult to manage a variety of students all learning through different methods, at least from my perspective. As an elementary educator (grade 2) differentiation is often great in theory and falls flat in practice because it is not manageable. Providing for all student needs in terms of how best they learn is often not practical or achievable without support, appropriate resources and time. As an elementary educator I try to provide a variety of ways for the students to learn including hands-on activities, written activities, simulations, modelling, etc., but not all the time and not for all subjects. We must be reflective and honest as educators. In higher education teachers or instructors are often subject specific teachers whereas in elemenatry schools we are expected to teach a variety of subjects throughout the day including math, science, literacy, the arts, etc. Just some food for thought. Perhaps subject specialization should be a goal for elementary schools.

    1. Michelle,
      I agree with you 100%, differentiation is the top buzz word here in the UAE, but as you said it is great in theory but not realistic, especially because when students are tested, assessments are not differentiated. I think that providing students information in a variety of ways to accommodate how they learn is vital, but this can be especially hard in elementary school, when you are jack of all subjects.

  2. Thank you Gloria,

    The integration of hand-held devices with WISE marks one of its affordances, that one can link to external resources within this platform. Glad to see that you are exploring this for your final assignment. Of possible additional interest is the use of a simulation on the topic of global warming: Khan, S. (2012). A Hidden “GEM”xpp A pedagogical approach to using technology to teach global warming. The Science Teacher, 79(8), 59-62.

    Best wishes, Samia

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