The perceived issue the Jasper materials are responding to is a lack of engagement and mathematical understanding for learners when it comes to mathematical concepts. The purpose of the videos is to create learning opportunities that are anchored in meaningful and engaging technology contexts, using anchored instruction. Anchored instruction was “designed to overcome the problem of developing ‘inert knowledge’ – knowledge learned in school that cannot be retrieved when it is needed for another situation” (Zydney, Bathke & Hasselbring, 2014). The Jasper Project uses technology to motivate students to problem-solve as a team and solve relevant chronological problems within a story-line. The program motivates students to help them learn to think and reason about complex problems (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992). Using a constructivist approach, students are encouraged to construct their own understanding of mathematical concepts, while developing problem solving and critical thinking skills. I think this is a relevant problem in today’s classrooms, because students often don’t see or make the connection between curricular competencies and real-life scenarios. When students can make connections, it provides deeper learning opportunities for students to explore concepts, take risks, and test a variety of problem-solving strategies (Hickey, D., Moore, A., & Pellegrin, J, (2001). In my experience, students who are English Language Learners (ELL) struggle with math concepts that are solely print-based problem-solving activities. These videos provide opportunities for students to build upon concepts and work in a team, developing communication skills.
In one study, students who used the Jasper materials showed slightly larger gains on assessments (Hickey, D., Moore, A. & Pellegrin, J, (2001). With the advancements made in technology, updated versions of the Jasper Project could be extremely beneficial. Using current topics of interest for elementary learners, paired with apps accessed on iPads, could create deeper learning experiences. Students would have access to the video series, and could possibly share ideas and debate with other classes through Skype, similar to a Mystery Skype (http://psolarz.weebly.com/how-to-set-up-and-run-a-mystery-skype-session.html). Taking this a step further, apps could offer virtual reality opportunities for students to be completely immersed in the problem their team faces, creating an active, rather than passive learning environment.
The contemporary videos that are available for math instruction from Khan Academy address the issue, but fall short because they lack the group collaborative effort provided by the Jasper Project. “The model presented by the Khan Academy proposes a flipped classroom where students take responsibility for the acquisition of key concepts at home and then in class essentially complete extension tasks and gauge understanding” (Lenihan, E., 2013). In inner-city classrooms, students are not able to work through concepts at home because of the lack of technology. The Jasper materials utilize classroom activities and time.
Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992b). The Jasper series as an example of anchored instruction: Theory, program, description, and assessment data. Educational Psychologist, 27(3), 291-315.
Hickey, D. T., Moore, A. L. & Pellegrin, J.W. (2001). The motivational and academic consequences of elementary mathematics environments: Do constructivist innovations and reforms make a difference? American Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 611-652
Janet Mannheimer Zydney, Arne Bathke & Ted S. Hasselbring (2014) Finding the optimal guidance for enhancing anchored instruction, Interactive Learning Environments, 22:5, 668-683, DOI: 10.1080/10494820.2012.745436
Lenihan, E. (2013). A theatre for action: Adopting the khan academy in support of a classroom model in the MYP. The International Schools Journal, 32(2), 66.