Digital meets Analogue

I found this week’s readings quite beneficial as I am currently trying to  create online lessons that strike the delicate balance between autonomous discovery and structured guidance in the zone of proximal development. As Linn, Clark & Slotta (2003) state “if steps are too precise, resembling a recipe, then students will fail to engage in inquiry. If steps are too broad, then students will flounder and become distracted.” Looking through the WISE library I came across a lesson called String Instruments which I decided to enhance by applying 3 of the main ideas from WISE.  These 3 ideas ”Support Autonomous Learning”,  “Promote the Personal Relevance of Science and “making ideas visible to students” (Slotta & Linn. 2009), are key concepts when developing a WISE project. The goal of this WISE lesson is to teach students what sound is and ask them to create their own musical instrument, I decided to incorporate the digital music creation tool Sonic Pi.  Sonic Pi is a sound programming environment developed specifically to teach programming concepts where sound synthesis provides the medium for learning how to program,  We would use it on our Raspberry Pi’s alongside the “Ruler Model” that the WISE lesson utilizes, to draw comparisons between the analog and digital nature of sound in our world.

Dr. Jim Slotta’s WISE article states” Simulations and interactive models are perhaps the most powerful form of scientific visualization, because they represent complex ideas and causal relationships in a temporal, “playable” form.” (Slotta & Linn. 2009). Amplitude, Frequency, Pitch and Duration are all explained through the use of a ruler attached to a desk.  I added a brief tutorial for those 4 lessons to show how the same principle can be applied in a digital setting through Sonic Pi. Rather than just using a ruler the students can fully manipulate and control their sounds waves in Sonic Pi.  Creative boundaries are expanded through the digital tools. As well the numerous branches that digital tools affords supports autonomous learning by enabling students to carry out projects without having to constantly seek guidance from teachers or peers.”Linn, Clark & Slotta (2003).  Few things are more personal than music. The lesson presents an element of creation in a physical sense through building a string instrument. Then adding a digital element will build on the process of the students sense of “owning” their learning, instilling a personal connection with the the lesson.  I would take this lesson even farther by perhaps getting them to combine the physical with the digital using a Makey Makey like my students are doing here

James D. Slotta and Marcia C. Linn. 2009. WISE Science: Web-Based Inquiry in the Classroom. Teachers College Press, New York, NY, USA

Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538.


  1. Hi Nathan

    I like the fact that you discussed the “delicate balance” of how much information or direction to give students. This would be the same for this class as well. I also, like that you are thinking about where to go with your lessons.

    I wonder if you could share some beginner lessons for using Raspberry Pi.

    A good next step might be share some of your lesson plans and examples of exemplary student work.


    1. Here is a link to a site I am working on
      under Physical Computing you can follow the guide for learning the basics on a Raspi

      Here is a fishing sim one of my students made on Scratch, click on “see inside” to look at his code

      Here is another Scratch project helping them learn how to create their own social media sites

      Currently we are working on coding in VR for example here

  2. Thanks for the post Nathan. As I was doing the framing issues paper, I encountered various articles suggesting how interactive simulations (ex. PhET) provide the ‘delicate balance’ you mention, embedding into design guiding prompts and taking away distracting details to focus on visualizing content.


  3. I like how you would incorporate Makey Makey into the lesson. I think so many new technologies require creativity and an understanding of the underlying concepts they can connect to in order to effectively integrate them into learning.

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