Monthly Archives: July 2017

Making Connections

  • Speculate on how such networked communities could be embedded in the design of authentic learning experiences in a math or science classroom setting or at home. Elaborate with an illustrative example of an activity, taking care to consider the off-line activities as well.


I found this week’s readings to be informative and applicable, especially when viewed through the lens of an inner-city school. I am specifically interested in Exploratorium, a museum in San Francisco. Their intention is to diffuse knowledge through their exhibits through an on-line option, that provides an extension of what you would experience in the museum. I like the fact that students can experience the museum from home or school. One of the apps listed on their website is called ‘Science Journal’. This app simulates a laboratory, which supports students as they document their observations through an experiment, however it is only available for android phones. Students can gather data, measure light, sound, and acceleration. The Exploratorium created companion activities for the app.

The Exploratorium websites shares that for “most students, science is still defined by textbook chapter assignments on Monday and vocabulary quizzes on Friday. Regrettably, students experience science in an interactive way in perhaps less than 10 percent of science classrooms. The Exploratorium is working to change that” (Exploratorium). In the design of an authentic learning experience in a science classroom, Exploratorium could be used to support inquiry. The website hosts many experiments, multimedia videos, and resources for students. “Inquiry is central to science learning. When engaging in inquiry, students describe objects and events, ask questions, construct explanations, test those explanations against current scientific knowledge, and communicate their ideas to others” (National Research Council, 1996, p. 2). In a school where field trip funds are minimal, teachers could use this website to support inquiry by creating an environment that supports construction of knowledge through hands-on experiments and activities. “Museums provide ideal environments for learning and practicing inquiry skills. While playing with exhibits, students on field trips can try various experiments, make observations, and have memorable experiences” Gutwill, J. P., & Allen, S. (2011). This can be mirrored in the classroom by giving students opportunities to experiment, document their observations, and provide stations for rotation with social interaction. “The role of the authority figure has two important components. The first is to introduce new ideas or cultural tools where necessary and to provide the support and guidance for students to make sense of these for themselves” (Driver et al., 1994).  Technology can be incorporated to access the appropriate apps, and then share their learning through ePortfolios. I believe that there is significant value in authentic field trips that provide students with new opportunities to make connections, build communication competencies, and experience new learning environments with resources (Gutwill & Allen, 2012). However, if classes are unable to attend more than one or two per school year because of lack of funds, I think virtual field trips are a great alternative. Spicer & Stratford (2001) support this statement and explain that virtual field trips should not replace authentic fieldtrips. What Exploritorium can do is provide scaffolding prior to a field trip, which could be an example of LfU, supporting motivation, knowledge construction, and refinement for both pre and post trip.


Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Mortimer, E., & Scott, P. (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom. Reconsidering Science Learning,23(7), 5-12. doi:10.4324/9780203464021_chapter_2.2

Gutwill, J. P., and S. Allen. 2012. Deepening students’ scientific inquiry skills during a science museum field trip. The Journal of the Learning Sciences 21 (1): 130–181.

Spicer, J., & Stratford, J. (2001). Student perceptions of a virtual field trip to replace a real field trip. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17, 345-354.






Socialization is key

Driver et al. (1994) present the idea that scientific knowledge is created in a way that is more than a constructivist foundation and requires acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of a variety of factors that include personal experiences, language, and socialization.  Secondly, they notice that it is not the teaching of specific scientific knowledge but rather the “constructs that are advanced by the scientific community to interpret nature.”  (Driver et al., 1994)  They continue to demonstrate that the widely held scientific principles that we hold to be true are “constructed and communicated through the culture and social institutions of science.” (Driver et al., 1994)  They return to Piagetian foundations and the need to challenge existing schema to create conflict and cause students to move to a state of disequilibrium and develop new schemes to understand their experience.  It is the social component that is key in knowledge acquisition.

This led me to read two articles about field trips and can we replace them with virtual field trips.  Both articles seem to support the conclusions about the importance of the social component to learning that was missing from the virtual field trip.  In their study Spicer and Stratford (2001) found that field trips develop more than just scientific knowledge and that “[t]hese experiences involve the ability to take responsibility and be responsible for yourself and colleagues, to work and cooperate with other people and to make friends and win trust.” (Spicer and Stratford, 2001)  Again we find a return to the ideas raised by Driver et al. that there is a social component to learning.

Lastly, I looked at a number of the networked communities, including GLOBE, Exploratorium, and Discovery Education.  Each site offered great amount of resources to create allow students to be more interactive in their learning of science.  I can see tremendous value in students measuring rain fall and relaying it to the team at GLOBE and then for my students to be able to interact with that data and compare to other regions.  It supports Driver et al. ideas of a making the classroom part of a larger scientific community.  I think that Adedokun et al, (2012) summarize it best in their study when they identified that “they are viable alternatives for providing students with learning opportunities and experiences that would have otherwise been unavailable to them.” (Adedokun et. al, 2012)  It returns to our discussions around PCK and that if the experience brings something new to the classroom then it is probably hitting the sweet spot where pedagogy, content and technology interconnect to build knowledge.  If it is just replacing then there may be less value to both the time and the students.



Adedokun, O. A., Hetzel, K., Parker, L. C., Loizzo, J., Burgess, W. D., & Paul Robinson, J. (2012). Using Virtual Field Trips to Connect Students with University Scientists: Core Elements and Evaluation of zipTrips™. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 21(5), 1-12.

Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Scott, P., & Mortimer, E. (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom. Educational researcher, 23(7), 5-12.

Spicer, J., & Stratford, J. (2001). Student perceptions of a virtual field trip to replace a real field trip. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17, 345-354.

Virtual exploration

As I have become more comfortable with applying new type of technology in my classroom I have become quite reliant on knowledge diffusion through networked communities. Just as we looked at webcams and virtual discovery websites in these readings I have focused much of my time over the past 4 years teaching my students to build digital field trips in sandbox environments like Minecraft.  I really knew nothing about Minecraft up until 4 years ago when I offered to run it as a pilot project for my grade 4/5 class.  Firstly after installing the program I needed to find a place that had a”diversity of expertise among its members who are valued for their contributions and given support to develop, a shared objective of continually advancing the collective knowledge and skills, an emphasis on learning how to learn, and mechanisms for sharing what is learned.”  “(Bielaczyc & Collins, 1999).  These requirements were through the Minecraft Edu Google group forum that had already had a large group of technical experts and teachers who had been using the platform for years.  The amazing thing about these online environments where so many people are passionate about what they are teaching is the welcoming atmosphere that is created for beginners.  We had never run a M.U.V.E. before and there were a huge number of issues and problems that arose from such a large task.

My goal was to have students set up virtual field trips in a variety of biomes which they would take their classmates through, explaining the biodiversity in each environment based on scientific facts.  Through the Google group I gained a vast amount of knowledge in a short time through experts in the forums that had run similar environments.  Not only that but I managed to contribute back to the forum by sharing my successes and pitfalls with the forum group.  The open sandbox nature of Minecraft is something that I would have never experienced if I did not have the online community backing my experience.  This experience of knowledge sharing is something I have seen time and time again through my foray into digital forums.  I want what my students learn to be taken out of my classroom and applied in their lived experiences. Basically I asked myself just as Lampert states “What do my students take away from this activity into the other classrooms they will inhabit? Or out of school into the world of work and family?(Lampert, 1990).  The internet and tech tools that we have at our disposal has created huge opportunities for us learning how to create authentic learning for our classrooms.


Bielaczyc, Katerine, and Allan Collins. “Learning communities in classrooms: A reconceptualization of educational practice.” Instructional-design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory 2 (1999): 269-292.

Lampert, M. (1990). When the problem is not the question and the solution is not the answer: Mathematical knowing and teaching. American educational research journal, 27(1), 29-63.

Niemitz, M., Slough, S., Peart, L., Klaus, A., Leckie, R. M., & St John, K. (2008). Interactive virtual expeditions as a learning tool: the School of Rock Expedition case study. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 17(4), 561-580

7 wonders of the world 360 pano’s

This is a great virtual field trip site I use quite a bit with my class.  There are 2 options for viewing, either a chopper guided version or a still camera version that both offer stunning visuals to help with lessons.  I hope this site will be moved to a Google cardboard app as having these pano’s in a virtual setting would be even better.

Globe and Visitor Centers

How can learning be distributed and accelerated with access to digital resources and specialized tools and what are several implications of learning of math and science just in time and on demand?

Knowledge is actively built and socially constructed upon prior conceptions and personal theories. Learning views do not require specific pedagogy necessarily, though invented constructs imposed on phenomena are socially negotiated, then validated as public knowledge. Technology enhances distributed learning, challenging ideas through discrepant events while introducing multiple ways of seeing. Learners form communities of practices through cultural apprenticeship co-constructing knowledge (Driver et al., 1994), though inquiry requires guidance being unlikely that inexperienced students learn through pure discovery. Teachers gradually withdraw support as students connect plausible mental representations towards symbolic convention, where intervention helps make sense of further action. Meaning is constructed in conversation resolving disequilibrium knowledge schemas, inducing cognitive conflict along with social interaction to provide multiple perspectives. Teachers recognize students hold plural conceptions given social context, structuring tasks to internalize and enculture experiential evidence. Students develop common sense reasoning using everyday language and pragmatic understanding rather than adopting coherent world picture, leveraging models for scope.

Globe provides universal access to employ natural curiosity, actively participating with distributed collaborators, researching spatial-temporal data. For accuracy, training the trainer ensures first line of defense against erroneous data (Butler and MacGregot, 2003). Systems provides integrated understanding with graphical, visual and technical tools, enabling international cooperation with multiple languages across isolated communities. Student interaction with adult professionals offers authenticity, enhancing commitment and quality assurance. Given uniform classification systems and protocols, sampling techniques perform over 80% accuracy, where ongoing collection allows for durable, low-cost, long-term stability, empowering students to do responsible science. Active research projects and learner involvement become valuable incentive to improve analytical interpretation, supplementing classroom activities to make informed inferences. Motivational factors like challenge, fantasy and curiosity sustain goal-directed behaviour, with challenge neither too steep or simple providing novelty, interest and importance (Srinivasan et al., 2006). Working memory allows for simultaneous processing and information preservation, providing various worked out examples as effective strategy. Challenges with time availability and systematic schedules need to be overcome, focusing on fundamental science content and method. Debugging breadboard components is time consuming, fraught with variables to address prior knowledge, ability and motivation. Curiously although simulations were less cost expensive, participants deemed software as fake unable to provide authentic experience, resulting in little quantitative difference between physical equipment (Srinivasan et al., 2006). Users described how not knowing background made practical training difficult let alone theoretical, where both real hardware and simulation laboratory provide incomplete solutions.

Science in visiting hands-on interactive centers allow free-choice learning guided by well-formed interests. Leisure settings provide brief, moderately structured activity while retaining considerable personal control. Visitors as active meaning seekers balance learning and entertainment categorized into five broad motivational categories: Explorers, Facilitators, Hobbyists, Experience seekers, Rechargers (Falk and Storksdieck, 2010). Recollections of exhibits highlight personal curiosity, excitement, allowing faster and better learning, motivated by personal curiosity. Instead of disliking school for reading without application and witness in real life, free-choice learning offers realistic expectations over compulsory. Fascinating objects help crystallize meaning to pursue learning satisfaction without external validation, where genuine openness to learn immersed within setting minimizes performance mentality.


Butler, D. M., & MacGregor, I. D. (2003). globe: Science and education. Journal of Geoscience Education, 51(1), 9-20. doi:10.5408/1089-9995-51.1.9

Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Mortimer, E., & Scott, P. (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom. Educational Researcher, 23(7), 5-12.

Falk, J. H., & Storksdieck, M. (2010). Science learning in a leisure setting. Journal of Research in Science Teaching47(2), 194-212.

Srinivasan, S., Pérez, L. C., Palmer, R. D., Brooks, D. W., Wilson, K., & Fowler, D. (2006). Reality versus simulation. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 15(2), 137-141.

Victoria Weather Stations

Tracking the Weather at your school.


A number of schools in the Victoria area have a weather station on top of their building.  Inside the school is a digital display and you can connect with this site for more continuous tracking.  I have seen this used to track patterns, create graphs, we have daily weather reporters who announce conditions on our morning announcements, plus so much more.  It is great because it is local and the students can connect to that.

T-GEM and Atomic Structure

From previous experience in teaching the chemistry portion of Science 9, it is apparent that Isotopes remain a difficult concept for many students to grasp. It is very common to see the same mistakes emerge on assignments and tests and remains a persistent issue for many students.

Using the concepts of TGEM (Khan, 2007), I have found generated an activity which works to teach atomic structure and isotopes using the Bill Nye Video and PhET simulation below.

Bill Nye: Atoms and Molecules

PhET Simulation: Build-an-Atom


Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education, 91(6), 877-905.

LFU with Space Science

The Learning for Use (LFU) framework consists of a three-step process consisting of Motivation, Knowledge Construction, and Knowledge Refinement (Edelson 2001). I have chosen to apply such a framework to the grade 10 Space Science unit about the big ideas of the Big Band Theory and star system formations. There are several technologies which can aid in the LFU framework implementation with this unit such as Stellarium, and Universe Sandbox. Stellarium can be used to analyse stars and planets with scientific accuracy and locate these phenomena in the sky. Universe Sandbox on the other hand allows to interact with planets and star systems, many of which begin as factual, observed systems. This interaction can be anything from adjusting climate, rotational speed, to creating new planets, moons, and collisions.



Both technologies include factual information about celestial bodies around us. Students tend to have a natural curiosity about the world around them and these programs can help to scaffold their previous knowledge. Looking at the gravity (and in comparison, their weight) on different planets can begin to have students gain a deeper understanding to the scale of celestial bodies while linking it to their experiences on Earth. The further affordances of Universe Sandbox allow students to create the scenario of placing planets close to each other to see what the result would be (i.e. which would be the satellite, Earth or Mars?). The ability to play with this content means we can effectively merge motivation with knowledge construction.


Promoting Knowledge Construction

Through interacting with their previous knowledge, students can build new pathways and commit new information to memories. The more interaction with such tools can provide students with a greater understanding of how start systems function and can be perturbed. Being able to physically change variables of celestial bodies in Universe Sandbox allows students to physically interact with such concepts and to promote new knowledge construction. Some of the most notable experiences with such a program, is when students discover they can collide planets with asteroids, moons, other planets, and black holes. In an interesting parallel with the CERN Supercollider, students report on gaining interest and knowledge quite rapidly when they can smash celestial objects together.


Refining Knowledge

“Reflection and application both make important contributions to the inherently cyclical nature of learning” (Edelson, 2001). Universe Sandbox allows students reflect on previously learned concepts on orbiting celestial bodies to apply this knowledge to construct new star systems; very quickly students realize that star systems are not easily constructed. This process of knowledge application can help reinforce knowledge for future retention and use.

I find that the process of LFU can be easily applied to games which keep students learning and exploring through their own self-interest. Using large online databases, games are beginning to merge scientific accuracy with entertainment. This creates a golden opportunity for technology in the classroom which can spark the learning process.



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. 10.1002/1098-2736(200103)38:3<355::aid-tea1010>3.0.CO;2-M


Embodied Learning Vs Coupled Learning

What resonated with me after reading Winn’s (2003) article, was that students can learn the same way in artificial environments just as they would in natural environments. He prefers to say students to be coupled with the environment as opposed to embedded in it.  Zeltzer (1991) states the correct term to use when a student is being coupled with the environment is “presence” (as cited in Winn, 2003). That you are in an artificial environment, not in a classroom interacting with a computer. What does he mean by this? When a student is using a computer to immerse him/herself by learning various math or science concepts, it’s then not considered embodied learning? I beg to differ. What about Minecraft? I personally don’t have experience with this game but have heard from many colleagues and friends that this game is perfect to learn math concepts such as problem solving, ratios and proportions. Isn’t this considered to be a student interacting with a computer? This is an artificial environment after all, perhaps to create a true “presence” the student could wear a virtual reality helmet? In any case, Minecraft could be considered embodied learning and is already being implemented in classes around the world.

A question I have has been lingering throughout this lesson, “What about the shy, reluctant  learners?” Dede (1995) has answered this question perfectly. He states that these type of learners, will actually benefit more through a virtual reality setting since it’s more in their comfort zone.  They have valuable contributions to share with others, but prefer it to be in written form as opposed to spoken. Looking back at my previous students, I can see how some of them would prefer this type of learning style. Then comes the question of funding for these types of technologies. How are schools to implement virtual technologies with the lack of funding?


Dede, C. (1995). The evolution of constructivist learning environments: Immersion in distributed, virtual worlds. Educational technology35(5), 46-52.

Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning1(1), 87-114.

It’s About Experiences

How is knowledge relevant to math or science constructed? How is it possibly generated in these networked communities?

Knowledge of math or science is constructed through a variety of experiences both personally and socially (Driver, Asoko, Leach, Scott, & Mortimer, 1994); experiences that we acquire from the beginning of our existence. While we might not label them or differentiate them as “math/science”, these interactions with our world become part of our knowledge. We want to expose our students to many different experiences, and these networked communities are one such avenue.

As we are all well aware, we each have different life experiences. My experiences with a family very comfortable with the outdoors gave me different experiences than my friends who never went hiking, camping or star gazing. I got to attend the “ultimate fieldtrip” to NASA to study science when I was in grade 11 and got to experience and construct knowledge in a much different way than others who did not attend. Fieldtrips and experiences such as these are not accessible for a number of reasons such as safety and expense. Even at my school in the Fraser Valley, going into Vancouver to go to Science World or the Vancouver Aquarium is too costly to take our students. Though not everyone will have these experiences, I believe that everyone deserves the opportunities to learn, and virtual fieldtrips allow educators, parents, and anyone else who wants to learn, that opportunity. As was shown in Spicer & Stratford (2001) students feel that these virtual fieldtrips should not replace fieldtrips, where possible, but could offer pre- or post-trip learning opportunities. As they also outlines, virtual fieldtrips (VFT) are “good but not a substitute”.

When these in-person opportunities are not available to our students, I think that many teachers get creative. While not a virtual field trip, Science World offers Scientists in Schools ( where real scientists or professionals in STEM subjects come into your classroom and do hands-on activities with your students – free of charge. I’ve had some amazing experiences with these professionals and students get hands on inquiry learning. Students have the opportunity to construct math/science knowledge in a very different way than what many teachers are doing in their classrooms and via the guidance of experienced professionals.

Informal learning environments such as The Exploratorium ( are excellent digital resources. The variety of experiences that students can participate in, from apps to videos to activities, gives students the opportunity to involve themselves, either in the context of a lesson, or purely out of interest was phenomenal. The connectivity to real world happening (this summer’s Solar Eclipse for example) provides students with context and real-world application of knowledge.  These learning environments, extend “learning opportunities outside of formal school” and assimilate, ‘IT technologies transforming them into new practices and applications to support their curiosity and interests” (Hsi, 2008). They also allow students to bring home their learning and converse with parents, as they are also able to access the materials that their children are using. In school, the important social connections can still be made through careful planning by the teacher.

While I do not believe these virtual experiences should replace traditional field trips, they can afford students and others new, meaningful, and experiential science/math opportunities. With rapid advances in technology the possibilities are “endless”.



Driver, R., Asoko, H.,Leach, J., Scott, P., & Mortimer, E. (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom. Educational researcher, 23(7), 5-12.

Hsi, S. (2008). Information technologies for informal learning in museums and out-of-school settings. International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, 20(9), 891-899.

Spicer, J., & Stratford, J. (2001). Student perceptions of a virtual field trip to replace a real field trip. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17, 345-354.