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.







  1. Thanks Danielle. I agree resources like Exploratorium provides a different level of interaction than teacher-directed assignments and quizzes, though wonder how assessment will look like when students’ experience with museums are different. How can we ensure learning intentions have been met, without being overly general to cover everyone’s specific experience?


    1. Hi Andrew,
      I feel that we need to have a Big Idea or guiding question for students and provide them the choice in how they want to share evidence of their learning from a museum field trip or virtual reality field trip. I have used this approach the past two years and it has been a great assessment tool. It gives teachers the opportunity to see how they are communicating and sharing their thinking, as well as providing a base. I can ask further questions and help guide students through the learning process.

  2. Danielle

    I like the fact that you brought up the issue of mobile devices. The ‘Science Journal’ is only available on Android devices. We have the discussion in our own home regarding iPhone vs Android mobile devices. It is good to have the competition — but it might be a headache for teachers who incorporate Bring Your Own Device to school.

    I wonder why ‘Science Journal’ decided to go only the Android root. The programming is different for both Androids and iPhones. Programmers become experts in one or the other. I am guessing someone made it for almost for free and they only knew how to create apps for Androids. It is

    A good next step might be to share what type of online scaffolding would be needed prior to a face-to-face field trip.

    To keep the conversation going — make sure to respond to at least two other learners as well respond to all learners that respond to your own post. When responding to other learners, please use references to support your ideas/thesis/concepts etc.


  3. Great post Danielle,
    I see that you commented on it as well that Driver et al. (1994) that the role of the authority figure (teacher) is first to provide a foundation and then to guide the learning. It struck me as interesting as so much of the current literature talks about teachers not needed to teach just to guide learning, use inquiry, that the need for direct instruction is less needed since we all carry portable computers in our pockets. Godsey (2015) echos these thoughts when he writes we must be “a “sage on the stage” to being “a guide on the side.”” I wonder if the pendulum swung from direct instruction to inquiry and may be starting to return to a more middle ground that sees a more balanced approach? Though as I type I notice that Driver wrote his piece in 1994 and Godsey in 2015 so maybe the pendulum isn’t finished swinging yet!

    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

    Godsey, M. (2015). The Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher. The Atlantic. Retrieved August 1, 2017 from

  4. Hi Danielle,

    Great post. I was curious whether your school or district advertises these “virtual field trips”? I only found about some of them due to real-life experiences being cost prohibitive for many students – go I consulted “google” and share what I find with my school. I was surprised not to see these advertised more in my school/district.

    1. Hi Natalie,
      They don’t “advertise” them, however our previous ADST helping teacher was amazing and had many resources available. He provided our class with the google cardboard to use for this purpose. The Google Cardboard option is affordable (Amazon has them), and I was also directed to a site that teaches students how to make their own! Amazing idea for a Maker Space. Perfect for STEM – measurement. You would just need to purchase the 3D lenses, which I heard were extremely affordable if bought in bulk.

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