- How is knowledge relevant to math or science constructed? How is it possibly generated in these networked communities? Provide examples to illustrate your points.
Intrigued by the article entitled “Mathematics in the streets and in schools” by Carraher, Carraher, & Schliemann this week, I couldn’t help but think about some of my previous math students and their infamous question, “Why do we need to know this?” Often the first question to come out of a burgeoning teenager is the inquiry into why a particular subject matter is relevant to their lives. This article revealed that students in Brazil were able to come up with their own strategies in computational thinking when they had no choice but to do so, in order to succeed in their family business.
According to Carraher, “Context-embedded problems were much more easily solved than ones without a context” (1985). When students learn a concept within the correct context, they become engaged and motivated to understand, construct knowledge, and are willing to extend problem solving strategies to tasks they are invested in. This was something I found to be true while leading students through the culminating project of the Exhibition in the PYP. Here students, working collaboratively together in small groups of 3 or 4, spend time exploring a particular subject area that they are personally interested and invested in. For example, one group of students looked into the effects of ocean acidification on marine life in the Pacific Ocean. This is often a topic geared toward senior high school students or university students, but for my Grade 5 students the why was already understood, it was exploring the causes and their role in making a difference that mattered most.
Exploratorium defines itself as “The Exploratorium isn’t just a museum; it’s an ongoing exploration of science, art and human perception—a vast collection of online experiences that feed your curiosity.” This exciting resource provides both teachers and students with the opportunity to access videos, information, and experts with the touch of a button. According to Yoon et al., AR is defined as “virtual objects in the real environment, alignment of real and virtual objects with each other, and their interaction in real time.” AR provides those interested with the access to information that may otherwise be limited due to cost or distance. Yoon et al, note that specific scaffolding helps to enhance learning such as collaboration, prompts, collective cognitive responsibility. Fascinating to me was the point in the article that the observed students failed to read the instructions on the task card, something I have noticed occur in my own classroom. This made me realize the importance of TELEs such as Jasper, where instructions are part of the video.
However, it wasn’t until Hsi’s article that I really began to change my thinking about the importance of information technologies for informal learning. Hsi describes the advantages of information technologies in museums and out-of-school settings by explaining that the learner holds the power in their quest to understand what is important to them. With RSS tools, for example, students can tweet or email interesting facts or ideas to shared communities to continue the conversation with peers. Even more exciting is that the learner can begin to collect data as part of a team, aiding researchers from universities. Hsi sums it up best by saying, “As more IT becomes widely available, research and development will need to view IT not only as a tool for productivity and training in formal settings, but also as a context for designing meaningful informal learning experiences: creating interactions, online social spaces, media-rich representations, interest-driven activities, and communities for learning as bridges to formal schooling and to personal interests and everyday hobbies.” With sites such as Exploratorium, students don’t whine about why they are learning a particular context because they are in the driver’s seat when it comes to learning. Students are constructing knowledge because they were given choice, which is just differentiated learning at its best!
Carraher, T. N., Carraher, D. W., & Schliemann, A. D. (1985). Mathematics in the streets and in schools. British journal of developmental psychology, 3(1), 21-29.
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.
Yoon, S. A., Elinich, K., Wang, J., Steinmeier, C., & Tucker, S. (2012). Using augmented reality and knowledge-building scaffolds to improve learning in a science museum. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 7(4), 519-541.