Constructing Knowledge in Math and Science

How is knowledge relevant to math or science constructed? How is it possibly generated in these networked communities? Provide examples to illustrate your points.

Knowledge and concepts in science rarely manifest themselves in an obvious type of setting, and as such, students require opportunities to engage with physical, practical activities that allow for direct experience and manipulation with objects, both real and virtual. Teachers must provide experiential evidence while making the cultural tools and conventions of the science community available to students. The challenge is how to achieve this successfully within the round of normal classroom life.

According to Driver et al. (1994), scientific concepts are constructs that have been invented and imposed on phenomena in attempts to interpret and explain them, often as results of considerable intellectual struggles. Once scientific knowledge has been constructed and agreed on within the scientific community, it becomes part of the “taken for granted” way of seeing things within that community. These entities, concepts and practices are unlikely to be discovered by individuals through their own observations of the natural world (Driver et al., 1994). From this, scientific knowledge becomes public knowledge that is constructed and communicated through the culture and social institutions of science.

Through group interactions, students are exposed to the stimulus of differing perspectives on science and mathematical topics which then provides opportunities for individual reflection. In this learning environment, the teacher’s role is to provide the physical experiences and encourage student reflection while providing affordances for students to gain an exposure to the ideas and the practice of the scientific community in order to personalize and engage with scientific and mathematical ideas and practices at an individual level.

Referencing student opportunities at the Exploratorium, Hsi (2008) states that technology can be used to provide extended learning opportunities to link a museum learning experience to further learning activity taking place in other settings, and through this, some exhibits make use of feedback systems and video conferencing to enable visitors to discuss in real time with another visitor in a remotely located museum. Hsi (2008) notes the use of technology tools to track and record allow for creative connection between the real world and virtual environments. Within these contexts, technology can be leveraged to encourage inventiveness, creativity and ownership using tools as a medium for constructive activity and learning (Hsi, 2008). Individual learners can access and be apprenticed in authentic science practices through participating in truly global investigations. One example is the Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which permits distributed communities to contribute data and information to be discussed and compiled online.

Regarding off-site learning opportunities, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the perception that virtual reality and virtual field trips are important; however, these activities should not be utilized as a replacement for real field work and traditional field courses (Spicer & Stratford, 2001). Within environments where it is neither possible nor safe to take students, virtual field trips offer an opportunity to engage in activities at locations that would simply not be possible otherwise. As a component of student learning experiences, virtual field trips hold significant potential and value, bearing in mind that these experiences should not be implemented with the intention of discrediting the value of real field activities and opportunities.

 

References

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 reality field trip to replace a real field trip. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17, 345-354.

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