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pHET, TGEM & The Greenhouse Effect

With the advent of increasingly new technology, scientific facts and concepts can now be produced visually on digital screens.  This enables student misconceptions to be clarified and effective learning to be encouraged.  One avenue of learning in which interactive animations and simulations are utilized to promote science learning is pHET simulations.  In their research, Finkelstein, Perkins, Adams, Kohl, and Podolefsky (2005) state that students who learned material through computer simulations outperformed on conceptual questions when compared to students who used real equipment.  They further argue that while simulations might not necessarily promote conceptual learning, there is some validity to enhance student learning through computer simulations under the correct guidance, facilitation and application.

For my lesson plan, I have chosen a pHET Greenhouse Effect simulation available at:  It can be used in the earth science unit of Science 10.  The lesson was created with the T-GEM in mind, which briefly involves three levels of instructional strategies (Khan, 2007): compiling information and generating a relationship, evaluating the relationship, and modifying the relationship.

The Simulation Activity:

Preliminary Understanding:

  1. Click on the “Adjustable Conditions” button and set the Green House Gas concentration to zero. Turn off all photons and set the temperature to Celsius.
  2. What do the yellow and red particles represent and where do they come from?
  3. Why might the red particles be heading out to space?
  4. What is the minimum temperature?

During the Ice Age:

  1. Click the “Ice Age” button and record the minimum temperature.
  2. Record: [CO2]
  3. Follow a red particle and observe how it behaves. Repeat for a different particle at different locations. Summarize your findings. Repeat with the yellow particle.
  4. How do the yellow and red particles behaviours compare?

Discuss similarities and differences.

  1. What is the temperature now? How does this compare to the temperature you measured when no green house gases existed? What can you conclude about the effect of green house gases on the Earth’s temperature? Is this a good or bad thing? Explain.
  2. What happens to the yellow and red particles when clouds are introduced?
  3. What happens to the temperature when clouds are introduced? Explain why you think this occurs.

During 1750:

  1. Click the “Ice Age” button and record the minimum temperature.
  2. Record: [CO2], [CH4], [N2O]
  3. How do these amounts compare to those at the time of the Ice Age?
  4. Predict what you think is happening presently.

The Present:

  1. Click the “Present” button and record the minimum temperature.
  2. Record: [CO2], [CH4], [N2O]
  3. How do these amounts compare to those at the time of the Ice Age and 1750?
  4. Add clouds and observe what happens. Record your observations.
  5. What would happen if the green house gas concentration increased? Adjust the GHG level to lots and observe. Record your observations.
  6. What factors might also influence this overall greenhouse effect?



Finkelstein, N.D., Perkins, K.K., Adams, W., Kohl, P., & Podolefsky, N. (2005). When learning about the real world is better done virtually: A study of substituting computer simulations for laboratory equipment. Physics Education Research,1(1), 1-8.

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


The Science Museum, South Kensington London

Similar to the Exploratorium, the Science Museum website ( offers a variety of off-site resources.  These include a collection archive to view museum collections, a small selection of online games and apps, a blog, a science news section and a ‘Discover’ sections that a detailed look at the body, the climate, and the history of medicine.




Science Learning in Informal Environments

Scientific knowledge is acquired through both personal and social methods (Driver, Asoko, Leach, Scott, & Mortimer, 1994). The social aspect of science is based on construction, validation and communication through the scientific community. As a result, the act of learning science requires individuals to be guided or initiated through these established concepts and practices. Ultimately, the science educator fulfills this role of mediator who makes “personal sense of the ways in which knowledge claims are generated and validated.”

On an individual or personal level, scientific knowledge exists as cognitive schemes change and develop due to new experiences. Intellectual development occurs when an individual interacts with the physical environment and existing schemes are adapted and modified into new ones with these new experiences. While social interactions play a role in learning and development, learning and meaning can only occur on an individual level through the conceptual change of old schemes as a result of experience.

In the classroom environment, students are able to reflect on their own and their peers’ thoughts “in attempting to understand and interpret phenomena for themselves.” The role of the educator is two-fold: to provide novel experiences and promote reflection. These experiences include both physical experiences as well as access to scientific concepts and models that students might not yet be aware.

One avenue for educators to provide additional experience beyond the classroom is out-of-school settings like The Exploratorium in San Francisco, California. This and other informal learning environments provide opportunities for lifelong and everyday learning. Hsi (2008) states that information technology (IT) through these environments is transforming the ways in which informal learners are able to “support their curiosity and interests.” Learners are able to access and accentuate their learning through IT “before, during and after their visits.” Further, remote learners are also able to access “standalone virtual explorations” through the Web. The Exploratorium website ( offers a variety of activities, apps, blogs, videos and other websites to explore. Specifically, a learner interested in solar eclipses could, for instance, use the app on the website to further their own understanding of the concept. This way of learning allows students to experience content material from a different perspective and thus, an alternative to the traditional pedagogy teaching.

Falk and Storksdieck (2010) state that learning for performance and learning for identity-building were inversely related. They argue that learning for performance is typical of school environments however, learning can also be “motivated for purely intrinsic reasons” and have “everything to do with the process of identity-related self-satisfaction. Informal learning environments, such as the Exploratorium, afford opportunities for both learning for performance and learning for identity-building. As educators, while learning for performance is typically a primary focus, learning for identity-building should not be neglected. How do we further encourage identity-building in or out of classrooms?


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

Falk, J. & Storksdieck, M. (2010). Science learning in a leisure setting. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(2), 194-212. Available in Course Readings.

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.


Participatory Simulations and Mixed Reality


Lindgren and Johnson-Glenberg (2013) discuss the implications of combining embodied learning and advancing technologies. In short, scientific and mathematical concepts are learned through physical, natural movement (such as “gestures, touch, body position”). This learning is combined with new technologies in an emerging field of education known as mixed reality (MR). The authors suggest six precepts for consideration in embodied learning and mixed reality classrooms. They are briefly summarized below:

  1. Embodied learning benefits everyone and not just a subset of the population
  2. The physical aspects must be properly linked to the development of new ideas
  3. The environment should not just augment reality (for example, it should accommodate the ability to overlay visuals or audio or induce collaboration)
  4. Provide opportunities for student and peer collaboration
  5. Where possible, combine both theory-driven studies and controlled studies to inform the MR classroom
  6. 6) Revise assessment to address the changing learning environment

Coella (2009) examines the use of participatory simulations in which a variety of scenarios are guided by a series of rules and structure. Within these constraints, students are able to learn scientific concepts through inquiry, experimentation, and exploration. However, these computer-supported simulations are not actually conducted on the computer; instead, students participate by wearing small, wearable computers and are participants in “unique, life-sized games.” For example, the interactions within a pond ecology were studied by students interacting with each other as either a “big fish” or a “small fish.” Results from the study indicated students were able to: be engaged, identify problems and produce hypotheses, and design and execute relevant experiments.

It is evident from both studies (Lindgren and Johnson-Glenberg, 2013; Coella, 2009) that learning occurs through experience. Students need to be afforded the opportunity to learn through of a diverse array of experiences, whether it be a regulated real-life simulation using hand-held devices or through the physical movement of the body. The concept of kinematics is able to utilize the concepts proposed by embodied learning and mixed reality. For instance, students should be able to physically measure their movements to produce corresponding kinematics graphs. Undoubtedly, the study of motion should inherently involve movement and not rely on textbook recitation or didactic methods, such as lecture.


  1. The article by Lindgren and Johnson-Glenberg (2013) discuss that assessment needs to depart from “traditional paper-and-pencil-style assessments” and parallel constructivist-inspired learning. How would possibly alter your assessment to match non-traditional learning environments, like MR?
  2. In my experience, while educators would like to incorporate different strategies in their lessons (like MR or participatory simulations). They can be sometimes difficult to execute effectively because programs or applications were not necessarily developed with a pedagogical mindset to begin with. Have you encountered any such challenges and how did you overcome them?


Colella, V. (2000). Participatory simulations: Building collaborative understanding through immersive dynamic modeling. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 9(4), 471-500

Lindgren, R., & Johnson-Glenberg, M. (2013). Emboldened by embodiment: Six precepts for research on embodied learning and mixed reality. Educational Researcher, 42(8), 445-452.

TELE Synthesis

In reviewing the four pedagogical theories, several common threads are noticeable throughout.  First and foremost, all of the theories are rooted in the theory of constructivism – the notion that learning occurs through an active process, not a passive one.  Students construct their own learning through specific, active and repeated experience and activity, not by simply being told the information (Fosnot, 2013).  It is upon reflection of these novel concepts that prior understandings and ideas are consolidated into a single, new understanding.  The role of the educator is primarily as a guide, assisting students along their path through the exploration of these exercise and activities and not as a conveyer of information, dispelling information through lecture and notes.  Through these process, students are able to acquire a deeper understanding, typically, through inquiry.  Another similarity among the four pedagogical techniques is the use of technology to motivate and engage the student.  Motivating students is a commonality amongst the four theories as this single factor helps facilitate and inspire the learning one hopes for in a classroom.

The primary difference amongst the four pedagogies is how they intend to specifically accomplish the overall goal of changing student learning.  While each of the theories are inspired and propelled by constructivism, they each have specific tenants that differentiate among them.   For example, anchored instruction (and Jasper) is situated in the context of a problem-solving dilemma (Cognition and Technology Group, 1992).  In this regard, students are faced with the task of utilizing new theories, concepts, and principles to guide their thinking.  The scaffolded knowledge integration framework (and Web-based Inquiry Science Environment) takes on a more research-based approach in which students complete a technology-based project to access, support, and challenge their ideas (Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J., 2003).  The Learning-for-Use model (and MyWorld) also utilizes an inquiry-based approach with educational software (Edelson, D.C., 2001).  However, this model combines the subject content and its associated processes, for instance, through the use of geographic visualization and data analysis.  Finally, T-GEM (and MyChem) is experimental-based and uses a cyclical pattern of generating, evaluating, and modifying hypotheses to refine student concepts (Khan, S. 2007).

It is evident that technology and web-based activities can be used in a great variety of methods to accomplish effective learning.  Students need to be guided through their learning by the instructor and in doing so, are also provided a multitude of activities and experiences that allow students to challenge their preconceived notions.   Any of the above pedagogical models can be successful in inspiring and engaging students with materials, but the choice of which to use in any lesson will likely depend on both the material being taught and the availability of resources to assist in learning the material.


Fosnot, C.T. (2013). Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 40(1), 65-80.

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.

Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 516-538.

Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education, 91(6), 877-90.

T-GEM & Titrations

The Challenge:

Acid-base chemistry is a core section of Chemistry 11 and leads to the study of a variety of other chemical reactions. Typically, the concept of acid-base titrations is taught with traditional methods with teacher-based lectures followed by examination (Gonzalez-Gomez, Rodriquez, Canada-Canada, & Jeong, 2015). Additionally, ‘scripted’ laboratory classes can accentuate this method where students practice their observational skills and link between theory and practice. However, various misconceptions and student problems affect the ability of students to effectively learn the material. These misunderstandings can include a variety of topics such as the nature of acids and bases, and the recognition and use of acid-base chemistry (Cooper, Kouyoumdjian, & Underwood, 2016). From my own personal experience teaching acid-base titration, there is a disconnect between the laboratory work involving observations and technique and the calculations that accompany the laboratory work. Typically, students are able to complete titrations successfully in a laboratory setting and are able perform specific calculations in the classroom. However, they often struggle when the two concepts are joined or completed together. As proposed below, the use of T-GEM cycle might help alleviate some of these issues.

T-GEM Cycle:

Briefly, the T-GEM cycle involves three levels of instructional strategies (Khan, 2007):

  • Compiling information and generating a relationship
  • Evaluating the relationship
  • Modifying the relationship

The propose T-GEM cycle for the acid-base titration lessons would involve the teacher initially providing a minimal amount of background information. This would include introducing the concepts of acids, bases, and indicators.

The first level of T-GEM involves compiling information and generating a relationship. Students would be introduced to the first simulation (see below). This simulation allows students to manipulate the amount of NaOH in the Erlenmeyer flask and virtually perform a titration to the equivalence point. Students would be tasked with determining a general relationship between the concentration of base and acid as the titration proceeds.

Following the introductory simulation on titrations, students are then asked to revaluate the relationship using a second simulation (see below). This second simulation is more involved as it allows greater control and manipulation of variables (type of reaction, specific acids, specific bases, and verification of calculation). For example, students can be tasked with finding a more specific relationship between variables and perform calculations to verify results.

The final teacher strategy involves students modifying and summarizing their initial relationship based on their observations from the second simulation. Also, students would need to solve a new case. In my classes, I would then integrate the technical lab work for students to attempt and further confirm their hypothetical relationships.

The strategies are summarized below:


Digital Tech:

Simulation #1

Simulation #2


Cooper, M., Kouyoumdjian, H., & Underwood, S. (2016). Investigating students’ reasoning about acid-base reactions. Journal of Chemical Education, 93(10), 1703-1712.

Gonzalez-Gomez, D., Rodriguez, D., Canada-Canada F., & Jeong, J. (2015) A comprehensive application to assist in acid-base titration self-learning: An approach for high school and undergraduate students. Journal of Chemical Education, 92(5), 855-863.

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


Plate Tectonics with LfU and GIS

Using additional literature from the field of science education, what are several conceptual challenges students might have today with understanding Earth Science that LfU might support?

Learning for Use (LfU) is a theory of learning based on four tenants (Edelson, 2001), briefly summarized as:

  1. Learning is constructed through the modification of knowledge.
  2. Learning occurs through both conscious and unconscious goal setting.
  3. Knowledge is recalled and utilized based on its construction.
  4. Knowledge should be presented in a way that supports its use

These four principles underlie how learning occurs and specifically, the design of curriculum through a three-step process: (a) motivation, (b) construction of knowledge, and (c) refinement of knowledge (Edelson, 2001). In conjunction with geographic information systems (GIS), LfU is able to effectively integrate content and process learning through the use of appropriate inquiry-based activities.

In the field of Earth Science, there remain many misconceptions from simply differentiating the terms rocks and minerals to erroneous ideas about volcanoes, such as magma originating in the core (King, 2010). However, misconceptions with plate tectonics could potentially be remedied through LfU and GIS support. Various concepts associated with plate tectonics continue to be misrepresented in the classroom and textbooks themselves (King, 2010). These include the general concept of ‘tectonic plates’ and how they move, how continents and oceans form and develop, and the links between earthquakes, volcanoes, and plate movement.

As evidenced by Bodzin, Anastasio and Kulo (2014), geospatial tools such as MyWorld GIS or Google Earth help promote and foster spatial thinking. Remotely sensed aerial and satellite images can be utilized to support plate tectonic theories and concepts of by viewing the Earth’s surface and examining changes that have occurred over time. This would be especially helpful in viewing how continents move. Further, Perkin, Hazelton, Erickson, and Allan (2010) demonstrated that students are engaged through hands-on and real-world learning with a place-based educational approach. Similar activities, using aerial views of local areas and overlays, could also demonstrate plate tectonics and their specific relationship with the formation of earthquakes and volcanoes.


Bodzin, A. M., Anastasio, D., & Kulo, V. (2014). Designing Google Earth activities for learning Earth and environmental science. In Teaching science and investigating environmental issues with geospatial technology (pp. 213-232). Springer Netherlands.

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.

King, C. (2010). An analysis of misconceptions in science textbooks: Earth science in England and Wales. International Journal of Science Education, 32(5), 565-601.

Perkin, N., Hazelton, E., Erickson, J., & Allan, W. (2010). Place-based education and geographic information systems: Enhancing the spatial awareness of middle school students in Maine. Journal of Geography, 109(5), 213-218.

WISE: Graphing Stories

I selected “Graphing Stories (with motion probes)” (ID: 741) from the selection of WISE projects. This specific project reviews the important concepts of graphing data and accomplishes this by incorporating aspects of kinematics and motion. Further, the lessons utilize Vernier motion detectors to help facilitate learning. I modified the lessons by including additional examples for students to graph (without providing a template graph and with instructions to manually graph on paper). I also included further use of the motion detectors for replicating several of the graphs provided in the lessons.

I use very a similar approach in the Physics units of Science 10 and would likely utilize the WISE lessons to compliment my own lessons. As the WISE lessons are quite comprehensive in general graphing concepts, they would effectively either introduce or even review those requirements. In terms of the kinematics and motion aspects, I would likely cover those Physics terms and concepts prior to using the WISE lessons. The WISE lessons would then be used to reinforce those concepts. In total, the lessons would take approximately four days.

According to Linn, Clark and Slotta (2002), the WISE projects are based on the following four tenets: making thinking visible, making Science accessible, helping students learn from each other, and promoting lifelong learning.  The first tenet involves making things visible for purposes of assessment, to make teachers’ thinking visible to students, and to represent scientific ideas through models or simulations. The Graphing Stories lesson addresses many of these principles. Throughout the lessons, students are able to submit responses, compare answers with other students, and receive teacher feedback (though this is not explicitly available through the lesson). Some of these aspects also address the third principle in which students learn from each other. Students also perform several of the tasks using the motion detectors, which makes the science actively visible. The second tenet involves making science ideas accessible by providing the ability to “restructure, rethink, compare, critique, and analyze” both established and novel ideas. The examples provided in the WISE lessons are ones that students can relate to (e.g. going to camp, the weather, and getting to class on time), increasing the accessibility of the content. Finally, the WISE lesson helps promote lifelong learning by asking students to tell, write and graph their own story based on what they have learned through the lessons.

This specific lesson seems to address many of the requirements of a WISE lesson and also can be completed by students without much teacher instruction. I am curious as to how this (and other WISE lessons) would be ideally implemented in the classroom – whether they are used to solely teach or introduce a concept or in conjunction with some teacher instruction. The FAQ seems to suggest it is up to the teacher to decide where they best fit student learning.



Kirkpatrick, D. (2015, Nov 15). Graphing Stories (with motion probes). Retrieved from

Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003. Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 516-538



The Jasper Series & Anchored Instruction

The theoretical framework underlying The Jasper Series is situated learning, in which knowledge is “contextually situated” and “influenced by the given activity” (Shyu, 2000). For the student, learning occurs through the use of generative activity and cooperative, social learning situations. Specifically, The Jasper Series utilizes anchored instruction which helps develop and apply “confidence, skills, and knowledge” a contextual, meaningful problem-solving activity (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992). Through this curricula, the classroom nurtures a student-centered lesson with the teacher encouraging students to develop skills and knowledge as a guide and not a dispenser of information.

Technology plays a role in enhancing the “emphasis on developing problem solving skills, communication, and reasoning” (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992). The Jasper Series is composed of seven features, one of which is utilizing a multimedia, video-based format that provides the basis for introducing the problem and following the lessons that follow and. These videos serve as the basis of a realistic story or context. In this scenario, technology is used as a motivating factor for students and aims to support complex understanding in the classroom. Further, the video supports reading, especially for students that may otherwise struggle with verbal instruction.

Personally, I have not heard of The Jasper Series prior to the videos and readings. The Jasper Series can be viewed as two distinct parts. One component is the strategy involving problem-based learning in the classroom. It’s clear from other experiments (Shyu, 2000 and Prado and Gravoso, 2011) that problem-based is an effective strategy to motivating and maximizing learning in the classroom. The second component from the series is the use of technology to initiate the problem. I wonder about the inclusion of technology and whether it is actually being used to its maximum potential. We use a very similar problem-based strategy at our school. Students are provided a problem and they have to solve through a series of processes and investigations. The primary difference, however, is that we don’t use a video clip to begin the problem; typically, we demonstrate or show students a problem. For example, in the Physics unit of Science 9, we demonstrate a complex circuit board (with light bulbs, resistors, etc.) that initially does not light up but does after several manipulations of the board. An extension that other teachers have used to this problem is having a model house and applying a similar circuit and students have to solve why certain bulbs do not function.   I would argue that, similar to the video, having a model or demo for students to examine also provides a real-world context for students. Ultimately, the question becomes how can technology be effectively used beyond enhancing the classroom and instead elevate the lesson?


Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 40(1), 65-80.

Prado, M.M., & Gravoso, R.S. (2011). Improving high school students’ statistical reasoning skills: A case of applying anchored instruction. Asia-Pacific Education Research (De La Salle University Manila), 20(1).

Shyu, H.Y.C. (2000). Using video-based anchored instruction to enhance learning: Taiwan’s experience. British Journal of Educational Technology, 31(1), 57-69.


PCK in Physics

While the specific terminology PCK and TPACK are novel to myself, the concepts themselves are not. The fusion of content knowledge and pedagogy are vital to any teacher’s success. Schulman argues that the teacher is responsible for taking what they know and preparing it for effective instruction. This process involves the following aspects: comprehension, transformation, instruction, evaluation, reflection, and new comprehension. Teaching is a complicated process that involves knowing concepts and conveying them to students in hopes that they too obtain this understanding. Shchulman states this can occur through “talking, showing, enacting, or otherwise representing ideas.” In summary, an effective educator needs to have both a mastery of the content itself, as well as the ability to convey that information to students through transformation of that knowledge and instruction.

In terms of an example of PCK lesson of mine, we are currently introducing the concepts of significant figures, precision, and accuracy in Physics 11. Students often have difficulty differentiating the ideas of precision and accuracy and further, applying significant figures to real world data. Following discussion of these topics, students then complete a mini lab where they use lab equipment (such as meter sticks, rulers, calipers, tape measures and various graduated cylinders) and apply those concepts to practical measurements. They are faced with four problems that involve measurement and calculations that will assist them later in the course.


Shulman, L.S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching. The foundations of a new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1)1-23.