Author Archives: Allen Wideman

Allen is an elementary based educator with the Calgary Board of Education. His experience as a classroom teacher has been primarily in Grades 5 and 6, with a focus on technology integration to support and enhance learning experiences for students and staff. Allen is currently teaching as a Physical Education specialist for Grades 1-4, and he is a graduate student at UBC in the Master of Educational Technology program.

Knowitall.org

Knowitall.org offers numerous links to an ever growing catalogue of resources (videos, immersive websites, simulations, etc.) that connect to topics in STEM and other areas of the curriculum for K-12.

Perimeter, Area & T-GEM

Determining the area of irregular and unusual shapes is one of the more challenging geometry based topics that elementary students encounter. For this information visualization lesson, I have decided to design a lesson around the T-GEM model, and the students will have the opportunity to work with applets from Illuminations and PhET to further explore these mathematical concepts. Simulations, such as these applets, help support students and provide the necessary level of novelty and interest that significantly impacts student approach to learning and processing (Srinivasan et al., 2006). This lesson allows students to build their own 2-D shapes, both regular and irregular, as well as unusual shapes that defy categorization. Working with these applets will help ensure that the students achieve visible results that they can observe and make/modify conclusions upon. According to Finkelstein et al. (2005) although these types of simulations do not necessarily promote conceptual learning, they are useful tools for enhancing student learning when properly designed and implemented.

1. Generate
• students will explore the following PhET simulation on Area using Area Builder – https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/area-builder
• students will examine the relationships between area and perimeter for a variety of regular and irregular shapes
• What strategies can we use to find the area of a shape? How do these strategies differ for regular and irregular shapes?
• Through observing perimeter and area within the simulation, can you create a rule that describes how perimeter and area change when the scale of a shape changes?

1. Evaluate
• based on their observations and findings using Area Builder, students will evaluate their work and identify further questions that they have, and areas that they would like to explore
• students will collaborate with a peer and exchange findings from their work with Area Builder

1. Modify
• students will collaborate in small groups to discuss their findings and observations and share how their initial ideas and predictions have been changed through their interactions with the simulation
• student groupings will create a list of ideas and strategies that they believe will help determine the area of regular, irregular, and unusual shapes

1. Further Application
• students will further apply their understanding of the concepts by using the Area Tool applet on the NCTM Illuminations website – https://illuminations.nctm.org/Activity.aspx?id=3567
• students will attempt to utilize their strategies to determine the relationship between the perimeter and area of trapezoids, parallelograms, and various triangles

1. Reflecting and Sharing
• students will reflect on their findings using Area Tool and compare the processes and strategies that they utilized to determine the area of trapezoids, parallelograms, and various triangles
• Were the findings consistent with the strategies applied previously, or did this require a reevaluation of these ideas?
• student groups will decide how they would like to compile their observations and understandings to be shared with the whole class – Can these findings be compiled within a table or chart for sharing purposes?

References

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.

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

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.

Embodied Learning, Virtual Environments, and Mixed Reality

One of the key takeaways for me, throughout the selection of readings that I chose for this week’s topic, is the importance of considering the learner as being both embedded in the learning environment, while being physically active within it. In this sense, cognition can be thought of as an embodied, as well as a cerebral activity. As a means of supporting student engagement in embodied learning, educators can provide collaborative, immersive experiences that allow for the exploration of knowledge and content that extends beyond the confines of the classroom space. Winn (2003) states that artificial environments can use computer technology to create metaphorical representations in order to bring to students concepts and principles that normally lie outside the reach of direct experience. This instructional approach enhances students’ ability to apply abstract knowledge by situating education in authentic, virtual contexts similar to the environments in which learners’ skills will be used (Dede, 1992). These synthetic simulation environments center on interaction and collaboration, unlike the passive, observational behavior induced by television and presentational multimedia, and are therefore well suited for constructivist experiences (Dede, 1992).

Existing in the space between entirely virtual environments and entirely real world environments, Mixed Reality environments combine digital technology with physical activity as means of supporting the idea that physical activity can be a catalyst for generating learning (Lindgren & Johnson-Glenberg, 2013). This incorporates the continued emergence of new technologies and interfaces that accept natural physical movement, such as gestures, body positioning, and touch, as input into interactive digital environments. As such, exciting learning possibilities exist around creating personalized educational experiences grounded in the learning affordances of human perception and bodily action (Lindgren & Johnson-Glenberg, 2013). In my own practice as a Physical Education specialist, I aimed to infuse gamification into physical activity. Apps that fall within the mixed reality category can guide or instruct students in learning skills or movements and can enhance teaching and learning in Physical Education, and these can be utilized by individual students, small groups, or during whole class activities. Augmented Reality offers new possibilities in delivering engaging physical activity to students.

Winn (2003) emphasizes the importance of designing instruction with the focus on learning being no longer confined to what goes on in the brain, as cognitive activity involves the brain, through the body, and to the environment itself. If learning is considered to arise from the reciprocal interaction between external, embodied activity and internal, cerebral activity, the whole being must be considered as embedded in the environment and contexts in which it occurs.

Questions to Consider

How do educators best design embodied learning tasks in order to strengthen student knowledge through physical movement, while maintaining some level of structured and prescribed focus to the tasks?

What considerations do educators need to bear in mind with regards to student diversity in cultural, physical, and social considerations when engaging in embodied learning activities?

In what ways can virtual, immersive learning environments foster a transformation in social interactions, and what impact could this potentially have on the nature of interactions and behaviours between students?

References

Dede, C. (1995). The evolution of constructivist learning environments: Immersion in distributed, virtual worlds. Educational Technology, 35(5), 46-52.

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.

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

TELEs – The Key Takeaways

Overall, the four TELEs that we’ve explored over the past several weeks have highlighted aspects of my own practice that could be deepened and strengthened to enhance student learning experiences. While some of my own pedagogical beliefs are very similar in nature to the foundational principles espoused by these technology-enhanced learning environments, I envision my learnings in this course as expanding my own repertoire of strategies, tools and approaches to student learning in Math and Science. If we design tasks and opportunities that are structured in a format that integrates appropriate levels of challenge within a reasonable time frame, our students are afforded opportunities to participate in rich learning experiences that significantly deepen scientific and mathematical concepts and content. The significance of developing learning experiences that are personally meaningful and engaging will serve to further promote the application of knowledge and skills beyond the context of the specific learning task, and enhance the importance of life long skills for learning.

Our students construct their skills, knowledge and perspectives according to the variety of different levels of exposure to learning experiences and opportunities that they’ve encountered through school and in their everyday lives. As Edelson (2001) notes, every individual’s knowledge structures reflect their own unique experiences, which in turn plays a crucial role in their learning. Perspectives on real world learning should allow for students to start from their own context and preconceptions, and then move into new areas of learning that bridge gaps in their understanding and ultimately expand on their worldview. As part of their practice and engagement in Math and Science, students should be repeatedly returning to their own, original ideas in order to continually revise and modify them. Through the implementation of technology enhanced learning environments, students will be afforded opportunities to apply knowledge and skills beyond the confines of a lecture, a textbook, or a classroom ultimately makes the content more motivating, engaging and relevant over the long term. As a fundamental component of TELEs, student knowledge and understanding must be incrementally constructed from experience and communication, as it cannot be transmitted directly from one individual to another.

I’ve created a visual that offers a summary and synthesis of some of the key concepts and ideas from the four foundational TELEs that we’ve explored over the past few weeks: TELE Takeaways

References

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

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992b). The Jasper series as an example of anchored instruction: Theory, program, description, and assessment data. Educational Psychologist, 27(3), 291-315.

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.

Furtak, E. M. (2006). The problem with answers: An exploration of guided scientific inquiry teaching. Science Education, 90(3), 453-467.

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

Khan, S. (2010). New pedagogies for teaching with computer simulations. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 20(3), 215-232.

Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538.

T-GEM and Magnetic Fields

I’ve found that one of the more challenging science topics in the grade 5 curriculum is magnets and electricity. In particular, setting up tasks that allow students to engage with, and readily observe, magnetic fields is especially difficult, and the rate of success that students have with these concepts vary greatly depending on the results and observations that their experiments allow them to make. Essentially, some of the students find the concepts quite abstract if they are unable to engage with visual conceptions of magnetic fields. From this, I’ve found two simulations from the PhET library that provide students with the opportunity to explore magnetic fields, while ensuring that they achieve visible results that they can observe and make/modify conclusions upon.

Specific Learner Expectations (Grade 5 Alberta Curriculum):

• students will describe and demonstrate example activities that show that electricity and magnetism are related
• students will demonstrate and interpret evidence of magnetic fields around magnets

Generate

• students will explore the following PhET simulation on Magnets and Electromagnets: Simulation #1
• students will examine the interactions between a bar magnet and a compass, as well as how to create a magnet using a battery and wire
• How can we create a stronger magnet? How can we reverse the magnetic field?
• Through observing magnetic fields in the simulation, can you predict the direction of the magnetic field around different types of magnets? What are the variables involved with electromagnets, and how do the variables affect the strength and direction of the magnetic fields?

Evaluate

• based on their predictions and the identification of variables through interacting with Simulation #1, students will apply and evaluate their findings through working with a games that incorporates these concepts: Electric Field Hockey
• by placing electric charges in the field of play, students will further experiment with magnetic fields through the challenge of getting the puck into the goal
• students will observe the magnetic fields and experiment with their previous findings to identify variables that impact the strength and direction of magnetic fields

Modify

• students collaborate in small groups to discuss their findings and observations and share how their initial ideas and predictions have been changed through their interactions with the two simulations
• students will further apply their understanding of concepts by playing more challenging levels of Electric Field Hockey through adding walls and obstacles that require deeper problem solving skills
• students groups will decide how they would like to compile their observations and understandings to be shared with the whole class (this could include demonstrations of the skills and strategies that students applied within Electric Field Hockey, as related to their initial thoughts and predictions within Simulation #1)

References

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

Khan, S. (2010). New pedagogies for teaching with computer simulations. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 20(3), 215-232.

Through the use of GIS technology based applications, students are afforded the opportunity to apply skills and knowledge within authentic, real life situations that are similar to those experienced by experts in their field of work and study. From this, one of the key components of the LfU design model is to promote and support student development of deep, interconnected content knowledge and inquiry skills through activities that actively involve authentic scientific inquiry (Bodzin, Anastasio, & Kulo 2014). The LfU model also incorporates and characterizes the development of understanding as taking place through a three step process that includes motivation (experiencing the need for new knowledge), knowledge construction (building new knowledge structures), and knowledge refinement (organizing and connecting knowledge structures), which emphasizes the need for applicability in using knowledge and learning (Edelson 2001). With motivation as the essential starting point for student learning, applications such as Google Earth allow teachers to design tasks that follow LfU structures in teaching science and mathematics content through inquiry based activities. In order for knowledge to be truly useful, students must be motivated to learn specific content or skills through a personal understanding of the application of that content beyond the learning environment (Edelson 2001).

In terms of teaching an LfU based activity to explore mathematical and scientific concepts, educators need to start from the premise that student understanding must be incrementally constructed from experience and communication, as it cannot be simply transmitted directly from one individual to another. This involves the design of a learning task that engages and motivates the learner to find out more, often in the context of a situation that elicits prior conceptions and challenges these conceptions through the identification of gaps in the learner’s knowledge and understanding. By constructing new knowledge, and connecting it with existing knowledge, Edelson argues that a sense of curiosity, which he terms “situational interest,” creates a direct motivation to learn (2001). Through firsthand experience and observation, combined with the reception of information through communication with others, students construct understanding through a continuous, iterative process that leads them through progression, challenge, and sometimes, regression as they experience the target concept (Edelson 2001). Students must be afforded opportunities to engage in reflection and application of their own learning in order to foster knowledge refinement, thus allowing for a full integration of content and process learning.

As identified by Bodzin, Anastasio, & Kulo (2014), design activities must also incorporate scalability and portability, and they detail the applicability of Google Earth in structuring learning experiences for students that promote the development of linkages and connections between contexts that are personally meaningful and relevant. If tasks are structured in a format that provides appropriate levels of challenge within a reasonable time frame, and further promotes the application of knowledge and skills beyond the context of the specific learning task, students are afforded opportunities to participate in rich learning experiences that significantly deepen scientific and mathematical concepts and content.

References

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.

Reasons for the Seasons

I chose to examine the WISE project entitled “Investigating Planetary Motion and Seasons” (4873), as this topic area (seasons in particular) is a component of the Grade 6 unit on Sky Science. This project is designed for students in Grades 6-12, with an intended completion time of 8-9 hours. One of the strengths of this particular project is the fact that it includes examples of student work and discussion ideas based on classroom experiences. This provides students with the opportunity to engage with ideas and visualizations from other students that may conflict with their own previously held notions about the motion of the planets and the seasons. According to Linn, Clark, and Slotta (2003), learners hold multiple conflicting views and ideas about virtually any scientific phenomenon, often tied to specific contexts, examples, experiences or situations, and by viewing the ideas and perspectives of their peers, they are able to develop their repertoire of views concerning a given scientific phenomenon. Ideally, students will be presented with opportunities to analyze ideas, reflect on the nature of science, and self-monitor their learning in ways that ultimately support autonomous learning by carrying out projects without having to constantly seek guidance from teachers or peers (Gobert, Snyder, and Houghton, 2002).

With the wide range of grades targeted within this particular WISE project (grade 6-12), I found that the content and vocabulary, as well as the volume of reading required, would create significant challenges for students at the lower end of the targeted range. Within the introductory section of the project, there is an extensive amount of questions for discussion and consideration, but very little space included for students to respond within the context of the technology. For students at a Grade 6 level, this would require a restructuring to allow students to select perhaps a question or two for response, and provide a means for them to contribute or collect their ideas online (such as in an idea basket or a collaborative brainstorm). As the students move into the investigations portion of this WISE project, there are more collaborative opportunities built into the format of the project, and there are more idea baskets available through these sections. However, my concern would be that some students might feel overwhelmed at the initial, introductory section of the project, and this would preclude them from participating further without greater teacher or peer support built into the framework.

References

Furtak, E. M. (2006). The problem with answers: An exploration of guided scientific inquiry teaching. Science Education, 90(3), 453-467.

Gobert, J., Snyder, J., & Houghton, C. (2002, April). The influence of students’ understanding of models on model-based reasoning. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), New Orleans, Louisiana. Retrieved from: http://mtv.concord.org/publications/epistimology_paper.pdf

Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538.

Anchored Instruction and Generative Learning

According to the Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, the anchored approach to instructional design is “situated in engaging, problem rich environments that allow sustained exploration by students and teachers” (1992a). From this, the Jasper video series was developed with the intention of creating generative activities and cooperative learning situations for students to engage in authentic, real life problem solving opportunities that incorporate knowledge from cross curricular areas. One of the key takeaways from the Jasper series, and other similarly based authentic tasks, is the importance of student learning taking place within the context of a meaningful environment, rather than targeting learning within skill and knowledge development in isolation. The Vanderbilt Cognitive and Technology Group states that in terms of generative learning, students should be challenged to engage in argumentation and reflection as they access and apply their existing knowledge when confronted with alternate points of view (1992a).

The Jasper series of videos address the requirement of authenticity by presenting problems and opportunities that mimic those encountered by experts in similar fields of work, and the students engage with the same types of content and knowledge that these experts apply as tools within their work. This involves links to different areas of the curriculum that supports the integration of knowledge. An important aspect that differentiates the Jasper series from other contemporary learning videos (i.e. Khan Academy, Crash Course, and BBC Classroom Clips) is the incorporation of cooperative learning within group settings that allow for collaboration as a function of communities of inquiry to discuss, explain, and learn through interaction with peers. While the other contemporary learning videos are more passive in nature, as they provide a delivery of information and content without opportunities for active engagement or problem solving, the Jasper series moves groups of students into developing self generated information as a product of collaborative opportunities that are built into the structure of the videos.

Mathematics teaching has traditionally followed a linear form of instruction that involves an emphasis on skill drills and repetitive technique practice that requires students to progress through their learning path without adequate consideration to personalized and individualized learning styles. The Jasper series approaches the learning of Mathematical content, as one example, in a more active format by promoting cross curricular connections that allow for hands-on, collaborative learning. It was interesting to note that the results of the research conducted by the Vanderbilt Cognition and Technology Group reported that students demonstrated an improved attitude towards Mathematics after participating in the Jasper series, and that they viewed Mathematics as being more useful and practical in everyday contexts (1992b). However, several students held negative attitudes towards the assessment portions of the Jasper series, and this required a fundamental rethinking of the approaches to student assessment (1992b). Following this, the research of Shyu (2000) reveals that students in Taiwan also reported a positive impact on their learning and attitudes towards mathematics, and that students responded favourably to the incorporation of situated learning theory and multimedia video technology through participation in the Jasper series. The success of developing student problem solving abilities, and the opportunities for collaborative, generative learning were regarded as having an impact on all students, regardless of their previous achievement in mathematics and science (Shyu 2000). Despite appearing to be somewhat dated by our 21st century technological standards, the Jasper series, and the incorporation of anchored instruction, clearly have significant benefits to student learning and achievement that continue to be highly relevant and applicable within our current classroom environments.

References

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

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992b). The Jasper series as an example of anchored instruction: Theory, program, description, and assessment data. Educational Psychologist, 27(3), 291-315.

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.

Technology Shifts

Mishra and Koehler (2006) argue that since technology is continually changing, the nature of TK needs to shift with time as well. Accordingly, technological hardware and applications will undoubtedly change, and perhaps even disappear entirely, within a relatively short span of time. For educators, the ability to learn and adapt to new technologies, in a variety of different teaching and learning contexts, be of paramount importance (Mishra & Koehler, 2006)

One of the ways that online learning frameworks might actually limit the ways that people understand online learning could result from the fact that the framework, or the perspectives and approaches described within, are outdated and reflect technological hardware and practices that have been upgraded or replaced by something new. According to the TPACK framework, teachers require a forward looking, creative, and open minded seeking of technology use, not for its own sake, but for the sake of advancing student learning and understanding. If teachers are going to be successful with integrating technology, they must continue to remain current and willing to alter or reestablish their approaches to teaching and learning with technology.

Technology can be leveraged differently according to changes in context and purpose, and appropriate technology tools must be understood, developed and utilized for educational purposes. Technology and content directly impact each other, and the technological choices made by educators will either enhance or limit the types of content ideas that can be taught, as well as the ways in which students engage with the chosen content. Avoiding the use of technology, simply for the purpose of using technology, becomes a key component here. According to Mishra and Koehler, the TPCK framework provides us with an opportunity to identify and understand what is important and what is not in any discussions of teacher knowledge surrounding using technology for teaching subject matter (2006). Further to this, Shulman (1986) presents the notion of strategic knowledge and the importance of extending understanding beyond principle to the wisdom of practice. By developing strategic understanding, we can extend teacher capacity toward professional judgment and decision making, and this leads to deeper reflective and metacognitive awareness (Shulman 1986).

References

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. The Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Shulman, L.S. (1986). Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher, 15(2), 4 -14.