Author Archives: daniel bosse

Lesson Plan: T-GEM and Density

Science 3


Students will be able to identify the reason why an object sinks, floats, or remains neutrally bouyant.

Students will recognize that objects do not sink or float due to their weight/mass but rather as a result of their density.


Computer lab or cart


  • Assess prior knowledge by asking students what types of objects sink or float
  • Ask students to come up with a rule regarding whether an object sinks or floats
  • Have the class log on to the computers and navigate to
  • Have students begin on the blocks of the same mass activity and record which colours sink or float
  • Ask students if this agrees with their rules. If not, what else might explain why some blocks sink and others do not
  • Next have the students complete the same process for blocks of the same size, record their results, and see if they agree with their new rule.
  • Have students open the custom block option and attempt to three different materials to float in the middle of the water. What do their 3 floating objects all have in common?
  • As a class, come up with a new rule to explain bouyancy as a result of an object having the same density as the fluid in which it is sitting.
  • Explain the terms positive, neutral, and negative bouyancy
  • Model calculating denstiy by dividing mass by volume. Grade 3’s will likely need calculators
  • Return to the simulaitons and have the students students check this new theory using the blocks of same density setting.
  • Extension: have students use the mystery blocks option, the demonstrated calcuation, and the density reference chart in the simulaiton to discover the identity of each of the mystery blocks.


Sun Path Simulation

The simualtion above helps students to visualize the path of the sun across the sky. They are able to adjust time of day, date, lattitude, and tilt to observe the effects that these have on the the suns path. With a little pre-teaching on the effects of the suns angle on light intensity, this is a very useful to to use in explaining the causes of the seasons.

Networked Communities: Scratch

Scratch is an online, drag and drop, programming environment developed at MIT. The interface facilitates both animation and interactive programming. Scratch has a large and supportive community where users share their projects and can view the coding of other members’ projects and can freely remix them. A novel feature of this environment is the remix tree. It tracks where each remixed project comes from all the way back to the initial creation as well as displaying all other projects that came from the same root work.

Constructing meaning from “Scratch”

Knowledge in science is a socially constructed phenomena. As Driver et. Al (1994) note, the language of science is not that of observing natural phenomena, but it is instead the language of the constructions which we use to explain it. There is no equation of force sitting out there in nature. It is a construction based on our observations of our environment. More over, it has been negotiated by generations of scientist into the form of F=MA that we see today.

We must acknowledge that such complex social constructions are not available in the environment for our students to simply access. We can lead them to the data that generated them, and they may recognize patterns within it, but the specific language of science must be learned through a process of cognitive apprenticeship and enculturation into the values and language of the discipline. As science educators, we can begin this process by modelling the believes, language, and processes of the scientific community for our students.

Within networked communities, participants engage in the ongoing construction of knowledge and meaning within a discipline. These communities are often a combination of students, amateur enthusiasts, and professionals. Each group can meaningfully contribute to the ongoing dialogue of the field. Students pose questions and may link ideas to novel metaphors and models. Amateur enthusiasts may find novel processes that reduce cost and barriers to entry. Professional have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share but might also be able to crowd source data and ideas to advance a given field.

To illustrate the above, let’s consider the Scratch programming environment. In this free, web-based, programming environment any of the above categories of participants are able to create programs with relative easy by using a drag and drop interface. Projects are readily shared throughout the community and Scratch enables commenting on, favouriting, and remixing of projects. The coding of each project is readily viewable by all participants and often provides scaffolding for more novice programmers to use to create their own projects. Complex projects may be designed by expert programmers but can be explored by novices. Forums allow novices to seek advice or for groups to collaborate together on a single project.


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

The benefits of plugging in: Tablets as cognitive tethers

This week, I had the opportunity to investigate Winn (2003), Aleahmad and Slotta, J. (2002), and Núñez (2012).

Winn (2003) provides a robust reimagining of the constructivist framework in light of developments in neuroscience. Winn (2003) situates embodied learning as an outgrowth of both constructivist and information processing theories. Winn (2003) rejects the constructivist perspective that a learner’s constructions are to unique to be adequately measured. He asserts that, instead, an educational designer can make use of artificial environments add predictability to the constructions students might make.  With regards to information processing, Winn (2003) views the previous views as inadequate due to an exaggerated focus on symbol manipulation and insufficient exploration of their meaning. Winn expresses theory central tenants to the theory: That cognition is linked to our physical being (embodiment), that we are coupled to our environment (embeddedness), and that we influence, and are influenced by our environment (adaptation).

Nunez (2012) examines the state of embodied cognition as a theory. Nunez identifies that embodied cognition is capable of providing rich descriptions of phenomena but that many other theories have stalled at this point. To be considered scientific, embodied cognition must begin to generate testable theories. If it is unable to provide these, embodied cognition may not have a sufficient claim be being considered scientific.

Aleahmad and Slotta (2002) looked at the use of handheld devices for data collection when combine with the wise environment. They found promising results from two trials and were able to implement both survey style and measurement style data types.

Aleahmad and Slotta (2002) seem to have happened upon a possible solution to issues faced in Winn (2003). Winn asserts that engagement with artificial environments is key to realizing their benefits. What the tablet devices may allow is a sort of bridge between the artificial and real environments. When students leave the classroom, they must uncouple from an artificial environment. The tablet might serve as a kind of tether. The presence of the device, and the fact that data collect with it will return to the artificial environment, serves to continually remind students of the presence of the artificial environment waiting for them back in the classroom. Despite not being present, the artificial environment still acts upon the cognition of the student and influences how they behave in the real environment. These actions, in turn, will alter the artificial environment through the input of new data. In essence, while Winn (2003) was looking for a solution to students becoming distracted from the desired artificial environment, Aleahmad and Slotta (2002) are using a tablet to, in a way, distract students from the real environment and back to the artificial one.

In my own practice, I have had some great success using WISE to investigate the cause of the seasons. Instead of data gathering with mobile devices though, I used simulations with my students. The process clearly reflected Winn’s (2003) view that both the student and the artificial environment mutually influence each other. The students began with data to collect. As they manipulated the simulations, they began to develop questions. This led to different tests of the environment yielded further result and more questions. I also found that the use of simulations seems to reduce cognitive load. Students were able to reason more accurately when observing a model/simulation instead of having to use their working memory to represent and manipulate representations of the earth and sun.

Going forward, I would certainly plan to use more simulations to help students discover phenomena, scaffolded by leading questions or key data that needs to be gathered. Timely provision of dissenting information and observations, a key tool I began using in the above WISE unit, will be carried forward into other STEM subjects to help facilitate inquiry learning.

In terms of some questions about embodied learning, I wonder, to what extent could practicing externalized cognition can impact student learning in STEM disciplines? By prescribing certain styles or approaches to of note taking, equation solving, unit analysis, etc., in the external environment, might we be able to shape a student’s conceptions more accurately?


Aleahmad, T. & Slotta, J. (2002). Integrating handheld Technology and web-based science activities: New educational opportunities. Paper presented at ED-MEDIA 2002 World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications. Proceedings (14th, Denver, Colorado, June 24-29, 2002); see IR 021 687. Available at:

Núñez, R. (2012). On the science of embodied cognition in the 2010s: Research questions, appropriate reductionism, and testable explanations. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 21(2), 324-336.

Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 87-114. Full-text document retrieved on March, 2017, from:

T-Gem summary chart

Key Words Guiding philosophies Key design points Participant role Teacher role Benefits Drawbacks Associated technology
Anchored Instruction Authentic contexts Constructivism, Cognitive apprenticeship, Social Cognitive Theory, inquiry Knowledge is constructed through engagement with richly details and complex problems. Real life situations Problem solver, Researcher, Data gatherer Facilitator, Error correction, occasional hints, scaffolding as needed Highly engaging. Transferable problem solving skills,. Authentic contexts Very time consuming, requires at least 1 device per small group, may lead to high student frustration, limited supply of availabel materials Jasper Lessons
SKI Evidence based revision of conceptions Constructivism, Social Cognitive Theory, inquiry 1) making thinking visible, (2) making science accessible,
(3) helping students learn from each other, and (4) promoting lifelong learning.
Revisor of personal knowledge, Connector of concepts, Activity designer, provider of pivotal cases, directing integration of conceptions with new knowledge and evidence Flexible related authoring environment (WISE), promotes flexible thinking Must monitor carefully for alternative conceptions, limited resources available as yet for lower grades. Smaller groups may require more technology resources WISE
LfU Making learning useful Constructivism, Cognitive apprenticeship, Situated cognition, inquiry Learning is most effective when it is directed at a goal. How knowledge is constructed determines how it will be used in the future. To be useful, knowledge must be converted from declarative to procedural knowledge Problem solver, concept revisor, data gatherer Poser of problems, Just in time knowledge provider High relevance to students’ home context Complex tools for younger students. Activities may need revision to reflect home context. Data may be hard for younger students to digest ArcGis
T-Gem Iterative thinking Constructivism, inquiry Using technology, generate hypotheses, evaluate them, and modify the hypotheses according to the results Theorist, Tester/experimenter, Research evaluator Provide tools/simulations and background knowledge. Confirm accuracy of final conceptions/models Models the real work of scientists. Builds pattern recognition Give a false sense of the ease  of generating data. Requires significant lateral thinking ChemLand, PHET simulations

T-Gem and the Seasons: Investigating the effect of axial tilt on the seasons

My challenging concept is the effect of the earth’s tilt on the causes of the seasons. This has been identified by Schneps (1988) in “The Private Universe” as a significant and persistent misconception within science education. Complex visualizations involving 3 dimension systems over time and changing points of view, such as is required in this case, are well documented as being particularly challenging for students of all ages (Barnett et al., 2005, Schneps et al., 2014).


In order to attack this problem through a t-Gem cycle, I have selected a Khan Academy simulation as my primary tool ( . This simulation shows the celestial sphere and the path of the sun. Adjustable variables include the latitude of the observer, time of day, date, and tilt angle of the earth. This technology will afford students the ability to generate and examine data relevant to their latitude and the true tilt as well as provide several possibilities for extensions.


To generate hypotheses, students would first need some background knowledge in order to understand the variables. These would include the fact that the sun is the primary source of warmth on earth and that we are warmed during the day and cool at night. The following chart will guide students in their initial data collection


Date Day Length Night Length Peak Light intensity Max height of sun above the horizon
June 21
September 22
December 21
March 20

The students will fill in data for the provided dates first (solstice and equinox dates). From this data students would generate a hypothesis as to what causes the seasons. The will be prompted to evaluate the data and their hypothesis in light (pun most definitely intended) of their experience with these times of year as compared to their data. Do they agree? Next, students will select their own intermediary dates between those provided to check their hypothesis against further data and their own experience. Does the new data continue to represent the predicted trend? The students will then modify their hypothesis to fit and incongruous results this the help of the instructor. The cycle begins again when the students use their previously generated model to examine how this would translate to the north pole, equator, a moderate southern latitude, and the south pole. Students would then collect all their data to assemble a general theory of how latitude and time of year affect seasons on earth. The activity can be further extended into new cycle by changing the tilt angle in the simulation first slightly, the eliminating it altogether, and finally setting it to directly horizontal.


(You may need to use your browsers zoom function to view the graphic as it kept distorting when I tried to scale it)


My science 6’s will be looking at exactly this topic on Tuesday when we return from spring break. I’ll try to post back here and let you know how it goes.


Barnett, M., Yamagata-Lynch, L., Keating, T., Barab, S. A., and Hay, K. E. (2005). Using virtual reality computer models to support student understanding of astronomical concepts. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 24(4):333-356.

Path of the Sun. Retrieved February 25, 2017, from

Schneps, M. H., Ruel, J., Sonnert, G., Dussault, M., Griffin, M., and Sadler, P. M. (2014). Conceptualizing astronomical scale: Virtual simulations on handheld tablet computers reverse misconceptions. Computers & Education, 70:269-280.

Pyramid Film & Video (1988). A private universe: An insightful lesson on howwe learn: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Constructivist Building Materials- Trees and forests through the LfU Lense

LfU, as a design approach, and arcGis, as a technology, seem particularly fitting for exploring topics in the Trees and Forests unit of Alberta’s Science 6 curriculum. Primary topics in this unit include: Identifying trees, examining tree growth, looking at human impacts of the use of trees and forests, and identifying an issue around trees and forests, the various perspectives on this issue, and actions that might be taken.

Within the LfU model, there are 3 major areas to address: Motivation, Knowledge Construction, and Knowledge refinement (Edelson, 2001). To create motivation students must “Experienc[e] the Need for New Knowledge” (Edelson, 2001). In Kulo and Bodzin (2012), whose work focused on creating an energy unit using the LfU model and geospatial technologies, this was accomplished through an inventory of students’ home energy consumption and the effects, presumably environmental and economic, on using different sources to achieve our energy needs. This introduction helps to link a topic that seems to have little to do with a student’s daily life with significant consequences. In delivering a Trees and forests topic in this manner, I would need to identify a similar motivating question that would prompt students to look beyond their day to day lives and that has significant impact. Examining students own use of forests and forest products might be a good jumping off point as they may be unaware of just how many of their activities and every day products utilize a forest in some way.


The knowledge construction phase “results in the construction of new knowledge structures in memory that can be linked to existing knowledge.” (Edelson, 2001). Since a student “constructs new knowledge as the result of experiences that enable him or her to add new concepts to memory, subdivide existing concepts, or make new connections between concepts.”, I would need to design experiences that connect to my students’ home environments and experiences. While the forest use survey would begin this process, Edelson (2001) notes that the phases often overlap, I would need to extend beyond simple recognition scaffold students in exploring how forests could be used and what the impacts of such use are. In this section, we could leverage forestry map overlay from arcGIS to examine how our local forest has changed over type. Examining the dates of policies related to different local forest use areas may help us determine how local governments have attempted to manage human forest uses. Examining trends in forest size, composition, and density would allow us to gauge the effectiveness of some of these policies.


The final phase, Knowledge Refinement, students are guided to organize their knowledge in a useful manner. Declarative knowledge is made more accessible at a future date through its application to a task thus helping to code it as procedural knowledge (Edelson 2001). In Kulo and Bodzin (2012), This was accomplished through creating a fictitious island and developing a plan for addressing its energy needs. A similar process could be employed for my topic through creating a fictitious forest area and managing the proposals of several stakeholders who would like to use the forest. Students would develop regulations for forest use and choose which proposals to approve or deny.


In the LfU framework, teacher and student roles are largely defined by the constructivist framework. As a teacher, I would need to scale back on the raw transmission of facts and instead create experiences that would allow students to uncover connections and trends. My role would entail more the curation of generative data sets that the distribution of facts. The role of student in the constructivist/LfU classroom is also significantly different. Students must become active meaning makers instead of passive recipients of facts. To be successful in this type of environment, student must become activists of a sort. They must identify problems upon which to apply their new knowledge if it is to be successfully transformed into long term procedural knowledge.



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. 10.1002/1098-2736(200103)38:3<355::aid-tea1010>3.0.CO;2-M

Around and Around We Go

This week I took a look at the Orbital motion and the ISS WISE activity. The interface was a little daunting to start with so I simply began at the beginning and started small. I was able to make some formatting changes easily and worked in a new writing prompt early asking students to come up with additional examples of artificial and natural satellites and to defend their answers. The previous step was about what makes a sattelite and the difference between artificial and natural ones so it seemed an opportune time to activate prior knowledge and build the habit of gathering evidence. I also added some additional prompts to the intro screen about collecting evidence that gave the students clues about what sorts of information to look for and what types of projects/tests this would be needed for. I figured that if they knew what to look for and why it was important to find, they would pay closer attention to the text on the first reading thus building positive habits for traditional text reading/decoding.


While I did not work it in to the project framework, I did explore the Phet Simulations activity. These little simulations allow students to play with different physical systems. I managed to locate one on earth/sun/moon/satellite orbits where the masses, play speed, and gravity could be adjusted. I was able to test it out in my grade 6 class (who are conveniently studying astronomy) and we were able to explore how solar mass affected orbits and how velocity can play a part in escaping gravitational pull. We also managed to pull of a slingshot maneuver around the sun 🙂

As a lesson/group of lessons, this project was already fairly well tailored to my needs. Mainly in needed logistical prompts specific to my students and visualizations relevant to their day to day life. Distance analogies relating to places around the school and community were particularly helpful in getting my class to conceptualize solar system distances when we represented the sun with a beach ball and the earth with a marble.

Social Construction of Knowledge

The Jasper materials respond to the issue of students’ inability to transfer knowledge between topics, to deconstruct large problems into smaller tasks, and to deal with the often poorly defined nature of real world problems. In my experience, this has certainly been a problem for students. Fundamentals taught in isolation from real world problems often fail to engage students and result in both poor retention of concepts and the inability to exercise them effectively in unique situations.

The current literature I have read from past/present members of the CTVG and analyses of their work suggest that anchoring skills in an authentic and complex problem is a particularly effective way to promote learning and critical thinking skills. Group work on these problems is a central aspect of the creative problem solving process as students construct their understandings of the problems and their possible solutions and then test them out on each other (social construction of knowledge). The Jasper materials deal with these observations through challenging and complex problems in a video format. The video format may help to eliminate some of the accessibility difficulties of students with reading difficulties (universal design for learning).

The Jasper series of videos appear to be underpinned by two main philosophies: Cognitive Apprenticeship (Brown) and Social Constructive Theory (Zygotsky). The apprenticeship philosophy embraces doing the work of a discipline in an authentic way. In the Jasper video “rescue at Boone Meadow” students are introduced to the types of variables pilots would need to consider when solving a situation in which flight might be the best solution. Social cognitive theory is present in the above notes social construction of knowledge during group work. It is also present in certain teaching approaches to the use of Jasper videos whereby teachers help to point students in the right direction without given them an answer or a walk through. This guiding aspect allowing students to achieve at a higher level reflects Zygotsky’s zone of proximal development.

This series of videos represents several unique affordances for a learning technology. It main aide in preventing premature closing. The extension task prompts students to consider other possible dimensions to the task that may exist in the real world. The development of skills in think beyond the textbook case of a problem are essential to developing good critical reasoning and planning. Socially, it offers a look ahead of its time to crowd sourcing. The unique experiences of the group members around similar real world situations may yield unexpected and intriguing solutions.

In terms of conceptions vs. misconceptions, these videos present a situation that must be carefully managed. By interacting with each other students will either ameliorate or exacerbate each others’ misconceptions. Students with firm and correct conceptions may help other students to revise their misconceptions but, conversely, students with strong alternative conceptions more closely rooted in their everyday experience may convince other students to abandon correct conceptions for more viable seeming misconceptions. Frequent perception checks from teacher would be necessary in using these materials.

Unfortunately, I did not run across a lot of efficacy studies in the readings I chose this week. In choosing the design a TELE final project I was more interested in reading about design principals. I am looking forward to seeing some blog posts from the people who may have come across these studies.