Author Archives: mary sikkes

Creating Inquiry and Exploration Throughout Our Lives

Piaget once said, “Our real problem is – what is the goal of education? Are we forming children who are only capable of learning what is already known? Or should we try to develop creative and innovative minds, capable of discovery from the preschool age on, throughout life?” (Davidson Films, time stamp: 0:41).

While I am nearing the end of the MET program, I must admit that at the beginning of the ETEC 533 course, I continued to carry a hindering bias toward the use of technology in the classroom. In addition to this, as a teacher originally trained for secondary English, I have found science and math to be the two courses that I struggle most with myself which, of course, has the potential to carry over into my teaching as well. ETEC 533 has been an incredibly valuable and meaningful course, allowing me to shift my perspective from digital technology as a distraction to digital technology as a supportive learning tool or environment, in relation to its ability to promote engagement, motivation, and inquiry-based learning, allow for embodied learning, and make learning visual for learners. Daniel Edelson (2001) addresses the fact that “educators have traditionally seen content and process as competing priorities” (p. 355) as opposed to being perceived as intersecting domains, along with knowledge, as introduced by Mishra and Koehler (2006). The more I reflect on my teaching experiences up to the start of this course, the more I realize that I have not put sincere consideration into whether or how I am integrating content and process as they relate to science and math, and I recognize that my use of digital technology has generally been a “competing priority” rather than being effectively incorporated into existing curriculum content to support student understanding and learning. My initial post in ETEC 533 clearly demonstrated the bias and uncertainty that guided my thinking and approach toward digital technology-based learning, “Based on the upbringing I had, I think I tend to shy away from using much digital technology in the classroom because of the amount of screen time I automatically assume students have at home” (Module A, Lesson 1.1, Auto E-ography) and in the video interviews lesson as I again admitted I “…have tended to shy away from using technology much in the past because I felt that students were receiving enough “screen time” (yes, I generalized and assumed screen time was screen time), and for many of the reasons that were given in the videos (i.e., time constraints, feeling ill-equipped, and so on)” (Module A, Lesson 2.2: Video Analysis – Case 5, Case 6 and Case 8). As I began ETEC 533, my initial questions revolved around effectively implementing technology into the classroom and how that implementation may impact other areas of student development, showing an uncertainty, hesitation, and lack of confidence in my own use of technology and understanding of how to integrate it effectively into my own practice.

As Xiang and Passmore (2015) discuss, the focus of science education has shifted “…from typical classroom practice that emphasizes the acquisition of content to a classroom in which students are active participants in making sense of the science they are learning” (p. 311). In the process of reflecting back on my learning experiences in ETEC 533, three concepts stood out above the rest: the concept of misconceptions that students both carry and develop, the concept that inquiry-based and embodied learning allow students to construct their own knowledge based on their personal observations and experiences, and the concept of virtual laboratories or simulated learning environments and their impact on learning in today’s classrooms. To support these concepts, I now appreciate that digital technology must be incorporated in order to allow students to develop the skills needed to truly be 21st century learners. William Winn (2003) points out, “successful students are anything but passive” (p. 13) and in order to design a curriculum for my current and future students that is engaging and motivating, I have realized through this course that I must focus on how to design inquiry-based, student-centred, and collaborative learning environments, supported through the use of digital technology.

In his Conceptual Challenges post, Lawrence Liang (2017) wrote, “Misconceptions are rife in student minds because misconceptions are common in educator minds. Misconceptions are, as Confrey wrote, ideas and meanings about their world that they formulate to explain how or why things occur (Confrey, 1990)…What results may be a blend of the ideas, both accurate and inaccurate, as students attempt to come to terms with a topic.” For me, the two most significant points learned, in terms of misconceptions, are that educators often assume that students have learned and understood certain concepts and, even more importantly, that “misconceptions are common in educator minds.” The concept of misconceptions is one that I realize I have unintentionally addressed in my classroom through some of the activities I do with my students; however, I have not specifically targeted misconceptions in the past, and it would be more accurate to say that I have perhaps “stumbled” upon them up to this point, especially in the science classroom. The topic of student misconceptions has had a significant impact on my own learning and perceptions from the very beginning of ETEC 533 when it was originally introduced and I began to identify personal learning gaps, recognizing that if my students do not share their misconceptions with me, I may never realize they have misconceptions or preconceived notions about concepts we are learning. In “A Private Universe”, teacher, Marlene LaBossiere, draws attention to the fact that, “You just assume that they know certain things…I just assumed that they had the basic ideas, and they don’t” (“A Private Universe,” 1987, time stamp: 8:55).” As I continued to learn more about misconceptions, I began to understand “that children approach science with ideas and interpretations despite not having received instruction,” depending on their prior knowledge and experiences (with reference to Driver, Guesne and Tiberghien, 1985) and “…students enter the classroom with their own understandings of the world…often at odds with the scientifically accepted view of the world” (Henriques, 2000, p. 1) (Module A, Lesson 1.2: Children, Science, and Conceptual Challenges). As ETEC 533 progressed, I realized the potential that digital technology provided for significantly more interactive, engaging, and motivating learning environments for students in today’s classrooms, which could, in turn, help students understand and challenge their misconceptions, especially through the interactive approach afforded by simulated and virtual learning environments.

It was during Module B and Module C that my interest in and understanding of the importance of inquiry-based learning really began to develop, expanding to incorporate students’ construction of knowledge and embodied learning, as opposed to a transfer of knowledge from teacher to student. In his post, “TELE Synthesis”, Darren Low (2017) commented, “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.” To encourage an inquiry-based, constructivist approach to learning, students must be given the opportunity to explore concepts more independently and through their own observations and experiences, rather than having knowledge simply transferred to them through lectures and textbooks. Information and data must be delivered in a variety of ways, allowing students to engage with materials and concepts using multiple senses and a range of learning experiences. As Hasselbring et al. (2006) highlight, students “need to acquire the knowledge and skills that will enable them to figure out math-related problems that they encounter daily at home and in future work situations” (no page number available). Project-based learning, in turn, “allows for increased emphasis to be put on student-centred learning, rather than on the teacher simply imparting knowledge through memorization and recitation that the learner is then often unable to access when needed (Edelson, 2001)” (Lesson 3 (LfU): Including and Motivating Students of Today). Adding to this, the incorporation of processes like GEM (or T-GEM) allow for skill development in a cyclical pattern around the learning process of generating, evaluating, and modifying ideas (Khan, 2007 & 2010). It was during the exploration of the GEM/T-GEM model that I recognized a significant weakness within my own teaching practice that could be improved through the integration of GEM into the design of my own classroom lessons and projects. I realized that I often struggle with what I perceive as time constraints and because of this, I often do not allow students adequate time to complete an exploratory process like GEM. By incorporating GEM into my own lessons, students will be given the opportunity to generate ideas, both independently and collaboratively with their peers, form their own hypotheses, evaluate both new and existing data, then re-evaluate hypotheses and ideas generated based on what they have learned. T-GEM, along with the TELEs explored throughout ETEC 533, will allow me to design an inquiry-based and collaborative learning environment for current and future students.

In the diverse classrooms of today, one significant concern for me has been how to create an inclusive and accessible environment for all learners. In exploring technology-enhanced and virtual or simulated learning environments, the extent to which digital technology promotes the inclusion of all students in diverse classrooms, collaboration between peers, an engaged exploration and evaluation of data, and the individual and shared generation of ideas, has become increasingly clear. Bodzin et al. (2014) emphasize the importance of including “design features in instructional materials so that low-level readers and low-ability students can understand scientific concepts and processes in addition to learners whose cognitive abilities are at or above the intended grade level” (pp. 13-14). Similarly, Radinsky et al. (2006) address differentiated assessment, allowing educators to assess students’ knowledge and comprehension from a variety of perspectives, and for students to show their learning in a variety of ways. In addition to this, processes like Anchored Instruction, WISE, LfU, and using virtual or simulated learning environments, provide students with an opportunity to engage in interactive learning activities that connect their learning to reality outside the classroom, bringing classroom learning to life and making it authentic and applicable for learners. In her post, “Learning in Artificial Environments,” Anne Winch acknowledges, “Winn notes that cognition is embodied in physical activity, that is embedded in the learning environment, and that learning is the result of the adaptation of the learner to the environment and the environment to the learner (Winn, 2002)… A student’s engagement and identity as a learner is shaped by his or her collaborative participation in communities and groups, as well as the practices and beliefs of these communities (Dunleavy, Dede, & Mitchell)” (Wincherella, 2017). As I came to understand in Module B, “Students learn through a process of constructing new knowledge through personal experience and communication, rather than having knowledge transferred to them; through goal-directed learning initiated by the learner; through the creation, elaboration and accessibility (storage) of knowledge; and through the understanding of and ability to use factual knowledge and then transform that knowledge into procedural knowledge (Edelson, 2001; Radinsky et al., 2006)” (Lesson 3 (LfU): Including and Motivating Students of Today).

With my Framing Issues paper, I began to examine “The Effect of Virtual Laboratories on Student Achievement and Success in Chemistry.” From here, I was able to extend my questioning to achievement and success in science and math more generally. When I began ETEC 533, I felt that a traditional hands-on laboratory experience was most successful and educationally sound in terms of student understanding, interaction with materials, and learning; however, it became clear relatively quickly that this assumption was incorrect. While traditional laboratories provide students with important and interactive learning opportunities, the knowledge I have gained through ETEC 533 has demonstrated that virtual laboratories and other simulated learning environments promote student engagement and motivation, are often more economically feasible, allow for the repetition of experiments to build comprehension and confidence, allow for experiments that may be considered too dangerous to be attempted otherwise, and decrease the time taken to prepare for and clean up after traditional laboratory work (Tatli & Ayas, 2013; Tüysüz, 2010; Martínez-Jiménez, Pontes-Pedrajas, Polo, & Climent-Bellido, 2003; Robinson, n.d.). As Tyler Kolpin (2017) commented in response to an energy forms and transfer lesson I created using a PhET interactive simulation (titled “Energy Forms and Changes”), “This kind of visualization is so valuable due to the high cost of actually going through the motions of creating this experiment.” Kolpin’s point prompted me to reflect on the fact that this experiment, among many others offered through PhET and other simulation platforms, allows students at even a relatively young age, to engage in interactive laboratories and simulation work that they would not otherwise have been exposed to due to the cost of materials, time and equipment/space constraints, and so on. By providing students with the opportunity to engage in simulated or virtual laboratory environments, students are again engaged and motivated as they interact within an authentic and accessible learning environment that allows students to transfer and apply their knowledge to the “real” world. As I discovered in Module C, Lesson 3, “Finkelstein, Perkins, Adams, Kohl, & Podolefsky (2005) found that when the right learning environment was created, simulations could be equally effective, if not more effective, learning tools than traditional laboratory equipment “both in developing student facility with real equipment and at fostering student conceptual understanding” (p. 1-2)” (Module C, Lesson 3 [Information Visualization]: Energy Forms and Transfer in Science 4).

As I complete my ETEC 533 journey, I am no longer left with a lingering question of whether digital technology could help support learners in my classroom, but am instead optimistic about the integration of many TELEs, simulations, and virtual learning environments into my curriculum content and process. Rather than treating technology as a separate entity, I understand the need to actually incorporate it into everyday learning for students, and my lingering questions revolve now around how to integrate students’ own devices to support a digital-technology enhanced environment in the classroom. Finally, I have a solid understanding of, and research to support, the incredible importance of project-based learning within today’s classrooms. To allow for inquiry, collaboration, and construction of knowledge, students must be allowed to explore and generate their own ideas, which means stepping away from the board and the textbook, and presenting students with time and freedom to discover learning for themselves.

References:

Bodzin, A. M., Anastasio, D., & Kulo, V. (2014). Designing Google Earth activities for learning earth and environmental science. In MaKinster, Trautmann, & Barnett (Eds.) Teaching science and investigating environmental issues with geospatial technology (pp. 213-232). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. Retrieved from http://www.ei.lehigh.edu/eli/research/Bodzin_GE.pdf

Davidson Films, Inc. (uploaded 2010). Piaget’s developmental theory: an overview [online video]. Retrieved from: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QX6JxLwMJeQ

Driver, R., Guesne, E., & Tiberghien, A. (1985). Children’s ideas and the learning of science. Children’s Ideas in Science (pp. 1-9). Milton Keynes [Buckinghamshire]; Philadelphia: Open University Press.

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.

Energy forms and changes. (n.d.). Phet Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado. Retrieved from https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/legacy/energy-forms-and-changes

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.

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (Producer). (1987). A Private Universe [online video]. Retrieved 6 January, 2017, from: http://learner.org/vod/vod_window.html?pid=9

Hasselbring, T. S., Lott, A. C., & Zydney, J. M. (2006). Technology-supported math instruction for students with disabilities: Two decades of research and development. Washington, DC: CITEd, Center for Implementing Technology in Education (www.cited.org). Retrieved from: http://www.ldonline.org/article/6291/

Henriques, L. (2000, April). Children’s misconceptions about weather: A review of the literature. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching, New Orleans, LA. Retrieved 7 January, 2017, from: http://web.csulb.edu/~lhenriqu/NARST2000.htm

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

Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education, 91(6), 877-890

Kolpin, T. (2017, April 5). Comment to “Energy forms and transfer in science 4” (Sikkes). Retrieved 6 April, 2017, from http://blogs.ubc.ca/stem2017/2017/03/31/energy-forms-and-transfer-in-science-4/#comments

Liang, L. (2017, Jan. 11). Is it worth constructing incorrect knowledge? [STEM: Conceptual Challenges]. Retrieved 6 April, 2017, from http://blogs.ubc.ca/stem2017/2017/01/11/is-it-worth-constructing-incorrect-knowledge/

Low, D. (2017, Mar. 8). Tele Synthesis [STEM: Synthesis Forum]. Retrieved 6 April, 2017, from http://blogs.ubc.ca/stem2017/2017/03/08/tele-synthesis/

Martínez-Jiménez, P., Pontes-Pedrajas, A., Polo, J. and Climent-Bellido, M.S. (2003). Learning in chemistry with virtual laboratories. Journal of Chemical Education, 80(3), 346-352.

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

Radinsky, J., Sacay, R., Singer, M., Oliva, S., Allende-Pellot, F., & Liceaga, I. (2006, April). Emerging conceptual understandings in GIS investigations. Paper about forms of assessment presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference, San Francisco, CA. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Joshua_Radinsky/publication/242390299_Emerging_conceptual_understandings_in_GIS_investigations/links/54eb39670cf27a6de11763ab.pdf

Robinson, J. (n.d.). Virtual laboratories as a teaching environment: A tangible solution or a passing novelty? Southampton University. Retrieved January 25, 2017, from: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=528C202CA72A6A6252236F58981824B1?doi=10.1.1.11.6522&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Tatli, Z. and Ayas, A. (2013). Effect of a virtual chemistry laboratory on students’ achievement. Educational Technology & Society, 16(1), 159-170.

Tüysüz, C. (2010). The effect of the virtual laboratory on students’ achievement and attitude in chemistry. International Online Journal of Educational Sciences, 2(1), 37-53.

Wincherella. (2017, Mar. 16). Learning in artificial environments [STEM: Embodied Learning]. Retrieved 6 April, 2017, from http://blogs.ubc.ca/stem2017/2017/03/16/learning-in-artificial-environments/

Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 1-28. Retrieved from: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1028641.files/Winn2003.pdf

Xiang, L., & Passmore, C. (2015). A framework for model-based inquiry through agent-based programming. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 24(2-3), 311-329.

Information Visualization: Interactive Learning at its Best

This week, I had the opportunity to try a variety of simulation software, each of which has the potential to create a dynamic, inquiry-based environment for students in science and math classrooms. The two information visualization programs that I explored in most depth were PhET Interactive Simulations (found at: https://phet.colorado.edu/), developed by the University of Colorado, and Illuminations (found at: http://illuminations.nctm.org/), developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. I chose these two programs specifically because I currently teach in a grade 4/5 split class and wanted to explore programs with simulations or games targeted at intermediate elementary students, and because I wanted to explore both a science-based as well as a math-based program.

In “A Framework for Model-Based Inquiry Through Agent-Based Programming,” Xiang and Passmore (2015) discuss a shift in the focus of science education “…from typical classroom practice that emphasizes the acquisition of content to a classroom in which students are active participants in making sense of the science they are learning” (p. 311). Today’s students are no longer passive recipients, and are instead active participants in the acquisition of knowledge. To accommodate this shift, educators today must work to develop inquiry-based learning environments which allow students to construct knowledge through questioning, collaborating, hypothesizing, and challenging prior assumptions. In designing lessons that incorporate these features, many educators are turning to model-based inquiry which may be supported through digital simulations (Xiang & Passmore, 2015).

Despite the shift in the role of the student to active participant in modern classrooms, many students continue to struggle with math- and science-based concepts presented in current curriculums. Some students arrive with pre-conceived ideas and misconceptions, some with a significant lack of experience that hinders their understanding of concepts, some with the need for adaptations to support their learning, and so on. Srinivasan, Perez, Palmer, Brooks, Wilson, & Fowler (2006) address the fact that “a learner’s success with learning new material can be described in terms of the learner’s prior knowledge, ability, and motivation (Schraw et al., 2005)” (p. 138). In a simulated learning environment, students are given an opportunity to interact with materials and situations being taught, allowing them to learn through experience and by “doing” rather than simply by reading a textbook and listening to a teacher’s lecture. Along with this, a simulated environment provides the potential to target motivational variables such as novelty, interest, and importance or value of concepts taught (Srinivasan et al., 2006).

In the case of simulation software such as PhET, students have the opportunity to interact with materials and laboratory conditions in authentic learning environments that they may not otherwise be able to experience, due to factors such as economic feasibility or safety concerns. Sound educational principles aside, Srinivasan et al., (2006) highlight the fact that “generally speaking, it is less expensive to develop a simulation than to provide real experience” (p. 137). While Srinivasan et al. referred to their study around cockpit simulations, this same concept can easily be applied to public school and university settings today. For example, I explored a simulation titled “Energy Forms and Changes” on the PhET site in depth this week and created a lesson around it. The opportunity offered to students through the use of this simulation could not be replicated otherwise in my class. The simulation offers an “Intro” simulation that allows for the heating/cooling of iron, brick, and water (with visual tracking of energy input and output), and a second more in-depth “Energy Systems” simulation that provides students with the opportunity to actually construct their own energy systems using a variety of materials. The simulations not only provide engaging learning environments for students, but they provide materials I would often not have access to, and learning environments that can be used without the extensive laboratory preparation and clean-up that would have been required had the same activities been replicated in a traditional laboratory environment (the explorations/experiments would have taken days if not weeks to complete). Finkelstein, Perkins, Adams, Kohl, & Podolefsky (2005) note that PhET simulations “…are designed to be highly interactive, engaging, and open learning environments that provide animated feedback to the user…designed to build explicit bridges between students’ everyday understanding of the world and its underlying physical principles…” (p. 2). While this reference is to PhET university physics simulations, I would argue that the principles behind it apply to all PhET simulations that I explored. Based on their research findings, Finkelstein et al., (2005) propose that “…properly designed simulations used in the right contexts can be more effective educational tools than real laboratory equipment, both in developing student facility with real equipment and at fostering student conceptual understanding” (p. 1-2).

The Illuminations website provides similar benefits for students in the form of interactive games and learning tools to support math. Students are immersed in an engaging environment that allows for digital manipulatives or games to be used to reinforce mathematical concepts taught in the classroom. Rather than having students simply complete repetitive math questions or problems in an attempt to encourage the memorization of a concept through practice, students are engaged through constructing knowledge as they actively attempt various problems and are provided with immediate feedback to support and scaffold their learning. By implementing these and other similar learning tools and games into the classroom, students are provided with learning environments and opportunities they would not have been exposed to otherwise, and with an engaging environment that promotes learning.

Interestingly, in a study they conducted, Srinivasan et al., (2006) found that university students perceived simulations as “fake” and valued “’real’ experiences” over the simulated experiences they received; “with MATLAB the students don’t have a sense of partaking in what they perceive as authentic experience. They seem to need/want authenticity to be able to make the connections the experts make with the simulation” (p. 140). I found this interesting, but wonder if it has to do with the level of learning that students are engaging in. How well a simulation is accepted may also depend on what exactly is being simulated. In the case of an airline cockpit simulation, students might feel that they are missing out on the “real” experience of actually flying a plane which could tarnish their experience of that particular learning environment. In the case of a public school-aged student, I have generally had the impression that simulated learning environments were welcome additions to a classroom, as they often expose students to learning environments that would otherwise not have been available.

While I have not used either of these programs yet with my students, I would certainly hope to use them in my classroom in the future. Both provide interactive and engaging learning environments for students that I believe help students construct their own knowledge, rather than simply absorb what they are taught by a teacher or textbook. By interacting with materials and concepts in a simulated or game-based experience that provides information visualization, students are able to see the effects of their experiments, receive immediate feedback, and then re-evaluate their conceptions/hypotheses allowing them to more forward toward learning, rather than having a teacher or textbook attempt to re-explain a concept without the hands-on learning opportunity attached.

References:

Energy forms and changes. (n.d.). Phet Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado. Retrieved from https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/legacy/energy-forms-and-changes

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.

Xiang, L., & Passmore, C. (2015). A framework for model-based inquiry through agent-based programming. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 24(2-3), 311-329.

Energy Forms and Transfer in Science 4

Grade level: Grade 4 Science

Topic: Energy Forms and Changes

Misconception: That energy is a “thing” in and of itself; it does not come in a variety of forms. That energy cannot be transferred from one object to another.

While students generally understand that adding heat warms a material and removing heat (“adding cold” i.e., ice) cools a material, the concepts of various forms of energy and energy transfer are much more abstract, and are likely to cause misconceptions and misunderstandings for students. The lesson I am outlining corresponds to the British Columbia fourth grade science curriculum (Big Idea: Energy can be transformed/Content: Energy has various forms; energy is conserved; devices that transform energy).

Objectives:
• Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of different forms of energy.
• Students will be able to demonstrate how energy transfers from one object to another.
• Students will be able to explain the energy system they created in terms of energy input, energy output, and energy changes

Materials:
• Chart paper, Pens (x6)
• Computers to run PhET activity (requires Java Runtime Environment)

Step one: Generate ideas related to current concept(s)
Supporting inquiry: Students will be asked to respond to and develop hypotheses regarding the following questions:
• Question 1: What is energy input? What is energy output?
• Question 2: Does energy come in various forms?
• Question 3: Can energy be transferred from one object to another?

To complete this portion of the lesson, students will work in small groups (three to four students). Six stations will be set-up around the classroom with a piece of chart paper in the middle of the station (paper could also be hung on walls around classroom). Two stations will have question 1 written at the top of the chart paper, two stations will have question 2 written at the top of the chart paper, and two stations will have question 3 written at the top of the chart paper. Each group will have five minutes (time adjusted as necessary) at each station to brainstorm, discuss, and record ideas related to the question at the top of their chart paper. Groups will rotate three times so that each group will answer each of the three questions. At the end of the third rotation, each group will report out the ideas shared on the chart that they are currently at.

Step two: Hypothesize
Each group will be asked to create a hypothesis for each of the three questions. Their hypothesis can be based on their own ideas generated during the chart stations, or on the ideas of others. Students are welcome to walk around and look at the ideas generated at any of the chart paper stations to help them develop their hypotheses.

Step three (…to the computers!):
(Teachers may prefer students to work individually or in pairs at this point, depending on class composition, independence, and availability of computers)
Activity: PhET “Energy Forms and Changes” simulation  “Intro”
<found at: https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/legacy/energy-forms-and-changes>
Students will begin by exploring energy input, output and conservation, as well as thermal energy, by interacting with the “Intro” simulation. In this simulation, students experiment with heating and cooling iron, brick, and water, and are able to add or remove energy by heating (visual: fire) or cooling (visual: ice) the materials given. By clicking the “Energy Symbols” box, students are able to watch the transfer of energy as the temperature of the materials increases or decreases.

Step four (still on computers):
Activity: PhET “Energy Forms and Changes” simulation  “Energy Systems”
Once students have completed the initial “Intro” to the “Energy Forms and Changes” simulation, students will click on the “Energy Systems” tab at the top left of the page to take them to the second simulation. This simulation allows students to see in more detail how energy is transferred and transformed as it moves between objects. Students build their own systems using a variety of energy sources, changers, and users, allowing students to opportunity to visually follow the transfer of energy throughout the system they have created.
Systems may be constructed using the following materials:
• wheel (turned by water, steam, bicycle), solar panel
• water tap, sunshine [with or without clouds], kettle, bicycle with rider
• container of water, regular light bulb, energy smart light bulb.

Step five: Re-evaluate ideas
Once students have completed both simulations, they will return to their hypothesis groups to re-evaluate their original hypotheses since gaining experience and knowledge while participating in the two simulations. The teacher will circulate to have each group explain how and why their original hypotheses changed after exploring “Energy Forms and Changes.”

A follow-up activity could be to have students complete a written response to answer the questions originally posed above (in step one), or to explain how their personal hypotheses changed throughout the course of the lesson. This would provide the teacher with individual feedback regarding understanding and possible continued misconceptions, as well as reconnect students to the original questions one more time.

Theory behind it:
Xiang and Passmore (2015) address the fact that the focus for science education has shifted “…from typical classroom practice that emphasizes the acquisition of content to a classroom in which students are active participants in making sense of the science they are learning” (p. 311). One of the leading principles discussed, behind this shift, is model-based inquiry, which can extend to include simulations. Through constructing, applying, and modifying models, students are given the opportunity to actively engage in the learning process, in addition to discussing, negotiating, and re-evaluating their conceptual models with peers (Xiang and Passmore, 2015). Finkelstein, Perkins, Adams, Kohl, & Podolefsky (2005) found that when the right learning environment was created, simulations could be equally effective, if not more effective, learning tools than traditional laboratory equipment “both in developing student facility with real equipment and at fostering student conceptual understanding” (p. 1-2). By integrating digital technology, not only can teachers access innovative and immersive learning environments for their students, but a number of factors can also be addressed, such as interest, motivation, and feasibility.

Srinivasan et al., (2006) highlight that “generally speaking, it is less expensive to develop a simulation than to provide real experience” (p. 137). While Srinivasan, et al. point out that this is especially clear in cases like cockpit simulators, this observation could be applied to many different science simulations, including the above PhET simulation used to teach fourth grade students about energy changes and transfer. While the PhET simulation is free (assuming school have access to computers and the internet), the time and cost associated with setting up a lab experience of the same depth would make the “real life” version of the simulations offered above unfeasible. In addition to providing an experience that would not be feasible without digital technology, novelty and interest, both addressed by Srinivasan et al. (2006) as motivational variables, are targeted in the simulations provided by PhET as well. Students are given the opportunity to explore science using a digital simulation which has the potential to increase interest and motivation as they actively engage with a simulated learning experience that would not have been possible in traditional elementary classroom settings.

References:

Energy forms and changes. (n.d.). Phet Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado. Retrieved from https://phet.colorado.edu/en/simulation/legacy/energy-forms-and-changes

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.

Science 4: Big idea and content. (n.d.). British Columbia Ministry of Education. Retrieved from https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum/science/4

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.

Xiang, L., & Passmore, C. (2015). A framework for model-based inquiry through agent-based programming. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 24(2-3), 311-329.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History offers self-guided virtual tours (NMNH Virtual Tours) that take the viewer through various exhibits (both past and present) within the museum. The tours are accessible both through a desktop computer or mobile device. I enjoyed the tours for the visual experience and engagement that they provided. Users are able to travel from room to room, look around the room in 360 degrees, read information boards (generally, although some were too small to read, which is a downside), and zoom in on points of interest.

Through the use of this website, students would be introduced to artifacts and species of animal that they would not have been exposed to otherwise, except through an image in a book or online source. Students are also visually exposed to a large range of related artifacts, animals, and so on, that would otherwise have taken much longer to view (i.e., using a book or even a website with only single images) and that perhaps would not have been grouped together in quite this way if using a different source. In this case, users are given the opportunity to explore a variety of different, and yet connected, species, artifacts, and exhibits, which can be discussed collaboratively during the viewing (i.e., partners or groups of three share a computer/virtual experience), and then collectively discussed as a whole class, allowing for students to have a basis for discussion (due to their own virtual experience and small group discussions) before discussing as a larger group. With a virtual tour like this one, there are opportunities for teachers to provide and challenge students with pre- and post-tour questions or concepts that can be kept in mind while viewing, or used to reflect back on experiences already had in the tour.

Just in case the link embedded above does not work for you, here is the link to the NMNH Virtual Tours: http://naturalhistory.si.edu/VT3/index.html

Authentic Knowledge

“…learners of science have everyday representations of the phenomena that science explains. These representations are constructed, communicated, and validated within everyday culture. They evolve as individuals live within a culture” (Driver, et al., 1994, p. 11).

I am from a small community of approximately 6,000 people in northwestern British Columbia. While we have a small museum/art gallery (half of the ground floor of the building is the museum, the other half is the art gallery), we do not have many resources as far as math and science field trips go. We do have a fish hatchery, as well as mineral exploration sites, past mines, forests, and so on relatively nearby, but we are limited as far as more diverse hands-on experiences outside the classroom go. While I agree that students construct knowledge through immersion in their surrounding environments and cultures, I also know that if I simply left it at that, many of my students would not be provided with the opportunities needed to extend their thinking and to continue to develop a sense of inquiry as they got older. Because of this, I am finding virtual learning environments for science and math increasingly important the more I learn about previously inaccessible opportunities and options now available.

As Driver et al. (1994) point out, “the symbolic world of science is now populated with entities such as atoms, electrons, ions, fields and fluxes, genes and chromosomes; it is organized by ideas such as evolution and encompasses procedures of measurement and experiment. These ontological entities, organizing concepts, and associated epistemology and practices of science are unlikely to be discovered by individuals through their own observations of the natural world. Scientific knowledge as public knowledge is constructed and communicated through the culture and social institutions of science” (p. 6). Classrooms by nature have the potential to support this “culture and social institutions of science.” Students actively engage with peers, both socially and collaboratively, sharing perspectives and knowledge, generating ideas, and developing questions and hypotheses; “knowledge is not transmitted directly from one knower to another, but is actively built up by the learner…” (Driver, et al., 1994, p. 5). However, at the same time, Yoon et al., (2012) point out that, “as noted in the NRC (2009) report and elsewhere (Squire and Patterson 2009; Honey and Hilton 2011), learning in informal spaces is fluid, sporadic, social, and participant driven — characteristics that contrast with the highly structured formal classroom experience” (p. 521). While the “structured formal classroom experience” is changing, virtual environments, or environments that integrate digital technology to create an inquiry-based classroom, continue to create a much different classroom experience for learners. Sherry Hsi (2008) argues that it is through this “…direct experience and manipulation with virtual objects” that informal learners are given the opportunity to build “their intuitions about basic scientific phenomena” (p. 892). In this way, Hsi points out, information technologies have “transformed…informal learning institutions” through the creation of “…freely available educational resources accessible over computer networks and the Web to create extended learning opportunities outside of formal schooling” (p. 891), as well as providing opportunities for educators to use pre- or post-visit activities with their classes, and to access virtual explorations for remote learners via the internet.

The next question is how to effectively integrate digital technologies and virtual environments into existing curriculums. Yoon et al., (2012) conducted a study at “a premiere science museum in a large urban city in northeast USA using augmented reality visualization technologies” (p. 520). Their study focused on electrical conductivity and circuits, and research was conducted on four groups using digital technology and increasing levels of scaffolding to support learning. The traditional “hands-on” group was presented with two metal spheres; one connected to a battery by a wire and the other connected to a light bulb. When a student grabbed the spheres, the circuit was completed and the light bulb lit up. The second group was presented with the same scenario, but this time, the addition of digital technology allowed for a visual representation as well, as the completion of the circuit triggered a projection of the animated flow of electricity onto the student’s hands, arms, and shoulders. Groups three and four also had the digitally enhanced experience, along with varying levels of additional scaffolding to support learning. Yoon et al.’s research concluded “that the digital augmentation, in and of itself, is an effective scaffold” (p. 531); however, the results of their study also found “…increased cognitive abilities in terms of theorizing about the phenomenon from students in Condition 4, suggesting that scaffolds might be necessary to reach more advanced learning” (p. 538). True learning should represent a balance. As Driver et al. (1994) point out, “If students are to adopt scientific ways of knowing, then intervention and negotiation with an authority, usually the teacher, is essential” (p. 11). Driver et al. offer that the teacher must introduce new ideas or cultural tools, provide support/guidance as needed, allow students to make sense of the ideas/tools themselves, and then assess students’ understanding to inform further action. Yoon et al. noted that “When asked what they thought was the most and least helpful scaffold, 100% of the students identified collaborating in a group as most helpful. The least helpful scaffolds were identified as the knowledge prompts (57%) and the directions (37%)” (p. 532).

When exploring various learning environments and communities this week, I was struck by the incredibly amount of information as well as opportunities that are now available. The Exploratorium (https://www.exploratorium.edu/) in San Francisco, California, offers an incredible number of websites (i.e., “Time-lapse Weather Watching,” “Total Solar Eclipse Turkey 2006”), videos (webcasts, video clips, podcasts, and slideshows), blogs, and so on, to support learning in both science and mathematics. By incorporating some of these resources into science lessons, teachers have the opportunity to expose students to information they would likely not be exposed to otherwise, as well as to engage learners, and allow for new and potentially powerful collaborative discussions. A second learning environment that I explored this week (although it was not listed in Lesson 2) was Google Expeditions. I had never used Google Expeditions before, but found it while looking for resources to share on our forum. While I have not yet used this with a whole class (due to trying to figure out how to find that many cell phones, as well as how to make enough cardboard viewers) my initial experiences with it have been pretty neat! There are an incredible number of science-based expeditions that teachers “guide” while students “explore.” The “guide” setting provides teachers with leveled questions as well as important information on locations, species, artifacts, etc. viewed by the students. While this resource does require that each student has a phone and a viewer (which can be made, but does take some time for the first one), it really does provide a virtual experience for the student as the ultimate effect is being right in the scene provided on the screen. Students I have experimented with have been incredibly excited and engaged, asking many questions about what they saw and learned. While I find that many students in my classroom do not really know where to even start asking questions because many of the topics we discuss are outside their realm of experience, Google Expeditions allows for students to have an “experience” to base their questions on.

I was thinking about a comment that I commonly hear today about our learners, that learners today just do not understand concepts as well as learners did in the past. One colleague commented that in the past “we strove for excellence, while today we’re just hoping for some effort.” While there are perhaps elements of truth built into this statement, given the new understandings I have gained from this course, I would question whether students in the past really had a greater understanding of concepts, or if we just assumed they had a greater understanding, without understanding ourselves just how strong a hold misconceptions actually had.

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.

Yoon, S. A., Elinich, K., Wang, J., Steinmeier, C., & Tucker, S. (2012). Using augmented reality and knowledge-building scaffolds to improve learning in a science museum. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 7(4), 519-541.

Google Expeditions

Google Expeditions is an application that allows students to embark on virtual field trips or expeditions from the classroom. The expeditions are focused on a variety of different subjects and curricular areas, including a number of science-based content areas (i.e. anatomy, environmental, ecosystem, space, and so on). Each expedition contains a number of 360 degree “scenes” from around the world for the explorers to view (i.e., “Submarine Science” contains six scenes to view/explore).

Google Expeditions offers two roles: that of a guide (the teacher) or of an explorer (the students). In the “guide” role, each scene contains an introduction to each scene, questions (beginner, intermediate, and advanced questions), and information to guide explorers through each scene. Each scene includes points of interest or important information/artifacts related to the topic, which are represented for explorers by arrows and targets in their view. Many expeditions include stops (scenes) at educational institutes or museums. For example, “Climate Change” takes the explorer to the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, and “Rocks, Minerals, and Gems” takes the explorer to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

Google Expedition “Kits” are available for purchase, but are incredibly expensive. Cardboard viewers are also available, but again cost money that I would imagine many administrators might struggle to rationalize in their school budgets (because they are literally just viewers made from cardboard). Information is provided on the website to explain how teachers can use Google Expeditions in their classrooms without purchasing the kit, and cardboard viewers could be constructed by the teacher/student, although it would take a little time. I have used the app with my tablet without a viewer and feel that this is a possibility as well, although teachers would want to try this ahead of time to see what they think (it does detract from the VR experience). Google Expeditions does require internet access and mobile devices (a tablet is recommended for the guide and phones for the explorers), and specific device requirements must be met.

Google expeditions connects well to our current studies as it provides students with a virtual-reality style environment that can be used to enhance existing curricular topics in science. Google expeditions allows students to experience an environment they likely would not have been exposed to otherwise. It is limited in the fact that while the experience does include 360 degree scenes, students are not able to virtually travel through the scenes and are restricted to viewing from one spot. While ideally, students each use their own mobile device to view each scene, students are all explorers of the same scene at the same time and have the opportunity to orally share what they are viewing/experiencing with their classmates as they explore the scene through their viewers.

Learn more about Google Expeditions: https://edu.google.com/expeditions/#about

Activities, actions, gestures, and digital technology

In this week’s readings, I was drawn to the connection between learning and physical activities, actions, and gestures. As Winn (2003) points out, “successful students are anything but passive” (p. 13) and our classrooms must reflect and foster this fact. If students are to involve their entire bodies in learning, rather than just their brains, thereby embodying cognition as Winn describes it, then as educators, we must look carefully at how we construct our lessons and projects to support this. As Winn discusses, our natural views of the world are very limited and are based on our own experiences. While some digital technologies may recreate experiences for us, the question becomes how accurately can a computer programmer recreate a unique experience that each individual user’s knowledge and understanding can evolve from?

Ahmed and Parsons (2013) offer that mobile technologies provide students with “opportunities for increasing engagement, motivation and learning (Lin, Fulford, Ho, Iyoda, & Ackerman, 2012)” (p. 62). Their study uses a mobile learning application called “ThinknLearn” to engage students in abductive scientific inquiry while scaffolding learning so students are able to generate hypotheses based on inferences made through observations. The study places students in a real-life environment where they follow the Abductive Inquiry Model (Oh, 2011, as cited by Ahmed and Parsons, 2013, p. 64) of “exploration, examination, selection, and explanation” (p. 64) to collect and examine data with the aid of the “ThinknLearn” application to enhance learning experiences, performance, and critical thinking skills.

In a “no-tech” embodiment of learning, Novack, Congdon, Hemani-Lopez, and Goldin-Meadow (2014) explore the effect of physical action, concrete gesture, and abstract gesture in helping grade three students solve math equivalence problems, and beyond that, students’ abilities to generalize what they learned to a new concept. While the study showed that the students “were equally likely to succeed on the trained problems after instruction” (p. 5), researchers found “acting gave children a relatively shallow understanding of a novel math concept, whereas gesturing led to deeper and more flexible learning” (p. 6) with abstract gesture aiding generalization and concrete gesture leading to conceptual understanding.

In my own practice, I can see embodied learning being used to support a simple machines unit in science. Students can plan their machines using gestures and actions (in groups – incorporates social learning/collaboration), and will then build and test their machines in a trial-and-error learning environment, basing their learning on their interactions with the machines they are themselves creating. Technology can be brought in as students research and watch videos to help them overcome difficulties they face throughout the duration of their projects.

Questions for discussion:

1) Is it possible for a student to interact authentically in an artificial environment, given that the environment is created using if-then models based on predictable outcomes?

2) How does the increased integration of digital technology into the classroom impact the physical activities that connect students to learning? Do activities or actions performed using an electronic device connect students to learning in a similar way that physical activities or actions would in a traditional classroom setting?

3) “An artificial environment is completely predictable, because we have made it” (Winn, 2003, p. 13), but how does the environment that corresponds with the programmers’ views of the world match up with the experiences and understandings of an individual user? How does an artificial environment impact the learning of students who are from a different cultural background than the programmer? For example, how would an Indigenous student’s own experiences and knowledges be represented in an artificial environment created by a Western European? How would the experiences of a student who has recently arrived as a refuge be represented in an artificial environment created in North America?

References:

Ahmed, S., & Parsons, D. (2013). Abductive science inquiry using mobile devices in the classroom. Computers & Education, 63, 62-72. Doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.11.017

Novack, M. A., Congdon, E. L., Hemani-Lopez, N., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2014). From action to abstraction: Using the hands to learn math. Psychological Science, 25(4), 903-910. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3984351/

Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness, and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning, 1(1), 1-28. Retrieved from: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic1028641.files/Winn2003.pdf

Oh the places I’ll now go…

ETEC 533 – Synthesis Forum – Compare and contrast T-GEM and Chemland with Anchored Instruction and Jasper, SKI and WISE, LfU and MyWorld

Chart:

As I just learned about the Cmap program from our T-GEM readings (Khan, 2012) I attempted to use that platform for my synthesis chart. While it worked on some levels, I feel that the overall effect is less cohesive and more scattered looking than I would have liked, which is a good learning experience for me. In the future, I think I would try to use a different platform for a compare/contrast piece (or perhaps I just need to develop my experience and knowledge of the Cmap program further).

Cmap references:

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.

Kim, M.C., & Hannafin, M.J. (2011). Scaffolding problem solving in technology-enhanced learning environments (TELES): Bridging research and theory with practice. Computers & Education, 56(2), 403-417.

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

Synthesis Forum Response:

In his book, World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students, Yong Zhao (2012) addresses the fact that “the new survival skills – effective communication, curiosity, and critical-thinking skills – ‘are no longer skills that only the elites in a society must muster; they are essential survival skills for all of us’ (Wagner, 2008, p. xxiii)” (p. 8). Zhao explains that Wagner (2008) “observed that the longer our children are in school, the less curious they become” (p. 10) and references separate data demonstrating a decline in students’ creativity once they enter the school system, and a continued decline in creativity as students get older (Gardner, 1982; Land & Jarman, 1992 as cited by Zhao, p. 10-11).

These are points that I feel are addressed well within the four technology-enhanced learning environments that we have explored in Module B. While I recognize that each learning environment is unique, I feel that many of the overarching intentions and goals were very similar in the way they addressed student learning through inquiry. As Edelson (2001) points out, “traditional educational practice emphasizes achievement-based motivation and assumes that such motivation carries over to all content” (p. 373); however, the four environments presented in Module B instead establish inquiry-based learning environments for students, rather than a more traditional system based on imparting knowledge through repetition and memorization of facts and concepts delivered.
In all cases, the learning environments had the potential to be adapted to support various academic subjects, as well as being accessible for students of varying grade levels, from elementary to college/university level. While T-GEM appeared better suited to a single concept or theory, SKI/WISE, LfU, and Anchored Instruction all seemed to apply well to projects involving multiple concepts or theories, and had the potential to allow educators to incorporate cross-curricular content more easily. Throughout the development of each learning environment, students were encouraged to examine and question data and information, and learning was student-centred, with the teacher there to guide, rather than to impart knowledge. All four learning environments promoted exploration of data and collaboration between peers, as well as inclusion of all students present in the diverse classrooms of today.

There are some key concepts that have stood out to me above the rest, and that will continue to impact my teaching beyond the parameters of this course. In terms of Anchored Instruction, I realized that I have tended to “coddle” my students too much, rather than allowing them to immerse themselves in multi-step problems and work through those problems collaboratively with their peers. I realize now that students must be given the opportunity to explore multi-step and abstract concepts and problems, regardless of the fact that they might find them “too difficult”. As Hasselbring, Lott, & Zydney (2006) point out, students “need to acquire the knowledge and skills that will enable them to figure out math-related problems that they encounter daily at home and in future work situations” (no page number available). Moving forward, I am going to try to allow students to struggle more often in an attempt to help them feel comfortable with the uncomfortable feeling that struggling may create for them. If we consider life, we all struggle at one point or another, so it makes sense that students should be given that ‘real life’ opportunity early on when we are able to guide them as needed within a safe and controlled environment, while at the same time building inquiry skills, along with perseverance and resiliency.

In relation to Learning-for-Use, the emphasis by Edelson (2001) and Bodzin, Anastasio, and Kulo (2014) on making learning environments not just accessible for students but also more applicable to ‘real life’ situations stood out for me. Concepts cannot be taught in a way that students then only associate their learning with the classroom; we must teach to connect students with their lives and experiences outside the classroom so that they will be able to access and recall information they have learned as it applies to various situations within their lives, rather than storing facts through memorization that they may not remember in the future when needed (Edelson, 2001).

While I had never used WISE before, I was very impressed by the potential of the projects posted and of projects that could be created using the WISE learning environment. It reminded me that every subject I teach, especially as I now teach at an elementary level, has the potential to become a cross-curricular project that involves most areas of the curriculum. Science can so easily be combined with aspects of social studies, language arts, physical education, and art. I am still working to build more cross-curricular units to avoid the traditional single-subject teaching approach, and I feel that the incorporation of WISE projects could help me both with this transition, as well as increasing engagement and motivation in my classroom through the introduction of a technology-based learning environment.

Finally, in the T-GEM learning environment, the concept of promoting a cyclical pattern of inquiry and learning discussed by Khan (2007; 2010) was what impacted my thinking the most. Instead of simply providing students with the information they will need to know, the T-GEM model allows students to collaboratively generate ideas (perhaps correct, perhaps incorrect), and then to interactively create hypotheses as they examine and evaluate data, then re-examine and modify relationships between data and ideas/hypotheses generated on a given concept. While the T-GEM examples examined by Khan were based in a post-secondary setting, my own exploration was for a grade 4 science concept, showing the adaptability of the T-GEM model.

I find that I still stop short of creating a truly inquiry-based learning environment in my classroom because I continually worry about time constraints. However, by integrating or even combining the learning environments explored in Module B, I believe I will ultimately be able to cover more concepts (by integrating content from across the curriculum into various tasks) while at the same time creating a student-centred, inquiry-based learning environment in my classroom. Ultimately, what appealed most to me about these four learning environments was the way they all created inquiry-based, technology-enhanced learning environments that made learning memorable by connecting student learning inside the classroom to ‘real life’ experiences and issues outside the classroom. In the words of George Veletsianos, “what is the value of a learning activity if it’s not memorable?” (Veletsianos, 2011, p. 43).

Response references:

Bodzin, A. M., Anastasio, D., & Kulo, V. (2014). Designing Google Earth activities for learning earth and environmental science. In MaKinster, Trautmann, & Barnett (Eds.) Teaching science and investigating environmental issues with geospatial technology (pp. 213-232). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. Retrieved from http://www.ei.lehigh.edu/eli/research/Bodzin_GE.pdf

Hasselbring, T. S., Lott, A. C., & Zydney, J. M. (2006). Technology-supported math instruction for students with disabilities: Two decades of research and development. Washington, DC: CITEd, Center for Implementing Technology in Education (www.cited.org). Retrieved from: http://www.ldonline.org/article/6291/

Khan, S. (2012). A Hidden GEM: A pedagogical approach to using technology to teach global warming. The Science Teacher, 79(8), 59-62.

Veletsianos, G. (2011). Designing opportunities for transformation with emerging technologies. Educational Technology, 51(2), 41-46. Retrieved from http://www.veletsianos.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/designing-opportunities-transformation-emerging-technologies.pdf

Zhao, Y. (2012). World class learners: Educating creative and entrepreneurial students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Evaporation – Where does that water go?

While the ideas behind Technology-enhanced Generate-Evaluate-Modify (T-GEM) were not new to me on their own, this particular model of thinking, leading to inquiry and ultimately a deeper understanding of concepts taught, was. I appreciated the step-by-step process by which GEM takes both educators and students through the learning process of generating, evaluating and modifying ideas; a model which I believe highlights a weakness in my own teaching of science and math. For me, one of the most important points to consider was the cyclical pattern in which GEM encourages students to create new hypotheses as they generate, examine, and evaluate new and existing data, and then re-examine and modify relationships between data and ideas/hypotheses generated (Khan 2007 & 2010). I believe I often struggle with time constraints (either real or perceived/self-imposed) which means that I miss important steps in this learning cycle. Going forward, I believe that having a model like T-GEM will help me focus my planning on creating a more inquiry-based environment in my own classroom. As highlighted by a survey item generated by Khan, students overwhelmingly felt that “having us generate, evaluate, and modify relationships in class is valuable for my understanding of the concepts” taught (in this case referring to chemistry) with 91% of students agreeing with the statement, 0% disagreeing, and 9% neutral (Khan, 2007, p.900 – included percentages; Khan, 2010, p. 227 – listed as a survey question only). While this particular survey question related to a university-based chemistry course, I believe it is true for any science-based concept that students are required to learn.

The simulations in Chemland were not applicable to my current students as I work in a grade 4/5 split class, but I enjoyed exploring the program and I recognize the incredible possibilities the simulations would provide for an appropriate age/grade group. Having said that, I could see the “Specific Heat Capacity” simulation (http://employees.oneonta.edu/viningwj/sims/specific_heat_s.html) and even “Heat Transfer Between Substances” (http://employees.oneonta.edu/viningwj/sims/heat_transfer_s.html) having the potential to be used by at least some students in a higher-level intermediate grade within an elementary school (i.e., grade 6/7).

T-GEM Model with assignment (aimed at grade 4 Science):

For this activity, I chose to focus on evaporation due to the fact that students often have a variety of misconceptions related to “phase changes of water” (p. 4), as is identified by Laura Henriques (2000) in “Children’s misconceptions about weather: A review of the literature.” Henriques identifies that rather than understanding “water left in an open container evaporates changing from liquid to gas,” children may believe the water “is absorbed by the container” or simply “disappears (Bar, 1989; Osborne & Cosgrove, 1983);” that it “changes into air or disappears and turns into air ((Bar, 1989; Brody, 1993; Lee, et al., 1993; Osborne & Cosgrove, 1983);” or that “the water dries up – it is not steam, it just dries up and goes into the air (Bar, 1989)” (p. 5). Henriques points out that “all the misconceptions here (except water being absorbed by the container) are basically true since water vapor is a legitimate component of air,” however, students generally “were not viewing the evaporated water as a component of air because air to them is nothingness” (p. 5).

G – Generate:
To access prior knowledge, check for misconceptions, and generate ideas about the topic, evaporation, I would begin with a few different activities to activate thinking and knowledge from different angles.

1) First, students would complete a “What-So-What?” activity. Students would be given a handout with a t-chart on it. The left column of the chart says “What?” and the right column says “So What?” Students would be shown two pictures and would be expected to respond on “What” they see and why each thing they see might be of importance (“So What?”). The pictures will be projected through a projector/proxima to a screen for them. The first picture would be of a bowl/container filled with water, perhaps sitting near a window or outside on a sunny day. The students would be given a set amount of time (I usually allow only one minute) to list as many things as possible that they see in the picture. They are then given additional time (I usually give about two minutes) to respond to why each thing they saw might be important in the “So What?” column. Next, students would be presented with a picture of the same container, except this time it would be empty (time and weather could change, but container and its location would remain the same). They would repeat the “What-So-What?” process. I would then do a “Whip Around” to have each student share one idea they came up with from the pictures – students are allowed to expand on an idea already shared by a peer, but must make it “their own.”

2) Originally, I had thought that I would have students generate ideas they had about the term “evaporation” by doing an idea web on paper. However, having read Khan’s (2012), “A Hidden GEM: A pedagogical approach to using technology to teach global warming” I decided I would borrow an idea from Khan’s generate strategies and use the Cmap program discussed in the article. Cmap software was developed through research by the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) and “empowers users to construct, navigate, share and criticize knowledge models represented as concept maps” (IHMC, 2014). It is marketed as a software that can be used by all age groups, as individuals, as well as within schools and institutions (http://cmap.ihmc.us/). I had never used Cmap before, but found it very easy to download and to use at basic level. I feel that my grades 4/5 students would be comfortable using this application.

Using Cmap, I would ask students to create an initial map of ideas they can generate about their beliefs related to evaporation. This would likely include ideas they generated through the “What-So-What” activity, from the “Whip Around” activity, as well as from their own prior knowledge. I would allow students to work in partners to encourage discussion about evaporation and ideas generated. Students would create a basic Cmap at this point.
For example:

At this point, students would be asked (with their partner) to create a hypothesis based on the question: “What happens to water when it is left in an open container?”

(N.B. “What-So-What?” is a strategy I use quite often with my students, especially in Science and Social Studies lessons. I do not have an exact reference for this strategy, but it was shared by Faye Brownlie during a presentation she gave when visiting the district where I work a couple of years ago. The following is a link to her website: http://fayebrownlie.ca/)

E – Evaluate:
When I began searching for interactive simulations online, I found an interactive evaporation simulation that seemed to fit well with both the grade level I am aiming at (primarily grade 4) and the curriculum content that students will be expected to know “Solids, liquids and gases as matter” (B.C. Ministry of Education, 2016). Working in pairs to allow for discussion, students would use the online evaporation simulation to evaluate the ideas they generated in their Cmap. Students will be able to experiment with the following variables: how humid their environment will be (full sun, sun with clouds, clouds with rain), air temperature (between 10 and 40 degrees Celsius), and container shape (flatter and wider versus taller and thinner).
As students progress through the simulation, they will record/graph their findings taking into account the changes in variables.

Interactive evaporation simulation link:
http://archive.fossweb.com/modules3-6/Water/activities/evaporation.html

M – Modify:
Once they have completed the interactive evaporation simulation and recorded their findings, students will return to their original Cmap webs to modify their original webs. New ideas/findings/knowledge can be added to the existing Cmap, and new concepts can be added. In addition to this, new connections can be made, connecting existing ideas together, and causal relationships can be identified, all within the Cmap.
If I am looking for a more in-depth assessment or for further evidence of learning, I could ask students to explain orally (conference-style) what they observed happening during the simulation and to explain the concepts and connections shown on their Cmap. I could also ask students to write a paragraph to explain what they have learned and/or to draw a picture showing their understanding. Once modifications to their Cmap are complete, students would be asked to modify their original hypothesis, based on the data they have collected (based again on the question: “What happens to water when it is left in an open container?”).

References:

British Columbia Ministry of Education (2016). Area of learning: Science, grade 4. Retrieved from https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/sites/curriculum.gov.bc.ca/files/pdf/s_learning_standards.pdf

Henriques, L. (2000, April). Children’s misconceptions about weather: A review of the literature. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association of Research in Science Teaching, New Orleans, LA. Retrieved 7 January, 2017, from: http://web.csulb.edu/~lhenriqu/NARST2000.htm

IHMC. (2014). Cmap. Retrieved from http://cmap.ihmc.us/

Interactive evaporation simulation (n.d.). Retrieved 27 February, 2017, from http://archive.fossweb.com/modules3-6/Water/activities/evaporation.html

Khan, S. (2012). A Hidden GEM: A pedagogical approach to using technology to teach global warming. The Science Teacher, 79(8), 59-62.

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

Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education, 91(6), 877-890

Including and Motivating Students of Today

British Columbia’s New Curriculum lends itself to project-based learning as it allows educators to incorporate various “big ideas” and curriculum content areas. Along with this, project-based learning allows for increased emphasis to be put on student-centred learning, rather than on the teacher simply imparting knowledge through memorization and recitation that the learner is then often unable to access when needed (Edelson, 2001). Learning-for-Use promotes higher-level thinking skills as students are encouraged to apply both their prior knowledge and the new knowledge they are in the process of acquiring to integrate a framework that accesses the varying levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, from knowledge and comprehension, to application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of the world around them (Moore, n.d.). Daniel Edelson (2001) points out that “educators have traditionally seen content and process as competing priorities” (p. 355), with content and inquiry “taught separately through separate learning activities” (p. 356), as opposed to being taught (or considered) as intersecting domains as shown in Mishra and Koehler’s work (2006). In contrast, “recent education reform initiatives emphasize the significance of developing thinking skills, data analysis skills, understanding real-world applications, and utilizing the power of technology in teaching and learning (International Society for Technology in Education, 2000; National Research Council,1996; North American Association for Environmental Education 2000)” (as cited in Bodzin, Anastasio, & Kulo, 2014, p. 2). By using a framework like Learning-for-Use, content and process are integrated as students are given the opportunity to learn through their own inquiry, experience, and discovery by allowing students to engage in situated learning environments through the following principles as outlined by Edelson (2001):

1. Learning takes place through the construction and modification of knowledge structures.
2. Knowledge construction is a goal-directed process that is guided by a combination of conscious and unconscious understanding
goals.
3. The circumstances in which knowledge is constructed and subsequently used determine its accessibility for future use.
4. Knowledge must be constructed in a form that supports use before it can be applied
(p. 357)

Supporting these principles of Learning-for-Use are the beliefs that students learn through a process of constructing new knowledge through personal experience and communication, rather than having knowledge transferred to them; through goal-directed learning initiated by the learner; through the creation, elaboration and accessibility (storage) of knowledge; and through the understanding of and ability to use factual knowledge and then transform that knowledge into procedural knowledge (Edelson, 2001; Radinsky et al., 2006).

When considering Learning-for-Use and working with GIS in terms of my own classroom and teaching, the first unit application that came to mind was around natural resources/rocks and minerals. When exploring ArcGIS through searches like “mineral exploration in British Columbia” and “natural resources in British Columbia” a variety of titles related to geological features, mineral occurrences, mineral potential, major natural resource projects, natural events, and so on were found. While there are many classroom and community-based activities that are applicable to natural resource management and mineral exploration in the area where I live, it can be difficult to help students understand the “bigger” picture. The introduction of interactive maps could help bring natural resources and mineral exploration “to life” for students, as well as having them really consider how British Columbia both contributes to and is affected by the harvesting of natural resources. Students could not only identify areas of mining, logging, and so on, they could also then layer on bodies of water nearby to discuss effects on waterways; they could layer on towns and cities to discuss how to process the resources most effectively/economically; they could look for other areas of potential resources; and so on. In addition, when reading Bodzin, Anastasio, and Kulo’s (2014) article on Google Earth, I wondered about having students use this program as a way to identify how the management of resources looks from a “bird’s eye view” in terms of location, environmental disruption, and land reclamation.

Finally, the opportunity that Learning-for-Use and GIS environments offer in terms of inclusive environments and accessibility of materials for a diverse range of learners is an important feature for classes today. Bodzin et al. (2014) discuss the incorporation of “design features in instructional materials so that low-level readers and low-ability students can understand scientific concepts and processes in addition to learners whose cognitive abilities are at or above the intended grade level” (pp. 13-14). Radinsky et al. (2006) emphasize the importance of differentiated assessment in order to assess students in a variety of ways, pointing out that each assessment allows a different view of students’ knowledge and comprehension. Our learners today are diverse, with significantly different expectations than students had in the past, so our classrooms must adapt to our changing learners as well as to the changing world around us. Learning-for-Use and GIS environments provide new and innovative opportunities for student-centered, inclusive and accessible learning to appeal to our learners of today.

References:

Bodzin, A. M., Anastasio, D., & Kulo, V. (2014). Designing Google Earth activities for learning earth and environmental science. In MaKinster, Trautmann, & Barnett (Eds.) Teaching science and investigating environmental issues with geospatial technology (pp. 213-232). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer. Retrieved from http://www.ei.lehigh.edu/eli/research/Bodzin_GE.pdf

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.

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

Moore. S. (n.d.). Bloom’s taxonomy: Teacher planning kit. Blogsomemoore: Teaching and Empowering ALL Students. Retrieved from https://blogsomemoore.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/blooms-questions.pdf

Radinsky, J., Sacay, R., Singer, M., Oliva, S., Allende-Pellot, F., & Liceaga, I. (2006, April). Emerging conceptual understandings in GIS investigations. Paper about forms of assessment presented at the American Educational Research Association Conference, San Francisco, CA. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Joshua_Radinsky/publication/242390299_Emerging_conceptual_understandings_in_GIS_investigations/links/54eb39670cf27a6de11763ab.pdf