Author Archives: Natalie Roberts

Simulated & Paper Circuits

Information Visualization Tools allow students to engage and interact with technology to further their math or science knowledge and understanding. They also allow the invisible to become visible.  One common area where misconceptions occur in science is with simple and parallel circuits (Brna, 1988). Many students have difficulty taking their knowledge of circuits from linear worksheet diagrams into system and simultaneous projects. To address these misconceptions, I have combined the Info-Vis PhET for simple circuits along with a tangible paper circuit lesson plan. Finkelstein, Adams, Keller, Kohl, Perkins, Podolefsky and Reid (2005) found that students were very successful transferring simulated circuits to real-life situations.




  • Students will be able to demonstrate basic knowledge of simple circuits and parallel circuits.
  • Students will have an opportunity to use their knowledge of simple and parallel circuits in the creation of a paper circuit card




  • Paper Circuit Materials: Cardstock, 3mm or 5mm LED lights, 3v coin cell battery, paper clip, copper tape, other paper materials as needed (coloured paper, tissue paper, recyclables, etc.)


STEM Activity – 5 Steps


Step 1 – Access prior knowledge by reviewing simple and parallel circuits. Address any misconceptions that arise.

Step 2 – Generate – Students will generate a hypothesis about simple or parallel circuits and the flow of electrons through the circuit.

Step 3 – Evaluate – Students will evaluate their hypothesis using the PhET simulation and share out their findings. What did students notice using the simulation?

Step 4 – Modify – Based on their experiences with the PhET simulation, students will modify their thinking. They will begin to outline their construction of their paper circuit using the information gained from the simulation. Transferring the knowledge from the simulation to the real-world application (the paper circuit) card and go back through T-GEM cycle using real-world circuit.

Step 5 – Extend – Students will extend their knowledge by adding a switch to their circuit.



Brna, P. (1988). Confronting misconceptions in the domain of simple electrical circuits. Instructional Science, 17(1), 29-55.

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. Retrieved from



It’s About Experiences

How is knowledge relevant to math or science constructed? How is it possibly generated in these networked communities?

Knowledge of math or science is constructed through a variety of experiences both personally and socially (Driver, Asoko, Leach, Scott, & Mortimer, 1994); experiences that we acquire from the beginning of our existence. While we might not label them or differentiate them as “math/science”, these interactions with our world become part of our knowledge. We want to expose our students to many different experiences, and these networked communities are one such avenue.

As we are all well aware, we each have different life experiences. My experiences with a family very comfortable with the outdoors gave me different experiences than my friends who never went hiking, camping or star gazing. I got to attend the “ultimate fieldtrip” to NASA to study science when I was in grade 11 and got to experience and construct knowledge in a much different way than others who did not attend. Fieldtrips and experiences such as these are not accessible for a number of reasons such as safety and expense. Even at my school in the Fraser Valley, going into Vancouver to go to Science World or the Vancouver Aquarium is too costly to take our students. Though not everyone will have these experiences, I believe that everyone deserves the opportunities to learn, and virtual fieldtrips allow educators, parents, and anyone else who wants to learn, that opportunity. As was shown in Spicer & Stratford (2001) students feel that these virtual fieldtrips should not replace fieldtrips, where possible, but could offer pre- or post-trip learning opportunities. As they also outlines, virtual fieldtrips (VFT) are “good but not a substitute”.

When these in-person opportunities are not available to our students, I think that many teachers get creative. While not a virtual field trip, Science World offers Scientists in Schools ( where real scientists or professionals in STEM subjects come into your classroom and do hands-on activities with your students – free of charge. I’ve had some amazing experiences with these professionals and students get hands on inquiry learning. Students have the opportunity to construct math/science knowledge in a very different way than what many teachers are doing in their classrooms and via the guidance of experienced professionals.

Informal learning environments such as The Exploratorium ( are excellent digital resources. The variety of experiences that students can participate in, from apps to videos to activities, gives students the opportunity to involve themselves, either in the context of a lesson, or purely out of interest was phenomenal. The connectivity to real world happening (this summer’s Solar Eclipse for example) provides students with context and real-world application of knowledge.  These learning environments, extend “learning opportunities outside of formal school” and assimilate, ‘IT technologies transforming them into new practices and applications to support their curiosity and interests” (Hsi, 2008). They also allow students to bring home their learning and converse with parents, as they are also able to access the materials that their children are using. In school, the important social connections can still be made through careful planning by the teacher.

While I do not believe these virtual experiences should replace traditional field trips, they can afford students and others new, meaningful, and experiential science/math opportunities. With rapid advances in technology the possibilities are “endless”.



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

Hsi, S. (2008). Information technologies for informal learning in museums and out-of-school settings. International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, 20(9), 891-899.

Spicer, J., & Stratford, J. (2001). Student perceptions of a virtual field trip to replace a real field trip. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 17, 345-354.


Partners In Research (PIR Canada)

Partners in Research (PIR Canada) is website

that has a number of free online programs for elementary to high school students. One program is called VROC (or virtual researcher on call that connects specialists in the field with students) and the other is PIR Live Events (webinars). I have done several PIR Live events and been a part of webinars with inventors in the UK. Webinars cover a variety of STEM topics – from makerspace to cancer research. Students can pose questions and “chat” to the guests in real time. It was a great opportunity for students!

They also have their own YouTube channel and PIR TV to get students interested and enthusiastic about STEM.

Mobile Devices and Embodied Learning

Winn’s (2003) concept of “Umwelt” was interesting and it had me thinking about how we all “see” the world very differently. As students embody experiences, they make meaning through their interactions. Winn states that “..the uniqueness and variability of Umwelt are not the result of limited sensory capacity, which we saw above is a physiological constraint. Rather, they arise from differences in each individual’s experience of the environment” (p. 12). Stemming from this I consider about our students with learning challenges who have always interacted with their environment in different ways than neuro-typical students and how embodied learning provides opportunities for more inclusive education in all subject areas.

Novak’s article (2014) was thought provoking. Grade three students were instructed in one of 3 types of problem solving strategies:

  1. physical action
  2. a concrete gesture miming that action
  3. an abstract gesture

All three types of strategies aided students in solving problems they were trained to solve, but the abstract gesturing was successful in applying this knowledge to general conditions. This gesturing led to deeper and more flexible learning. I found these results very surprising as an educator who was always told to incorporate the use of concrete manipulatives in math class. I have, however, used gesturing in science class teaching concepts such as the kinetic molecular theory and the movement of molecules and a applied the performing arts through a student-created play based on the digestive system. I am left wondering how we take this knowledge and apply gesturing into the teaching of mathematics? When I use Sphero with students, I have students use their bodies and arms to construct angles so that they understand the directions Sphero will roll on their commands, but I think using gesturing for more complicated tasks would be a challenge. Based on the works of Novack et all (2014) gestures were shown to foster generalization of math concepts – this was done without technology. How much of a role does technology or should technology play in Embodied Learning?

Finally, the article by Baya’a and Dahler (2009) I was not surprised in students’ positive perceptions of using mobile devices for learning mathematics and their role in embodied learning. The researchers found students enjoyed the novelty of using mobile devices especially within a mathematics class and that “mobile devices extend the learning environment in which the students work, and integrate it in real life situations where learning can occur in authentic contexts” (p. 6-7). Mobile devices offer the opportunity for learners to physically interact with the world outside of traditional classrooms. Coming back to students with learning (or physical) disabilities mobile technologies afford opportunities for students to interact with their environment in a ways that may not always be possible through traditional routes. In this study middle school students were using mobile technology in an outdoor education setting, using their own devices. How could we replicate the same positive educational experiences for our students using the hardware in our schools? How do we manage these tools within a school environment? Do we start with the technology and build the experience or the other way around? I was trying to reflect on how I have used mobile technology along the lines of this theory. What experiences do we as educators (and consumers of technology) have using mobile devices from an embodied learning perspective?



Bayaa, N. & Daher, W. (2009). Learning Mathematics in an Authentic Mobile Environment: The Perception of Students. International Journal of Interactive Mobile Technologies, 3, 6-14

Novack, M.A., Congdon, E.L., Hermani-Lopez, N., & Goldin-Meadows, S. (2014). From action to abstraction: Using the hands to learn math. Psychological Science, 25 (4), 903-910.

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




For those new to computer programming, the Hopscotch App provides a great opportunity for students to learn in an engaging way. Hopscotch uses drag and drop format so it is ideal for elementary school students. Decimals, sequencing, co-ordinates, and negative numbers are some of the mathematical concepts that “come to life” as students program their own games and activities.

TELE Synthesis

TELE Synthesis

   Prior to this module, TELEs were not something I was familiar with…and I have been missing out!  All Technology Enhanced Learning Environments (TELEs) focus on student-centered learning through enrichment and learning by doing. Students are not the passive recipients of information and each of these TELEs aims to motivate students. Technology itself can be motivating, however, these experiences allow students to construct and engage with curriculum material in new and more authentic ways rather than being a “consumer” of technology or via traditional pen and paper. These TELEs are all based on a constructivist theory of learning, valuing the building and integration of new concepts on previous knowledge, and collaborating with others to construct meaning. Utilizing real-life scenarios creates a natural “buy-in” for students – they are motivated and are able to “see” the context of these problems. Creating our own “Jasper Series” of math/science videos depicting “real-life” situations is something I would like to pursue next year with a group of teachers (and students) at my school. The individualized nature of the videos (which would also connecting to ADST – Digital Media) would engage our middle school students and provide cross-curricular opportunities (Language Arts, Math, possibly science or SS depending on the storyline). There are so many possibilities. I am curious to see how TELEs support our struggling math and/or science students. Have they (TELEs’ visuals, hands-on, scaffolding, etc) been successful in the past? What about our students who lack motivation? This is something I would like to further investigate.


   Overall, I can see benefits of using each of these platforms in the science and/or math classroom. Implementation of these TELEs would depend on a number of factors including teacher comfort (learning the technology, mindshift in thinking about knowledge acquisition), time (there is never enough, using TELEs instead of something else, time to learn these platforms), and the physical technology available (sharing the limited resources in the school). These platforms would provide opportunities for students to use technology to visually represent traditionally abstract concepts, and to manipulate data that may not normally be accessible in a science or math classroom. What an exciting time to be a student! The role of the teacher is one of guide/facilitator as opposed to “keeper of all knowledge”. However, allowing students to construct their knowledge as opposed to to just giving them the information is something that will be a challenge for some educators. In all TELEs, I believe that teachers need to create the technology enhanced learning “experience” with their students in mind. As I do not have my own classroom next year, my role will be to support teachers as they continue to implement inquiry learning in their classrooms. I am excited to bring my new knowledge of TELEs (even their existence!) to add to our teachers’ toolkit and I look forward to seeing what new learning opportunities and experiences we can create for our students in math/science.



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

Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for the design of technology supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(3). 355-385.

Williams, M. & Linn, M. C.(2002) WISE Inquiry in Fifth Grade Biology. Research in Science Education, 32(4), 415-436.

Pythagorean Theorem

Grade 8 Math: Pythagorean Theorem

 One of the challenges I have encountered when teaching mathematics to Grade 8 students is their understanding of the Pythagorean Theorem. They are able to quickly memorize the “equation” but struggle with the conceptual understanding of the theorem. I have noticed that when students are given an equation they can usually solve it, but when given concrete objects or visuals they struggle. They also have the misconceptions that the Pythagorean Theorem applies to all triangles, and that the longest side of all triangles is the hypotenuse. I want to move students from general memorization to conceptual understanding.

B.C. Math 8 Content (2015):

Sorry for the small visual: details are below….


3 step T-GEM:


Explain that we are going to be discovering the Pythagorean Theorem. As a class, generate ideas about properties of squares (area, angles, special properties, side lengths, etc.), by accessing students’ prior knowledge – things that the students have been learning about over the years. I want them to make connections to what they already know and prime them for the new information to come. Have them work back – if you know the area of a square, how can you find the side length of that square? Have them generate ideas around this basic concept in partners and then share out. Explore the idea of square root.

Show students a visual of a right triangle. Ask students to speak to different properties of this right triangle. Attend to any new vocabulary (legs, hypotenuse).

Share short Water Demo to get students interested:

Ask class to give feedback on video. What did they notice?


 Teacher asks students to discover and then investigate properties of right triangle and the Pythagorean Theorem. Students will use Gizmos ( – account required) computer simulation to further explore the Pythagorean Theorem. Students are able to “manipulate the model to view how it behaves under various conditions, and the outcome of these changes are made visible…” (Khan, 2010, p. 216). Student understanding is documented and shared with the teacher through this program.


Students will summarize and reflect on their understanding and apply this understanding in a different scenario. In a Makerspace or Woodwork setting have students apply the Pythagorean Theorem through carpentry (3-4-5 Rule) or mapping or canoeing activity from a First Peoples perspective (FNESC, 2008).


British Columbia Ministry of Education (2015). Mathematics 8. Retrieved from

First Nations Education Steering Committee – FNESC (2008). Teaching Mathematics in a First Peoples Context: Grades 8 & 9. Retrieved from

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





“Curiouser and curiouser!” ~ Alice In Wonderland

In what ways would you teach an LfU-based activity to explore a concept in math or science? Draw on LfU and My World scholarship to support your pedagogical directions. Given its social and cognitive affordances, extend discussion by describing how the activity and roles of the teacher and students are aligned with LfU principles.

I would teach an LfU-based activity using either Spheros (or Lego EV3 Mindstorms) in middle school classrooms to explore a variety of concepts in mathematics.

Learning For Understanding is a theoretical framework that is based on 4 principles: (a) knowledge construction is incremental in nature, (b) learning is goal directed, (c) knowledge is situated, and (d) procedural knowledge needs to support knowledge construction (Edelson, 2001).

It is very important that when we are teaching students, we link what students already know with new knowledge coming in. This is based on a constructivist theory of learning.

Robots are very exciting for students; most have a natural curiosity when they see them zooming down the halls. While not the exact motivation that Edelson (2011) was referring to, the design of these robots (colour/shape/size/sounds/versatility/etc.) provides an incentive with which to engage students. When I design a series of lessons with Sphero, I am working from an ADST lens and there is not one mathematical concept that I focus on. Due to the nature of Sphero and the challenges that can be designed (or that the students design), there are or can be so many concepts at play. Mathematical concepts such as distance, degrees, sequencing, math operators, variables, geometry, etc. are all part of its toolkit!

The initial experiences with Sphero allow for students to participate in goal-directed tasks to help them build up their skill toolkit. This addresses the incremental in nature aspect of LfU (Edelson, 2001). Figuring out how to first orientate Sphero and then use the block based coding Sphero Edu App (formerly Lightning Lab – though there are many others out there). Students are asked to solve some basic challenges – complete a square (and then a square with sharp corners as opposed to rounded corners) where they use background knowledge about angles, length, perimeter to complete this challenge (goal-directed). They are then asked to add visual appeal (code colour changes throughout) and an interesting element (some students add sound effects, others change the speed/duration on one side of the square for example). Sphero sees the world in 360 so students have to visualize the basics – 0 for forward roll, 90 for right turn, 180 move back, and 270 to go left to complete the square.

Adding onto their existing and newfound knowledge students are then ask to design solutions to a variety of “challenges” – ideally challenges that students have created.


I am interested in learning further about Learning For Use and exploring how it can be applied in math and science classes throughout my middle school.


Grade 6 ADST Big Ideas (BC Ministry of Education, 2015a):

– Design can be responsive to identified needs

– Complex tasks require the acquisition of additional skills

– complex tasks may require multiple tools and technologies


Grade 6 Math – Curricular Competencies (BC Ministry of Education, 2015b):

Reasoning and Applying

– Use logic and patterns to solve puzzles and play games

– Use reasoning and logic to explore, analyze, and apply mathematical ideas

– Estimate reasonably

– Demonstrate and apply mental math strategies

– Use tools or technology to explore and create patterns and relationships, and

test conjectures

– Model mathematics in contextualized experiences (i.e. programming)



BC Ministry of Education (2015a). Retrieved from

BC Ministry of Education (2015b). Retrieved from

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

Plate Tectonics and Indigenous Ways of Knowing

My first impression of WISE is that there are a lot of opportunities. I enjoy that students are able to receive feedback quickly. The layout is very conducive for building on previous knowledge. While I am not a fan of multiple choice, I see how it could easily show a snapshot of student content knowledge allowing us to see if students were on the right track. I struggled with adding some images to the “remixed” plan and general editing  – perhaps this would be easier if I was starting from scratch. Overall, WISE forces the educator to examine their PCK and scaffold the learning experience for their students.

After my exploration of the WISE library for Grades 6-8, I chose to customize Plate Tectonics ID 6311. This WISE explores a number of important areas: earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountains. The summary states: “ Students investigate geologic patterns in the United States, then delve deeper into Earth’s layers to understand how surface features and events arise from invisible inner processes”. I chose this particular WISE because I have enjoyed teaching plate tectonics in the past. While I liked this start of this project and the scaffolding it provided for students by accessing their background knowledge (Linn, Clark, and Slotta, 2002), I chose to add Big Ideas, Guiding Questions, and First Peoples Ways of Knowing from the B.C. Science 8 Curriculum (British Columbia Ministry of Education, 2017). I decided to add this into the Introduction to provide more of a framework for this WISE project and to add some depth and discussion to the content. I also began to add Canadian content (maps, statistics, etc) to make it more relevant to our B.C. learners.

The framework I used was: Keeping the First Peoples Ways of Knowing in mind students will respond to the Guiding Questions:

How can different ways of knowing complement our understanding of earthquakes and other geological activity? 

How can scientists benefit from studying the earth’s changing geology from a First People’s perspective?

In what ways do traditional narratives about geologic events from the past contain important understandings about the Earth’s changing geological history?

(First Nations Education Steering Committee, 2015).

Using the information provided in the current WISE, and from outside sources (First Nations Education Steering Committee, 2015) that I started to add, students will research and create their own narrative to share – one that is influenced by story and science. Students can use the WISE program to capture their thinking, reflections, and planning (Williams, Linn, Ammon, & Gearhart, 2004) as they work through this narrative. Students would have the opportunity to individualize their story but pull from scientific concepts. Prior to presenting this WISE to students, I would continue adding First Peoples knowledge of geological formations and local geological events from other resources, as well as Canadian maps and images. Perhaps the addition of oral histories, or ways geological events have been represented in art would also be included. Adding First Peoples Ways of Knowing is just a start and something I have only just started thinking about, but it is something that I believe could be very powerful in a format such as WISE and one I would like to explore beyond ETEC 533.



British Columbia Ministry of Education (2017). Science 8

First Nations Education Steering Committee (2015). Science First Peoples: Teacher Resource Guide (Grades 5-9).

Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2002). Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538.

Williams, M., Linn, M.C., Ammon, P., & Gearhart, M. (2004). Learning to Teach Inquiry    Science in a Technology-Based Environment: A Case Study. Journal of Science Education & Technology, 13(2), 189-206.



Problem Solving the the New Curriculum

I was extremely intrigued by this week’s focus on the Jasper Project and early Anchored Instruction TELEs.

The perceived issue the Jasper Project was trying to address was the shift in math instruction from traditional teacher-directed content teaching (without context), to problem solving and the meaningful construction and application of knowledge by students to, and within, realistic and complex situations.

I agree with this shift in focus and believe that the Jasper project was on the right track to addressing this issue. Jasper’s engaging videos (though now a bit dated) were an interesting starting point to address this. The videos gave students context and the ability to visualize often times difficult to understand information and actively apply this information within a variety of scenarios. The “Adventures of Jasper Woodbury – Rescue at Boone’s Meadow” (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992) challenged student to utilize knowledge in science and math and apply this knowledge to plan and execute an eagle rescue. Results from this study and other videodisc-based instruction (Shyu, 2000) have demonstrated a significant improvement in student problem-solving skills, performance, and attitudes toward mathematics.

The new British Columbia curriculum I believe is also addressing this focus; encouraging teachers to look cross-curricular and teach with anchored instruction. Curriculum such as Applied Design, Skills, and Technologies encourage problem-solving, inquiry, and collaboration. Even within Science and Math, an emphasis is placed on real-world context and application. It is no longer acceptable to teach isolated skills or content. “The deep understanding and application of knowledge is at the centre of the new model, as opposed to the memory and recall of facts that previously shaped education around the globe for many decades” (B.C. Ministry of Education, 2017).

While I am not familiar with all of the contemporary videos available for math instruction and support technology, sites such as Khan Academy do not seem to provide anchored instruction like the Jasper Series does. From my recollection, Khan Academy provides tutorials on concepts (how to multiply and divide fractions for example) as opposed to the application of these concepts within complex situations.

Moving forward, I am interested in how current technologies may be utilized to provide anchored instructions in classrooms. What technologies have another teacher’s used? Did you consider them “successful”? (Success as defined by you in you classroom).



British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2017). B.C.’s New Curriculum. Retrieved from

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper Series as an Example of Anchored Instruction: Theory, Program Description, and Assessment Data, Educational Psychologist, 27(3), 291-215.

Shyu, H.Y.C. (2000). Using video-based anchored instruction to enhance learning: Taiwan’s experience. British Journal of Educational Technology, 31(7), 57-69.