Author Archives: Sarah Winkler

Info-VIS and comparing decimals

The purpose of Information visualization tools or Info-Vis is to create TELE’s where students can explore more abstract concepts to help build conceptual understanding.  First I found it helpful how Clements (2014) uses Zimmermann and Cunningham (1991) definition of visualization in Math as “to describe the process of producing or using geometrical or graphical representations of mathematical concepts, principles or problems, whether hand drawn or computer generated. ” In this week’s readings I explored NetLogo and how it could be used to help students build understanding around decimals.  Often as we begin the exploration of decimals students apply the knowledge of numbers help previously.  For example 100 is bigger than 50 they can draw 100 things and then 50 and show that their thinking is correct.  When you change that to 0.101 and 0.0101 you often find they say they are the same, there is 101 in each and struggle to imagine/conceptualize what 1/10th and 1/100th of something looks like.  Finkelstein et al. (2005) looked at the effects of learning in a science classroom with students learning circuits and found that overall the long term understanding was greater for those students who used computer generated simulations versus those that used real circuits.  It is encouraging to hope that the same would apply in this scenario allowing for deeper and greater understanding of decimals.



Comparing Decimals

Goal: Students will be able to compare and order decimals from largest to smallest.

Materials Required:

Chrome Book

App – NetLogo – Colour Fractions

Lesson (using LfU model)


– students are presented with two decimal numbers on the board, they can choose how much additional recess time they will receive.  Their goal is to determine which will give them more recess time.

Knowledge Construction:

– students working on own write down the two numbers and what they know so far.

– Students working in partners compare what they know and complete the following statement that “I believe ________ will allow us more recess because (provide reasoning – using words, pictures.

– Students access Color Fractions Model on NetLogo site and start by using it to represent known decimals, such as 0.1 and 0.5 to build familiarity with program.

– Students create Color Fractions Model for two represented decimals

– Students use models to determine which decimal in indeed larger.


Knowledge Refinement:

– Students return to initial statement and refine as needed with a focus on expanding and using new knowledge of why one number is larger.



Clements, M. K. A. (2014). Fifty years of thinking about visualization and visualizing in mathematics education: A historical overview. In Mathematics & Mathematics Education: Searching for Common Ground (pp. 177-192). Springer Netherlands. Available from UBC.

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

Wilensky, U. (2005) NetLogo Color Fractions model. http://ccl, Center for Connected Learning and Comptuer-Based Modeling, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

Wilensky, U. (1999) NetLogo. http://ccl, . Center for Connected Learning and Comptuer-Based Modeling, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL.

Xiang, L., & Passmore, C. (2014). A framework for model-based inquiry through agent-based programming. Journal of Science Education and Technology, doi:10.1007/s10956-014-9534-4

Socialization is key

Driver et al. (1994) present the idea that scientific knowledge is created in a way that is more than a constructivist foundation and requires acknowledgement of the interconnectedness of a variety of factors that include personal experiences, language, and socialization.  Secondly, they notice that it is not the teaching of specific scientific knowledge but rather the “constructs that are advanced by the scientific community to interpret nature.”  (Driver et al., 1994)  They continue to demonstrate that the widely held scientific principles that we hold to be true are “constructed and communicated through the culture and social institutions of science.” (Driver et al., 1994)  They return to Piagetian foundations and the need to challenge existing schema to create conflict and cause students to move to a state of disequilibrium and develop new schemes to understand their experience.  It is the social component that is key in knowledge acquisition.

This led me to read two articles about field trips and can we replace them with virtual field trips.  Both articles seem to support the conclusions about the importance of the social component to learning that was missing from the virtual field trip.  In their study Spicer and Stratford (2001) found that field trips develop more than just scientific knowledge and that “[t]hese experiences involve the ability to take responsibility and be responsible for yourself and colleagues, to work and cooperate with other people and to make friends and win trust.” (Spicer and Stratford, 2001)  Again we find a return to the ideas raised by Driver et al. that there is a social component to learning.

Lastly, I looked at a number of the networked communities, including GLOBE, Exploratorium, and Discovery Education.  Each site offered great amount of resources to create allow students to be more interactive in their learning of science.  I can see tremendous value in students measuring rain fall and relaying it to the team at GLOBE and then for my students to be able to interact with that data and compare to other regions.  It supports Driver et al. ideas of a making the classroom part of a larger scientific community.  I think that Adedokun et al, (2012) summarize it best in their study when they identified that “they are viable alternatives for providing students with learning opportunities and experiences that would have otherwise been unavailable to them.” (Adedokun et. al, 2012)  It returns to our discussions around PCK and that if the experience brings something new to the classroom then it is probably hitting the sweet spot where pedagogy, content and technology interconnect to build knowledge.  If it is just replacing then there may be less value to both the time and the students.



Adedokun, O. A., Hetzel, K., Parker, L. C., Loizzo, J., Burgess, W. D., & Paul Robinson, J. (2012). Using Virtual Field Trips to Connect Students with University Scientists: Core Elements and Evaluation of zipTrips™. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 21(5), 1-12.

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

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.

Victoria Weather Stations

Tracking the Weather at your school.


A number of schools in the Victoria area have a weather station on top of their building.  Inside the school is a digital display and you can connect with this site for more continuous tracking.  I have seen this used to track patterns, create graphs, we have daily weather reporters who announce conditions on our morning announcements, plus so much more.  It is great because it is local and the students can connect to that.


Socrative is an interactive questioning app.  While it is to specific to Math and Science I have used it often in both subject areas.  The program offers the opportunity for students to work in groups and enter their response to a question that you push out to the linked devices.  All answers show up on the display and then in their groups they vote on which answer they think is the best.  It allows for lots of discussion and interaction between peers and even if they are unsuccessful in finding the correct answer they get to see all of the answers and then decide why one is better.  Great at getting kids talking and talking about their learning and explaining why.

Math and the embodied learning classroom

Winn (2003) believes that the role the environment plays in learning has been greatly underplayed in research.  As we moved to acknowledging that constructivism was a more student active way to support learning Winn builds upon that interaction between environment and learning and states that we must “in turn, […] consider […] how our physical bodies serve to externalize the activities of our physical brains in order to connect cognitive activity to the environment.” (Winn, 2003) He continues with this thought process to argue and to support his theory that a more integrated approach “framework that integrates three concepts, embodiment, embeddedness and adaptation.” (Winn, 2003)

Article two found that targeted formative qualitative feedback improves student performance on tasks.  Roschelle, Rafanan, Bhanot, Estrella, Penuel, Nussbaum, & Claro (2010) used a cooperative learning environment as it mimics similar traits to peer tutoring and encourages two positive learning situations: positive interdependence and individual accountability.  Using a program called TechPALS that encourages three students to work together to solve part of a problem in math using a portable tech device, instant feedback in relayed to the group about the problem as a whole and then the students continue to solve.  Throughout the process feedback is provided real time to the teacher.  Overall they saw “small group practice of tasks that link conceptual understanding and mathematical procedures as a genre of activity that can be further supported using technology.” (Roschelle et. al, 2010)

The third paper I read looked at use of gestures in math classroom and its influence on understanding.  Novack, Congdon, Hamani-Lopez, & Goldin-Meadow (2014) conducted a study to see if students could generalize the knowledge beyond the problem that was taught.  Novack et. al (2014) found the “first evidence that gesture not only supports learning a task at hand, but more importantly, leads to generalization beyond the task.”

I chose to look at the study of mathematics for this week as it was mentioned that so much of our work has been around science and TELE’s and I wanted to explore TELE’s in a math environment.  Students often struggle conceptually with Math, long division for example.  It’s hard to replicate with hands on learning due to size of numbers but I wonder if a more embodied learning approach would result in greater understanding by students.  I am sure there is, I just need to find it, but a TELE that would allow students to interact with large numbers and divide into groupings to see how long division works if they would then be able to bring that knowledge to the algorithm?

I end up with these questions:

  • We know feedback is important, what other TELE’s can be used to support more instant feedback to students in an elementary math classroom?
  • What bridges need to be developed or examined, for example the Math gestures study, to support students moving from concrete hands on to algorithms and showing their work?
  • What supports do teacher need to be able to teach Math in an embodied learning style?


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.

Roschelle, J., Rafanan, K., Bhanot, R., Estrella, G., Penuel, B., Nussbaum, M., & Claro, S. (2010). Scaffolding group explanation and feedback with handheld technology: impact on students’ mathematics learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(4), 399-419.

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

Synthesis on the importance of TELE’s

For me this unit was full of new ideas and information and it started with the idea of a TELE – technology enhanced learning environment. Throughout module B I explored a number of theories that surround how we might successfully integrate technology into our Science and Math classrooms.

Please see link below to see a chart comparing similarities and differences of TELE’s examined in Module B.

Post 10 Chart

It has been seven informative and transformative weeks for me. When it comes to the frameworks I feel each may be important at different stages of development and understanding by a student. By my Grade 4 or 5 class I can see the value in using T-GEM as the primary foundational theory in Science. While I have often used the scientific process to have students reflect, and proceed again is an essential skill as identified in the new BC curriculum (2015) “generate and introduce new or refined ideas when problem solving.” Through the use of programs such as the PhET simulator students are able to interact with key concepts and as Khan identifies “[i]n dynamic situations, mental models can be manipulated and transformed on the fly through simulation and provide predictive and explanatory power for making sense of the familiar and the unfamiliar.” (Khan, 2007, p 879)
If I return to my first post in this unit around what technology is and as Muffoletto (1994) states the idea that technologies are a way of acting. I still believe now what I did then that the transformative phase of the SAMR model (2016) is where amazing technology integration happens that supports classrooms that bring authentic and tangible learning experiences for students. As I start to plan for the upcoming year I return to Frederiksen and White’s article and complete my own reflection on the importance of their study and how they note that the “reflective assessment, although helpful to all, was particularly helpful in closing the performance gap between the lower and higher achieving students.” (Frederiksen & White, 2009) While hands on learning has always been a key part of my science classroom as I move into a new year, I want to make reflection both through the process of learning and at the end of a lesson the same value as the concept, not something that is often rushed or forgotten in the time crunch.

All Things SAMR Model by Blanca Lemus. (2016). Retrieved 29 May 2016, from

“Building Student Success – BC’s New Curriculum.” N.p., 2017. Web. 9 July 2017.

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

Muffoletto, R. (1994). Technology and restructuring education: Constructing a context. Educational Technology, 34(2), 24-28.

White, Barbara Y., and John R. Frederiksen. “Inquiry, Modeling, And Metacognition: Making Science Accessible To All Students.” Cognition and Instruction 16.1 (1998): 3-118. Web. 16 July 2017.

Forces and T-Gem

In Grade 5 science we learn about forces and how they multiply or change direction. Students easily understand that something makes it hard to push a box across the floor but the idea of different forces changing the effect is hard as the forces are not visible. Through the use of the PhET simulator students are able to interact with different forces and as Khan identifies “[i]n dynamic situations, mental models can be manipulated and transformed on the fly through simulation and provide predictive and explanatory power for making sense of the familiar and the unfamiliar.” (Khan, 2007, p 879)

T-GEM and Forces


Sorry the image is so small, but if you click on link below you can see it in a readable size:)

T-Gem Image

“Building Student Success – BC’s New Curriculum.” N.p., 2017. Web. 9 July 2017.
“‪Forces And Motion: Basics‬ 2.1.4.” N.p., 2017. Web. 9 July 2017.
“Force And Motion – Bill Nye Clip.” YouTube. N.p., 2017. Web. 9 July 2017.
Khan, S. (2007). Model-based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education, 91(6), 877-905.

LfU and Simple Machines

Edelson (2001) developed a model called LfU or Learning-for-Use model that incorporates these four principles and creates a three-step process that is made up of motivation, knowledge construction, and knowledge refinement. As Edelson (2001) identifies that teachers were overwhelmed by trying to cover content and develop the scientific inquiry process in their students. The goal of the model was to show how teachers could use the inquiry model to build and support knowledge acquisition in students and the two did not need to be two separate units.

In planning a lesson that followed the LfU model in Science I am focused on the conclusions that Radinsky, Oliva, & Alamar (2009) examined of a science classroom that supports a “co-constructed nature of scientific knowledge and work.” (Radinsky, Oliva, & Alamar, 2009) For example:

In this unit students are developing an understanding of how simple machines work together. The challenge is in teams to come up with a plan to lift a car using the materials provided that all can be used to create simple machines. As Edelson (2001) notes this activity creates a demand for knowledge and experience curiosity by developing a problem that they can’t currently solve. In this activity teacher is in the role of facilitator asking key questions and being an observer. Students capture knowledge from peers and build their understanding through hearing other students’ experiences with lifting the car. It would be expected that, like Camila (Radinsky, Oliva, & Alamar, 2009) students will start to incorporate other thinking into their observations.

Knowledge Construction
As students realize that they do not have enough information to complete the task we move into knowledge construction. Here is a more active phase where students rotate through a series of stations that allow them to explore each simple machine in detail. Radinsky, Oliva, & Alamar (2009) identify this stage as theory-building and data exploration. This stage is characterized through small and whole group discussions that lead to small-group work and skill-building lessons. The goal is to build new knowledge structures (Edelson, 2001) and attach them to existing knowledge.

Knowledge Refinement
Here students apply the new knowledge learned to complete a task. The final activity has students move a basket of bricks. Edelson (2001) calls this as an opportunity for “learners to apply their knowledge in meaningful ways.” Finally students create a learning journal that has them reflect on what steps were needed to lift the car to provide an opportunity for students to “reorganize and reindex their knowledge.” (Edelson, 2001)

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)38:33.0.CO;2-M

Radinsky, J., Oliva, S., & Alamar, K. (2009). Camila, the earth, and the sun: Constructing an idea as shared intellectual property. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(6), 619-642.

Sink or Float and Archimedes

I looked at the project “sink or float” project ID 20961. In this lesson students examine Archimedes and the ideas of density and buoyancy. I decided that I really like how the lesson had students return to check on their thinking but to support the SKI framework it would be good to capture student ideas at the start of the unit and have them return to that at their first check-in to see what ideas they had already changed or grown or what misconceptions had been corrected to hold a more coherent idea. I built a capturing prior knowledge page that had a series of open answer questions. I did not continue but finding a way to have these answers show up with the thoughts they gather in their Eureka baskets and then show how they can use those thoughts to better answer the questions, or demonstrate their knowledge would support the students being active constructors of knowledge.

Throughout this lesson it follows both SKI and constructivist principles. Continuing with the SKI framework as described by Linn and Slotta (2009) students show initial knowledge, work through a series of steps that regularly offer opportunities to check in and see how students’ knowledge is progressing. Also students are offered the opportunity to collect new ideas in their “Eureka” basket to hold for later use. At the end of each unit of study student reflect back on the ideas in their Eureka basket. This not only supports the SKI model but constructivist principles as students are being active constructors of their knowledge. Fosnot (2005) describes four main principles of a constructivist lesson that include: prior knowledge, focus on concept, challenge student’s ideas, and apply new ideas to similar situations. This lesson uses these principles throughout the lesson design. Students learn the fundamentals and the use them to build additional knowledge. Once the ideas of buoyancy are developed through water displacement they apply that newly constructed knowledge to volume of air. The only other piece I would add would be some work with partners to build capacity through discussion. This lesson appears to only be designed for one students walking through it at a time.

Fosnot, C.T. (2005). Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice. (2nd Edition) Teachers College Press

Linn, M., & Slotta, J. (2009). Wise Science: Inquiry and the Internet in Science Classrooms. Teachers College Press, 0-97. Retrieved from

Jasper Videos and Constructivism

The Jasper Videos were designed to create an anchored instruction tool with the goal being “the development of the Jasper series emphasize the importance of helping students – all students – learn to become independent thinkers and learners rather than simply become able to perform basic computations and retrieve simple knowledge facts.” (Springer, 1992, p. 66) I believe this to be a very valid and important goal and the findings from the Biswas e. al. (2012) paper found initially that transfer of the problem solving skills was fragile and added the component of Adventure Player that “(Crews et al. 1997) show that it facilitates initial learning and leads to more flexible transfer.” (Biswas et al. 2012, p. 19) A paper by Gunbas (2014) shows a number of studies that confirmed that student understanding and ability to transfer the skills developed in a problem solving context was greater using a TELE.

When you consider contemporary videos such as Kahn Academy do not support these same goals in design as they are designed in a more flipped classroom style. Here a student would go and preview maybe before a teacher taught a skill or return for extra direct instruction on a specific skill they are struggling with. Fosnot (2005) describes a constructivist classroom as having four main principles that include: prior knowledge, focus on concept, challenge student’s ideas, and apply new ideas to similar situations. In a Kahn academy lesson they are all focused on concept acquisition. While the Jasper Videos require students to use concepts, the challenge their ideas to solve a unique problem that is anchored in a real-life scenario and then are followed up with a similar scenario to see if the ability to apply lessons learned from first video do transfer to the second video.

Biswas, G. Schwartz, D. Bransford, J. & The Teachable Agent Group at Vanderbilt (TAG-V) (2001). Technology support for complex problem solving: From SAD environments to AI. In K.D.

Forbus and P.J. Feltovich (Eds.)Smart Machines in Education: The Coming Revolution in Education Technology. AAAI/MIT Press, Menlo, Park, CA. [Retrieved October 22, 2012, from:

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. Retrieved from

Fosnot, C.T. (2005). Constructivism: Theory, perspectives, and practice. (2nd Edition) Teachers College Press

Gunbas, N. (2015). Students’ mathematics word problem‐solving achievement in a computer‐based story. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 31(1), 78-95. doi:10.1111/jcal.12067