Author Archives: seanturn

T-GEM, Illuminations & Angles


Model-based learning is a theory that allows students to learn from building, critiquing and changing our ways of thinking on how the world works (Khan 2007).  One of the big ideas from BC’s grade 6 math curricula is: Properties of objects and shapes can be described, measured, and compared using volume, area, perimeter, and angles. I’ve decided to use a T-GEM model to support student inquiry while using an information visualization technology from a website called Illuminations. In particular, to examine the challenging concept of how the angles of shapes add up when manipulated. Triona and Klahr argued that computer simulations can be as productive a learning tool as hands-on equipment, given the same curriculum and educational setting (As cited in Finkelstein et al., 2005).

T-GEM Model for understanding how angles in shapes work:

Introduction: Students will be introduced to pictures of different environments: downtown of cities, houses, construction, buildings, cars et. What shapes do you see? Patterns? Can you determine the measurement of each angle? The sum of all angles within these shapes?

Generate: Using the following link below, students will choose a polygon and reshape it by dragging the vertices to different locations. The students will see that when the figure changes shape, the angle measures will automatically update. Are there any patterns? What relationships do you see with triangles, quadrilaterals, pentagons, hexagons? Does the sum of all angles change or remain the same when they are manipulated? They will record their observations down.

Evaluate: Find a formula that relates the number of sides (n) to the sum of the interior angle measures. Why are we learning this? Can you think of any real-world examples when you would need to know the different angles within shapes? On the applet, play the animated clip in the lower right corner. Is there a different result for different shapes? Compare your results with a different group. Did you find the same formula?

Modify: Can you now look at shapes and determine the sum of all angles? Are there instances where you are not sure? Do shapes must be a certain size?

Reflection: Students will revisit the simulations again and create their own shapes. They will test their peers by asking them questions such as, “What will happen to sum of all angles when I move vertices upward?” They will reflect on their findings by posting a response to a collaborative tool called Padlet.

Finkelstein, N. D., Adams, W. K., Keller, C. J., Kohl, P. B., Perkins, K. K., Podolefsky, N. S., … & LeMaster, R. (2005). When learning about the real world is better done virtually: A study of substituting computer simulations for laboratory equipment. Physical Review Special Topics-Physics Education Research1(1), 010103.

Khan, S. (2007). Model‐based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education91(6), 877-905.

Students vs the World

Upon closer examination and re-reading certain articles, I do believe that Globe is an example of anchored instruction.  Anchored instruction, also known as instructional design, includes engaging and problem rich environments that allow learners to understand the how, why and when to use different concepts and strategies (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992). Although Globe doesn’t necessarily have an ‘anchor’ or ‘story’ such as in the Jasper series, what Globe does have are tools and learning activities to help solve an anchor in a student’s interest.

What I mean is, is that a student can have an interest in either of the Globes 4 spheres: Atmosphere, Biosphere, Hydrosphere, and Pedosphere (Soil), and thus in turn will produce its own story. For example, let’s take the Hydrosphere. A student could be concerned with the chemicals leaking into his/her nearby river and would like to find the toxins in it and learn how to solve this problem. The ‘anchor’ could be the polluted water and Globe will help with the data collection and necessary tools to use for the student. Another tool for the student to use is the professional help of a scientist. After all, Butler and MacGregor (2003) state that, “An important part of the program is the active participation of scientists as research collaborators with the students” (p. 9). The collection of data is an integral function for Globe to work and succeed and according to Ou and Zang (2006), many teachers complain about the lack of time and skills from integrating databases into their classroom instruction.

With Globe, everything is at your fingertips: learning activities, data collection sources and tools and the help of real life scientists. Does Globe have problem solving videos like Jasper? No. Does Globe foster collaborative inquiry and learning? Yes. The downfall I see with Globe is that its tools are not just tools online, but tools you need to purchase or find in your home. Math and science real-world problems apply here with Globe, and this is one of the characteristics in anchored instruction. Will Globe produce problem solving videos? Maybe, but I think this would stray away from its premise, and that is for students to contribute their own live data and help solve real-world problems.


Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development40, 65-80.

Butler, D. M., & MacGregor, I. D. (2003). GLOBE: Science and education. Journal of Geoscience Education51(1), 9-20.

Ou, C., & Zhang, K. (2006). Begin with the Internet. TechTrends50(5), 46-51.

Embodied Learning Vs Coupled Learning

What resonated with me after reading Winn’s (2003) article, was that students can learn the same way in artificial environments just as they would in natural environments. He prefers to say students to be coupled with the environment as opposed to embedded in it.  Zeltzer (1991) states the correct term to use when a student is being coupled with the environment is “presence” (as cited in Winn, 2003). That you are in an artificial environment, not in a classroom interacting with a computer. What does he mean by this? When a student is using a computer to immerse him/herself by learning various math or science concepts, it’s then not considered embodied learning? I beg to differ. What about Minecraft? I personally don’t have experience with this game but have heard from many colleagues and friends that this game is perfect to learn math concepts such as problem solving, ratios and proportions. Isn’t this considered to be a student interacting with a computer? This is an artificial environment after all, perhaps to create a true “presence” the student could wear a virtual reality helmet? In any case, Minecraft could be considered embodied learning and is already being implemented in classes around the world.

A question I have has been lingering throughout this lesson, “What about the shy, reluctant  learners?” Dede (1995) has answered this question perfectly. He states that these type of learners, will actually benefit more through a virtual reality setting since it’s more in their comfort zone.  They have valuable contributions to share with others, but prefer it to be in written form as opposed to spoken. Looking back at my previous students, I can see how some of them would prefer this type of learning style. Then comes the question of funding for these types of technologies. How are schools to implement virtual technologies with the lack of funding?


Dede, C. (1995). The evolution of constructivist learning environments: Immersion in distributed, virtual worlds. Educational technology35(5), 46-52.

Winn, W. (2003). Learning in artificial environments: Embodiment, embeddedness and dynamic adaptation. Technology, Instruction, Cognition and Learning1(1), 87-114.

Bringing It Altogether

Technology Enhanced Learning Environments Theory Examples
Anchored Instruction -Also known as Instructional Design

– includes engaging and problem rich environments that allow learners to understand the how, why and when to use different concepts and strategies (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992)

-Jasper video series, allows students to see real-world math problems

-Khan Academy, allows students to complete missions which is a tailored math program

SKI / WISE -WISE (Web-based Inquiry Science Environment) and SKI (Scaffolded Knowledge Integration) are just that. Inquiry based research topics where students can search from the many online projects and learn through inquiry. -Similar to Webquests

-Many online inquiry based projects can be found here:

LFU -The LFU model consists of a three-step process which includes: motivation, knowledge construction and knowledge refinement (Edelson, 2001) -My World GIS

-Google Sky

-Motivate: Wonder Wall on an inquiry question the students may have

-Knowledge Construction: Using the available websites mentioned above to gain a deeper understanding

-Refinement: Reflect on what the student has learned

T-GEM -As Khan (2007) states, model-based learning is a theory that allows students to learn from critiquing, building, and changing our way of thinking on how the world works.

-Includes: Generate, Evaluate, Modify

-Similar to LFU model



After reviewing and reflecting throughout module B and the 4 foundational technology-enhanced learning environments; there was a reoccurring theme of constructivism. That is, learners construct knowledge out of their experiences. What each of these 4 learning environments do, is allow the learners to take control of what it is they are learning. Many topics learned in class these days are not applicable or involve real-world examples. These 4 environments can really engage students and promote critical thinking skills which is very much what BC’s new curriculum is heading towards.

I’ve learned that incorporating STEM into a math or science classroom can really have a profound effect on students. Just before the end of the school year, a colleague and myself brought both of our classes together to have a STEM competition. The students were divided into groups where they had to build a catapult that would be assessed on: distance and accuracy. The kids were in love with this project. One thing that I would do differently next time, is to incorporate technology. What would that look like? Perhaps, allowing students to research and review different catapults through videos and simulations? Or recording their design and experiment with video? Producing a DIY video? Either way, I will be using STEM with every class I have from now on.

Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development40, 65-80.

Edelson, D. C. (2001). Learning‐for‐use: A framework for the design of technology‐supported inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching38(3), 355-385.

Khan, S. (2007). Model‐based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education91(6), 877-905.

Climate Change and T-GEM

As Khan (2007) states, model-based learning is a theory that allows students to learn from critiquing, building, and changing our way of thinking on how the world works. One of the big ideas from BC’s grade 6 science curriculum, is: Earth and its climate have changed over geological time. To investigate the challenging concept of how climate has changed and the repercussions it has on earth, the T-GEM model will be used to support student inquiry while using climate simulations and guided teacher strategies.

A possible T-GEM model could be:

Generate: Using the following link, students will use the simulator to view before and after images of cities, extreme events, water, land cover, human impact and ice. Students will analyze what they notice.  Are there any patterns? What relationships do you see with water and ice? Record your observations.

Evaluate : Students will be presented with different facts and figures that have been written about climate change using the following link. Ask students to explain in groups. Is this fact? Fiction? How do you know? Find new reports on climate change.

Modify : Students will review their findings and summarize their conclusion to the class in small groups. Why is our global climate changing? What will happen in the future if we don’t take action? How can we take action as a society? List the ways we can help climate change.


Khan, S. (2007). Model‐based inquiries in chemistry. Science Education91(6), 877-905.

The Sky’s the Limit in GoogleSky

The LFU model consists of a three-step process which includes: motivation, knowledge construction and knowledge refinement (Edelson, 2001). If I were to design a lesson using the LFU model, I would choose a Big Idea from BC’s new curriculum grade 6 science; The solar system is part of the Milky Way, which is one of billions of galaxies.

To promote and foster motivation within the LFU model, I would either design or search online for a webquest about science. For this purpose, I have found an already made webquest using the following link:  Edelson (2001) states that within the first step of the LFU model, motivate, students need activities that require their previous knowledge on the topic presented. I would have students write questions about space they may have and post them on our “I wonder wall.” Can life exist outside of our solar system? How much would I weigh if I were on the moon? How hot does Mercury get? This allows for the student’s curiosity to set in and allows for the teacher to see where their knowledge is at the beginning of the unit.

The second step, knowledge construction, will come from the many webquest activities. What this particular webquest doesn’t have that I would incorporate into one if I did make a webquest, would be to include a space map such as GoogleSky. Closely resembling My World GIS, GoogleSky allows users to explore the universe and see constellations, planets and to zoom in on anything they want to delve deeper into. How far away is this constellation and what is it called? The students can explore their inquiry questions they came up with on the wonder wall using GoogleSky and through the webquest.

For the last step in the LFU model, the refine stage, students would be reflecting on their webquest journey. Did they find the answers to the posted questions? Did they find answers to their own inquiry questions? What could they have done differently?  They would self-assess their activities using a rubric that is on the evaluation page of the webquest. I would also include an area where they can view each other’s posts using something such as Padlet. Like Edelson (2001) states, “In addition, in the knowledge refinement stage, there is increasing evidence that application and reflection are both critically important to the development of useful knowledge” (p. 359).


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.

SenseMaker Makes Sense

The WISE project I’ve decided to look deeper into, is: What Impacts Global Climate Change? This project is intended for grade 6-8 students and incorporates elaborate lessons. It includes great inquiry questions, videos, electronic manipulatives, multiple choice, short answer questions and detailed diagrams. Once thing I’ve noticed that is missing, is the ability to share and showcase your ideas, arguments and answers. Linn, Clark and Slotta (2003) state that representations enhance students’ understanding of scientific materials. As such, there is a tool created by WISE design teams called SenseMaker. Students use WISE Evidence Pages in these projects to create their arguments. SenseMaker allows teachers to see how student ideas are constructed, allow other students to see arguments of their peers, and make relationships among other scientific material visible to others. In the project, What Impacts Global Climate Change? I would add SenseMaker to make this project include group collaboration to use in my class.

An inquiry question that is posed on this WISE Project states: “How do you think greenhouse gases are involved with global temperature and energy? Make your best scientific guess!” According to Kim and Hannafin (2011), “…to scaffold students’ scientific inquiry, teachers use technologies to access real-world examples to vividly illustrate the nature of science as complex, social, and challenging (p. 409).” This WISE project illustrates just that. By slowly breaking down this project into smaller chunks; this project includes scaffolding to assist the students seek information related to the problem.

What about basics first, structured problem solving and guided generation methods? (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992). Do teachers need to teach their students certain concepts or methods before they let them research it on their own? Or do they prefer to let students find out their own answer? I believe the WISE project I’ve chosen to examine here doesn’t need a basics first method of teaching. The students have enough information given to delve deeper and find the information out on their own. Would it be more beneficial to the students if they were in groups and had the SenseMaker tool attached to the project? Most definitely.


Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1992). The Jasper experiment: An exploration of issues in learning and instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development40, 65-80.

Kim, M. C., & Hannafin, M. J. (2011). Scaffolding problem solving in technology-enhanced learning environments (TELEs): Bridging research and theory with practice. Computers & Education56(2), 403-417.

Linn, M. C., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. D. (2003). WISE design for knowledge integration. Science education87(4), 517-538.

To Anchor Instruction Or Not?

A great example of anchored instruction is in the Jasper series videos. Anchored instruction, also known as instructional design, includes engaging and problem rich environments that allow learners to understand the how, why and when to use different concepts and strategies (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992). This is exactly the direction the new BC curriculum is heading; collaborative, inquiry-based learning. However, for the Jasper series to be used effectively, depends on the teaching model used. Basics first, structured problem solving or guided generation.

What the Jasper series does by using videos, is it allows students to put real world problem solving skills to the test. I know for a fact that many teachers, including myself, are stuck on the basics first model instruction. This is where the teacher finds the need to implicitly teach a certain concept before allowing the students to run free with the problem being presented to them. Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992) are arguing against this and says it defeats the anchored instruction model. They are more aligned with the structured problem solving and guided generation practices. In the structured problem solving theory, students are given possible outcomes to a problem. They have to determine which one is correct, which eventually eliminates student errors. The ideal theory, according to Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1992), is guided generation. The teacher acts more of a facilitator while the students are the leaders and asking themselves questions in a collaborative environment.

Something that the Jasper series allows students to see, is the complexity of real-world problems.  A misconception that students face, is that everyday problems don’t involve a simple step to solve it (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1992). If teachers are stuck doing the basics first model, then students might not understand how to solve real-world problems.

What happens if learners are reluctant to work in group settings? What if they get frustrated? According to McCombs and Pope’s (1994) discussion on hard to reach students; the learning environment needs to include instructional practices that allow students to see real world experiences by using their minds (as cited in Hickey, Moore & Pellegrino, 2001). The Jasper series is a perfect example that showcases just that. There’s very limited reading involved too, just watching and listening. This might motivate some students as well.

Assessment? How does a teacher effectively assess their students who use the Jasper series? Ongoing formative assessment is key according to Gersten, Chard, Jayanthi, Baker, Morphy and Flojo, 2009. It can be in the form of written or verbal feedback which will help students be accountable and engaged in their learning.

I have used Khan Academy with my math group before and have heard about Mathletics, although you have to purchase the latter and therefore have not used it. What I liked about Khan Academy, is that students can complete missions. Missions are tailored math programs depending on their ability. At our school, we platoon for math and I had the ‘low’ ability group. I thought Khan Academy would capture their interest, but it was anything but. My students didn’t want to watch math videos, collect badges or take the time to learn themselves. They wanted direct instruction. I thought this was strange since they were using school iPads to complete their work and it was a self-pace program. This is not like the Jasper series in that the students were working in groups, but rather alone. I wonder if they would be more engaged if they completed the missions in partners or in groups? Would collaborative learning work better in this case? What if the range of math abilities is so wide in class, such as in mine? Would collaborative work be more beneficial to the students or using the basics first model so they know the multiplication chart before they work on the problem?

Another pitfall I had with Khan Academy, is the assessment portion. I was able to see on the teacher’s account what they completed, but there was no online quizzes or feedback other than calling each student up to my desk and showing them how they were doing in each lesson. I would have appreciated a quicker assessment model with this program, but in the end I cancelled it since my students didn’t’ want to do it anymore.


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, 65-80.

Gersten, R., Chard, D. J., Jayanthi, M., Baker, S. K., Morphy, P., & Flojo, J. (2009). Mathematics instruction for students with learning disabilities: A meta-analysis of instructional components. Review of Educational Research, 79(3), 1202-1242.

Hickey, D. T., Moore, A. L., & Pellegrino, J. W. (2001). The motivational and academic consequences of elementary mathematics environments: Do constructivist innovations and reforms make a difference?. American Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 611-652.




How important is it for teachers to know subject matter content? Pedagogical content? Curriculum content? According to Shulman (1986) and Mishra and Koehler (2006), all three questions raised (known as PCK) play an integral part in teacher education programs. Is one more important than the other? Should teachers focus on pedagogy more as opposed to subject knowledge?  This is where there is a divide between scholars, school districts, teachers and students alike. They should not be separated from one another, but interwoven.

For example, in January of this year, the Vancouver School Board (VSB) had introduced an aptitude test for potential teachers. On Make a future website, it states:

           The multiple choice, timed assessment is called EPI:  Educators Professional Inventory and it covers three domains: teaching skills, attitudinal factors and cognitive ability.  You have 90 minutes to complete the test but on average, it takes about 45 minutes to complete.  The assessment is from the U.S. and occasionally will use educational terms that are not used in Canada.  For example, several questions refer to the Standards which means the key concepts and skills in the curriculum. You may want to have a pen and paper ready before you begin the test.

Apparently, these types of test were conducted for incoming teachers as far back as 1875. Is this how we still measure teacher’s abilities when it comes to subject knowledge, pedagogy and curriculum content? More recently in the United States of America, such tests don’t mention subject content, but more about cultural awareness, management, assessment, educational policies and procedures (Shulman, 1986). At the heart of PCK is the way in which subject matter is transformed for teaching.  This happens when teachers interpret the subject matter and finds alternative ways to showcase it and make it accessible for students (Mishra & Koehler, 2006). With this, comes technology.

Added to the mix is technology, or TCPK. Educators must know how technology relates to content and pedagogy. Working in the 21st century, technology is always one step ahead of the game, with students knowing more about technology than teachers do half the time.  I think it’s extremely important for educators to take it upon themselves. They need to be informed about the importance of not just the subject matter they teach, but the manner in which the subject matter can be changed with technology (Mishra & Koehler, 2006).

An example I will share of teaching a particular concept, is the scientific method. Today was the day where the 2 science classes I teach showcased their science fair projects to other classes. This was the first time I took on 55+ kids in one setting and I couldn’t be happier with their results. What I think worked well, was scaffolding the project of breaking down the steps that are involved in the scientific method week by week. One week, we would just focus on coming up with a testable question, then the next week focus on their hypothesis etc. The students were able to manage their time better this way and I believe this produced better results in their overall project display.


Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers college record, 108(6), 1017.

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

Make A Future. Retrieved from:

The 7Cs of Learning Design

Jonassen’s (2000) quote resonated with me, “[S]tudents learn from thinking in meaningful ways. Thinking is engaged by activities, which can be fostered by computers or teachers.” The ideal technology-enhanced learning experience (TELE) in a math or science class would incorporate collaborative group work with the use of digital technology, using the 7Cs of Learning Design.

One of the key challenges facing educators today, is designing for learning. Conole (2014) has outlined the development and evaluation of a framework for learning design titled, The 7Cs of Learning Design. They consist of: conceptualize, capture, create, communicate, collaboration, consider and consolidate. The idea is, for teachers to you use this framework while designing learning experiences to create more engaging learning interventions for their students.


Conole, G. (2014). The 7Cs of Learning Design—A new approach to rethinking design practice. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Networked Learning (pp. 502-509).

Jonassen, D. H. (2000). Computers as mindtools for schools, 2nd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill/ Prentice Hall. Retrieved from Google Scholar: