The Learning for Use (LFU) framework consists of a three-step process consisting of Motivation, Knowledge Construction, and Knowledge Refinement (Edelson 2001). I have chosen to apply such a framework to the grade 10 Space Science unit about the big ideas of the Big Band Theory and star system formations. There are several technologies which can aid in the LFU framework implementation with this unit such as Stellarium, and Universe Sandbox. Stellarium can be used to analyse stars and planets with scientific accuracy and locate these phenomena in the sky. Universe Sandbox on the other hand allows to interact with planets and star systems, many of which begin as factual, observed systems. This interaction can be anything from adjusting climate, rotational speed, to creating new planets, moons, and collisions.
Both technologies include factual information about celestial bodies around us. Students tend to have a natural curiosity about the world around them and these programs can help to scaffold their previous knowledge. Looking at the gravity (and in comparison, their weight) on different planets can begin to have students gain a deeper understanding to the scale of celestial bodies while linking it to their experiences on Earth. The further affordances of Universe Sandbox allow students to create the scenario of placing planets close to each other to see what the result would be (i.e. which would be the satellite, Earth or Mars?). The ability to play with this content means we can effectively merge motivation with knowledge construction.
Promoting Knowledge Construction
Through interacting with their previous knowledge, students can build new pathways and commit new information to memories. The more interaction with such tools can provide students with a greater understanding of how start systems function and can be perturbed. Being able to physically change variables of celestial bodies in Universe Sandbox allows students to physically interact with such concepts and to promote new knowledge construction. Some of the most notable experiences with such a program, is when students discover they can collide planets with asteroids, moons, other planets, and black holes. In an interesting parallel with the CERN Supercollider, students report on gaining interest and knowledge quite rapidly when they can smash celestial objects together.
“Reflection and application both make important contributions to the inherently cyclical nature of learning” (Edelson, 2001). Universe Sandbox allows students reflect on previously learned concepts on orbiting celestial bodies to apply this knowledge to construct new star systems; very quickly students realize that star systems are not easily constructed. This process of knowledge application can help reinforce knowledge for future retention and use.
I find that the process of LFU can be easily applied to games which keep students learning and exploring through their own self-interest. Using large online databases, games are beginning to merge scientific accuracy with entertainment. This creates a golden opportunity for technology in the classroom which can spark the learning process.
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. http://ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1002/1098-2736(200103)38:3<355::aid-tea1010>3.0.CO;2-M