Category Archives: B. SKI

Collecting Plates


For my WISE exploration, I chose to tinker with a unit on Plate Tectonics (ID: 19749).  I really liked the way the original author set up her/his unit.  I made a few changes to reflect some elements that are important to me.  First, I replaced a number of static diagrams with GIFs.  It seemed silly to me to show dynamic processes with a static image – if the technology can demonstrate the concept more accurately, then do it!  Second, I did away with the “Extra Credit” section.  These always feel like the domain of mark counters, and I don’t want my students motivated by that.  The irony was that many of the most interesting activities that the original author created were dubbed “Extra Credit”.  I kept the activities, but dropped the moniker.

For my lesson (directed at grade 8 students), I am going to begin by having students generating driving questions with the ultimate goal of using the questions to motivate student inquiry.  Each student will generate questions and do some initial information gathering to see if their inquiry is generating interesting, satisfying information.  The WISE will be a source of information for them and act as a jumping off point for their big questions.  Students will investigate their questions with the goal of creating a record of their inquiry in the form of an experiment, a presentation, a video, a podcast, etc..  Each student will participate win a roundtable where they will ask questions about the work, methods, and research of their peers with an aim to improve their inquiry skills through collaborative discussion.  Finally, my students will reflect on their process – assessing their learning, highlighting areas they are proud of, and identifying difficulties they had and how they can address then in their next inquiry.

One of the key goals of WISE’s and Scaffolded Knowledge Integration is to make science accessible (Linn, Clark, & Slotta, 2003).  One of the ways that access is improved with the WISE, is that it is available to the student whenever it is needed.  Unlike a teacher, who is accessible during class time, or a text that, for many students, requires interpretation or guidance for understanding, the WISE can meet the student wherever/whenever they want to learn.  Giving students this resource is another way to manage the proliferation and entrenchment of misconceptions.  In the movie A Private Universe, access to visual models seemed to help students break down their incorrect impressions of scientific concepts/processes.

Finally, the WISE format lends itself nicely to providing timely feedback to my students on their understanding. Hattie & Tamperly (2007) describe feedback as a tool to reduce disparities between understanding and performance.  The marked ‘quizzes’ and predictive writing in the WISE would allow me to keep an eye on student understanding and respond promptly with questions, corrections, or prompts to help shrink the gap between student understanding and performance.



Hattie, H. & Timperly, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.

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

Is It Getting Hot in Here?

I explored the project titled “What Impacts Global Climate Change”, as while I do not teach science, I identified a potential connection to social studies as well.  This project is an excellent opportunity for interdisciplinary exploration.  While the majority of the project appears to be effective as is, I introduced the Maldives as a case study example of the potential consequences of rising sea levels.  Ideally, students would be able to connect with the issue of global warming and rising sea levels through either the plight of the Bengal Tigers or the threat to humans.  Most students should be able to make a connection to how their own lives would be impacted if water was encroaching on their living space.  I also added a brainstorm question at the beginning of the fourth activity that asks the students to suggest ways they and their families can reduce their carbon footprint.  After working through the remainder of activity four and activity five, students are asked the same question again.  Student responses in both instances are entered anonymously in an effort to encourage students to be open and honest, and to build a collective set of options for the class.  Additionally, students must submit their own response before being able to see their peers’ responses, so as to appeal to their actual personal thoughts, and not simply what they feel like everyone else is saying or expects.

Using this WISE project with my grade 8/9 class, I would begin with a graffiti style brainstorm in which students are presented with blank pages titled “global warming”, “greenhouse gas”, and “human impact” spread throughout the classroom.  Students have a certain amount of time at each station to add any of their initial ideas to the brainstorming sheets.  These initial brainstorms will help us organize what we already know, what we think we know, and what we want to find out.  Students will then begin to work through the WISE modules at their own pace.  This allows students to move more quickly or take more time as needed to further their personal understanding.  At the end of each class, students will be given a sticky note on which to write a question about the concepts that they still want to learn more about.  We will compile our ongoing questions on a class “I Wonder” board.  These questions can be basic knowledge questions or deeper conceptual connection questions.  We will take time as a class to revisit our questions on Wednesdays and Friday to see which questions students can provide answers or elaboration to and which questions require further inquiry.

The weaving of varied feedback opportunities throughout both the online activity sequence and the oral discussions should work towards what Hattie and Temperley identify as the purpose of feedback – the reduction of discrepancies between current understandings and performance and a desired goal.  The ongoing question board is one meaning of helping students to set goals and purpose for their inquiry.  Since the questions are student-generated, they should also be connected to the interests of the students themselves, hopefully encouraging them to embrace the inquiry process both inside and outside of the classroom.  As students work through their self-paced work, I am available to check in with students in sustained interactions to gauge their understanding and help address misconceptions.  SKI principles are addressed through students needing to be able to rationalize their choices and explain their thinking process, addressing prerequisite knowledge gaps in small group and one-on-one support sessions, encouraging students to share their learning with one another to approach the class-generated questions, and striving to support the personal learning interests of the students.  Ideally, I would like to follow up the WISE project with students applying their learning in the development of a personal action plan or community project to promote positive citizenship and real-life application of learning.


Hattie, H. & Timperly, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.

Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003). 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 and Technology, 13(2), 189-206

Chemical Reactions on Slowing Down Climate Change (ID 19732)

The WISE project proves to be an inspiring online solution to motivating students to think, collaborate, predict, experiment, analyze, and synthesize thoughts in science.  I see using this platform for my online classes to take my students further in their thinking.

Initially, I found the authoring tool to be a little overwhelming like all new things but soon I got the hang of editing.  Below are a list of edits and the though process behind them.

1. Step 1.2: This is a survey that has two questions. Question 1 asks a yes/no question on humans having a role in climate change and question 2 asks Explain your answer.  I changed question 2 to “If Yes, explain two  ways that humans have affected climate change.  If No, give two reasons why humans have not played a role in climate change”. Thought Process: Using SKI theory, it us much better to to ask students questions with little more focus to get them thinking about certain ideas, in this case the intention is to find out exactly how students think humans impact climate change, simply saying explain your answer doesn’t really provide enough scaffolding to develop the direction of thought as the teacher visions.

2.Step 1.3: This page launches straight into the greenhouse gas effect that explains how the atmosphere keeps our land temperature warm.  I think there is an assumption here that students already know what a greenhouse is and how it works so a video on greenhouses themselves was added first.  Thought Process: To scaffold the connection between a greenhouse and the greenhouse effect of gases in the atmosphere, I added a video explaining greenhouses first, and ask students to watch the second video on greenhouse gas effect after. 

3. The rest of the WISE project is laid out well asking insightful questions. However, the project discusses a number of different topics like greenhouse effect, the role played by CO2, and hydrocarbons, stoichiometry, limiting reactants etc.  I would break up this WISE project into different sections throughout the course, coming back to it as an ongoing assignment as more of the background knowledge is discussed.  Thought Process: It is important to first get students comfortable with basic knowledge first regarding the atmosphere, gases, reactions, stoichiometry, and limiting reactants first before connecting these ideas to climate change.  Hence it is not fair to discuss all of these topics and apply them to climate change at once. 

Possible Lesson Plan in sequence that may take several classes.  It would be important to address any misconceptions students might have about the atmosphere and its gases during the explanation phases.

  1. Explanation of the atmosphere in general and the make up of its gases.
  2. Explanation of terms like radiation and heat energy and their connection with earth’s temperature.
  3. First exposure to the WISE project connecting the concept of a greenhouse to greenhouse effect of the atmosphere.
  4. Explanation of chemical reactions in general along with the concept of stoichiometry and limiting reactants.
  5. Continuing the WISE project further to complete the discussion on how chemical reactions are impacting climate change.


Is Global Warming for Real?

“Learning environments that concentrate on conveying to students what scientists already know do not promote inquiry. Rather, an emphasis on inquiry asks that we think about what we know, why we know, and how we have come to know” (National Research Council, 2000, p. 5-6)

The projects available through WISE, and the theory behind the concepts of WISE and SKI, provide an opportunity for students to engage in a variety of interactive activities to support the development of critical thinking and inquiry, as well as increasing engagement and motivation. Based on the four tenets of Scaffolded Knowledge Integration (SKI), “(1) making thinking visible, (2) making science accessible, (3) helping students learn from each other, and (4) promoting lifelong learning,” (Linn, et al., 2003, p. 524) information is delivered through a variety of techniques. This allows for students to engage in the learning process through multiple senses, and for information to be received and interpreted through a range of learning experiences (i.e., visual, auditory, and tactile) as students view images and videos, and then respond by answering multiple choice questions, predicting, hypothesizing, and writing or drawing. This mixture of mediums takes into account various learning styles and supports learning as well as retention of information for students.

In terms of the structuring of student learning, the WISE projects provide various supports to scaffold learning for students in a more independent environment, which is beneficial for educators as well. The WISE projects guide students through the learning process, with step-by-step instructions and information delivery to appeal to a variety of learning styles. This connects well with Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development which can look different depending on the setting, but “can include people, adults and children, with various degrees of expertise, but it can also include artifacts, such as books, videos, wall displays, scientific equipment and a computer environment intended to support intentional learning” (Brown and collaborators, 1992, 1993, as cited by John-Steiner & Mahn, 1996, p. 198-199), as students are given the opportunity to move from assisted learning, to more independent learning and output, through the guidance provided by the projects. Linn, Clark, and Slotta (2003) discuss the fact that the WISE platform “incorporates an inquiry map to communicate the patterns that students follow to investigate a topic. The map enables students to work individually and independently on their projects, rather than constantly asking the teacher for guidance on what to do next (Feldmann, Konold, & Coulter, 2000; Edelson, Gordin, & Pea, 1999; Linn & Hsi, 2000)” (pp. 521-522).

There were many aspects of the WISE projects that I really enjoyed, and I generally found that projects offered a very good mixture of information, key terms, visuals, videos, and inquiry, allowing students to access and build upon their prior knowledge, as well as encouraging deeper-thinking through scaffolded instruction and activities. Gobert, Snyder, and Houghton (2002) discuss being “scientifically literate” as “understanding science content, having scientific process and inquiry skills, and understanding the nature of science, i.e., what is taken as evidence (Perkins, 1986)” (p. 1) and these points are supported through the WISE project framework.
I chose to explore and customize the existing WISE project titled, “What Impacts Global Climate Change?” (ID 9028), created in November, 2015, and owned by Crystal Mosteiro. The project is listed under “Earth Science” and is aimed at grades 6-8. The summary details the project as follows: “Students investigate how energy from the Sun affects global temperature and their role in global climate change.” While there were many aspects of the existing project that I thought were well done, there were some changes that I felt needed to be made to adapt the project to fit my personal teaching style.

The first change I made was in the “Introduction” section of the project. The existing project started students off with a title that said “How do my actions contribute to global climate change?” along with three bullets explaining what students will learn in section 1 of the project. While I feel this is a great question, and the learning intentions for the particular section were clear, I did not feel that the entire project was properly introduced, and I felt that prior knowledge and misconceptions were not adequately addressed. As a result, the first change I made was to create a new “activity” (I put it at the very beginning of the existing project) to “hook” students’ interest and then to attempt to access prior knowledge and misconceptions. I started by adding three “steps” to my new activity section. The first two steps were the “hook” and consisted of two different photos taken from NASA’s “Global Climate Change” site. The first photo showed an image of the Alaska Range, Bear Glacier in 1909. The second photo showed a picture of the same glacier in 2005. Pictures were shown in separate steps (1909 image first, 2005 image second) and students were asked to respond to each picture: “1) List at least 5 things you notice in this picture 2) Why are each of these things important? (OR you may ask a question related to each of the 5 things you noticed).” While I did enter these into the actual project, I am tempted to do these as a “paper-based” activity (as a t-chart) as a class prior to beginning the project. Following students’ submissions, I would like to do a “whip around” together as a class and have each student tell me one of their responses to the questions online (or on paper, depending on how I would end up doing it). Following this, I added a step to access prior knowledge and potentially identify misconceptions that asks two questions that relate to major concepts behind the project: “What is global climate change?” and “Is global warming real?” Again, I would want to discuss students’ responses together as a class to enable students to collectively share prior knowledge, and also to attempt to dispel misconceptions students have prior to beginning the lessons.

The next major change I made was to add a video, also from NASA, titled “Following Carbon Dioxide Through the Atmosphere.” This is a short video that I feel students will find interesting, showing the movement of Carbon Dioxide through Earth’s atmosphere over the course of a year (September 2014-September 2015). I believe the video could also prompt some wonderful class discussions about carbon dioxide emissions in our world.

My final major change was to add a hands-on project where students are asked to create a model to demonstrate one thing they have learned/found particularly interesting which answers one of the initial (introduction) project questions, “Is global warming real?” While I have obviously never used this WISE project in my classroom, so I do not yet know how students will respond, I am envisioning models that could incorporate recycled materials, plasticine, and natural materials (found outside), and so on. Models will be 3-D and students will write paragraphs to explain how their models effectively demonstrate the reality of global warming.
One thing that I did not like about this project and I would hope to change in the future is that the majority of the “questionnaire” questions did not provide students with immediate feedback (although a few did). One thing I loved about the “What makes a good cancer medicine?: Observing mitosis and cell processes (ID: 9924)” project was that the match and sequence questions provided information once my answers were submitted. Adding this feature to the climate change project, would allow students immediate feedback (correct/incorrect) to their responses, as well as providing information to explain why their answer was correct/incorrect which I think is valuable.


Alaska Range, Bear Glacier [images]. (1909; 2005). NASA: Global Climate Change. Retrieved from

Following carbon dioxide through the atmosphere . (2016). NASA. Retrieved from

Gobert, J., Snyder, J., & Houghton, C. (2002, April). The influence of students’ understanding of models on model-based reasoning. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), New Orleans, Louisiana. Retrieved from:

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

Mosteiro, C. (2015). What impacts global climate change? WISE. Retrieved from

National Research Council. (2000). Chapter 1: Inquiry in Science and in Classrooms. Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9596.

John-Steiner, V. & Mahn, H. (1996). Sociocultural approaches to learning and development: A Vygotskian framework. Educational Psychologist, 31(3/4), 191-206.

My WISE Exploration: Getting Real with Graphs

The very first search I made in the WISE platform was “Grade 9 – 12, Physics”.
One lesson came up. (Three really, but only one was in English.)


I am a fan of not reinventing wheels, so having read many pages of research about the affordances of WISE, I was eager to dive into a plethora of ready-to-go senior Physics activities. Sadly, I was not off to a very good start.

So back to the instructions I went and began looking at the suggested lessons. Thankfully, the suggested lessons were well chosen and left a really great second impression! The project that I tinkered around in was the Graphing Stories (with motion probes). Although it was categorized for Middle School grades, I found that much of it also could apply to the current (but soon to be turfed) BC Science 10 and even a Physics 11 course.

Without any trouble, I added another activity and played around with some “steps”. Adapting the “story” to an older student would be fairly easy and I think the project is fairly good “as is”. I am very impressed that the WISE interface can integrate Vernier Motion Detectors, although it appears that not all probes have been programmed into WISE.

Where my hesitations exist with WISE in general, is substituting a simulation with real equipment and real data collecting. I appreciate, however, that WISE opens doors to exploring questions that CAN’T be done in the classroom. I particularly like that the Graphing Stories weaves in the work with the motion detectors– getting students to move their bodies to produce the position-time graphs is fabulous.

For Physics 11, I would definitely add in an activity that utilizes, “The Universe and More’s Graphing Challenge”. Also, I would add in Mazur’s Peer Instruction process to get students’ misconceptions identified and resolved. Both of these “add ons” would layer more elements of SKI, via all four of SKI’s main tenets:
1. Making thinking visible;
2. Making science visible;
3. Providing collaborative opportunities; and
4. Promoting lifelong learning. (Linn, Clark, & Slotta, 2002)
Another limitation with WISE is that on assessment pages, it allows for students to keep guessing when incorrect answers are given. I appreciate the effort to reduce the number of points after each choice has been made, however, for students who are disengaged, they will merely keep guessing until they are correct, as opposed to rereading or rewatching the material. Teachers may have a false sense of what their students actually know, because of this.

Without question, research has repeatedly shown that the reflection process is a critical piece to one’s learning process. This week’s reading reported on a study that 90% of students participate in asynchronous reflections with two or more pieces of evidence, compared to only 15% of students and little evidence, in a class discussion model (Linn, Clark, & Slotta, 2002). Should student blogging not be established in one’s classroom, WISE provides a great way to take advantage of this research.

To diverge a tad bit, I have an overall concern with the lack of face-to-face experiences that we are having in our society. Most of us are likely old enough to remember how tacky it was to break-up with someone over the phone, but these days, a phone conversation “to do the deed” is more commonly replaced with a e-mail or a text. Although, screens engage our students in ways that worksheets can not, having discussions that are not typed has got to be woven into our practices still. And for that reason, combined with the importance of actually using equipment to collect data, I can not see myself adopting WISE to any great extent. I would, however, consider using it for a lesson, or two.

I am such a Moderate, when it comes to teaching!

If you are unfamiliar with Peer Instruction, there is much out there in YouTubeLand.  Here is a relatively short introduction to the process told by Mazur himself:

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

I’m So Hot – Solar Oven Inquiry

I chose to customize a project on solar ovens. Last year with my grade 3 students we looked at solar energy and conducted an inquiry project with solar ovens. The topic of solar energy was schoolwide and led to our BC Green Games project (which we ended up winning! You can find more information on my class blog post, here). Originally I found What Impacts Global Climate Change? (ID 9028), but then shortly after I found Solar Radiation and Solar Ovens (ID 19409). The Solar Radiation and Solar Ovens appears to be an updated version of the Global Climate Change project, with more current features and focused more towards solar ovens. When I went to use the Authoring Tool, however, it would not come up, only the first one. I decided to customize the first one, even though I would want to use the second one. I added a cute video I found, starring ‘Frank the Photon’, who was a big hit among my students.

Depending on the length of the study, I am also tempted to add an element of claymation/stop motion for my students to further explore the topic. Both activities of creating a stop motion video and designing and building a solar oven to test are scaffolding with opportunities for students to Question, Hypothesize, Investigate, Analyze, Model, and Evaluate (Kim & Hannafin, 2011).

I found the Authoring Tool in WISE very simple to use, I just wish I could have used it for the newer project! My version is now ID 19751. While I do really like the features in WISE that allow students to collect “Ideas” both publicly and privately, I would also add a community element into a project I used so that students could be building a shared understanding. Using a class blog, or Google Classroom, or even a padlet to facilitate a group discussion would be beneficial. As Kim & Hannafin (2011) point out, “social-networking technologies foster a wide range of opportunities for scientists to collaborate and build knowledge simultaneously through distributed reasoning” (p. 414).

Another video I would add into the project was the Story Bots song, “I’m So Hot”, hence my catchy title ;). I look forward to further exploring WISE!

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.

Discovering New Lands!

To investigate WISE projects more closely, I selected “Plate Tectonics with Automated Essay Guidance” (ID: 18449) to view.  The project leads students through a lesson on plate tectonics, the forces that drive their movement, and the results geological features that they produce.  I felt that the lessons two main teaching objectives (visualizing and understanding the convection currents in the mantle that drive plate tectonics, and the geographical features that the plate interactions produce), were well suited to both WISE and SKI principles.

WISE, as described by Linn, Clark, and Slotta (2002), aims to “making thinking visible, making Science accessible, helping students learn from each other, and promoting lifelong learning.”  As such, this particular WISE project starts by connecting students to their prior knowledge by reflecting on various US geological features such as mountains and volcanoes.  It then guides students into exploring the concept of plate boundaries and provides them a scaffolded, inquiry-based path to understanding how plates move and ways plates can interact with each other, using animations and formative assessments along the way.  It then concludes with putting the ideas together and having students explain convection currents and plate movements, and even provides an extension “Challenge” lesson that encourages students to consider geological events in other parts of the world as well as other activities such as building a model or identifying mystery locations.  This last section helps to foster lifelong learning by having students apply their knowledge to other parts of the world they may not have seen before.

For my modification, I focused on the “Graphing Challenge” component that asked students to graph the changing density of the wax blob in a lava lamp over time.  Instead of the graphing, I replaced it with a “Discovering New Land” component that was similar to an analysis activity I did a few years prior with my Science 10 class.  In the modification of the WISE project, the students are provided with a fantasy map of an island with various Earth-like features such as mountain ranges, valleys, volcanoes, and shoreline similarities between landmasses and islands.  The students are asked, in a response box, to list the features that they can identify, using reflection notes to record their reasoning.  The section after supplies students with a transparent map of the fantasy world’s tectonic plates, overlaid on top of the original map.  Using the “label” function, the students are tasked with deducing the direction of each plate’s movement based on the geological features being produced.  Finally, students are given response boxes to justify their choices of plate direction as a means of assessing their understanding.

While my students had completed this activity using pen, paper, and a few sets of the maps, the WISE project allows for a more interactive, individually-paced method of presenting the same assignment.  The ability to dynamically add labels and keep reflection notes along the way ensures that students can mark up the maps as they consider the problem at hand, whereas the pen and paper method was more limited due to the fact that the master maps had been laminated to preserve them and other logistical factors.  Overall, this WISE method would provide greater freedom for students to explore their learning compared to more traditional methods.



Linn, M., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. (2003. Wise design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 516-538

Adventures with Velocity Girl and Accelerato

The article by Linn, Clarke and Slotta (2002) WISE Design for Knowledge integration discusses a Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE). “WISE integrates modern technologies to create flexibly adaptive materials that bend, not break when customized to support new school contexts and state standards. We align professional development, knowledge integration, and flexibly adaptive curricula to build on the commitments and talents of teachers as well as the constraints and opportunities of their classroom contexts rather than imposing new practices without concern for past successes (e.g. Corcoran, Shields, & Zucker, 1998; NSTA, 1996, 2001) (p. 518).”

The WISE framework incorporates the use of scaffolded knowledge integration (SKI) to accomplish the following goals: 1) make thinking visible, 2) make science accessible, 3) students learn from each other, and 4) promote lifelong learning. 

I chose to adapt the WISE module Hanging With Friends (ID: 4) This project helps students integrate verbal, animated, and algebraic representations of velocity. Students interact with 3 dynamic models that help students relate velocity, position, and time. Students apply this knowledge to solve a real-world problem (Module Description).

This project was slated for grades 6-8, having taught all the grades in this range I felt that I needed to adapt the introduction of the unit. The WISE version immediately jumps in with having students try to define or explain the difference between speed and velocity. In my experience students, would not be able to do this without prior information and while they could make an educated guess the second activity does not address any misconceptions the students may have. (Most staff members I asked to explain the difference faltered).

My adaptations included the introduction of videos that explain motion and velocity at a grade 6-8 students level. These included Bill Nye the Science Guy, Dr. Skateboard and Physics Motion Lessons in a straight line. I then included an activity where students could change their definitions of speed and velocity (addressing any misconceptions they may have had). After these introductory lesson changes, I then included a try it yourself activity where students (in partners) used stop watches and measured distances to solve the equations.

My final adaptation to the WISE unit was to create a final culminating activity that would have students use stop watches and measured distances (outdoors) to look at the concepts when someone is walking, running, on a bike and on a skateboard. Once the calculations have been made students could graph their findings using the GAFE’s. Once they have done the calculations and created the graph the final step would be for them to video record themselves explaining their process, their results and what they can conclude from the experiment as well as how they could apply this in a new situation.

This final activity incorporates the TPACK framework of Mishra and Koehler (2006), the scaffolding of information (SKI) as well as the co-operative effect of students working in pairs and discussing their findings and questions. [This is noted as an important pedagogical technique by Gobert, Snyder and Houghten (2002) they state as educators we need to “Make science accessible for all students where accessibility has two meanings: to engage students in problems that they find personally relevant, and to engage students at an appropriate level of analysis and explanation, rather than load them down with abstract scientific models of phenomena which do not readily connect with students’ ideas (p. 2).”]

I could see using many of the WISE projects with the grade six to eight population. Many of the modules I looked at were self-directed enough and novel enough to allow students to investigate without much prior knowledge. I think the grade 6-8 students would also enjoy some of the human-interest modules like Make a Better Cancer Medicine, Who Inherits Cystic Fibrosis and Ocean Bottom Trawling.


Gobert, J., Snyder, J., & Houghton, C. (2002, April). The influence of students’ understanding of models on model-based reasoning. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), New Orleans, Louisiana. This is a conference paper. Retrieved conference paper Saturday, October 29, 2013 from:

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

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

Hot Stuff – Heat Energy Transfer

There were a couple of projects that intrigued my interest as they related directly to what I would be teaching next in my science class. After exploring both of them, I settled on How Does Heat Energy Move. This one explores the different ways that heat energy is transferred. This project covers the types of heat transfer and allows for student predictions, experimentation, data recording, and reflections or revisiting previous ideas to allow for changes in knowledge and understanding.

This project begins with a bit of an introduction for the students but, since most of them will not have had much experience with the concept previously, I would want to do an Anticipation Guide or KWL with the class to gauge their prior knowledge before starting to get an idea of where they may need more support as they go through the project. The project itself meets all of the requirements for the science expectations covering the transfer of heat and required little adjustment. There are places where the students can investigate scientific phenomena through digital examples which display the transfer much more effectively than doing a physical experiment, and there are places where the students can pause the project to conduct some physical experiments on their own.

The main drawback to both the projects I explored was the use of temperature probes as part of the equipment linked to the graphing system within the project. We do not have access to these probes and rely on school thermometers to measure the temperature for class experiments. I adapted this part of the lesson to use the thermometers but since they are not connected to the graphing link, the students need to create the requisite graphs by hand. This is unfortunate as noted by Slotta & Linn, when students constructed a graph by hand, they often lost sight of the purpose of the experiment and were distracted by the graphing procedure. In contrast, when they could observe the probe collecting data and watched the graph form automatically on the screen, they were able to notice important qualitative characteristics of the system (Slotta, Linn, 2009). For instance, they could actually see the plateau when the water begins to boil, rather than try to deduce this from their data. I have seen this disconnect in the classroom when students are recording the data and creating the graph by hand. Although they record the data accurately and create the graph accurately, they are not able to make the connection to the energy being used to change states instead of heating the water. An adjustment or inclusion I might make here would be to include a visual of some sort, video or digital experiment, which shows the graph being created as the water boils so the students could make the connection more easily. It would make more sense to them to watch it after they had done the experiment themselves.

These projects would fit naturally into my classroom as the students are quite familiar with using a variety of digital tools and programs. It would take them a short time to figure out the logistics but they would soon be able to move through the project quite independently. There are plenty of ways for the teacher to scaffold the information for the students as they work through the project, and dispel any misconceptions as they arise. The project provides a good mix of digital technologies and hands on experiences, to give the students an opportunity to practice the necessary skills. Following the TPCK model, the content of the project follows the curriculum expectations closely and allows the use of technology to deliver the content, as well as allowing the students to prove and explain their understanding within the project. This allows the teacher to give students timely feedback as they work through the project, rather than waiting for a culminating activity at the end. It combines many of the 21st Century Learning Skills that are a necessity for students to be successful today, in a fairly user friendly digital environment. I am looking forward to using this in my classroom for our next science unit.



Slotta, J.D. & Linn, M.C. WISE Science: Inquiry in the Internet in the Science Classroom. Teachers College Press. 2009

Around and Around We Go

This week I took a look at the Orbital motion and the ISS WISE activity. The interface was a little daunting to start with so I simply began at the beginning and started small. I was able to make some formatting changes easily and worked in a new writing prompt early asking students to come up with additional examples of artificial and natural satellites and to defend their answers. The previous step was about what makes a sattelite and the difference between artificial and natural ones so it seemed an opportune time to activate prior knowledge and build the habit of gathering evidence. I also added some additional prompts to the intro screen about collecting evidence that gave the students clues about what sorts of information to look for and what types of projects/tests this would be needed for. I figured that if they knew what to look for and why it was important to find, they would pay closer attention to the text on the first reading thus building positive habits for traditional text reading/decoding.


While I did not work it in to the project framework, I did explore the Phet Simulations activity. These little simulations allow students to play with different physical systems. I managed to locate one on earth/sun/moon/satellite orbits where the masses, play speed, and gravity could be adjusted. I was able to test it out in my grade 6 class (who are conveniently studying astronomy) and we were able to explore how solar mass affected orbits and how velocity can play a part in escaping gravitational pull. We also managed to pull of a slingshot maneuver around the sun 🙂

As a lesson/group of lessons, this project was already fairly well tailored to my needs. Mainly in needed logistical prompts specific to my students and visualizations relevant to their day to day life. Distance analogies relating to places around the school and community were particularly helpful in getting my class to conceptualize solar system distances when we represented the sun with a beach ball and the earth with a marble.