Tag Archives: SKI

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


Materials available to assist science teachers in developing significant inquiry instruction for the numerous science standards and contexts are in short supply. Although most science standards and expectations require students to use inquiry based learning, many science classes are continuing to follow a more traditional step by step experiment based curriculum, where the outcomes are generally already known and very little discovery occurs.

WISE (Web-based Inquiry Science Environment) was developed to provide a way for teachers to promote more inquiry based learning into the classroom and integrate modern technologies and scientific concepts into an inquiry based activities that help students develop a more cohesive, coherent, and thoughtful account of scientific phenomena. It was developed specifically to provide a technologically enhanced learning environment for a wide community of science teachers and educational researchers. WISE bases its projects on the framework of scaffolded knowledge integration (SKI) consisting of four major tenets: 1) make thinking visible, 2) make science accessible, 3) students learn from each other, and 4) promote lifelong learning.  The WISE software allows curriculum designers to create inquiry projects using its technology features and curriculum design patterns based on the SKI framework. These patterns can be incorporated into new curriculum designs, or existing WISE projects can be modified for specific topic areas. Once the project design is completed, it is tested in a classroom context and observed by the design team. Once it has been tested successfully, the project is eligible to become part of the WISE library of projects.  Classroom teachers can customize these projects to suit the conditions in their own classrooms to meet specific student needs and classroom contexts.

This design process is different from the Jasper series in that each project is developed in a series of scaffolded steps to support the students’ learning as new concepts are introduced. These steps build upon information already known by the student or recently introduced through the project. Specific prompts are used throughout the project to aid students in linking and connecting ideas, critiquing their own progress, analyzing their own knowledge, and reflecting upon their own ideas. The Jasper series provides all the information required to solve a specific problem, but leaves the students to figure out the steps on their own or in small groups, with some guidance from a teacher. WISE promotes student collaboration using discussion prompts and partners, which is similar to the collaboration of small groups used in the Jasper series to solve the problems.

There are many ways to use the WISE projects within a school or classroom setting, and many that are specific to science curriculum expectations in Ontario. One way to use the project is as an introduction to the science concept and the inquiry process by allowing the students to work through the project at their own pace, using the scaffolding resources and teacher guidance. This would allow the students to make scientific discoveries independently, while limiting any misconceptions.

As the few WISE projects that I perused fit quite neatly into the science curriculum expectations for my grade, there is little that I would need to customize. However, many of the resources are specific to the project, such as the heat probes, which are not available in my school. These are connected to some of the data tables and graphs set up within the project and would be inaccessible to my students without the special equipment. I would have to change this part of the project to reflect the equipment available to me (thermometers) and consequently change the data collection method used for this part of the project. Unfortunately, some of the research states that this form of data collection where the student can see the changes in the graph as they hold the probe, solidifies the understanding for the student as it is in real time as opposed to students physically recording the data, creating the graph, and trying to interpret the results.

This is one of the drawbacks of the program in that there is an assumption or expectation that these tools are available or can be obtained for the project.