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