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MLTI webinar May 10, 2012 – Science Session Four – Observation, Evidence and Data

Collecting plant data on a clipboard

public domain image

One of the prime advantages to using technology in the science classroom is the real-time, particpatory collection of data. Participants will be introduced to how Data Studio, Logger Pro, MyWorld, and Numbers can be used to deal with data. Vital Signs, a website from Gulf of Maine Research Institute allows students and teachers not only to interact with a database about invasive species, but also to contribute their own data and discuss results with other classes and even expert scientists. Zooniverse has a number of web-based astronomy centered databases tin which individuals can participate. Participants will examine how technology can support the collection, organization, and analysis of data for science learning and support the conversation about, communication of, and dissemination of data and evidence from and to selected scientific communities. We will also talk about alignment with the Scientific and Engineering Practices from the new Conceptual Framework.

I hope you can join us on Thursday, May 10 at 3:15pm or 7:15pm. Please click on the Webcasts tab to register. We have upgraded to a new registration system, allowing you to register directly in Adobe Connect, making the whole webinar process smoother and easier! If you have any questions, please contact Juanita Dickson. Click on the time you wish to participate in and you will be directed to an online registration form. Please type your email address carefully as all information will be sent to that address. After registering you will receive a confirmation email with a log in link – please use that link to log into the webinar prior to the start time.

March 29 Webinar – Learning Science By Doing Science (webinar links update-March 30)

March 25th, 2012 No comments
Paul Fenwick Does Science

CC 2.0 BY Paul Fenwick http://www.flickr.com/photos/pfenwick/

Looking at the Conceptual Framework for New Science Standards K-12, one of the major changes we see is how Scientific and Engineering practices form  a third of Standards platform, along with Core Principles and Crosscutting Concepts. So we are left with the question – How can technology support the practice of science?

There is a plethora of activities and “games” designed to help students learn science, but how can a teacher decide which ones are appropriate and aligned with standards and the curriculum? This session is designed to explore some of the best. From the apps on the MLTI device (ME Explorer, Molecular Workbench, GeniQuest, and NetLogo) to models and simulations on the web, participants will be able to see what could best apply to their classrooms, and then be released to explore even further on their own. Then they will be able to establish their own criteria for choosing, provide a context, and think about the curricular implications.

LearningScience (slides from the webinar)

If you missed the webinar on Thursday, March 29 at 3:15pm or 7:15pm, you can view the recording. Scroll down to the date and click on the time of the presentation you wish to view. Adobe Connect will open up with the recording.

Notes for April 7 Webinar – Play, Think, Learn

April 8th, 2011 No comments

It was in the late 70’s and early 80’s when Atari came out with the Lunar Lander and Asteroids games. I was “stoked” that these games represented an environment for understanding inertia and the other laws of motion, and wondered how I could bring that into my middle school classroom. But they were…games, not lessons, so it didn’t happen. Now that so many Maine 7-12 classrooms are 1:1 and kids have very sophisticated gaming systems, that type of environment has become almost second nature to our students.

So, what is it about gaming that engages the gamer? Our own Ruben Puentadura has offered a whole bunch of podcasts available from the Maine DOE iTunes site entitled “Game and Learn.” He suggests the motivators are these:

Cause and Effect – immediate feedback for effort, seeing results of action
Long Term Winning vs Short Term Gains – Tactics, strategy and problem solving
Order from Chaos – Isolating variables
Complex Systems Behaviors – Systems thinking
Obstacles Become Motivation – Accepting challenges and taking risks

If we look over the standards and pedagogy of successful science classrooms, these same motivators are definitely learning goals, as well.

So how can we leverage the tools that we have to enhance the learning of science? And, for that matter, what tools exist on the MLTI MacBook that can apply that leverage?

To begin with, Games Launcher offers Wolfquest, which has been covered briefly in another webinar. Also, ME Explorer has been explained in a webinar and a series of iTunes podcasts. And we could consider the student interaction with Data Studio and Logger Pro to address some of the motivators mentioned above.

Two applications on the MLTI image from Concord Consortium have been included on the image this year that pack a giant science punch by incorporating the immersive environments and concretizing of abstract concepts found in the gaming world. The Concord Consortium folder may be the most powerful and underutilized resource center for science that teachers need to discover.

Geniquest starts off with a fairly simple and engaging premise of breeding dragons…yes – dragons. Students move on to investigate more and more complex genetic concepts that build an amazing learning progression that develop a deeper understanding of the big ideas of heredity.

Molecular Workbench is both a library containing hundreds of models and activities in chemistry, biology,  and physics and it is also a toolbox for building your own custom-made activities with a good how-to manual.

Another MLTI tool that has remained fairly dormant is NetLogo. It, too, has an extensive library of models that support deeper understanding of science concepts through inquiry and interactivity. The models are set up using the mathematical constructs of various phenomena, stripping away some of the fuzziness of the real world, so users can focus on the basic interactions. My personal favorite is “Wolf-Sheep Predation” that models the predator-prey relationship. Students can adjust variables like initial populations, reproduction rates and energy accumulation to see what effects become apparent. The results are displayed in pictures, graphs, and numbers, following the good practice of multiple representations.

OK, those are a few of the tools on the MLTI image. What about teachers searching the web for appropriate standards-based activities that are appropriate for their curricula? There are a couple of websites that collect and review science resources and align them with learning goals, National Science Education Standards and Project 2061 Benchmarks. One of the is PRISMS from Maine Math and Science Alliance. Another is the National Science Digital Library Science Literacy Strand Map.

A visit to PRISMS gives the user a choice of science topics. A click will take you to a page that lists a set of Learning Goals. Pick one, and you will see the review that covers  information that parallels lesson planning, and a link to the resource. You get to see the strengths and weakness and suggestions for the teacher to integrate the activity into a lesson. I would promote PRISMS as a way for middle school science teachers to construct well crafted, technology-rich units that offer deeper understanding than textbooks alone.

The NSDL Science Literacy Strand Map uses the maps from the AAAS – Project 2061 Atlas of Science Literacy. The Atlas was designed to map out the ideas and skills that lead to literacy in science, mathematics, and technology might develop from kindergarten through 12th grade. NSDL has made the Atlas intereactive, allowing users to choose a major content area, pick a subtopic, and focus in on a particular content topic. Then the map is shown on the screen, with lines linking the specific 9-12 standards, showing the relationship among them and the progression from K to 12 of the content topic. If you click on one of the boxes, you get a list of links to resources about it, as well as references from NSES and Benchmarks. Also included on the map is a tab that opens up to explain the various student misconceptions about the chosen topic. Science teachers and departments would benefit greatly from using the Strand Map to design curriculum that aligns with standards and is sensitive to K-12 learning progressions.

Second Life (SL) and other virtual worlds deserve a good look, too. Scilands in SL offers a area that has islands devoted to NASA, NOAA, Exploratorium, genetics, astronomy, and many other science related themes. In many cases, the environment offers novel and interesting ways to interact with science concepts, like walking through an animal cell and learning about the different organelles. EduSim and Science Sim are a couple of other virtual worlds.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention PhET as a great resource for ready made, interactive science activities. Users can choose from an amazing number of java applets that can be accessed on the web, or downloaded to be included in NoteShare notebooks or teacher web pages. All of the resources are great, and many include a full lesson plan that can be adapted to individual lessons and units.

Good classroom practice demands that any of these resources need to exist in an appropriate learning context. As a teacher, you are responsible for addressing a number of factors to ensure that learning is taking place. Think of the questions you ask in a lesson plan:

What standards are being taught/learned?
What are the prerequisites needed?
How can the activity be differentiated appropriately?
Will this be part of an introduction, practice, homework, extension, or elaboration?
Will the students engage as individuals, small groups, or whole class?
What is your role as a teacher, facilitator, or Socratic coach?
How will the learning be assessed?

April 7 Webinar: Think, Play, Learn – Games, Models, and Simulations for Science

April 4th, 2011 No comments

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Generic by factoryjoe

Seymour Papert once said that learning should be “hard fun.” Teachers now have the opportunity to integrate games, models and simulations into their science curriculum, while implementing the 5 E’s (engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate.) This webinar includes demos of GeniQuest and Molecular Workbench and review other important apps on the MLTI image. In addition, the PRISMS website from MMSA, and the interactive Science Literacy Strand Map from the National Digital Science Library will be shown as valuable platforms for finding relevant web resources aligned with standards. The renewed emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) challenges teachers from all grade levels to examine ways to foster learning and understanding of esential science concepts. Join us as we investigate new avenues to the development of important science skills and content using the integration of technology.

Please join us at 3:15pm or 7:15pm on April 7th!  To register for this webinar, select the Webcasts tab at the top of the http://maine121.org page and select the time desired to be directed to online registration.

Making Meaning: Dec. 17 Webinar Notes

December 19th, 2009 No comments

This webinar was an introduction to modeling and simulation tools that are web-based, free downloads, or a part of the MLTI image. Future webinars will take a deeper look at these tools, but in the meantime you may want to download some of them and give them a try. These are the tools that were discussed or mentioned, organized according to the three modes of Bruner‘s theory of constructivism.

Enactive

Iconic

Symbolic

As you explore these tools and think about possible classroom uses, please share  your ideas with us in the comments section.

Making Meaning: Creating Reality

December 14th, 2009 No comments

Many folks might tell you that the difference between the Web and Web 2.0 is simple: You can interact with the Web; you create with Web 2.0. If you buy that, then this webinar is about Reality 2.0 – the reality you “create.” How can you create reality? By using modeling tools or programming. This webinar is a quick introduction to tools like Line Rider, programming languages like Squeak, Scratch and Alice, and the “Program a Bunny” activity in Maine Explorer. Before you tell yourself this is not your cup of tea, be assured that you, as a teacher, do not have to teach your students how to program. All that we are doing is showing you the power of expression that these tools can give your students. After inviting them to see what is possible, you may want to allow them to show evidence of learning content using one of these tools, along with other artifacts. Many teachers have seen students exhibit an incredible amount of engagement as they “play” with these tools, displaying higher level thinking  and problem solving skills. Who knows? You might find the same level of “hard fun” yourself!

Representing Reality (11/12/09 webinar)

November 15th, 2009 No comments

Notes from Webinar 11/12/2009

Afternoon session recording: http://stateofmaine.na4.acrobat.com/p70986026/

Evening session recording: http://stateofmaine.na4.acrobat.com/p21491543/

Representing Reality

Models & Simulations in the Classroom

When I was working with Commodore in 1980, I read Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas by Seymour Papert. (He’s the godfather of MLTI.) His ideas made me think deeply about the potential of computers, After all, he worked with Piaget. He taught folks how to program by first learning how to juggle, showing how simple steps can lead to complex outcomes. He also thought that learning should be “hard fun.” However, the idea that really made me think was the capacity of the computer to “concretize the abstract” – pushing the formal operations stage.

Alan Kay realized the potential as well in 1990:

“…[the computer] is a medium that can dynamically simulate the details of any other medium, including media that cannot exist physically … it has degrees of freedom for representation and expression never before encountered and as yet barely investigated.” (Sunrise Notes Number 2, June 1990, p.29)

Gary Stager restated this in his article “Cut the Cord – How Networks are Making Schools Stupid” for the December 2001 issue of District Administration:

“We have forgotten what computers do best. They make things, facilitate communication and support the social construction of knowledge. Computers mediate a conversation between the user and herself. They concretize the abstract. On the other hand, most school applications of the net are curriculum or teacher-centered – designed to transfer information to unsuspecting or unwilling children.”

So now we have the potential to reach out to the abstract and interact with it

What are the implications? By using models and simulations, students can watch changes over larger (or tinier) areas or time spans than they could have observed personally. Examples might include weather and geological phenomena, or atomic and molecular interactions. By using simulations based on accepted models, students can interact with them and observe the effects of their interactions. In many cases, simulations in science can be used to “do” labs that might be unsafe or unavailable, like dissections or chemistry labs.

Before we go any further we should probably investigate what models and simulations are, and how they differ from reality.

Models

Definition from www.Businessdictionary.com.

“Graphical, mathematical (symbolic), physical, or verbal representation or simplified version of a concept, phenomenon, relationship, structure, system, or an aspect of the real world.” 

If we boil the definition down we can see 3 important ideas: Representation, simplified, real world. In many ways, it is the simplification that can give meaning to a model, focusing on particular concepts or meaning.

But we are constantly making our own mental or conceptual models as we deal with the real world, and try to make sense of how it works. Because we are often limited in our observations or perceptions, we are prone to misconceptions. Allowing students to observe accurate models helps to correct those misconceptions

Simulations

Good learning simulations are based on accepted models. They enable teachers to efficiently deal with complex information by immersing learners in realistic situations which allow them to “learn by doing”. These simulations provide valuable experiential learning by enabling users to practice the tasks they need to master and experience the results of their actions in a safe and supportive environment. They vary in their complexity and interactions and again depend on variables. Simulations do not give a perfect set of real world variables, because the real world is “fuzzy,” with random and chaotic factors.

Perhaps the most powerful pedagogical implications might be that the learning becomes student-centered and inquiry-based. They provide an opportunity to experience phenomena to replace their misconceptions, leading to an even stronger conceptual construct.

Oregon Trail flash – Online version, for those of you who remember the old Apple IIe simulation.Many schools have expanded the experience to have students roleplay, write diaries and build models of Conestoga Wagons.

Do I have a right? – A simulation where you are part of a law firm. Clients come in with scenarios that may or may not be covered by the Bill of Rights. You research and let them know whether they have a case.

FrogutsVirtual dissection of a frog. Schools can purchase site licenses.

Circuit Construction Kit – Use a toolkit to build circuits and test them. Good inquiry – part of a whole panoply of simulations from PhET. 

Virtual Lab – Simulations of chemical reactions with selected substances.

SimCity A classic complex simulation, SimCity was actually one of the requirements for National Board Certification for a few years, to help teachers understand another way to learn.

Assumptions

Since the model or simulation is a simplified representation of the real world, it is important to acknowledge the assumptions behind the model. The real world has many different variables, and designers pick which ones to include in their models. 

NetLogo is an example of building models and simulations and playing with the variables. It is powerful, utilitarian, but teachers would have to design appropriate curriculum around a model or simulation. NetLogo includes an information tab to explain the “so what?” and “how” of the model, and a tab to look at the source code, too (to play with the underlying assumptions.)

Net Logo – Wolf Sheep PredationWith this model from the library, students can observe the classic predator/prey relationship, and then use sliders to “play” with variables like reproduction rates, energy gains, and amount of food.

With any instructional design, a teacher must decide whether the chosen simulation is being used for introduction, concept development, skill building, reinforcement or extension. Another factor to consider is time…as with any inquiry-based activity, a teacher must decide how deep a conceptual understanding must go. As always, the question rests on the goals of teaching and learning in your school and classroom. 

EcoBeaker Maine Explorer was developed with his in mind. Here is the Maine DOE iTunesU site with podcasts from EcoScienceWorks:

EcoScienceWorks iTunes U site (Maine Department of Education):

http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Browse/education-maine.gov.1687115352

Topic Resources:

Online Westward version of Oregon Trail

http://westward.globalgamenetwork.com/cgi-bin/westwardtrail.pl?command=startgame

Old Oregon Trail flash version from Apple IIe

http://www.virtualapple.org/J_oregontraildisk.html

Westward Ho!

http://www.cyberbee.com/wwho/

Lewis and Clark

http://www.usaweekend.com/97_issues/971102/lewis_and_clark/971102trail_intro.html

Our Courts Game page

http://www.ourcourts.org/play-games

Froguts home

http://www.froguts.com/flash_content/index.html

Simulations from PhET

http://phet.colorado.edu/simulations/

NetLogo Home

http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/

TPACK wiki

http://www.tpck.org/tpck/index.php?title=Main_Page

TPACK and its relation to SAMR – presentation by Dr. Ruben Puentadura

www.micdl.org/attachments/66

Maine Department of Education iTunesU site – many resources

http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Browse/education-maine.gov.1687115352

SimCity

http://simcity.ea.com/play/simcity_classic.php

FreeCiv – a free “Civilization” clone

http://freeciv.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

Pithy Quotes 

Simulation: “…techniques which aim to provide the student with a highly simplified reproduction of part of a real or imaginary world”.

van Ments, M., The Effective Use of Role Play: A Handbook for Teachers & Trainers. Revised ed. 1989, New York: Nichols Publishing. 186.

“…the aim is to recreate or represent in a limited time in the classroom particular situations which exist in the world outside…often using a computer program which incorporates the model on which the simulation is based.”

Reynolds, M. (1994) Groupwork in Education and Training Ideas in Practice, London: Kogan Page, pp18-19.

Simulations are “…one of the most effective ways to promote deep conceptual understanding of the real world”.

Peter Miller, Christina Smart, and Jacqui Nicol, Economics Centre of the Learning and Teaching Support Network (UK)

http://econltsn.ilrt.bris.ac.uk/advice/simulati.htm

“Placing a student in a simulated environment means they become involved. They view their experiences in a personal way…. From this they gain an attachment that can be shaped into a true learning experience.”

Rick Effland, Maricopa Community College

http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/labyforum/Sum95/sum95L5.html

“Simulations can be a powerful education tool. The problem is that using simulations in education is different from “reality” and that simulations effect the user.”

Kevin Cox, Simulations in Education, Web Tools Newsletter, 30th July 1999

http://www.dco.cityu.edu.hk/tools/newslett/simulati.htm