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Reflect

REFLECTIVE PAPER
ETEC 533: Technology in the Mathematics and Science
Classroom

Susan Beeley
April, 2016
Susan Beeley Assignment 8

ETEC 533: Assignment 8

Final Reflective Paper

Introduction

In the constantly changing profession of teaching, how do we know when

something is worth investing in? Curriculum change was an ongoing process in

England and so learning to adapt to the latest trend in education is something that I am

comfortable with. Sometimes the changes were beneficial to the students, but

sometimes the changes were just repackaged versions of something that had happened

10 years earlier.

In BC we are currently facing a major overhaul to the curriculum. The curriculum

content has been trimmed back to focus on Big Ideas so it is much less directive and

content laden than the previous curriculum. Further, there is a focus on the

development of 21st Century Skills that was previously absent (British Columbia Ministry

of Education, 2015). These changes are causing cognitive conflict for many teachers

who are voicing concerns such as where are the resources? and how will the

students be assessed?

There are three themes from this course that I have found particularly relevant to

the changes that teachers in BC are facing. The first is the idea of shifting the focus of

our job away from covering content and encouraging memorization for a summative

assessment, to one where we are moving our students thinking from novice thinking

to something more expert. Secondly, the benefits of formative assessment over

summative assessment for student learning will be discussed. Finally, the role that

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technology can play in supporting the previous themes and in promoting what the BC

Ministry of Education refers to as Core Competencies (more generally referred to as

21st Century Skills) will be examined.

The Importance of the Scientific Method in Educational Research

Each theme mentioned above will be discussed with reference to research

carried out using the scientific method of data collection. The importance of using

rigorous scientific methods when investigating the impact of a theory on education is

clearly demonstrated by Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer and Bjork (2009) in their

investigation into the meshing hypothesis of learning styles. The idea behind this

hypothesis is that students should achieve best when their assessed learning style

meshes with the teaching style used by their instructor, and this belief is firmly

embedded into teaching practice in both the UK and in Canada. However, the results of

this scientific study, did not support this hypothesis. Despite this, there are numerous

assessments for determining students learning styles and attempts by teachers to

incorporate this information into their teaching.

The recent development of collaboration between educators and cognitive

psychologists, social psychologists, anthropologists and developmental researchers has

enhanced our ability to scientifically understand how learning and knowledge transfer

occur. This helps tremendously in making educational theory and the technology used

in education relevant in a real world setting (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2002).

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Novice to expert

In order to enable our students to succeed in the real world we must teach them

how to apply their knowledge to solve problems and contribute in a useful way to the

community in which they belong. Memorisation has become irrelevant due to the

pervasive nature of the internet as a constantly available resource to find information as

required, it is the ability to do something productive with that information that will set

some individuals apart.

Our students can be viewed as novice thinkers and this can look very different

from one student to the next. Some come with little or no knowledge of the content we

are hoping to teach them. Some come with an array of knowledge, some of which is

correct, some of which is completely erroneous. If our new goal as teachers is to

increase the ability of our students to transfer and apply their knowledge we must begin

to transform their knowledge and understanding into something more expert.

So what does this look like? Bransford et al. (2002) discuss several key

differences between novice and expert thinking. They note that experts see

meaningful patterns of information that novices miss due to a deeper understanding of

subject content. As a result, experts are better able to retrieve the pieces of knowledge

that are relevant to a certain set of circumstances. They are able to look beyond the

surface characteristics of a problem and link relevant knowledge to the big idea being

queried while ignoring irrelevant surface details (Chi, Feltovich & Glaser,1981).

As teachers our first goal in ensuring deeper understanding of the subject

content is to uncover and address any flaws in prior knowledge which may relate to

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content, culture, gender or socioeconomic factors and that may eventually limit a

students ability to gain a deeper understating through conceptual change (Chi &

Roscoe, 2002; Chi, Slotta, & & deLeeuw, 1994). There is a growing body of evidence

that supports of the importance of recognising where our students are currently at and

starting our teaching from there (White & Fredrickson, 1997; Lehrer and Chazan, 1998;

Schauble et al., 1995, Warren and Rosebery, 1996 Greenfield and Suzuki, 1998, cited

in Bransford et al., 2002). Of particular concern is the use of flawed models that show

processes (such as electricity) as material (such as water flow). While these may be

useful in many circumstances to initiate understanding a failure to correct the

misrepresentation later will often confound students understanding further and this too

needs to be addressed (Reiner, Slotta, Chi & Resnick, 2000).

The ability to do this, however, requires both content expertise and pedagogical

expertise that allow a teacher to understanding how to transform students thought

processes without causing them to become stressed and disengaged (Shulman, 1987).

This is due to the pervasive and resilient nature of misconceptions as is demonstrated

in the video A Private Universe (Harvard-Smithsonian Center, 1987). A key thought

process to address is the idea of ability being constant so that students learn to see it as

changeable and believe that effort can make a difference. The result is students who

are more likely to persevere when faced with challenging content (Dweck, 1989; Dweck

and Legget, 1988, cited in Bransford et al., 2002).

A second important goal of teachers in ensuring a deeper understanding is the

recognition of the importance of developing metacognition alongside our students

learning of the content. We need to teach them to recognise when they dont have

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enough information to solve a problem and to ask for more. This recognition comes

about through self and peer evaluation and reflection, taking the time to recognise what

doesnt work through making mistakes and recognise what does work through making

adjustments (Palincsar and Brown, 1984; Scardamalia et al., 1984; Schoenfeld, 1983,

1985, 1991, cited in Bransford et al., 2002). Developing students metacognition also

makes them better able to transfer knowledge to new situations with the level of support

required being dependent upon the similarity of the original and novel context of

learning (Brandsford et al., 2002).

How does the new BC curriculum support this view of teaching students to move

them towards expert thinking? One of the key differences between experts and

novices presented above is the organisation of their knowledge. Expert knowledge is

designed around big ideas and so when asked to solve a problem they are better able

to look past surface cues in the question to detect relevant information and select the

appropriate big idea content to apply in solving the problem (Brandsford et al., 2002).

When curriculum is designed to cover many facts in a limited amount of time this sort of

organisation does not occur. Further, students may be able to apply information in a

familiar context, but do not develop the ability to say why they have selected that

information or to know when and where it is appropriate, thus making their responses

very context dependent. Covering less material in more detail gives the students time

to make connections between what they already know and new information, to analyze

their own understanding, and, with support and metacognitive skills, develop a deeper

understanding. Further, the core competencies support the move to a deeper

understanding by connecting learning to real life and the community in which the

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students live. By incorporating aspects of Personal and Social competencies into the

curriculum the cultural differences and other diversities of the students in the class can

be central to learning making them relevant and, therefore, motivating for the students.

To see the value in the new curriculum teachers need to shift their thinking away

from more traditional teaching where the teacher presents information in a linear fashion

to something more fluid. Teachers need a degree of subject expertise if they are to

detect misconceptions and flawed prior knowledge and to resolve these issues in ways

that will allow future success, but this expertise is not enough. When it comes to

pedagogy teachers need to be adaptive experts who are willing to use metacognition

and reflection to alter their practice when it is in the best interests of the students to do

so. Failure to do this may result in teachers who are dependent upon mass produced

resources that organise the content for them regardless of the students they work with

and their potentially vast differences in knowledge and experience, being taught

(Brophy, 1983; cited in Brandsford et al., 2002).

Assessment

Perhaps the biggest confusion around the new curriculum in BC is how students

will be assessed. This seems to stem from the belief that the predominant form of

assessment is summative which is designed to evaluate how well students have

grasped the content they have just been taught and to report this to parents. However,

by carrying out assessment in this way alone it becomes separated from the learning

process and is perceived negatively by the students. Evidence suggests that

assessment is most beneficial to student learning when it is ongoing, provides feedback

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to both student and teacher, occurs during the learning process (rather than after), and

measures both progress and outcome (Handelsman, Miller, & Pfund, 2007).

Most teachers do formative assessment with their students, but it is not the basis

of reporting to parents or teacher accountability and so is often perceived as a less valid

form of assessment. As the new curriculum focuses on the deeper learning of big ideas

students will likely perform less well on assessments that are more standardised as they

take more ownership over the ways and means that they grapple with the curriculum.

The same test given to a class of 30 students may test the surface understanding but

not the deeper understanding gained and as deeper understanding is the apparent goal

of the new curriculum new assessments must support this change in ideology

(Brandsford et al., 2002).

Student learning journals and e-portfolios are assessment tools that are very

much in line with the new curriculum. Students can be presented with the learning

outcomes, then given a series of tasks selected from relevant tools (whether this is

technology related or from books). Following the completion of tasks students can add

to or revise their learning journals or e-portfolios to demonstrate what they have learned

and their progress towards meeting the learning outcomes. Further, providing students

with a clear picture of what the ideal outcome looks like through the use of rubrics,

examples of appropriate responses or previous students work will help them to develop

metacognitive skills, also key to the design of the new curriculums core competencies.

This sort of ongoing, collaborative, instantaneous feedback supports the

development of both deeper understanding and metacognition in our students. Both will

move our students in the direction of more expert thinking. It is not necessary to

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expect, however, that students will leave our classrooms as experts in the content we

have taught, simply that successful teaching should be characterised by moving the

students in the right direction. This will allow for students to apply what they have

learned to whatever summative or standardised assessment is deemed necessary

through ensuring that they understand not just the content, but when and where and

how to apply it in new situations (Brandsford et al., 2002).

The role of technology in the new curriculum.

When determining which tools to use in the successful teaching of the new

curriculum three primary considerations should be how does it enhance students

learning, how does it promote the core competencies, and how does is support the

streamlining of the teachers workload.

There are many new and interactive technologies available that serve to cover

the content of curricula in real word and engaging ways (Bransford et al. 2002). An

example of this specific to science teaching and learning is the PhET simulations.

These tools are designed to connect with prior learning to help students make sense of

new concepts in a real-world context through specific learning goals and collaborative

efforts at reasoning (Wieman, Adams, Loeblein, & Perkins, 2010). What makes these

simulations an excellent addition to the classroom is that they allow students to see

processes that might otherwise be impossible to observe and provide immediate

feedback so the teacher does not have to. Further, these simulations have been

designed to address and overcome common scientific misconceptions. Students can

alter conditions to see how this changes the output thus developing critical thinking

skills and extending their ability to ask and answer what if questions. Further, the sim

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can be run repeatedly if necessary to ensure deeper understanding, and unlike some

experiments they are quick and easy to set up and dont go wrong resulting in

confusion.

Another great technology available for all subjects is the Google Apps for

Education (GAFE). These provide the ability to work seamlessly and collaboratively

with both the teacher and with other students. Feedback is immediate and learning can

be personalised as the students work through a given project. Many of the apps are

available without having GAFE set up within your school or district, however to get the

most from this suite of tools it would be recommended. Classroom plays a fantastic role

in creating, copying, assigning, supervising, collecting, grading, recording, and

returning work to students a process requiring a great deal of time and steps.

Classroom simplifies these tasks by combining, eliminating, or organizing, them for you"

(Jordan Catapano, cited in Beeley, Hardy, Nichols & Quarrie, 2016). The applications

under GAFE provided do not function as regular applications for personal accounts as

the teacher can control who can access and share information and can view all work so

that the rules digital citizenship can be enforced. Aspects from all areas of the core

competencies are more easily achievable using GAFE including communication,

collaboration, self and peer assessment, incorporation of personal and social issues to

the extent that it can be used to create a paperless classroom.

Conclusion

Concern about the dramatic changes to the BC Curriculum are warranted and

many of the questions being asked are valid. Despite this, the changes that have been

made are ones that will serve the students well as they enter the workplace with the

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skills that employers look for well developed. Their ability to work with technology and

think critically about information will be enhanced as will their skills in collaborative

working.

They should demonstrate a deeper understanding of the content covered through

their educational years and have the ability to think adaptively and apply this knowledge

in an ever changing world. It will be a period of adjustment for the teachers but it is my

belief that once this time has passed teachers will recognise that their jobs have not

become more but fundamentally different and that the quality of education we are

providing is significantly enhanced.

There is abundant evidence in support of the difference between novice thinkers

and expert thinkers and the role played in the transition from novice to expert of the big

ideas concept. Further, the nature of assessment needs to shadow that of the deeper

learning and skills that we are teaching students in the classroom if it is to form a valid

measure of success. Technology can play a key role in developing students

understanding, but also helping to streamline the new role that the teacher plays in the

classroom.

Suggestions for areas for further research include how we can assess students

in accordance with the priorities of the curriculum yet still provide objective information

on student performance to the parents. Also, as teachers continue to look for ready-

made resources the impact of commercialism in education should be considered.

Finally, given what we have learned about the level of expertise required for teachers to

pick up on and correct misconceptions, to what extent should teachers be expected to

teach outside their specialism before they become ineffective.

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References:

Beeley, S., Hardy, L., Nichols, L. & Quarrie, C. (2016). Get going with GAFE.

Retrieved from http://getgoingwithgafe.weebly.com/classroom.html

Bransford, D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R. R. (2002). How people learn: Brain, mind,

experience, and school. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

British Columbia Ministry of Education (2015). Building student success: BCs new

curriculum. Retrieved from https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum

Chi, M.T.H, Feltovich, P., & Glaser, R. (1981). Categorization and representation of

physics problems by experts and novices. Cognitive Science, 5, 121-152.

Chi, M.T.H., & Roscoe, R.D. (2002). The processes and challenges of conceptual

change. In M. Limn & L. Mason (Eds.), Reconsidering conceptual change. Issues

in theory and practice (pp. 3-27). Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Chi, M.T.H., Slotta, J. D., & & deLeeuw, N. (1994). From things to processes: a theory

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4(27-43).

Handelsman, Jo, Miller, Sarah, & Pfund, Chrisitne. (2007). Scientific Teaching. W.H.

Freeman & Company.

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Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Science Education Department, Science

Media Group (1987). A Private Universe. Retrieved from

http://www.learner.org/vod/vod_window.html?pid=9

Pashler, H., McDaniel, M., Rohrer, D., & Bjork, R. (2009). Learning styles: Concepts

and evidence. Association for Psychological Science 9(3) p 105-119

Reiner, Miriam, Slotta, James D., Chi, Michelene T. H., & Resnick, Lauren B. (2000).

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Shulman, L. (1987) Knowledge and Teaching: Foundations of the New Reform. Harvard

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doi: http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/10.17763/haer.57.1.j463w79r56455411

Wieman, C.E., Adams, W.K., Loeblein, P. & Perkins, K.K. (2010) Teaching Physics

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10.1119/1.3361987

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