Posted by David R. Wetzel, Ph.D.
Learning science and math is normally thought of as committing to memory facts and procedures. Because of this we tend to perceive the best way to teach is through rote memorization of ideas, theories, and models.
As a consequence, students experience little opportunity to develop a real understanding of what they are expected learn.
Our challenge is to craft strategies which allow student interactivity within lessons. Student involvement beyond memorization is an essential building block for learning science and math.
Using Technology and Hands-On: Real Indicators of Student Interactivity?
Not really, it all depends on how they are used in lessons. Regrettably, too often:
Technology is just used as an alternative attraction on the road to rote memorization of facts and concepts.
Hands-on is simply a synonym for following directions from work sheets, lab manuals, or textbooks with no thought by students (NSTA Blog).
Creating Student Interaction
Using technological tools and hands-on activities must focus on creating opportunities for students to ask what, where, when, why, and how.
To this end, we are obligated to craft student interactivity by challenging students in learning situations that require them to think.
This is accomplished by incorporating technology, math manipulatives, and science tools built around activities such as:
- problem solving situations,
Ways to Create Student Minds-on Involvement
Although there are many ways to create minds-on activities, the following is a sample of activities to create student interactivity in science and math lessons.
Stimulating Critical Thinking Problems and Investigations
Integrated science and math problems, case studies, projects, technology use include:
- What is the maximum number of eagles that can inhabit an specific area? (biology, fractions, decimals, percents, and ratios)
- How long will it take to repay the investment in a solar panel, based on local electricity costs? (real numbers, statistics, physics, and linear equations)
- What is the math behind a carnival ball toss game? (reasoning, communication, statistics, variables, nature of science)
- What effect does wind have on water evaporation? (nature of science, technology, charts, tables, variables, reasoning)
- Why do engineers use so many triangles in structures? (geometry, physical science)
- What is the biodiversity of your local ecosystem? (number sense, biology)
QR Code Quests
Students use an iPad, iPod, or Smartphone to follow a trail of QR Codes in problem solving situations. These Quests require students to solve a problem or complete an investigation. When complete, they create a QR Code to lead others to their solution and supporting evidence.
Create QR Codes using an Apple App or Android App. Then embed in your class blog, wiki page, Live Binder, or on science and math lab sheets.
An alternative method is to use existing QR Codes in magazines, newspapers, and websites.
Why is this Important?
Our students tend to find science and math a painful exercise in regurgitating information, with little understanding of what they are talking or writing about.
Often, their defense mechanism is expressed by stating:
- Why do I need to learn this!
Creating an environment in which students don’t need these and other defense mechanisms is important for building student confidence and understanding content.
Science and math teachers are always interested in best practices. Do you have a favorite problem solving activity or investigation, why not share it.
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Posted by David R. Wetzel, Ph.D.
What does it mean to be a successful science or math teacher? The definition of success is an elusive thing and measured in many ways. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines success as – resulting in or gaining a favorable outcome. This, without a doubt, is your and every other teacher’s goal for their students.
Among the many ways of measuring teacher success is the ability to engage students in teaching practices which excite and encourage their natural curiosity for learning. When these best practices are used in the classroom, then all other measures of success follow suite. Thus, providing an indicator you’re a successful science or math teacher.
So what are the three best practices successful science and math teachers’ use in their classroom?
Project Based Learning
Teaching strategies which involve project based learning offer students the potential of gaining deeper insights into science and mathematical concepts. This strategy engages students to use critical thinking processes as they develop and answer their own questions.
This teaching strategy also helps students tap into higher order skills, which allows them to make those all important connections between one science or math concept and other concepts.
Other reasons why students are excited and encouraged by practice:
- answering open-ended questions
- drawing conclusions based on their findings
- working collaboratively with other students
Real World Problem Solving
Problem solving is the essence of scientific and mathematic investigations. Providing students with real-world problems to solve allows them the opportunity to use investigative processes which stimulate higher order thinking skills.
In science, problem solving relies heavily on the effective use of the science process skills as students complete investigations. Two strategies which support problems solving is the use of discrepant events and experimental design for exciting and engaging students.
In math, making connections within and between concepts is critical to understanding math. Unfortunately students are very good with math concepts when treated separately; however, these same students have difficulties when trying to connect the concepts. One strategy for problem solving is the use of cases studies in mathematics. They encourage connections between concepts, as students rely on and use their prior knowledge and experience in math.
Integrating Technology in Lessons
Using a digital lens stimulates critical thinking skills as students in explore, think, read, write, research, invent, problem solve, and experience the world of science and math. Integrating technology provides them the opportunity to investigate science and math phenomena the same way as scientists and mathematicians.
Digital Media follows the old adage “A picture is worth a thousand words!” when it comes to science and math. The use of digital media is ideal for helping students construct background knowledge for developing a better understanding of science and math concepts.
The following are two examples of best practices for integrating technology in teaching and learning science or math.
- Podcasting – integrating podcasts in science and math classes is a good way to support student learning. This strategy leverages the use of digital devices as a means for mobile learning because students use them everyday – iPods, Smart Phones, computers, etc.
- Online Tools – facilitate input and interaction by students as they use the four skills of the language (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) to investigate, inquire, hypothesize, conjecture, and explain their findings. Online tools offer enormous advantages for science and math teachers, in terms of helping their students learn using Web 2.0 tools.
These are three best practices for instilling curiosity in your students, while encouraging an atmosphere of student centered learning. Ignoring these and other practices which lead to teaching success and student learning risks diminishing, if not losing, the endowment of natural curiosity which all students have when they are born.
Posted by David R. Wetzel, Ph.D.
The iPod Touch brings a new dimension to teaching and learning in the science or math classroom – Mobile Learning! No longer are students required to only learn within the confines of their classroom when using this digital tool.
One advantage of these digital devices is portability. This advantage supports the basic tenant of mobile learning. Students explore, investigate, problem solve, and complete assignments from anywhere within or outside the classroom.
A second advantage for using an iPod Touch in science or math classrooms is the motivation students experience when using these devices to learn. This is primarily due to the personalized nature of the device through independent learning, self-expression, and creativity.
Teaching Strategies: How to take Advantage of this Digital Tool
These four teaching strategies take advantage of the power of an iPod Touch to address multiple learning styles in science and math.
- Engage students in active authentic, real-world tasks about content issues which are of interest to them (i.e., project based learning, problem solving, or inquiry based learning).
- Link the processes of student creative media work and critical analysis (i.e., Digital Storytelling, Screencasting, Podcasts, etc.).
- Teach students abstract concepts through the regular connection of observation, experience, and discussion (VoiceThread, Skype, Glogster, SlideShare, iPod Apps, etc.).
- Routinely use of visual, print, and aural for learning and expression (i.e., Vimeo, Animoto, SlideShare, Flash Cards, Teacher Tube, iMovie, Flickr, etc.)
Learning Strategies: Using Web 2.0 Tools with the iPod Touch
Learning strategies which use web 2.0 tools support the basic tenant of mobile learning with an iPod Touch. Students can use this digital device to create, view, or investigate concepts using the following strategies.
- Digital Storytelling – linking project based learning, problem solving, and inquiry based learning with digital storytelling is natural. The integration of digital storytelling technology motivates students, allows them to easily share their work, and encourages collaborative learning. Students can create digital stories with their iPod Touch to explain their problem solving procedures, investigative findings, answers, and conclusions.
- Online Learning – the iPod Touch comes with Safari internet browser for searching for science and math online learning resources. Students can access search engines for finding images, Google, and simulations for learning concepts. One neat tool helps adapt websites to the iPod – Skeezer.com.
- Podcasting – is as an alternative to digital media such as videos, voice, or images. Podcasts created by students provide a digital medium for student expression of concepts, projects, and related themes. Students can use their iPod Touch to record the audio portion of a podcast and then link their audio with videos and images.
- Multisensory Learning – integrating videos, podcasts, and pictures in lessons help students through the use of multisensory learning. These tools allow the use or online resources which are not typically available in any classroom. Students can use their iPod Touch to access these online resources in wireless classrooms, in their home, or anywhere else they have wireless access to the web.
Why use the iPod Touch in science and math is evidenced by its connectedness with teaching and learning. This is confirmation is based on the idea of Bloom’s Taxonomy for the digital age, which focuses primarily on the use of digital tools (such as the iPod Touch) to support higher order thinking skills.