As outlined in the EDU 486: Integrating Science & Technology syllabus, this course had 4 goals. They were:
- Participants will demonstrate evidence of a solid understanding of what scientific inquiry is and describe and defend its importance in the science classroom curriculum.
- Participants will present comprehensive, thoughtful, critical and nuanced explorations of and wrestling with the role of emerging technologies in science classrooms.
- Participants will identify and implement specific and insightful strategies to address equity and social justice with respect to inquiry-based science.
- Participants will be able to develop theoretically grounded and theoretically consistent model-based inquiry pedagogy.
As this blog post is meant to be a consideration of my learning trajectory throughout the course will be divided by these goals, which were rolled-out sequentially, but stayed constant throughout the duration of the course.
The most salient point that I pulled out of critical commentary 1 was the power that cognitive dissonance provided in initiating learning. “…learning begins when individuals experience disequilibrium: a discrepancy between their ideas and ideas they encounter in their environments (that is what they know and what they observe or experience) (Inquiry, n.d., 34).” I would say that all the campers in my group believed that Charlotte Beach was “dirty” and if their investigation disproved their conception of what “dirty” meant, then they would need to wrestle with the implications provided by that. In our video assessment, one camper did in fact state, “I don’t think the beach is dirty, but we need to make sure that we take care of it so that it doesn’t get worse.” That camper came to that conclusion on their own, based on the work they performed during their investigation. And that’s the power of scientific inquiry, this camper created their own interpretation without being forced to parrot what their instructor told them. As his teacher, I gave him the means and environment to investigate, but his learning was his own.
Great care should be taken with respect to how technology is utilized in pedagogical practice and using it incorrectly can be detrimental to learning. Technology requires prep work both in the purpose you want it to play and how it will be physically integrated in the lesson. An example I can pull from camp would be Day 5, where I wanted to utilize Google Docs to have my campers work on a Google Slides presentation, together. Taking the boys to ITS, I had not realized that they would be unable to log-in with internet access (a necessity for Google Docs). Luckily, Occhino was there with me and logged in the other two on his account while I asked them questions to test their understanding of what we had done that week. If I had placed myself in the shoes of those students and then brought myself to that space, I would have realized the problems with my initial plan and could readjust accordingly.
I could have made use of more technology during camp, but I was afraid of the associated risks. What if my activity using the Smartboard was not motivating enough to fight against their natural curiosity? Should I just let them play around and learn about how the Smartboard works for 10-15 minutes? Then the next day, I could create a strong activity from the ground up making great use of the Smartboard that they have gained more expertise in (maybe to the point that they could teach me a thing or two). Was this more effective use of time then having them use the whiteboard instead? Maybe. I wanted to make the most effective use of the short amount of time that I had with campers, so I tended to opt out of using technology. This was a shortsighted approach because I am certain that there were activities that using tech like the Smartboard could have saved time with, but I just did not consider them because I imagined that the tech itself would be distracting. Science equipment such as microscopes, DataHubs, probes, were items that I was familiar with and their use felt more necessary (because science) rather than distracting. This feeling was probably motivated by the fact that I was familiar with them. This tells me that I still need to work with the different technologies that I have access to, to get a full breath of the possibilities at my disposal.
The GRS camp requires that we deal with a variety of social justice issues. All my campers were black students; with 5 of them going to city schools and 1 was part of the Urban-Suburban Program. From the APKs, most of them thought of a scientist as a white man with a lab coat using doing a chemistry experiment. This image did not match that of the campers. From the evaluation form we gave our campers, many of them noted different experiences that made them feel like scientists including data collection, making and view microscope slides, counting bacterial colonies. Hopefully, the type of person that they identified as a scientist has extended to include themselves (if they did not already). Beyond on that, during camp we found that most of our campers were hungry in the morning, so we changed our planning to ensure that we started the day with snack. This paid off quite well, because we found an increase in engagement earlier in the day after this change. The GRS cohort also developed a morning chant and included the practices of the Freedom School in instruction to show respect to where the students were coming from. These actions helped to show the campers that we respect their culture and opened them up to the opportunity to take some of the culture of science with them from camp. Outside of camp, our grant writing was an example of something a teacher can do to ensure that their students get the materials they need for meaningful learning.
Unit planning and lesson planning was the most difficult task during the whole course, because it forced me to think and wrestle with many different, and often conflicting, theories for practice. For the sake of time, do I take some of the authenticity out of this activity and design it in a way where it will probably take 10 minutes instead of 40? Time constraints were a major strain on my planning, especially when trying to create an authentic inquiry-based experience for the campers. Planning also forced me to think about where things should be, where they will end up, if they should be collected. These logistical elements served to show me that teachers have to keep up with more than just the students. The informal environment further served to make this even harder because the locations of things you need 45 minutes later need to be taken to account, and if you needed it on the beach then you should carry it with you. Making sure which materials were necessary and which were less necessary, and at what times, was an important skill that I still need work developing (material management).
Philosophical Statement on the Role of Technology:
Technology is advancing rapidly and it is important for science teachers to keep one eye on that advancement, because technology opens up many doors for both the teacher (their practice) and the student (their learning). “The ethos was there—embryonic, perhaps; waiting for an enabling technology, undoubtedly” (Lankshear, 2006, p.21). Once an enabling technology is discovered, some might say that the impetus is on the teacher to produce a shift that allows students to have greater agency in their learning. But I feel that students can play a role in that as well, advocating for technology that better reflects the ways that they learn to be integrated in the classroom. Giving students that responsibility not only helps the teacher from suffering eye strain, but also promotes agency in their learning experience.
Lankshear, Colin, and Michele Knobel.New literacies. 3rd ed. Berkshire, England ; New York: Open University Press, 2011. Print.
NRC. Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards a guide for teaching and learning. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000. Print.