(1) Select your technology.
I will be evaluating Discovery Board Builder, a new tool in their suite of online software. Our school has purchased the Discovery Science Techbook, so I am interested to see how well they will work together in one of my science lessons. I am the Techbook administrator at my school, so I am always trying to find ways for teachers to use the Techbook and the Discovery tools more.
(2) Evaluate your technology.
- What is being learned? (What are the learning goals of this instructional experience?) What are the underlying assumptions (explicit and implicit) about the nature of knowledge?
Students will learn that matter expands when heated because the particles move more quickly and have to spread to accommodate the increase in motion. Students should know already have an understanding of the three states of matter and how matter can change from one form to another.
- What are the affordances for how knowledge/information is being represented? What are the constraints?
In order to teach this, the students will need to have regular access to the computer lab. We have a very tight labschedule, so this could be difficult. On days we cannot get into the lab, we will complete hands-on experiments in our classroom.
- How does learning take place? What elements of constructivism did you observe? What elements of behaviorism did you observe? Any other learning theories present?
The students will be learning using the cognitive constructivist and social constructivist theories of learning. The students will be exploring several resources independently, building upon prior knowledge in order to construct their understanding of the concept. The students will also take part in group labs, which lies more within the realm of social constructivism. There are a few elements of behaviorism in that there is a minimum level of fixed knowledge the learner must understand. There is also a good deal of repetition throughout the activities, labs, and readings.
- What role does technology play? What advantages or disadvantages does the technology hold for this role? What unique contribution does the technology have in facilitating learning?
Technology is vital to this unit. The students will be completing labs, readings, and videos using the computer lab. Any whole group instruction would be presented using the LCD projector and Mimeo). The students will also complete a final project using the Discovery Board Builder. The advantage to implementing this much technology is that the students are able to access all the materials at home without needing a textbook (all of my students have internet access at home). It also helpful from a planning standpoint because it limits the amount of copies I would need to make. The only disadvantage is that our school sometimes exceeds our bandwidth, causing brief outages. All of the Discovery materials can be downloaded ahead of time, so I normally have them saved on my computer as a backup. The techbook itself is unique because it is more flexible for students. They can change the language if they aren't native English speakers, they can have the text read aloud if they are struggling with a passage, they can watch videos or use the interactive glossary if they need extra support, and they can highlight and take notes right in the techbook, something we would never let our students do in a traditional textbook. The Board builder is unique because it provides a new and interesting way for students to showcase their learning. Students (at least third graders) love showing off what they know, so being able to provide a fun, interesting tool motivates students to do their best thinking.
- How does it fit within existing school curriculum? (e.g., is it intended to supplement or supplant existing curriculum? Is it intended to enhance the learning of something already central to the curriculum or some new set of understandings or competencies?)
The Discovery Science Techbook is meant to be the primary science curriculum in our school. If follows the MI GLCEs and provides everything a teacher would need in order to be successful in teaching science. It is an improvement over our previous curriculum in that the Techbook stresses deeper understanding and critical thinking, both vital to true learning. The Board Builder would be more of a supplementary tool.
- Do any traces of "web 2.0" appear with this technology? And, if so, how does it enhance/distract from the experience? (If you are wondering what web 2.0 was? Wikipedia has a great link (Web 2.0 in Wikipedia) to an introduction of web 2.0 and if any of of you have any other references, I'll be glad to post it!)
There is a bit of web 2.0 when using the Board Builder tool. Students are able to share their finished projects with the Discovery community, members of their school, or just their teacher, depending on the settings the teacher has approved.
- How are important differences among learners taken into account?
The students can change the language if they aren't native English speakers, they can have the text read aloud if they are struggling with a passage, they can watch videos or use the interactive glossary if they need extra support, and they can highlight and take notes right in the techbook, something we would never let our students do in a traditional textbook. There is also a section in each lesson called "elaborate", which I encourage more advanced students to explore. I can also take time in the computer lab to work with students who are struggling since the majority of the class will be working independently.
- What do teachers and learners need to know? What demands are placed on teachers and other "users"? What knowledge is needed? What knowledge supports does the innovation provide (e.g., skills in using particular kinds of technology)?
Students will need to know how to login to the Discovery Education website and how to locate assignments in the "Student Center". The teacher must know how to create assignments and change the sharing settings on the Board Builder if they wish to have the students share their work. The teacher must also be familiar with using Board Builder in order to help guide students through the process of creating their own board.
Nice job on this technology evaluation, Edie! All questions are answered convincingly for a thorough and complete analysis of how Techbook intersects with your teaching situation, compellingly backed by theory and practical details of the technology at hand. Should make for an engaging lesson! I’m so pleased that this assignment is something that seemed highly relevant to your current work as Techbook administrator, and am interested to see how it turns out.