Adaptive Science Curriculum

I've been following Dan Meyer for about 15 months. I don't teach math, but the way he talks about teaching math makes me want to teach it. If you're not familiar with his writing and development of Three Act Math, you should read the linked post and go check out his site dedicated to free materials.

Recently, he's moved into developing web-based "textbooks," if they can even be called that. Essentially, he's taking intuitive knowledge of math (draw a square) and then directing the user through the process of either confirming their previous understanding or correcting their misconceptions. What really caught my attention was this activity on squares. Stop reading now, check it out.

Dan teamed up with a teacher/programmer named Dave Major (who also wrote a post about the squares activity). I really began to think about how this could be done in science.

Flipped Learning is all over the web. I use it, my friends use it, and we've all seen some amazing things happen in our classes. Honestly, I think video is reaching a point where it can help move us into meaningful digital learning spaces, but it isn't enough. We all know that.

I've been thinking a lot about how to move content into adaptive digital environments, much like the Better Best Squares activity. PhET simulations by UC Boulder are a good first step, but there is still a disconnect between the task (usually paper based) and how the student interacts with the program.

I'm wondering how we can begin to make responsive programs like the squares example for science. One thought, initially, is that simulation parameters could be set by a student, much like the square they draw. Every following step would be A) integrated with the class responses, and B) based on the initial setup.

How else could we do this in science? Are there any programmers that would be interested in trying to build some kind of pilot program? Any teachers that would be interested in writing curriculum for this project? Let me know in the comments.

4 thoughts on “Adaptive Science Curriculum

  1. Corey @centralscience says:

    Hey Brian,

    I’m working on a framework for digital resources to replace the textbook. The show don’t tell component is an important part. I imagine HTML5 based activities that introduce standards. These would either be direct manipulatives like the build an atom PHET or allow students to adjust vairable sliders to establish relationships. I would love more ideas and believe this is a central part of loving away from the skeuomorphic digital textbook model. I’ve been writing this up and have established a website that will be live over break.

    • Thanks for the comment, Corey. I’ve been thinking about this more since I read your post on designing the book, and I think there are a few things that would have to be built into a digital science (text?) resource in order to really be a game changer:

      1) you mentioned this already, but a capacity for students to dynamically interact with the content in some way. It could even be something where after they create conditions, give them a system that they can change to match their original parameters or to test a previously-written hypothesis.

      2) Some kind of data-manipulation system. If they’re interacting with a simulation (just because that’s what we’ve already mentioned), there should be some kind of adaptive graph or chart that will graphically display the changes. Or, make the chart interactive and have the simulation respond in turn.

      3) Integrating one student’s work with another student, which is where I think the Better Best Squares program is above the rest. Students not only create their own square, but they have to work with and even comment on a peer’s square. That’s huge, especially because it is all contained in the same program.

  2. Dave Major says:

    Hey Brain,

    Get in contact with a problem and how you see it being worked through. I’m mad for challenges. Let’s talk.


    • Will do. I’m in the process right now of hammering out what some must-have’s are for science. I’ll definitely give you a shout when I’ve got enough to put some kind of end-goal together. Thanks for being willing to help out.

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