The Future Is What You Make It

See what I did there? That took a significant amount of brain power tonight. It must be the end of the semester.


CEP811 is closing this week and for my final post with that particular tag, I’m going to reflect a little bit. I’ll try not to ramble too much.

Long story short: I’ll definitely be using the Raspberry Pi when I get back to the classroom someday. This course was a particular challenge for me because everything I’ve planned and written about has been in spe. (That’s Latin, folks.) So, while I can’t go and do some of the things I’ve written about tomorrow, I have them filed away for the future. The big thing about maker tools is that they can do whatever we want them to do. The Raspberry Pi, for me, is something that will allow one more student to explore something they might be interested in. Sure, there are times I’ll bring it into what we do to pique some interest, but like any other tool, it’s not something I can require every student to engage with. I get wary when we talk about “every student should need to learn how to code,” because that’s ignoring the fact that every student has different strengths, weaknesses, and interests.

If the tools in my classroom encourage students to think, to question, or to explore (play?), then I think they’re effective. I want to see students take risks and I want to provide a variety of modes for them to risk with. It isn’t about the curriculum I design to go specifically with the Pi, but the challenge it will present to learners. I want to evaluate how they rise to meet that challenge and how they cope with dealing with new tools. We see this happening as young as first grade now with designing lunch boxes. It isn’t about having fancy tools or toys, but how we engage our students.

(Scott, 2000, p. 16)

Socrates denied being a teacher because he didn’t fit the definition given by culture. I feel this is something we battle today. Culturally, a teacher is someone who stands in front of students, a content expert, to instruct. Metaphysically, teachers are so much more than that:

So, how will the maker ideas fit into my class? They should already be there. I need to be addressing and encouraging student’s innate desire to be creators, explorers, and discoverers. Sure, the Raspberry Pi will help me do that. But it isn’t about the device…it’s about the pedagogy we bring to give context to the tool.


Looking back, I wish I had been more aggressive with my own maker project plans. I don’t have a working program like I had hoped to, and that’s mostly because I didn’t make it a priority through the course. I think had I continued that project through each week, I would have felt like each week had more of a connection. However, I do feel like I pushed myself to think beyond the obvious with each prompt. I wanted to get to the root of my beliefs and draw out each component of the class as much as I could. I challenged myself to take risks and write provocatively, and through that, I have been able to reframe some of my core beliefs about education.


References

Scott, G.A. (2000). Plato’s Socrates as Educator. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Week seven of CEP811 is waning, and this has been a very busy week for me. I was in San Antonio Tuesday through Friday for a conference and then came back with a cold. Luckily, this week was manageable because of all the reading I needed to do. Below is a collection of articles I found through the MSU library that focus on inquiry learning, science education, and using digital tools to accomplish those tasks.


Article 1

Bell, R.L. (2005). Whole-class inquiry: science. Learning & Leading with Technology. 32-8, 45-47. Retrieved from the ProQuest Research Library.

This article considers three modes of instruction in a science classroom: textbook, hands-on using technology, and whole-class inquiry. Teaching a textbook gives concise, but narrow explanations of the concept to be learned. Hands-on work is more effective, but relies on careful planning and pre-instruction from the teacher. Whole-class inquiry increases engagement and allows students to build knowledge through shared experience.

A former teacher, Bell recognizes that the research in deploying new technologies in schools has not been done (at the time). He recognizes that appropriate questions and the data are going to inform best practice in the future. His experience as a science teacher informs his methods of instruction for pre-service teachers.

Article 2

Horvath, L.C. (2008). Tangled up in inquiry: Documenting pre-service teachers perspectives on inquiry as they reflect on the process of planning and teaching inquiry-based lessons. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Dissertations Publishing.

This dissertation studied pre-service science teachers’ perceptions of inquiry learning both before and after teaching an inquiry-based lesson. 13 teachers were followed and 84 distinct characteristics were compiled by the study. 10 of the 13 teachers interviewed showed significant shifts in their perceptions of inquiry learning. Common characteristics found in the study included students gathering and analyzing data, problem solving, group work, and asking questions. The author noted that inquiry instruction being included in pre-service training would be beneficial during student teaching.

Article 3

Tessier, J. (2010). An Inquiry-Based Biology Laboratory Improves Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Attitudes About Science. Journal of College Science Teaching. 39-6, 84-90. Retrieved from the ProQuest Research Library.

This study looked at pre-service elementary teachers during their college biology class. The author was interested in student satisfaction in their experience of inquiry-based learning and the likelihood for the students to use similar methods in their teaching. This was done in response to the loss of time in elementary science classrooms. A statistically significant portion of students new to inquiry learning said they would most likely use the method in their own classroom. The author suggests that inquiry-based learning should be a part of pre-service teacher training.

Article 4

Padilla, M. (2010). Inquiry, Process Skills, and Thinking in Science. Science and Children. 48-2, 8-9. Retrieved from the ProQuest Research Library.

This brief article noted the differences between “inquiry” and “process skills.” According to Padilla, the two are often confused by teachers. He says that inquiry should include indicators such as students asking questions, designing procedures, collecting evidence (data), forming explanations, and describing the results. Process skills can lead to inquiry, but are not synonymous. He suggest teachers improve their questioning but also encourages silence from the instructor to encourage student thinking.

Article 5

Cartier, J.L.; Stewart, J; Zoellner, B. (2006). Modeling & Inquiry in a High School Genetics Class. The American Biology Teacher. 68-6, 334-340. Retrieved from the ProQuest Research Library.

This is a case study from a high school genetics class which used inquiry-based learning to help students learn concepts about genetics. The authors adapted their current curriculum to guide students through the process of uncovering genetic principles. The authors also stress the importance of developing a “scientific community,” in which everyone is a member and helps construct knowledge. They state that the inquiry method would not have been successful without building the community of learning first.

Reflection

I need to admit right up front that I’m a “just Google it” person by nature. That’s where most of my searches begin. (That being said, the Google Scholar resource is pretty awesome.) Libraries are such a great resource, and having been out of school for a while, it is nice to be able to access research articles that are typically behind paywalls or subscription services. The ProQuest database and ERIC were extremely helpful, as were the search tools. I started with keywords like “science education” and “inquiry learning” and then refined from there. At one point, I did have a question about obtaining print materials, so I hopped in the 24/7 live chat and got an answer right away. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the request in early enough to include the article in this post, but I’m excited to read it.