Category Archives: #Inquiry
Here’s a visual organizer for building quick context in orientation in time and space in a case study or unit of inquiry. It is not only for sciences – it could easily be applied to other subjects with the intention of contributing to a sense of international mindedness and global engagement (IMaGE). The simple goal is for triplets of students to complete collaborative rapid research around the case: Why Them, Why There, Why Then? Click for pdf. This has been tested in rough drafts, and I’d love for some others to try it out and give feedback.
- Recent (or significant) discoveries or events (in the news, science, etc)
- The Human Genome Project: Who was involved and why them? Where did it happen and why there? Why then and not before?
- Antoni van Leeuwenhoek discovering animalcules. Why him? Where there? Why then? Why not other people, places or times
- LangLit: Explore the author, location and time
- I used it for a cover lesson on Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, with a group of students who had almost no prior knowledge.
- I&S: Considering a significant development, event or innovation
- Service Learning Cycle: An entry point into the “Research” phase of the cycle and determining reasons, needs and causes (thanks @AlisonKIS).
This is not a tool for in-depth research (though it could be expanded outwards). It is intended to get a quick, reliable orientation in time and space around a case study and the people or organisations involved.
The results can be synthesised into further lines of inquiry (to use more rigorous research), but this should give students a vision of the case. What cultural or contextual cues can they recognise? How might this activate further connection and questioning?
As any teacher knows, “transfer” is notoriously difficult to truly teach, yet it is a part of the IB’s ATL skills framework as it is really important in empowering self-directed learning. Here’s a post on Webb’s DOK4 and how it might be used as a tool for teaching transfer of knowledge, skills and concepts. Also, DOK is a not wheel.
Here’s a quick lesson plan idea for tuning into inquiry using Google Earth Engine Timelapse*. It can provide a timelapse of change from 1984-present, based on satellite and aerial photos.
Ideal for: Individuals & Societies, Sciences, Interdisciplinary Unit
Global Context(s): Fairness & Development or Globalization & Sustainability
Key Concept(s): Change, Development, Interactions, Time-Place-Space
Related Concepts (I&S): Globalization, growth, resources, sustainability, causality
Related Concepts (Sciences): Environment, transformation, consequence, evidence
Find where we live and model See-Think-Wonder (Project Zero) on the timelapse from 1984-now. You might want to create a GoogleSheet with columns for each stage, to be shared with the class. Alternatively, get out some big whiteboards or butcher paper.
- See: look for general outlines, specific landmarks, big developments, interesting changes. Then dig deeper – compare the start to the end, or look for evidence of significant events in the time period. Keep pushing the ‘see’ until ideas are truly exhausted.
- Think: connected to the ‘see’ statements, note potential cause-effect relationships, sequences, consequences or other ideas. Keep going until this is exhausted.
- Wonder: finally build on the ‘see’ and ‘think’. What questions does this generate? Categorize and rank the questions.
- What lines of inquiry will you take to find out more?
- What can be found out by students and what needs to be explicitly taught?
- What unit-related vocabulary needs to be used and taught?
Approaches to Learning
- Access information to be informed and inform others
- Make connections between various sources of information
- Understand and use technology systems
- Practise observing carefully in order to recognize problems
- Interpret data
- Draw reasonable conclusions and generalizations
- Revise understanding based on new information and evidence
- Formulate factual, topical, conceptual and debatable questions
- Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues
- Identify trends and forecast possibilities
Working with Eco Club and thinking about the complexities of the interactions, causes, effects and issues we need to tackle, I am often reminded of this Lovelock quote, from a 2014 interview in the Guardian. Perhaps if we can get interdisciplinary teaching and learning right in our schools, we can help students make the connections they need to truly understand the deeper causes of the problems they might need to solve.
For a more detailed post on how we’re trying to tackle IDU’s, please see my blog.
Have a go at this – pause at 1:30 and get chatting before moving on! Another great video by Derek Muller (@veritasium), and will be useful in discussions of the scientific method, hypothesis testing and the nature of science.
A no is usually more useful than a yes…
Click here for a summary of our recent student-designed Grade 10 (MYP5) Environmental Sciences unit that we planned for students to design and implement. I used this project as my trial for Hapara, a GoogleDocs dashboard system.
In summary, using this as a management tool allowed for a smooth and highly differentiated, student-led inquiry unit in MYP 5 Environmental Science. Find out more.
As we study science, a lot of our time and resources are devoted to implementing an engaging practical scheme of work. Are we really making the most educational use of this time, these resources and the opportunities that we have?
Teachers all over the world use experiments and demonstrations to engage students in the concept being taught. But does this actually improve student learning? Two recent videos have got me thinking about this issue, and before you read on you should watch them both.
The first is from UK science teacher & communicator Alom Shaha (@alomshaha), half the brains behind the sciencedemo.org website. The video was produced for the Nuffield Foundation’s new Practical Work for Learning resource. He refers to a number of research papers in the video, and is also one of the leaders of the #SciTeachJC (science teachers journal club) twitter discussion group.
Do you recognise those labs and how do you use them? Do the labs we do really help us teach the concepts we intend them to, and how can we rethink (or at least evaluate) our use of labs.
The second video is from US Chemistry teacher Tom Stelling (@ChemistTom), on his “vRant” about students asking to “blow something up” and the dangers of ‘wow’ demos as distraction rather than education.
Note: this post rambles a bit from here on. If you want to know more, please read on. Otherwise, all the good bits were in Alom & Tom’s videos.
As we finish our Exploring Environments student-designed units, students have published blog posts for the science communication assessed task. In this task, assessed for Communication in Science, they had to pick a case study or current news item of interest and direct connection to their group’s unit. Using guidance, models of good science writing, GoogleDocs drafting (and for some, pointers from professional science writer Andy Revkin), they wrote short articles on their case study.
There’s no point writing for an audience of one, so…
..here they are!
If you do visit and feel like posting a comment, remember that these are school students, and that your comments must be appropriate, constructive and positive.
- Maggie’s post on fighting Aricanized bees with… more bees!
- Heather’s post on invasive mussels and their damaging impacts.
- Parina’s post on 13 oils spills in 30 days (!)
- Joanna’s post on Australia burning.
- Kyoko’s post on painting the roof white to cool the town.
- Rohan’s post on the cost of shark finning.
- Sanam’s post on the end of the reign of the king of butterflies.
- Stephanie’s post on cell phones and honeybees.
- Mahya’s post on Australia’s new colour on the temperature chart.
- TaeHyun’s post on spring floods and the Gulf of Mexico dead zone.
- Yota’s post on Sea Shepherd vs Japan.
- Aili’s post on bluefin tuna being worth too much dead to be allowed to live.
- Cedric’s post on the mystery of the dead pigs in China.
- Mikka’s post on the shrinking Antarctic ozone hole.
- Haruki’s post on the highest global temperatures in 4,000 years.
Although George Monbiot’s fruitless search for an ethical smartphone has ended with the discovery of tin for parts being sourced through child labour on the Bangka Islands in Indonesia, it has turned up a lot of useful resources that could form great prompts for an MYP Sciences, Design and Economics inter-disciplinary unit on life cycles of electronics.
Some ideas that could be pitched at different levels for students:
- What is life cycle analysis and what do we mean by ‘designed for the dump’?
- How can we create resources that help us appreciate what we have, rather than feeling the ‘need’ to pick up the latest and greatest?
- Design a campaign or project based on one of the 8 R’s (below).
- Analyse and evaluate the data in the Short Circuit report. Write a case study or investigative piece one one og highlight facts, issues, problems or potential solutions.
- Collect and analyse community data on perceptions of need, rate of purchase and disposal of electronics. Do people know what is in them, where their dangers are and where they end up?
One of the resources shared by Monbiot was this fantastically detailed document called the Short Circuit Report, produced by the Gaia Foundation & Friends of the Earth’s Make It Better campaign. It is packed with information, data and images. One in particular stood out as a discussion starter on choices and design:
The Story of Electronics is another video introduction that might hook students into finding out more about these shiny gadgets that are permanently attached to our bodies.
For more resources and ideas, have a look at this Storify:
GoogleTrends allows you to plot the popularity of search terms (since 2004), by geographical region or worldwide. This could be a great way to launch inquiry on a topic in science that has seasonal trends or patterns, and could be used to set up simple DBQ practice. It is limited in the linear presentation of data, and the data are search frequencies rather than scientific data, but as the patterns raise questions, they could be followed-up with searches for more valid sources and explanations.
In the example below, Frank Swain (@SciencePunk) had put in the search term “morning after pill” for the UK and found a peak every Sunday. An interesting pattern that could set up some discussion in class based on reproduction, behaviour, risk management, ethics, hormonal control or more.
This could lead to a quick (though basic) way to set up some simple data-based questions or stimulus for exploration. Here is a plot for the search term “vaccine”. Think of the questions it might raise in discussion.
What questions does it raise and how would it lead to further exploration? Here are some examples:
- Why does it peak each October?
- Why was traffic so high in 2009-10?
- What do you predict for the coming year?
This leads into discussion of sources of information, accessing databases and the reasons for vaccines.
One neat feature is that you can add other search terms to the graph in the same time period, though it will normalise the data. Another is the ‘headlines’ feature that shows some popular news headlines near peaks. Yet another is the ‘predict’ feature that will model the coming year based on trends and patterns. “Predict” is often asked in DBQ’s, so this might make for some good questions. Here’s what happens when we add “flu vaccine”, headlines and the forecast:
From this exploration, you could move onto looking at flu trends, and GoogleTrends has special sections for tracking flu and dengue fever:
This next one is a neat demonstration of what happens when you change the scale of the y-axis. In this case, the second dataset is added, compared to the original and the original becomes much less noticeable as a result. How many times do we tell our students to set appropriate scales on the axes and make use of the space to be able to see trends and patterns?
For another bit of fun, here’s one on “Genome”:
- A quick, easy launching pad for inquiry
- Develop simple DBQs easily
- Does need to be supported by inquiry into more valid sources for the topic
- Each graph is ‘normalised’ which could lead into useful discussion of the effect of scales on data presentation