Tools to enhance Asking Question and Defining Problems: Practice 1

This summer Phil Brookhouse and I inventoried the MLTI tools using a “science practices” lens. Our purpose was to identify the tools that provide obvious instructional support for integrating the 8 Science and Engineering Practices described in A Framework for K-12 Science Education.

Over the next few months Phil and I will write about each of the 8 science and engineering practices.  We will also offer suggestions about which MLTI tools can be used to support integration of each of the practices into classroom instruction.

I hope that this series will serve as a complement to the Practices webinars that NSTA offered this fall, to the MLTI workshops that Phil is currently conducting around Maine, to the Cross Disciplinary Content Literacy sessions, AND to the upcoming webinar series on the Practices that the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA) will offer starting December 10, 2012.  The MMSA series will concentrate its focus on the engineering practices.

So . . . now to Asking Questions and Defining Problems . . .

The Framework for K-12 Science Education describes the following K-12 progression for asking questions and defining problems in the following way.

Students at any grade level should be able to ask questions of each other about the texts they read, the features of the phenomena they observe, and the conclusions they draw from their models or scientific investigations. For engineering, they should ask questions to define the problem to be solved and to elicit ideas that lead to the constraints and specifications for its solution. As they progress across the grades, their questions should become more relevant, focused, and sophisti- cated. Facilitating such evolution will require a classroom culture that respects and values good questions, that offers students opportunities to refine their questions and questioning strategies, and that incorporates the teaching of effective questioning strategies across all grade levels. As a result, students will become increas- ingly proficient at posing questions that request relevant empirical evidence; that seek to refine a model, an explanation, or an engineering problem; or that challenge the premise of an argument or the suitability of a design. (Framework, p. 56)

We found some GREAT resources that you can use to support the practices. Below I have listed each of the MLTI resources and how it could be used to support Practice 1. As a visual cue, I have also included the icon used in the applications window. Try one out this week!

Data Studio Logo

1.  Data Studio  and Logger Pro- Data display tools that provide a way to display real-time data, with or without probes.  Teachers can use these displays to solicit student questions.

Geniquest Logo

2.  Geniquest – A series of powerful genetics simulation activities that can be used to prompt students to pose questions about heritable traits and set up tests to find the results.

Molecular Workbench Logo

3. Molecular Workbench – Another interactive set of simulation tools that can be used to prompt students to answer and pose questions about molecular interactions and test the results.

4. Google Earth – A imaging tool that needs little introduction, Google Earth can be used to prompt students to answer and pose questions about relationships between geography and phenomena through its many maps and constructions layers.

5. Maine Explorer- This multi-layered software includes ecological activities and modeling tools specific to Maine that students can directly manipulate, providing the opportunity to play “What if?” scenarios about ecological concepts.

6. My World GIS – With its GIS layering and powerful analysis tools, you can use this software to prompt students to explore relationships and analysis of many geographical and other databases.

7. Net Logo – A rich library of science and non-science simulations, these tools have a wide range of complexity.  Some are appropriate for middle level and some are more appropriate for high school.  Teachers can direct students to interact with models and explore “What if?” scenarios connected to science concepts.

Numbers Logo

8. Numbers – Calculation and graphing functions that teachers can use as tools for students to organize and analyze data in and then prompt students to ask further questions about the representations.

9. SketchUp Pro – Using this CAD design

SketchUp Pro Logo

program, students can pose design questions and generate solution designs. Students can also ask questions about the constraints and limits of existing designs

Remember, you can also view the NSTA webinar on the Practice of Asking Questions and Defining Problems.