Tools to enhance Planning and Carrying Out Investigations: Practice 3

Happy 2013!

I am kicking of the New Year with the third in a series of posts designed to identify MLTI tools that can be used to enhance science practices.  Teachers throughout the Maine already support students to plan and carry out investigations. The good news is that are several GREAT tools on the MLTI device that you can use to expand the ways you can engage students directly in investigation.

First, let’s take a moment to consider what the Framework says about planning and carrying out investigations. The excerpt below describing the progression of planning and carrying out investigations includes teacher-guided and student-directed experiences.  Virtual investigations can provide more opportunity for both.

Students need opportunities to design investigations so that they can learn the importance of such decisions as what to measure, what to keep constant, and how to select or construct data collection instruments that are appropriate to the needs of an inquiry. They also need experiences that help them recognize that the laboratory is not the sole domain for legitimate scientific inquiry and that, for many scientists (e.g., earth scientists, ethologists, ecologists), the “laboratory” is the natural world where experiments are conducted and data are collected in the field. . .

Students should have opportunities to plan and carry out several different kinds of investigations during their K-12 years. At all levels, they should engage in investigations that range from those structured by the teacher—in order to expose an issue or question that they would be unlikely to explore on their own (e.g., measuring specific properties of materials)—to those that emerge from students’ own questions. As they become more sophisticated, students also should have opportunities not only to identify questions to be researched but also to decide what data are to be gathered, what variables should be controlled, what tools or instruments are needed to gather and record data in an appropriate format, and eventually to consider how to incorporate measurement error in analyzing data.

Older students should be asked to develop a hypothesis that predicts a particular and stable outcome and to explain their reasoning and justify their choice. By high school, any hypothesis should be based on a well-developed model or theory. In addition, students should be able to recognize that it is not always possible to control variables and that other methods can be used in such cases—for example, looking for correlations (with the understanding that correlations do not necessarily imply causality).

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NetLogo – Students can manipulate variables in existing models to explore phenomena in biology, chemistry and physics, and systems dynamics to name a just a few of the collections in the models library. Students can also adapt and develop models to test new assumptions.

Maine Explorer – Students can run, and see the effects of, preset investigations for five ecological scenarios.  Students can also investigate the effects of changing the rules of the scenario in Program a Bunny.  Teachers may download a full curriculum from the project website.

Molecular Workbench – Students can manipulate the models to investigate aspects of molecular interaction.  As an example students can manipulate the influence of the number of  atoms and the temperature to better understand Brownian motion.

Geniquest – Students can design their own crossbreeding experiments with  fantasy dragons. The ability of this program to “see” chromosomes, alleles, and genes in addition to the physical features of the dragon make the investigations appropriate at a variety of levels, from discussions of the heritability of traits at middle school to discussions of cross-over at high school .

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Wolf Quest – Let me start by saying I LOVE this simulation (game)!   By becoming immersed in a model of “being” a wolf, students can investigate the complexity of a wolf’s ecological niche and investigate what happens when a wolf changes its interaction with the environment.

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PhotoBooth – Allows students to investigate phenomenon around them by recording photographic observations comparing changes.

MyWorld and Google Earth – Allow students to investigate relationships among many different types of datasets. This tools provides a great way to develop the understanding in the Framework “that it is not always possible to control variables and that other methods can be used in such cases—for example, looking for correlations (with the understanding that correlations do not necessarily imply causality).”

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