CEP 810: Science/Tech/Maker Ed Lesson

Education, Technology

I enjoyed working with Susan on a middle school science lesson plan that would allow students to gain an authentic understanding on different forms of energy transfer while developing skills in technology. Students would understand how to use an Arduino as a scientific tool and compare that to traditional classroom techniques for collecting data. As we discussed in class, it was a struggle to find the right context to integrate technology organically, and there were many ideas that were discarded or shelved for another time. I see that process as how it should be. From what I saw with other groups’ lesson plans, the key is start with a great lesson plan and see how making can take it even further.

From the beginning, we wanted the students to be in charge of their learning in this lesson, with the instructor as a facilitator, mentor, and (I like Craig‘s term) nudger. This fits with the constructivist approach of learning we’ve been covering, as students will come in with ideas of how energy travels and why temperature changes occur that new knowledge will need to be built upon. We can begin the lesson or have a prior lesson on the definitions of radiation, convection, and conduction and perhaps have students create mental models of what those processes may look like, to fit with the most recent Practices for K-12 Science Classrooms and address misconceptions. I think this initial learning  can take place through direct instruction as the content falls under a well- structured domain, as we can clearly define what each type of energy transfer is and how they are classified. In the real world, we could find that two or all three are occurring at once and it may be more difficult to classify, but since we often deal with ideal, simplified representations in science, this method would still be appropriate.

When we decided to move forward with this lesson idea, in the back of my head I thought this would be structured more as a guided inquiry activity, but with discussions with Susan, we were able to define a way that open inquiry could occur. Our approach allowed students to choose the materials they would like to test in order to measure temperature changes using an Arduino with a temperature sensor. This would require them to identify the modes of energy transmission they learned prior, apply their mental models and demonstrate transfer from the abstract to the concrete. Debate over students’s classification could result, which again would be a great learning moment. Once data was collected, this would also allow students to compare results, so if any modes of transmission were misidentified, the data would tip them off that something is amiss. This is the part of science that can get messier and is not so cut-and-dry: once we have data, how do we interpret it? With voluminous, complex data, scientists can disagree on interpretations. Now we are moving into an ill-structured domain, and constructivist techniques would be more appropriate, or as Spiro and DeSchryver (2009) argue, essential in this context, as the type of problem solving in this domain cannot be directly taught, and would best be learned through experience with a variety of problems that each require a unique approach, although commonalities can exist.

When deciding how to revise this lesson, I considered several options, none of which are mutually exclusive:

1) Turn it into a large project that connects to real-world problem solving as it relates to making measurements and displaying data with tech, as inspired by classmates lessons, particularly problem optimization when wiring a house for lighting.

2) Susan had a great suggestion of an art component, which would allow for further expression by students and tap into the idea of aesthetics within maker projects.

3) Students are given a chance to use a tool often found in maker projects, but they don’t get to make themselves. This addition would also address the first and second options, as engineering skills, particularly the iterative design process, and giving projects your own personal spin are key components of maker projects.

This last option is what I chose to include in the lesson as an extension activity, since it applies constructionism, an extension of constructivism, where students continue to learn by doing, but also “in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity” (Parpet & Hardel, 1991). I believe this to be an academic expression of “making.”



Spiro, R. J., &  DeSchryver, M. (2009). Constructivism: When it’s the wrong idea and when it’s the only idea. In S. Tobias & T. M. Duffy (Eds.), Constructivist instruction: Success or failure? (pp. 106-123). New York, NY, US: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

Papert, S., & Harel, I. (1991). Constructionism. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

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