Monday, February 21, 2011

Overview of the Growing Communities of Scientists system of tools

Joe Purvis just sent me an e-mail looking for further information with which to educate his administrator on GCoS.  He, along with James W. and Andrea E. from Anwatin Middle School are planning on building their own set of computer-embedded tables this summer.  As I was responding to his request for information, I realized that I ought to do it right and put it out here in the public domain.  So here goes.

Embedding computers into students' normal workspace--a shared workspace--is the key innovation.  It is this that brings all the other tools to the table.  Under the leadership of a skilled science teacher, these tools enable a classroom of students to grow as a community of scientists.  Here are some pictures of the 4-person, computer-embedded tables in action.

The computer tables function as simple science tables
The computers supply clear (teacher-created) instructions
Here are some of the tools that I use with my students.  Am I using them systematically to their maximum capability--for sure not.  Nonetheless, many exciting and important things are happening already including increases in student metacognition, science conceptual learning, learning scientific inquiry, closing of the 'digital divide' and ownership of their own scientific pursuit.  It also transforms student-student and student-teacher relationships, allowing for authentic student discussion of science ideas--and in their own words, with their own questions.  For an example of this last point, note the FLE4 in the link in number 4, below.
  1. Access searchable knowledge objects such as static web pages, instructional videos, Simulations, Flash content.
  2. Individual Creation of shareable resources such as Vee Maps, Thinking Maps, Blogs, Concept maps.
  3. Collaboratively create and improve Knowledge Objects such as a wiki, web page, Vee, Jigsaw project, thinking maps, concept maps.
  4. Scaffold communication around objects of inquiry such as FLE4, voice thread.
  5. Digital Resource centers such as a scanner station and printer station.
These are just a few of the tools a teacher will use in the GCoS classroom.  Below are a few examples of these tools.  These tools are used within larger frameworks such as knowledge building and progressive inquiry.   This link provides a solid introduction from some brilliant researchers in Finland who have been working on this for years. They are also the creators of one of our tools, FLE4.

  1. Find online learning objects such as... (see links above in "access searchable knowledge objects")
  2. Create and organize curriculum such as this flow map I'm currently working on.  To go to a link on the flow map, click on the icon, then click on the words that drop down.  This concept map show the conceptual organization of the unit I'm currently planning.  It is based on the district supplied list of required vocabulary words for the topic.
  3. Create and organize and present daily lessons such as this one and this one.  Note that by clicking on the, "Also available in presentation mode..." at the top of the page, the web page becomes a 'powerpoint' presentation.  They are accessible from home.
  4. Create and share learning objects with students and other teachers such as these ones that were used for the activity pictured above to the right.
  5. Create and share and improve lessons such as at the LeMill site.
Logan checking connections.
Making a team concept map with cmaptools
Example of a graded concept map.  Green=Good; Yellow=Partly Good; Pink=Bad.
Another good concept map albeit with less visual organization

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