Archive for the 'Science' Category

Learn not be engaged in technology

I would  like to ban the words “engage”, “engagement”, “engaging” from education.   Many educational articles, company ads, and conference presentations use the this concept with titles such as “Engage your students through…”, “Highly engagement by….”, or “Engaging Students ….”.  Teachers will comment “My students were so engaged in the lesson.”  I would like much more than mere engagement, I want learning.

In a Social Studies class, students can be “engaged” in creating a PowerPoint of a country for many class periods but they  may not have  learned the critical country information.  Also, an “engaging” activity may be for students to create a video showing an understanding of a play  in their English  class. The students  can be fully attentive to the project but if they focus on sword play instead of the plot of the play, their engagement does not end up in learning.  Likewise, in Science, students can fully participate in a twitter conversation about the impact  of development on the local environment with every student tweeting.  Does each tweet add more information (depth or breadth of learning)?  Modern Language students can be “engaged” in using their Smartphones to collect pictures  for their teacher but do they talk in the target language about the pictures?

When we use essential questions, backward design, or problem based learning, students immerse themselves in learning. They improve in their learning through technology.

Do your student focus on learning?

I have  nine + Spanish spontaneous speaking activities at Teacherspayteachers:

My formative assessment books:

Open Source Free Educational Software

The following list of  free open source educational software comes from OpenDisc

Art and Graphics

GIMPEdit digital photos and create graphics
GIMP animationCreate animations
InkscapeMake professional looking vector graphics
Pencil – Animate your own cartoons
Blender3D graphic modeling, animation, rendering and playback
TuxpaintDrawing program for children ages 3 to 12


VLCPlay music, videos and DVDs
AudacityRecord, edit and mix music
TuxGuitar – Compose your own music
Piano Booster – Teach yourself the piano
AvidemuxEdit movies and add special effects
Infra RecorderBurn your own CDs and DVDs
CamStudioRecord your actions on a computer
Really Slick ScreensaversGreat looking screensavers

Science and Mathematics

Nasa Worldwind Discover the earth and other planets~
Greenfoot – Teach yourself how to program
GraphCalcA graphical calculator
Guido Van RobotLearn how computer programs work
CarMetalCool mathematical modelling tool
Maxima – University standard computer algebra system
CelestiaExplore the universe in three dimensions
StellariumA planetarium on your PC


FreeCiv Control the world through diplomacy and conquest
FreeColDiscover the ‘New World’ and build an empire
Numpty Physics – Solve puzzles using physics
TuxTyping 2Learn to type like a pro
Tux of Math Command – Test your mathematical skills
Winboard ChessThe classic game of chess

My addition to the above list:
– word processing, spreadsheet, “PowerPoint like” presentation, drawing, database program

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Creating Imaginary Worlds in the Class

Some educators feel strongly that schools should use virtual worlds to engage today’s youth. I remember a distant time when teachers had the power to create imaginary worlds in the class. A Social Studies would tell about the Civil War from the viewpoint of a teenager as his middle school students enter in that teenager’s struggles.  An English teacher used A Midsummer’s Nights Dream to explore young love for high school students. They understand the world of crazy love, mistaken love, and true love. The play becomes a vehicle for them to explore an important issue in their lives.  A science teacher had the students adopt a local stream; they tell the stream’s story throughout the school year. They write as if they were the living stream.  Teachers have the power to create wonderful worlds in the classroom.  Students can be transported to other places, times, and events and see through the eyes of others. They learn more in-depth and more comprehensively.

Can you create imaginary worlds in your class so that students enter into a different world? Do you transport them to a different realm of seeing and thinking?  Get your Merlin’s wand out!

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Students, is available through Eye-on-Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Activating Prior Knowledge and Formative Assessment

As I work with my students to develop their writing skills, I want to know what they already know about writing. I want to activate their prior knowledge and experiences. However, there is a down side to activating prior knowledge. A science teacher friend says that his students have many more misconceptions about science, then conceptions. He is careful to find out their misconceptions about a topic at the very beginning of the unit so that he can spend time in helping them to understand that their misconception is not valid science thinking. If they continue with this misconception, they will never grasp the real conception. I find that the same thing happens in writing. Students have misconceptions about writing such as “if I write it, it has to be good”,  “A very long story at the beginning of a very short essay is a great introduction.” or “One small piece of evidence is enough to convince my reader”.

I think we have to be aware that activating prior knowledge means activating whatever the student s may  think they “know” about the topic. Such activation does not assume that all prior “knowledge” is really positive knowledge. Activating prior knowledge provides a great formative assessment tool since we can “see” the students’ previous learning.  Therefore, we can guide the student forward instead letting student being stuck in his/her misconceptions.

Do you activate and diagnose students’ prior knowledge and  figure out strategies to  help the students improve in their learning?

Science Assessment and technology from a major textbook company


I recently had the opportunity to look at an elementary Science teaching guide from a major publisher. I looked in detail at one unit “Observing Weather.”

I noticed that:
They referenced the National Science Education Standards (see page #) without including the actual standard in the lesson plan. The referenced the general standard but no specific part of it.

Students were assessed in a group about the science concept (baseline assessment). No individual scoring was done.
I did not see any mention of what the teacher was to do once he/she had the information from the baseline assessment.

For the final assessments, students were to go back and modify their original baseline assessment.

Reteaching was simply going over the same material.

The final assessment was primarily memorization although the students had done numerous higher level thinking activities. It did not look like the textbook assessed the science standards but it was hard to say since it did not identify the specific part of the standard that it was teaching in the unit.

In the unit overview resource section there was no mention of technology. After searching carefully within the unit there was a mention of CD section and a few websites. Although “Observing weather” has many possible technology-infused activities from watching the weather, seeing others’ experiments, seeing animations, etc., these were not mentioned.

The unit was a hands-on unit with the students do many mini-experiments but they did not use technology to see weather in action.

How do you use technology in your science units to help students succeed in the science standards?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Podcasts: Science education or technology focus?


Do you believe that technology is to support education?

Do you really believe it?

Listen to a student

“I created a planet podcast. It took four days (1 for content, 1 for planning the podcast and 2 days in the lab). Each of us created a podcast about the planets or other parts of the galaxy. We created and posted them. I did not listen to any other students’ podcasts.”

I listened to his podcast. It contain the same facts found in any science book or encyclopedia.

Was this a lesson in Science standards or in technology? 25% of the time was on the content and 75% was on the technology.

Did the teacher focus on academics or on technology? What do you focus on?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

Digital Camera: Low Tech For High Learning


Low tech gives very high learning results. Teachers do not have to have a room full of tech gizmos to have great technology-infused learning. Whenever I hear teachers say, “I cannot do that because I don’t have xyz technology,” I emphasize what they do have and what they can do with what they have. We need to be “do-ers” and not “blockers.”

A digital camera is a universal technology that can be used in any subject area. A digital camera is fairly inexpensive, a $99 5 megapixel digital camera is more than adequate for the classroom. Digital cameras appeal to the millenial generation of sight and sound. Students can operate digital cameras with little or no instruction. If the camera has a built in megapixel sizes, many classroom pictures can be taken at lower megapixels and moved directly into other programs with no memory-reduction manipulation program.

Digital cameras can be used in any subject. Here’s a few examples:

Math – show math applied to real life such as construction; show various manipulates that add up to the same total; and demonstrate difficult concepts like add negatives

English- visualize the emotion in a poem; show the steps in a process; use as part of a persuasion speech;

Science – show the key parts of a lab; explain a science concept; see the details of plants

Social Studies – have images of the ethnic diversity of the community; show the pro and con of a debate issue; show the changes in an event.

Students can move these images into a PowerPoint slideshow; create an e-movie program; print out and add captions; make up instruction manuals; produce persuasive posters; create timelines; make history galleries; etc.

How have your students used a digital camera in your classroom?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


High School & College University Educators Disagree on What’s Important

High School and College Learning

Mary Beth Marklein in “Schoolteachers, professors differ on what’s important” in USA Today Tues April 10, 2007 IID reports on the ACT’s study which was just released. Some major differences

Math – High School teachers emphasize advanced content while profs want an in-depth understanding of fundamentals (basic operations and applications).

Science – High School teachers emphasize factual knowledge while profs want process and inquiry skills (evaluating similarities and differences).

English – High School teachers emphasize introductions and conclusions while profs do not think it is very critical.

Reading – Both agree on teaching ideas of “main ideas and author’s approach”

Maybe if we could get high school teachers and professors to sit together to discuss common learning goals then students would have a seamless transition from high school to college learning. Have you talked with a college prof recently about common learning goals? Have you talked with a high school teacher recently about common learning goals? Let’s set common goals.

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Scientifically-Based Methods vs Action Research

Action Research Not Academic Research

I love to read science articles when they show that a theory that we have held for centuries and has been “scientifically-proven” is now considered incorrect. Pluto is a famous example. Dinosaur “facts” change constantly. Science is a dynamically changing body of knowledge.

So what have scientifically-based methods done for the P12 or even the college environment? How many “fads” have been proven to be successful only to be displaced by the next “fad”? How many millions of academic research projects are done each year? Has education fundamentally changed due to any of this research? Greg Toppo in “Education Science in Search of Answers” USA Today 6D Wed Apr. 11 2007 mentions research “studies that do little to help schools solve practical problems such as how to train teachers, how to raise skills, (and) how to lower dropout rates” Education researchers do not do “rigorous …and important research”. He tells that the What Works ClearingHouse evaluates research studies and finds over 75% unacceptable.

Let’s move from academic research to Action Research. How does what you do in your class make a learning difference in your students in the next month in terms of the standards? Try out an instructional method, give several assessments, evaluate the success of the method, and try another method if students are not reaching the success level you want. A simple spreadsheet can be a powerful tool to aid you in your action research. When the class reaches your level, congratulate them. Make your classroom a place where action research makes a real difference in the academic lives of students.

(My 200th blog entry!)

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


Design a City: Big Student Learning Through Simulation and Outside Judges

Future city

“Future engineers think up cities” describes how middle school students think up future cities (USA Today, Feb 26, 2007, 8D). In their city design, these teams included such aspects as forms of energy to power the city, transportation, infrastructure plans, protection from natural disasters, communication, water, and police protection. After they designed the city using SimCity, they built a model, wrote an essay and gave a presentation to engineering judges.

The students worked under the guidance of a professional engineer from their community as they developed their city.

In this project students developed higher level thinking skills in Science, Math, Social studies, and English standards-based skills.

Talk about a real world learning experience! They develop a future city based on sound science and engineering principles. They worked with an expert from outside the school who constantly gave them formative feedback. They had their work evaluated by experts outside the school.

So what simulations and real world experiences do you involve your students in? How do you engage students in higher level thinking and multi-disciplinary standards through technology? How can you involve community experts to help guide your students?


© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007




An Interactive Whale Videoconference


Recently a Science Club did a videoconference with a marine biologist in Georgia to learn more about whales. She focused on Gray’s Reef and whales, particularly the right whale that the students hope to see during a trip to Boston. The biologist showed many slides and movies. She explained complex ideas in very simple terms. She used terms such as “momma and baby” that the students could relate to. She divided the program into several different segments,each with new and indepth information about whales. She constantly asked factual questions about the information she was giving or asked questions as an introduction to a new segment. Even when a student was wrong, she very politely rephrased the answer so it would be correct. She gave several opportunities for the students to ask any questions they had about whales. She was very aware of the class to whom she was presenting. Her ability to tell stories about the whales made the content very memorable to the students.

During the whole videoconference, the longest time in which she did not ask questions was eight minutes during the movie and the slide show. Although the students were interested in the movie and slide slide, their interest was not as high as when she asked them questions or allowed them to ask her questions.

The only part that I felt was weak was when she played whale sounds. I wished she had explained the possible purpose of those sounds so that the students did not just think that they were “weird” sounds.

The students’ questions to her showed that they had heard and understood what she had explained. Most often the students’ questions requested a more indepth explanation of something that she had said.

So what great videoconferences have your had? How could you tell that your students learned as a result of the videoconference?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007


21st Century Science Classroom Example

 Stream Water to Tap Water

I helped a middle school science class do a water purification project that had many 21st Century Skills. On the second day of class in early September, the teacher showed the students a beaker of stream water and one of tap water. He told them their challenge was to purify the stream water to be just as pure as tap water. He told them that they could use whatever methods they wanted as long as they wrote each up according to the usual lab report model and he approved the method. He sat down. The students waited for him to tell them what to do but he did not.

They began thinking of how to purify the water. Each group wrote it up, got it approved, did the experiment, wrote up the results in their lab format, and posted it to a class network folder. They found out that their approaches either partially worked or did not work. For example, a group put the water through a sponge but found out that the sponge had soap in it. The groups did experiment after experiment over the day few days.

One day a student realized that all the groups in the classroom were trying to solve the same problem, were having some successes, and were having some problems. He asked the teacher if his group could look at the other groups’ experiment lab reports. The teacher said the group could and that was why they had a class folder. The student’s group began to read through the experiments of others, comparing what the other groups had done to what his group had done. They solved the purification issue within ten minutes after reading all the experiment reports. Other groups began to read and learn from others. Every group purified the water.

RSS Education with Technology

  • Tech Integration Teacher, What time is it? August 23, 2016
    When someone asks what time it is, that person wants to know the time, not the history of the clock, not how a clock works, and not what other types of clocks there are. Classroom teachers want to help their students improve their academic learning through technology. Sometimes they need help with technology so they go […]
  • Curriculum Focus, Not Technology Focus July 28, 2016
    In my public school career I have been a classroom teacher, a technology integration specialist and a technology administrator. In my technology role, I served under the Assistant Superintendent for Instruction. She had a simple mission: Improve students’ academic learning. My mission was equally simple: Improve students’ academic learning through technology […]
  • Students React to Digital Badges: Pros, Cons and Interesting June 22, 2016
      ISTE 2016 By Harry Grover Tuttle, Ed. D. College World Language Students’ Preferences Digital Badges – 52%        Paper Certificates – 48% World Language: Can-Do Digital Badges Digital Badges Pro- – Breaks down proficiency more – Shows all badges at once – Is more attractive – Is more appropriate since we use […]
  • Digital Badges: Naming the Badge October 29, 2015
    Once teachers have selected what learning and what digital badges (individual or category badges; see previous blog), the teachers encounter another decision. What will they name each badge? Will they use the full name of the Common Core Standard or the national proficiency? For English, under “Speaking and Listening,”will they write out SL.2 “Integrate and […]
  • Digital Badges: Better Than Grades? October 19, 2015
    Teachers understand that the grade in a course consists of many different factors such as homework, participation , projects, tests, etc. Blodget observes that sometimes grades reflect attitude, effort, ability and behavior ( Equally important, a letter […]
  • World Language Students Use of Mobile Devices in the Classroom October 5, 2015
    Do world language students use technology n the classroom? Do their  teachers go beyond having their students use technology simply for the drill and practice in vocabulary and grammar? Students can use laptops and mobile devices to hear authentic language, read authentic texts, read tweets about famous performers, see up-to-the-moment culture,  watch video […]
  • Digital Badges: Individual or Categorized Learning Badges? September 12, 2015
    The idea of digital badges sounds appealing for the digital children in classes. As teachers start thinking about digital badges, they have to figure out what badges will be awarded. The teachers can award social or academic badges. If teachers decide to use academic badges, then the teachers may base their badges on the Common […]
  • English +Common Core +Mobile = Success (ISTE2014 Poster -details) June 30, 2014
    Here are the ten examples I showed at my English + Common Core  + Mobile ISTE 2014 Poster Session: Based on CCSS Anchor Statements: L.2 Take a Conventions Mobile Online Quiz  to pick the  incorrect sentence from four choices (capitalization) SL.2  Evaluate audio recording of a  book chapter on mobile and predict for next chapter. […]
  • Global Cultural Learning Using Mobile Devices (ISTE Mobile MegaShare Presentation) June 28, 2014
    Based on my presentation at ISTE 2014 Mobile Megashare Why teach about other countries? Location: Large view to small on maps. Culture or culture. Find six similarities in a  mobile picture from another culture (“Wars are caused by differences, not similarities.”-Tuttle.) Tell one piece of information from each different Internet visual from a place in that […]
  • English + Common Core + Mobile = Success in Learning Poster Session at ISTE 2014 June 25, 2014
    In my ISTE Sunday 8-10 am poster session, I demonstrate many diverse mobile activities to help students achieve the English Language Arts Common Core Anchor Statements through mobile devices. The mobile activities focus on free common tool apps that are available on both the Android and the iPad. The students use the apps as a seamless […]

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