Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Southwest Michigan Modeling Workshop Day 12

Today was a weird one.

We started the day discussing the readings - the first couple of sections of chapter 4 and an important reading by Jackson, Dukerich and Hestenes and the effectiveness of Modeling Instruction.

The Arons reading was fine but I think the participants are kind of over it.  The topic was about 2 dimensional motion and vectors.  I think at this point they understand where Arons is coming from and aren't surprised by anything he writes.  However, it is still good for them to see someone besides me talking about the importance of constructing all meaning before attempting to name it.

After the Arons article we looked at the article entitled Modeling Instruction: An Effective Model for Science Instruction.  This is the most recent article that we read in the workshop and is basically an argument about the efficacy of modeling instruction.  The participants felt that the article would be a good primmer for an administrator.  I kind of agree.  One of them felt, however, that an administrator would really need a one-page condensed version for easy digestion.  I found that kind of funny.

This article led us to a discussion of how the participants could start the year to get the administrators on their side early.  It will be hard for them to implement a whole new methodology.  It will be new and different for the kids - who may rebel a bit and if the administrators are already on their side.  

It turns out that I'm more of a big picture guy.  I see what I want to do and how I can make it happen but mostly hope that it all works out in the end through divine intervention.  I normally surround myself with those amazing detail oriented people that help me fill in the specifics, however, this summer's workshop I am flying mostly solo.

Which means that occasionally stuff falls through the cracks.  Exhibit A - when I forgot to do the free fall acceleration lab.  Oops.  We had to go back like 3 days later and fill it in.  That one was actually as much of a sequence error as an oops.

But today's oops was exactly that.  At the end of last week we were all exhausted.  We finished unit 5 and were ready to move on...or so I thought.  We never white boarded worksheet 4.  In my head last week I was thinking, "We'll just finish worksheet 4 on Monday."  But when Monday came I totally forgot and we moved on to unit 6.  It wasn't until the end of Monday that I remembered so we had to white board and discuss worksheet 4 this morning.

I was thinking that maybe we could just skip it.  Unfortunately we can't because the participants need more practice facilitating their own discussions.  Every year that we've done this the most adamant comment at a follow up session is, "I wish we'd had more practice facilitating discussions."  I wish you'd had more practice also.  However, every time we facilitate it takes like a whole hour and that is one less hour for content!  So after the reading discussions we took the rest of the morning to white board and discuss worksheet 4.

After that we jumped BACK into our discussion of energy.  Yesterday we kind of decided that we didn't have a coherent sense of energy and definitely didn't have a definition.  So today we started with listing all of the different energy types.  The participants, much like the students, came up with about 15 different types from what we expect; kinetic and elastic to some out there examples; green energy and biomass.

Probing the students here and getting on the board what is in their heads is crucial.  The point is that nothing that I'm writing down comes from me, it all comes from the students.  They are their ideas and concepts, I am just recording them.  So although it may seem like a traditional lecture set up with the teacher at the board the generation of content is upside-down.

To start to analyze their list in a physics kind of way I imposed the first rule of energy;

All energy is stored energy and you must be able to say where/how it is stored and/or how it we notice it

This rule puts students in a position to make their energy concept more concrete.  I used a bed spring and pushed it downward with a tennis ball and then let go.  The ball popped upward which begs the question, where was the energy stored?  Clearly it was in the spring - and I know that because I saw the spring compressed.  Then it was transferred to the ball and I know that because the ball is moving.  

We used this rule on our list to make sure that everything they suggested had a storage mechanism or could at least be observed as being stored.  The main reason I do this is to deal with the "potential energy problem".  For too long teachers have just called it "potential energy" without a coherent of where or how the energy is stored.  This took an intuitive leap by the participants but I suggested that it was stored in the gravitational field.  This is not awesome but is the best explanation that we have.

I introduced the idea of pie charts, did a couple of examples and then they got to work on unit 7 worksheet 1.  They white boarded the problems and we set them up to facilitate by themselves.

Long day - I hope to wrap up energy tomorrow.

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