EDIM 508 (u02a1) Using Digital Media to Teach Plate Tectonics

I teach 6th grade Science and love using resources from Discovery Education with my students.  I believe presenting content in a variety of ways in my class is the best way to reach all learners.  I see 140 students throughout the day and they all have their own way of learning.  My goal is to introduce the content of each unit in as many ways as possible.  This not only helps all of my students learn but engages them in the content.

Each year 6th grade students in Texas are introduced to the theory of plate tectonics and how the movement of those plates causes different geological events.  This year we started off the plate tectonics unit with a flipped video lesson.  I created a SMART Notebook lesson and turned it into a video.  (Here is the link to the video –  http://wp.me/P2WKzE-1N) I incorporated different activities into the video that helped students interact with the content.  These activities could also be completed without the technology aspect but the video lets each student work at their own pace and keeps them engaged.  It also gives me the opportunity to answer questions and help students that need it.  We also completed a lab activity using shaving cream and graham crackers to simulate the ways the plates move.  (picture below) We have a classroom video camera that students use to record their lab activities.  We can use these videos as a teaching tool after the lab but students have also used the videos to create their own tutorials.

Convergent graham crackers      Virtual lab

One way that I connect this unit to the real world is through Discovery Education’s virtual lab Quake It, Don’t Shake It.   This activity gives students the opportunity to use inquiry skills to solve a real-world problem. The students act as an engineer that works with geologists, architects, and other engineers to test the likely effects of earthquakes on local buildings.  Students learn about plate movement, how earthquakes occur and the possible destruction that they can cause.  Students create an experiment using the earthquake simulator to determine the location of a new building.   This virtual lab can be used with individual students, small groups or whole group.  You can extend the activity by having students create a proposal that they will present to the city council to summarize their findings.

The students really enjoyed this activity.  It gave them an opportunity to use the knowledge they had gained during the plate tectonics unit and apply it in a new way.  It also exposed them to new careers in the science field.  It helped them understand why they were learning about plate tectonics and a real world application of the knowledge.  Using digital media in the classroom not only engages them in the learning of a concept but gives the experiences that would be hard to replicate in the classroom.

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