Using Technology to Synthesize Meaning (EDIM 508 u03a1)

Our students have vast amounts of information available to them at the click of a button.  As educators, we need to help them learn strategies to take in all of this new information and construct meaning out of it.  I use many technology tools to help achieve this goal throughout the school year.  One of the objectives for 6th grade science in Texas is to classify rocks by how they are formed.  In this unit, students used Google Drive to collaborate and SMART Notebook to share their learning.

My lessons follow the 5 E instructional method:  Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate.  The engage piece of the rock cycle unit was to observe different rock s and put them into groups.   Students used their science journals to record their information.  I did not give them any specific instructions other than to put them into 3 separate groups.  We then watched a short video, Types of Rocks and the Rock Cycle, from Discovery Education.  The explore component included this video and a lab activity.  We used crayon shavings to represent individual sediments.  The students then compacted and cemented the shavings to make a sedimentary rock.  The next step was to place a piece of foil on top of a beaker of boiling water.  The colors started to mix from the heat.  This represented a metamorphic rock.  Students then let the pieces of crayon melt completely, turning black and forming magma.  We let the wax, or magma, cool and harden into an igneous rock.  Students taped pieces of each rock sample in their journal as they created a graphic organizer of the information they learned from the lab.

The students used Google Drive for the next step.  Every student has a Google account through our school district.  I put students in random groups for the explain stage of the lesson.  The students were not sitting together and were working on a shared Google document.  We then read a passage about the different types of rocks together as a class.  Students were sharing important information from the passage, lab and video during this time.   Students then created a shared drawing of the rock cycle showing how each type of rock could transform into another type of rock.  Each document and drawing was shared with me so that I could monitor their progress and comment if needed.

Students went back to their original table groups for the elaborate activity.  Student were given the same rock samples from the engage activity and reevaluated the categories they created in their science journals based on what they had learned from the previous activities.  Students also added to the graphic organizer of the rock cycle in their journals from the lab by adding arrows to show how each type of rock could change into another.

The evaluation of student understanding was a rock cycle story.  Students used SMART Notebook to create their own digital stories about a rock going through the rock cycle.  (Note:  Students without access to SMART Notebook could use Photostory, Voicethread or another Web 2.0 tool to create their digital story.)  The students were given a rubric of the information to be included in their story which included the following:  make sure to include each type of rock in your story, explain where the rock is at each stage of the rock cycle and describe the formation of each type of rock.

This unit lasted about 2 weeks and was a huge success with my students.  They were able to learn about the concepts from different sources including each other.  I ask my students for feedback when we try new things in the classroom and the one thing that students liked the most was the ability to work with so many different students in a variety of ways.  The video below was created by one of my students.

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