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A World in the Classroom: Making Sense of Seasonal Change through Talk and Technology. Technical Report No. 11



Arguing that the development of a notion of sense-making is of critical importance to improving science learning, this paper examines science teaching in four Boston (Massachusetts)-area classrooms that participated in an experiment on ways of integrating technology into a sixth-grade science curriculum on the earth's seasons. The task of the teachers was to design a unit that included modeling and data collection components and to integrate the use of technology into these activities. As the work progressed, the project took the form of a formative experiment in which teachers modified their approaches and the researchers modified their support as they attempted to achieve a goal of engaging students in active science learning activities. Detailed descriptions of activities in the four classrooms point to the ways that a common curriculum design, which takes the scientific theory as the objective, can result in the dissociation of the data from the theory, and suggest some of the difficulties in bringing together the conditions for helping students make sense of science. It is noted that, in many cases, data are discussed without engaging in questions about why the data have a particular pattern; structural equation models are often taught directly with no explicit discussion of how the model explains specific data; and the systematic dissociation of theory and practice can also apply to the use of simulations, databases, and telecommunications. A discussion of the simulation SunLab examines the use of this computer-assisted instructional program both as a surrogate for the earth-sun system model, and as a data collection device. It is concluded that classroom or group discussion may prove more fruitful than individual exploration, and that the teachers' role is crucial in creating the framework. It is further argued that the design of database and microcomputer learning systems should allow for the sharing of data and models from the start. (29 references) (DB)


Newman, D. & Torzs, F. A World in the Classroom: Making Sense of Seasonal Change through Talk and Technology. Technical Report No. 11. Retrieved March 22, 2019 from .

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