Projects: LOOPS : LOOPS Curriculum Thoughts
This page last changed on Jun 01, 2009 by kbell.
The proposal promised that we would develop two modules: "Force and Motion" and "Chemical and Biological Reactions." These represent about 50% of the eighth grade science curriculum. The California standards treat the part separately, however, so these two modules represent four of eight standards. These four contain more sub-parts than others, so they are probably a bit more important. For instance, about 57% of the content test items on the California standardized tests are on these topics.
One of the other eight standards is about inquiry, which seems to test mostly graphs and handling experimental data. Our approach of using data from probes and models requires this material. In addition, another standard includes the molecular basis of temperature and phase change, which may be essential for our treatment of chemical reactions. Thus, to do what we promised, we need to cover at least 55% of the content in the standards and this could easily reach 2/3.
This means that we need to support about the same proportion of class time during the year. This translates to at least ~10 weeks on each of the two modules. For some reason, perhaps because we knew teachers would want to add their own content, we outlined six weeks for each of the two modules. Whether it is 12 or 20 weeks, there is no way we can prepare that much computer-based content, nor would schools want or be able to support such a radical change. Instead, we will probably need to integrate computer-based materials into instruction that will also include class discussions, homework, "wet" labs, and quizzes.
Paul and I discussed the idea of providing curriculum parts for each week that teachers could integrate into their usual approach. These parts might include a lecture-demo introducing the software, a day long investigation using probes and models, assessments (including released items), and extensions. We will then work with the teachers to create lesson plans that include other material.
Given that we want to cover such a large fraction of the content for the year, we may see some teacher resistance. This is not like TELS where one or two complete two-week projects can be wedged into the curriculum during the year. One way to overcome this resistance is to tie our approach very closely to the standards. If each week is one or two standards and includes assessments based on released items for the standards covered, then perhaps some objections will be met. If, in addition, we are flexible about how each week is planned, then our content might be viewed as helping instead of detracting from the real business of the course.
We have grant funding to equip each classroom with 15 student computers, probes, camera, a teacher computer, a projector, and a wireless router, so students working in pairs will have access to computers in class at all times. This is essential to provide feedback LOOPS.
In reviewing the released test items for the California grade eight assessment, we were struck with how simple they are. They have some numeric questions, but calculations can be done without a calculatorit is basically conceptual. Graphs are extremely important. Fake experiment data is used that contains no noiseall the points line up perfectly. All relationships are linear and most are simple ratios. We must be careful to not overshoot our audience or our goals, although we may want to test with some more complex questions, too, such as the FCI and other concept inventories.
It strikes us that the only reason kids would NOT ace this test is that they find the content boring and abstract, and that the decontextualized nature of the questions would fail to make any contact with students. For this reason, I think we were smart to promise an overall theme for each module, which would grab student interest. For force and motion we promised "hang time" in basketball and a video analysis tools that would allow students to study their own jumps and cartwheels. We struggled with anything as interesting in chemical reactions, and selected "flames," but this is probably a non-starter for safety issues. .
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