CGS Professional Development Blog
Galileo Educational Network
Science as Modelling
How can we use models to represent our current understanding of the world? Models are created based on ongoing collection of data. Models are actually fictitious, but allow us to understand the way the world works. Must test models as they are created to see if they are good representations. à How do we do this in our classroom? à How can we incorporate more models in the classroom? à What are some ways to “mathematize” the learning being done?
What are the ways we are intentionally connecting individuals within our learning community? How can I intentionally strengthen the network in my own classroom? In my school?
Learning is held relationally, as we interact with one another.
Teaching with Models and Simulations (ex. butterfly simulation of foraging behaviours)
Representational practices at work in a simulation:
- Design à the act of intention and discovery is actually an act of design
- Mathematization à taking ‘steps’ gets you thinking about the pattern of movement
- Debugging à learning to figure out to solve problems as they come up
Elements of effective mathematical and computational modelling:
- Variables (had to decide on how many ‘steps’ to take, what a ‘step’ was, flower types- tall vs short, energy available at each flower, proboscis length)
- Loops (repeating the same action over and over again)
- Conditionals (getting feedback from partner and then acting on that)
- Algorithms (trying to improve survival actions over time)
- Agent-Aggregate relationships (thinking in the moment but also overall survival)
Models are communicative devices:
- Identify the strengths/weaknesses of a model
- Generalize models of individual situations to models that work in a variety of situations
- Compare models to see what can or cannot be represented and what insights can emerge
Connecting Coding to Simulations
- Net Logo = sample simulations, create own simulations https://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/
Develop your own models. Create agents and give them rules.
Can be used by teachers to demo & by students to manipulate.
- Code YYC = simulation of a Bird-Butterfly-Flower Ecosystem
You can play with the simulation and change the variables (ex. number of butterflies, length of proboscis, change colours of butterflies or flowers, camouflage for some, add birds). Can “watch a butterfly and graph its energy”.
When doing coding with students:
- Act the code out first.
- Formulize the rules together using symbolic language.
- Play with/build a simulation to model it à Coding on devices. Option to edit the code and note changes, and even graph it. What patterns do we see? The commands in NetLogo are much more intuitive than traditional coding programs. (rt: right turn, lt: left turn, fd: forward direction, !=: not equal to, etc.)
Effective Design for Intellectual Engagement
- Worthwhile work is authentic to the discipline.
- Teachers need to clearly articulate their learning intentions (target).
- Designs involve gathering information of current understanding to help identify the impact of the learning opportunity that you are providing (Formative Assessments) à when is a good time to check in?
- Teachers intentionally get access to student’s thinking along the way. (ex. LEGO graphs are a very public and visible way. Also consider more private/independent ways.)
- Feedback is provided such that students know what their next steps are.
For the week of June 20 – June 24, we were very fortunate to be able to attend a week of professional development, led by Peter Bowers, in San Mateo, California. We participated in a week long intensive program focused on helping teachers build their capacity in the area of Structured Word Inquiry. Over the week we came to understand that Structured Word Inquiry takes much of what we have historically been taught about the understanding of the English language, the teaching of vocabulary and spelling, and turns all of that on its head.
We started our week by discussing some misconceptions of the English language, a major one being that spelling is only representative of sound. One thing we found so valuable from this learning was the understanding we formed of how and why spelling is representative of meaning. The activities we participated in, and will be able to apply in our classrooms, were based in making meaning, understanding the etymology and morphology of the English language and finding connections between words. The idea of what a word wall or independent dictionary will look like for our students has been drastically changed by all of this learning.
The ‘Big Ideas’ that guide Structured Word Inquiry are:
1. English spelling is a highly ordered system for representing meaning that can be investigated and understood through scientific inquiry.
2. Scientific inquiry seeks the most elegant solution – the deepest structure that accounts for the greatest number of cases.
3. Analysis of word structure for meaning cues can be used to deepen understanding of concepts and terms in any subject area.
We also learned about the importance of scientifically inquiring into words as we come to understand what they mean and how they can be used. Just as in any process of inquiry, it is important to have questions about what we believe to be true and dedicate time to finding answers to our questions, revising our understanding based on what we learn and then asking more questions. The openness of SWI and the authenticity of the discussions of words and language that happened during this week of learning made it evident to us that the practice of inquiring into language is something that will truly will create meaningful and deep understanding of language for our students.
The Structured Word Inquiry Process is as follows:
1. Catch kids with an interesting spelling question. E.g., Why is t in sign? Are rabbits known for or and how do you know?
2. Present a set of words that make the relevant pattern more salient.
3. Help kids hypothesize a solution from carefully presented evidence.
4. Guide testing of students’ hypotheses and identify the precise pattern.
5. Practice the identified pattern with appropriate tools.
Something we love about SWI is how seamlessly it will integrate into all discipline areas. The process that is used to inquire into content words (or any words that learners feel excited about) will allow students to dive even deeper into an inquiry, as they will have a stronger understanding as a result of their knowledge of important terminology.
We are very excited that Peter Bowers will be coming to work with our students and staff in October of the 2016-2017 school year. We are looking forward to sharing our learning with the staff and having Peter here to help us in setting off on the journey of helping learners at the Calgary Girls School find meaning in language.
If you are interested in learning more about Structured Word Inquiry, please feel free to browse Peter’s website: