Project blog stats [to 12/12/11]

Here is a summary of our blog stats for the duration of the project, from initial blog development in January 2011 to December 12th 2011. It details blog posts per month, per week, per day and a detailed summary table.

GeoSciTeach Stats

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A Teacher Toolkit for Integrating Geospatial Concepts into Science Learning

Science learning goes geospatial with GeoSciTeach!

GeoSciTeach is a teacher toolkit for integrating geospatial concepts into science learning. It is designed to be used by  PCGE science tutors, pre-service science teachers, qualified science teachers and other science educators, and provides a comprehensive guide and step-by-step instructions for teachers and educators. It:

  • Explains what geospatial skills are, why they matter, and their place in science teaching and learning;
  • Outlines the GeoSciTeach app: a customisable, easy to use, mobile smartphone application that enables science teachers to take a geospatial approach to designing a range of learning activities;
  • Provides a pictorial ‘walkthrough’ showing easy-to-follow steps for designing an activity with GeoSciTeacher, and how each of the features can be used by students during a learning activity to foster geospatial thinking in science;
  • Describes examples of the app in use at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew through two vignettes illustrating how science can ‘go’ geospatial;
  • Presents comments from teachers and students of their own views of the app;
  • Outlines some alternative science contexts where the app can be used;
  • Provides a framework, indicating ways in which geospatial learning can be integrated into the secondary school science curriculum.

Download the application here:

https://market.android.com/details?id=com.geosciteach.activities&feature=search_result

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.geosciteachconfig&feature=more_from_developer

Download the ebook (link to .epub file) (For more information on how to read an e-book on your device see http://www.feedbooks.com/help/devices)

Download as a .pdf (link to pdf)

See a walkthrough of how to customise a learning activity; and how to use the learning activity in context

Read how GeoSciTeach was used in the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew!

As part of their training, pre-service science teachers take groups of students on a fieldwork trip to The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. They plan a series of activities that focus on diversity of plant material available at Kew.  Using GeoSciTeach Jack, a pre-service teacher, designed a task around the question ‘How and why do humans use plants?’: specifically how do people use plants to make money. Students worked in small groups to research bananas or coffee: two plants in the greenhouse that are grown commercially and are marketed globally. Students presented their findings to one another prompting a discussion of the ‘best’ crop to grow.

Students used the activity designed by Jack on the smartphone to collect key information on their crop. They used the camera to take photographs of their crop in situ – its leaf, shape and size; Google to search for the different stages of the life of the plant, its flowers and fruit; links supplied by the teacher through QR codes, and YouTube videos embedded in the app. They were able to find out the official botanical name of the crop, its country of origin, the countries around the world where the crop is usually grown, climate information on these places, the process of growing and harvesting the crop, and the production of the final product. Links supplied by the teacher supported the students’ research by directing them to sources of information they may have been unaware of, such as global market sites on the cost per tonne of the crop, and statistical information on the distribution of the crop around the world, showing how the market price of products changes over time.

The students gave a short presentation arguing in favour of their crop, exploring which crop was best to grow: bananas or coffee. Discussion initially focused on the financial income of the crop, before turning to questions of expenditure and investment, transport, environmental issues, and the conditions of labourers. The app supported the students in connecting the plant in front of them within the UK with how the plant looks across its life cycle (i.e. temporally), across geographical locations, and across different commercial contexts – national and global markets. This enabled the plant to be placed imaginatively in a new context and to connect issues of geo-spatial awareness with inferences concerning climate, finance and global marketing.

This work was funded by JISC and undertaken at the London Knowledge Lab, as a collaboration between the Institute of Education and Birkbeck College London, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.  Creative Commons License

Research team:

Paul Davies, George Roussos, Sara Price

Will Farr, Carey Jewitt, George Sin

https://geosciteach.wordpress.com/

These documents and information will be available on the London Knowledge Lab website and/or wordpress.com for at least another five years.

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What is GeoSciTeach?

GeoSciTeach is an application for android smartphones. It provides opportunities to make sense of scientific phenomena through the collection, manipulation and visualisation of data. Its strength lies in how it helps support student geospatial and spatial thinking, ideas that are central to science.

GeoSciTeach enables the user to collect data and manipulate it in new ways, developing their spatial skills as well as enhancing their understanding of scientific phenomena. The app allows students to collect large data sets and then analyse them, both individually and in collaboration with one another. It is fully customisable which means teachers are able to modify and adapt the application to meet the needs of their students. It can therefore be adapted to support a range of users and contexts: from Year 7 students (11-12 year olds) carrying out ecological studies around the school grounds to post-16 year old students investigating the shapes of molecules as they consider chemical reactions.

More generally, GeoSciTeach lends itself to developing skills in the understanding of the nature science and knowledge. For example, how new technology is involved in the collection and analysis of data, how it can be used to evaluate the ‘scientific method’ and its role in collaborative learning and sharing of ideas.

GeoSciTeach can be customised for use beyond the Science curriculum across the curriculum. In History, for example, it could be used to explore epidemics and John Snow’s work on cholera. In Modern Foreign languages it could be used to support looking at language use throughout the world and their derivation. In a wider sense, the app also encourages cross-curricular fertilisation and could easily support collapsed project days.

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Going geospatial in science – a framework for teachers

The following framework aims to offer indicators of how geospatial learning can be integrated into science. The framework is not meant to be exhaustive, but to provide a starting point from which pre-service teachers and teachers can begin to come to grips with geospatial learning. The framework focuses on three levels of geospatial thinking:

– Developing descriptive & geometric understanding in students

– Establishing an analytical understanding of structures, objects and phenomena

– Advancing inferential understanding of topological patterns

Suggested activities are made with the GeoSciTeach and GeoSciTeacher android applications in mind, so the suggested activities point to how these applications can fulfil geospatial learning in science. It is worth bearing in mind that with geospatial applications in science ‘many curriculum design issues remain unresolved’, and that ‘[t]here is no single correct answer. GIS curricula will vary, for example, by:

    • Level and student background
    • Delivery mechanism
    • Intended outcomes
    • Instructor preferences’

David J. Unwin (1997) ‘Curriculum Design for GIS’

With this in mind the suggested framework below aims to give you some starting points to begin to explore geospatial activities in science using geospatial integrated systems.

Geospatial skills: Teaching and Learning suggestions

Key geospatial concepts

Key terminology

Suggested Activities with GeoSciTeach

SECTION A:  Developing descriptive & geometric understanding in students

Students understand and identify own location

Locate 

 

Use Google map so students can identify their present location e.g. Kew gardens to locate where you are; Take a photo & upload to Google Earth

Students can identify, label, capture, and preserve appearance

 

Feature,  

Environment

Students record ambient data & record & link to their location or country; soil, humidity, temperature can be recorded; photographs can be record and QR code can be used to quickly access information from the internet.  Recorded information can be uploaded to Google Earth and analysed later

Students can understand and identify the location of collected data

Locate,  

 

Relate

Students use video to record information about selected data, or interpretations about data; Note taking can be used to enhance understanding by allowing further questions to be recorded; GPS, latitude and longitude coordinates can be used with uploaded Google earth data files to later construct geometric areas defined in terms of shapes within the focus model
SECTION B: Establishing an analytical understanding of structures, objects and phenomena

Students make connections and reason about data

 

Compare,  

Behaviour,

 

Find relationships,

Establish Patterns

Students zoom and pan within a map space which enables them to make connections about data sets when multiple sets are gathered

Students understand relationships amongst data sets and see patterns

Students understand the distribution of plants by looking at how they link to different parts of the world via Google Earth/ and or other maps

Students define and calculate distance, such as how to get from A to B

Students through photo tagging begin to understand the relationship of one place compared to another; They overlay information onto maps and real images to compare information
SECTION C:  Advancing inferential understanding of topological patterns

Students understand the structure of objects

Integrate complex data, 

 

Calculate relationships e.g. time or distance

 

Students use the leaf overlay/silhouette tool to see analyse the leaf mosaic (with the camera) and isolate measurement of incident (light) radiation

Students understand space in either 2 or 3D

The leaf mosaic (with the camera) is analysed to interpret the measurement of incident (light) radiation on leaf mosaic

Students understand views of data such as overlaying data to the future or past

Students record data at a particular place then use a time slider to see how the ecosystem might change in the future (from uploaded data). This could be a way of looking at normal ecological success (i.e. natural) and also human impact/disasters/global warming etc.

Students understand perspective/orthogonal views of maps

Perspective/orthogonal maps are be made post-hoc by tagging plants (this would include longitude, latitude and altitude data) and then the information is shifted to 3D perspective view allowing you to explore data visually.

 

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Geospatial in science

Teachers found that the app required students to link the ‘here and now’ – the starting point for geospatial thinking – to other places. The app was very effective at making visible, students’ lack of inclination to think more widely ‘outside’ the UK, in terms of location, space and time.

Student: ‘Why would the UK not be on the tagging options?’

Teacher: ‘Any idea why?’

Student: ‘Because the phone was made here?’

Teacher: ‘No. Have a think about where you were [in the glasshouse] at the time you took those pictures’

Often students’ everyday understanding needs to be disrupted or requires novel ways to facilitate their thinking about scientific ideas. Here the teacher is making explicit the relevance of location of the world that the particular glasshouse represents, and its relationship with the UK. In this way the app productively disrupted students everyday conceptions of the here and now. It is this exposure that enables teachers to intervene and rebuild, reform, or make students geospatial concepts more clearly understood in the context of their science learning.

Teachers also felt that taking a geospatial approach can highlight ideas that students may not otherwise have come across in their everyday lives or traditional science-based learning activities, and begin to think about scientific concepts in different ways.

‘Geospatial captures the imagination and allows children to think’

‘Geospatial enables location to become key and be plotted on a map’

‘You collect data and the interesting bit appears when you ask: now what can we do with it?’

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Learnability (of using app)

Teachers said that student’s familiarity with the technical aspects of mobile smartphones was an important part of its use. Several of the teachers and students thought that the app was ‘easy’ to use, and easy to learn to use. For teachers a learning time of approximately fifteen minutes was seen as normal, whilst children took only five minutes.

 

‘The app was fairly straight forward to use’

 ‘If I can shape what the students are doing, then their learning is much more structured’

‘GIS apps capture the imagination, provide a more interactive and broader context to education’

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Comparing bananas and coffee

Comparing bananas and coffee

(example of use in Kew Gardens)

Mark designed a task which related to the question ‘How and why do humans use plants?’: specifically how do people use plants to make money. In the first part of the task, students worked in small groups to research one of two plants in the greenhouse that are grown commercially on a large scale and which are marketed globally: bananas and coffee. The second part of the task involved students in presenting their findings to one another and a discussion of the ‘best’ crop to grow.

Each group collected a rich variety of information on their crop. Students used the mobile camera to take photographs of their crop in situ – its leaf, plant shape and size, and Google to search for the different stages of the life of the plant, its flowers and fruit. The students used the phone to collect key information on the crop from the signs available in the greenhouse, notably links supplied by the teacher, and YouTube videos embedded in the app. This included the official botanical name of the crop, its country of origin, the countries around the world where the crop is usually grown, climate information on these places, the process of growing and harvesting the crop, and the production of the final product – coffee. The links supplied by the teacher supported the students’ research by directing them to sources of information they may have been unaware of – such as global market sites on the cost per tonne of the crop, and statistical information on the distribution of the crop around the world – showing how the market price of products changes over time.

The students made a short presentation on their findings to make an argument for their crop. In rehearsal, one student interviewed another asking a set of questions in a journalistic style, while a third student directed/video recorded the presentation. This process supported the students to work collectively in-situ to review their information and select their key points to produce a concise presentation. The time constraints placed on the video option on the app were effective in enhancing the rehearsal process –encouraging the students to explicitly reflect on their statements about their crop.

Standing in front of their chosen plant each group delivered their presentation to their peers, followed by spontaneous applause and some questions. The students then discussed which was the best crop to grow: bananas or coffee. This discussion initially focused on the financial income of the crop, before turning to questions of expenditure and investment, transport, environmental issues, and the conditions of labourers.

The app supported the students in connecting the plant in front of them within the UK with how the plant looks like across its life cycle (i.e. over time), across geographical locations, and across different commercial contexts – national and global markets. This enabled the plant to be placed imaginatively in a new context and to connect issues of geo-spatial awareness with inferences concerning climate, finance and global marketing.

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Thinking geographically and spatially

Thinking geographically and spatially

(example use in Kew)

The app supports students in rethinking and engaging with aspects of clear geospatial thinking and classification in new ways.

Sophie is studying the Mangrove swamp in one of the glasshouses at Kew gardens. She attempts to take a picture of the swamp but realises that video and tagging would be better for capturing the whole swamp. Pictures work in detail and show specific parts, while video allows for a broader perspective to be taken. Sophie notes that the bark on the Mangrove tree is smooth and wonders why this is the case when “bark in the UK on most trees tends to be rough”. This raises the question of where the Mangrove plant is from in the world. She goes to upload the video to Google Earth, but notices, and points out to the teacher  – even though she is trying to find a different country – that “there isn’t a United Kingdom tag option when I go to upload?” The list of countries available to Sophie does not include the UK as there are no flora and fauna from the UK within the glasshouse. The teacher puts the question back to Sophie as to why this might be the case. Sophie realises that being in the UK is why there is no UK tag option. The teacher goes further and asks what patterns Sophie has noticed in taking pictures and gathering video. She observes that, “most of the plants came from the middle area of the world, the equator.” From this simple close observation of the bark, a supported conversation about climate and plant adaptation occurred. The Mangrove plant required classification, and the tagging forced the student to begin to think both geographically and spatially. The teacher’s prompt questioning made the student think about their own and the plant’s location at a ‘higher level’. The app helped the students to dive in and step out of a close view (detail) with the larger perspective e.g. locations around the world, equatorial climate, and continents. This enabled students to use the app to engage in learning, adding up to students rethinking their own ideas of location, place and classification. The teacher finally says to the student: “The glasshouse is like a mini-world. And now we are back outside in the UK”.

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Other contexts of use

Biology

Evolutionary (e.g. investigating how species adapt and change both in space and time)

The teacher wants students to answer this question:

What is the distribution of banded snail in the local environment and how can this be explained?

The teacher modifies GeoSciTeach so that this question appears in the question box. The app is changed so that the students will be able to take photographs of the snails and use the overlay function with pictures of typical banding patterns. Each photograph will be tagged to its specific location, which will appear on Google maps, in time building up a distribution map of the snails. The teacher also wants the students to collect environmental data relating to the colour of vegetation so selects this in the customisable section. The teacher also adds a prompt to ask the students to type in some notes about any dead snails or empty/broke snail shells they find.  These data can then be related to the individual snails that are observed and used to explain their variation. The teacher also adds in a QR link to a university professor talking about the genetics of banded snails to help the students to start thinking about the underlying explanations of what they have observed.

Chemistry

Molecular shapes (e.g. using layering ideas to understand the shape of molecules and their interactions in chemical reactions in space and time). The teacher wants students to think more carefully about the interactions that take place between molecules during a chemical reaction.

Examine and record information about what is happening to moelcules inside the flask.

The teacher modifies GeoSciTeach so that the question box asks the students to examine and record information about what is happening inside a conical flask during an acid-base reaction using titration. The app has been modified to allow the students to collect information on colour, pH and temperature changes in the solution. The teacher is also keen that the students are able to visual the molecular interaction as the experiment proceeds and thinks that this use of geospatial layer skills will help the student develop a better understanding of what is actually taking place inside the flask. To do this, the teacher uses the camera overlay tool to allow the students to ‘look’ into the solution and chose which overlay they think best describes what the molecules are doing (for example, does the flask contain reactants and products at equilibrium?). The students then link these overlays to the data they are recording. The teacher also inputs prompts into the app to encourage the students to record their ideas on the notes page.

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Thoughts about linking the use of ‘GeoSciTeach’ with the classroom

When teachers used the app it got them thinking and conversing about geospatial layers, envisaging possibilities for layered representation, as this interview with a fully qualified teacher shows:

 Interviewer: So what did you think of it?

Teacher: I really liked it. It’s quite tricky to use but I don’t know if that’s just the HTC phone because I have an..

Interviewer: Because you’re used to using a iPhone? Yeah, like most people.

Teacher: Yeah, but then as soon as I had had a couple of goes…then it is ok to use. So it is just a case of needing a bit of training. As we were saying it would have been useful to have a lesson beforehand so that the girls had something.. and learnt to use it at school. Then they could use it here. I like the fact of adding the commentary and be intrigued to find out how many of them were adding the commentary, not just taking photos.

Interviewer: Not just taking random photos?

Teacher: Yeah. It would also be good to see at the end what the finished product…what the teacher gets.

Interviewer: Do you mean what they’ll do back in the classroom?

Teacher: Yeah see what you get so – where all the plants are from and how that then links into the shape.

Interviewer: Of where they are from across the world? Do you mean or the wider patterns?

Teacher: Yeah some sort of wider patterns thing, I am not quite sure what you will get from there so it would be interesting to know…and whether there are some sort of different colours to show that these plants have such and such a feature and that is why they are from here…because I assume the end product is too look at plants adaptations..

Interviewer: Well if I think on my feet then I was thinking that because this glass house is supposed to from south to north isn’t it. What would happen then if you were then in the alpine house, maybe that would be a different colour to this one?

Teacher: Yeah something like that so that you could see the difference.

Interviewer: Colour code according to temperature?

Teacher: Yeah. Which is ok because you have got the ambient recorder on their. Ooh I can’t remember what the question was now?

Posted in GeoSciTeach app, Geospatial in science education, Project progress & update, User experience, What do teachers & students think | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment