Reflection on Teaching with TouchCast

Last week I wrote a lesson plan on using TouchCast Technology to aid in the teaching of variables, a topic my students usually struggle with in sixth grade. Below is my reflection on teaching this lesson. 


A misconception that my 6th grade science students have every year is identifying variables (independent, dependent, and constants) in a science investigation. Students learn what variables are and the different types. They should be able to identify them in an experiment–however many students struggle with this aspect of the learning goal. Generally I have seen that students can regurgitate the definition of the different types of variables but struggle when applying these definitions to labs or investigations.

For my lesson, students will begin by participating in a rubber band shoot where they realize that our method of choosing the best rubber band shooter is not fair because we are testing too many variables. Students will then be assigned an instructional video to view outside of class and take notes so they understand the basic definitions and concepts of variables. To deepen their knowledge, students will interact with a TouchCast which will include several scenarios (some that would be impossible to complete in a sixth grade science lab) and have to identify the variables. TouchCast allows various apps (called Vapps) as part of the video, so students will be interacting with and engaged in the various scenarios as they apply their knowledge of variables to real situations.

My lesson had to be implemented with family members as I am on summer break and do not have any sixth grade students around. However, I feel that even though the lesson was not taught to sixth graders, my “students” did have misconceptions about variables (mostly to do with math and not science) and were able to gain something by participating in the lesson.

The students tried shooting the rubber bands, but interestingly, they were not as enthusiastic about this activity as sixth graders typically would be. So when I announced who the “winner” was, they tended to agree. However, when I asked them if it was fair, they replied no and started listing reasons why (different types of rubber bands, different shooting methods, and different distances from the target). Once we addressed this issue, I was able to define the term variables (specifically how the term is used in science) and then had them watch an instructional video and type notes. They all jotted down the definitions of the types of variables and then when assessed using an open note quiz, all students scored well on this basic level quiz showing me they understood the basic definitions.

Next, the students were shown the TouchCast and accompanying note page. The students watched the introduction, which reminded them of the definitions once again, and then they were given a scenario dealing with plant growth and amount of light the plant receives. Three of the four students were able to correctly identify the independent variable, but only two were able to identify the dependent variable. When I saw the students incorrectly identifying the variables, I was able to help them by going through the scenario with them and relating it back to the rubber band shoot. The students participated in two other scenarios and were successful (for the most part) in identifying the variables.

Lastly, I had the students then write their own experimental question. Once each student had their question, they had to identify the independent and dependent variables. This was the final assessment of the lesson and I was able to see if the students were able to internalize these concepts with something they would be interested in testing themselves.

The technology of the TouchCast was an important part of the learning process in this lesson. The advantages of using TouchCast allowed me to show several different scenarios that may not have been able for me to actually do in a classroom. Also, TouchCast makes the video interactive, so the students were able to click on the videos of the experiments, answer questions, and complete a poll. This made a contribution to the learning because I was able to receive immediate feedback based on how the students answered some of the questions. Since my students were adults, I feel that they were quite impressed with the technology, as it was not anything they had ever used as a student. My mom asked several questions about the technology including “So I just click right on the video and it knows I am clicking?” I showed her how she could click, pause, rewind, and interact with the technology. She also asked if I actually do some of these experiments with my students because she wanted to see what would actually happen. This made me realize that I could give students time to actually investigate either one of the scenario (if we had the supplies) or allow them to carry out their own experiment.

I think the students were understanding the content better with the use of the technology. However, having taught it to my adult students, I feel that I may actually want to use the TouchCast technology with the original instructional video. Aside from a few “how-to” questions, the technology was something the students did not need my help with and something they could have done at home before coming to class. Since I was able to view these students watch the original instructional video as well as the TouchCast video, I could see that since the TouchCast video was more interactive, they were more into the learning. I feel that if I shifted this, and had the students do the TouchCast at home, then they may have an even better understanding of the basics when they come to class. We could then spend the class time in other ways—perhaps even having the students create their own TouchCast video about one of their experimental questions, and then having another group of students test it out. 


Using Technology to Teach Variables

This week in CEP 800 we were to select a technology to aid in the instruction of a topic in which students typically struggle. I chose to use TouchCast to aid in the teaching of variables in my sixth grade science class. Below are seven aspects of the lesson in which technology has been integrated.


Lesson Plan:

SC.6.N.1.1: Define a problem from the 6th grade curriculum, use appropriate reference materials to support scientific understanding, plan & carry out scientific investigation of various types, such as systematic observations or experiments, identify variables, collect & organize data, interpret data in charts, tables & graphics, analyze information, make predictions, and defend conclusions.

This standard falls under the big idea of the practice of science–within this big idea, students need to understand that science inquiry is multifaceted and includes investigations of questions, through the use of observations and inferences and collecting data on such investigations. Students traditionally learn this through the scientific method, but within the big idea of the practice of science, students should understand that there’s not only “one” method to science inquiry.  This particular standard contains a lot of information on scientific investigations. It works best, for sixth graders, to break down this benchmark into smaller chunks and work through each aspect of science investigations. This particular lesson will focus on identifying variables.

Essential Question: What makes a scientific investigation valid?


This science class will be flipped, meaning the main pedagogical strategies I will use is flipped learning. This requires the direct instruction to happen outside of the classroom. Then, while in class, students will use what they learned from instructional videos and go deeper with their learning through interactive activities (TouchCast video) and hands on experiences. Constructivist learning theory is used throughout this lesson as students have an understanding of what is “fair” and what is “unfair”. This will be used to introduce the topic of variables in science. As the lesson continues, students will interact with scenarios that will either fit with their existing schemas of science investigations, or may not. If students struggle with assimilation of the new information, then over time as more and more examples are given students will adjust their thinking accordingly and therefore have a deep understanding of how variables are identified in science investigations.  Learners have a variety of characteristics, which is why the information is presented in a way that meets the needs of all learners. Students will watch videos that will include audio and visuals, as well as an interaction piece. In class, students will interact with manipulatives as they gain deeper understanding of variables.

Content & Pedagogy:

Students generally struggle with identifying variables in science investigations, which is why an entire lesson is devoted to this one aspect of the standard. Often students will simply memorize the definition of each variable, and may very well be able to regurgitate the definition. However, when students are designing their own experiments, very often students will try to test WAY more than one variable, and they have a hard time understanding the difference between the independent and dependent variables. By teaching the students what a variable is first (through a rubber band shoot activity), then introducing the definitions of each variable (through an instructional video watched outside of class), and then spending time interacting with variables in specific examples (through the TouchCast video), and finally designing their own experiment where they identify the variables, students will have a deep understanding of which variables are which and the reasoning behind the importance of testing only one variable at a time.

These strategies are used because of several reasons: first, by having a short activity before the content allows students to become interested and engages their prior knowledge of variables (or the concepts of variables, even if they are not yet familiar with the term yet). Second, flipped learning as well as the TouchCast video allows students to work at their own pace–since many students struggle with this content, it is important to allow time for students to fully grasp the ideas being presented. Lastly, students will be able to use what they have learned and design their own experiment where they identify the variables tested.


The technology used in this lesson will be a flipped learning video and a TouchCast video. The use of these particular technologies is not absolutely necessary to achieve the learning goal. However, these content-general technologies allow students to interact with the material at their own pace to allow time for understanding. Also, the TouchCast video in particular will allow students to interact with science experiments they would not normally have a chance to explore (due to lack of resources in the classroom).

Technology & Pedagogy:

Because the pedagogical strategies I am using, technology is a key aspect of achieve the goals with these strategies. Flipped learning requires students to learn a basic level of information outside of class, thus, videos are the best way I have found for student to learn this content. Similarly, while in class, the pedagogical strategy I will use is having student interact with the material which will be done using another technology, TouchCast. These technologies will be used to help introduce the topic, and for students to go deeper with their knowledge of the topic.

Technology & Content:

The use of technology to teach the practice of science helps the students engage with the material, interact with the content, and also provides a way to formatively assess the students. The technology also allows students who are struggling in certain aspects of the practice of science to work at their own pace so they are truly given enough time to understand the multiple pieces within this big idea. Similarly, it also allows those students who are catching on quickly to move on and be challenged at an appropriate level.


By the end of this lesson, I want students to not only know the definitions of the different types of variables, but be able to identify them in any investigation I give them AND be able to identify them in their own inquiry with science. I will know students will understand this if they are able to design their own experiment and correctly identify the independent variable, the dependent variable, and constants. To reach this point, technology plays a role in allowing me to formatively assess students along the way (to see if they are correctly identifying variables in given scenarios) as well as summatively assessing student (students could make their own TouchCast videos to demonstrate their science investigations where variables are correctly identified).

Digital Story–The Circulatory System

For my digital story I used Piaget’s theory on adaptation for teaching the circulatory system. In 6th grade, my students have a basic understanding of the circulatory system already therefore they’ve already developed a schema with this knowledge. However, disequilibrium occurs when students are posed with solving a problem: clogged arteries!

Audio Production

One of my first assignments in CEP 800 was to produce an audio production of an interview. The interview was to show the student understanding of a specific topic. I chose to focus on global climate change for several reasons. It is a topic that many of my sixth graders have misconceptions about, it has been a hot topic in the media, and it can be controversial. I interviewed two adults who never learned about global climate change as students because, well frankly it didn’t “exist”. A vast majority of their knowledge regarding global climate change comes from the media–so I wanted to ask them a few questions to see their understanding about the science of global climate change. Enjoy!

CEP 820 Final Thoughts

The design decisions within this course changed several times. When I first began working on my online course, I was under the impression of just throwing everything up there and letting the kids will figure it out. However, I after reading through various lectures and completing lab activities, I soon realized that organization was key to producing a successful online class. I also reflected back on my own experiences with online courses as well as how I send and receive materials to my current students. I feel that I’ve also thought about things I would change about some of the systems that I use (mainly Edmodo and D2L) on a daily basis. When it came time to choosing our Course Management System (CMS) I knew there were several aspects of design that were important to me: organization of information (tabs as oppose to blog type style where information piles on top of itself), an easy way to keep track of due dates, ways to communicate, etc. As a teacher in a typical classroom, these almost come naturally–but when creating your course in an online setting you really have to think about how your “classroom” will run. Similarly, the style of teaching has to change with an online course. When I first started my teaching career I told myself I could never teach online…how do you even form relationships with the students? Let alone actually teach them anything? Well, I actually have already transitioned into implementing flipped learning into my current classes, so a portion of my instruction is done outside the classroom walls. With an online (or in my case, a hybrid course) course more of the lesson (if not all) may occur without me physically with the students. Now, having completed CEP 820, I feel so differently about online teaching–that there are ways to manage your students, create a sense of community, and still monitor your students’ growth.


While I really learned so much about teaching online, there were some pitfalls along the way with my online course. First, I did not realize how much work goes into creating just a few lessons. Even though I had taught these lessons many times, changing the activities so they fit with an online course was somewhat of a challenge. Especially with science–so much of the activities in science are hands on. Making my online course a hybrid course solved this issue pretty easily though, the students are able to learn the material during the online part of the class, then still participate in experimentation in the face-to-face aspect. Another pitfall I ran into was not finding the “perfect” CMS. While I REALLY appreciated the comparison activity we used to compare and contrast different management systems, I still found things I would want to change in CourseSites even though this CMS came out on top. And, truth be told, there is never going to be a CMS that is perfect for every teacher–though I feel like if I were to design one, it’d be very popular amongst teachers!

PQ and CQ…Our Last Week of CEP 812

For our final week in CEP 812, we explored PQ (passion quotient) and CQ (curiosity quotient) through Thomas L. Friedman’s op-ed article in the New York Times. Friedman writes about how our ever changing world of technology has created a superconnected society (Friedman, 2013). Within this hyperconnected world, we have businesses that can do things more efficiently through technology, and we have major changes in areas like education. Friedman explains to keep people need to take initiative through their passion and curiosity which may be more important than a person’s IQ (Friedman, 2013). Friedman makes interesting statements about our hyperconnected world. Assuming that those who are highly intelligent may not necessarily be the “best” with regard to jobs or other areas especially if those with high IQs are not necessarily passionate or curious about their job. This reminds me that every day, we as educators, are faced with the unique problem of preparing our students for jobs, problems, and really a world that does not exist yet. Therefore, I agree with Friedman in the importance of PQ and CQ! Students who can find a passion in what they are doing will be more likely to succeed. Likewise, students who are naturally curious will be problem solvers and try and figure out the best way to handle the situation. These two factors are crucial now and will be in the future.

This week we were asked to create “something” using “something” to demonstrate how we bring passion and curiosity to our classrooms and how we use technology to instill passion and curiosity in our students. I have created a short video to demonstrate the PQ and CQ in my classroom. Click the link at the beginning of the post to view my WeVideo.

Final Project

Final Project: Innovation as Learning Ethic

As our final project for CEP 812, my group and I have completed our final project: Innovation as Learning Ethic…a wicked problem! As with all wicked problems, it may be seemingly impossible to find a solution–but, through conversation, research, and being innovative ourselves, we did finalize some recommendations on ways to incorporate innovation through creativity into the classroom. Our future looks brighter when we allow students to use creative ideas to solve the solutions to their own problems, when they connect with students outside the four walls of their classroom, and when authentic learning takes place.