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.