Searching for Bridges An investigation into student internet inquiries pertaining to information on bridge building David Crewes CEP 806 Module 1: Inquiry Project 9/28/11
MotivationThe motivation for this project comes from a studentproject in my Physics class. The assignment for my15 students is to build a bridge from file folders. In thepast, I have introduced project material as neededand the students work on their bridges accordingly.I would like to utilize the inquirymethod to assess the studentsability to find their own qualitywebsites that they can use asa resource as they build theirown bridge.
Prediction #1 My first prediction is that the most popular websites that my students will use are those that have the most bells and whistles incorporated into their website This is going to be true for any class researching any topic. The websites students will choose to visit, spend time on, and use as a resource, will be the most appealing to them. These sites will probably contain interactive models, colorful images, interesting flash videos, and also, be easy to read
Prediction #2 With the limited instructions given, my second prediction would be that most students will not inquire into the fabrication of different trusses, supports, and members, but only into the design of the bridge itself At this stage of the project, one of the only things students can actually see differently in many of the models we look at are the designs only. The changing on the thicknesses and shapes of the trusses will come after another inquiry project covering those topics.
Inquiry Plan and Design Since this bridge building project is already a part of the curriculum, I decided that I could make it more student driven by utilizing the inquiry method. My end goal of this project was not to fabricate a model bridge, since that is already a requirement, but to see if any of the students would be able to utilize the internet, search for usable, quality information and data from reliable sources, then be able to incorporate that data into their own project. As I introduced this unit, I passed around some student examples of bridges past. I presented them with the timelines, and communicated the requirements of each stage: Research, Design, and Fabrication
Inquiry Plan and Design This is the point where my Inquiry plan was introduced. I asked them to spend some time in the computer lab to research building “File Folder Bridges” The only requirements I placed on this part of the assignment was to fully document what they did in the lab. This includes recording of search titles, including key words, web addresses, and reasons why they chose this site to assist in their bridge manufacturing, and how this information will assist them with the project. To make sure if everyone understood I asked several students what they had in mind for the activity. Google was the preferred search engine and Wikipedia was also brought up in several conversations. The usefulness of a member generated information database (Wikipedia) was discussed and I let them know they should steer away from wiki entries. They should be able to find more credible sources. After a few students volunteered some possible search parameters, I dismissed them to begin work
Search Parameters The following are examples of student internet searches. The favored engine was, of course, Google. The reason being is “That is what my computer opens with.” Structure of a bridge Why bridges fail/collapse How bridges are built/Bridge building Materials used for bridge building Types of bridges Parts of a bridge Process building bridges engineer What forces act on bridges Strong Bridge designs
Student Websites Student choices of search results showed that of my 15 students, not one used a site that appeared after the 5th entry. The first site was always looked at first, and many didn’t even go past the 2nd site. 5 of the 15 used Wikipedia entries, even after being instructed to stay away from these types of sites 7 of the 15 students cited non proffesional websites catering to someones personal agenda 8 of the 15 students cited information from quality sources (.org, .edu, .gov, or a credible business) http://bridgepros.com/ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/bridge/ http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/jmac/rs/bridges.htm http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/sr24/i82tokeysrd/bridgegloss ary.htm
Student Websites 9 of the 15 students included sites with simulations and games concerning bridge building http://www.learn4good.com/games/simulation/bui ld_bridge_across_canyon2.htm http://www.bridgebuilder-game.com/ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/buildingbig/bridge/ 8 of the 15 students used the descriptions in the search window as criteria for a “good” website. The other students waited until the website was called up make a decision All but one student chose websites based on real world applications, not on file folder models
Reasons for Student Websites There were a variety of comments as to why some students chose the websites they did. Here are a few: “The game was good because it shows you hand on which bridges work best in certain scenarios” “Loads of information, anything you need to know about bridges is probably on this site” “Good layout, easy to find information” “I thought it had specific detailed and accurate information” “I liked this website because it not only described the physical characteristics of the different types of bridges, but it explained the many unusual forces that act on each type of bridge.” “Short and sweet and not very complicated” “The interactive labs that would show me information.” “Look at the different crazy bridge designs” “List of useful materials and how to calculate forces”
Observations Students worked very quickly to finish the assignment, often asking “Is this good?” or, “Is this enough?” Most students did not inquire into the credibility of the websites they looked at Most students focused their searches on information concerned with real bridges, forces and applications, rather than on model bridges. After the initial searches for information and definitions were completed, almost all students ended up on some site with simulations
Emergent Ideas I feel that most of my students are very comfortable with searching for information on the internet and determining what information is valid. Actual abilities may differ from what they believe they are capable of. It seems as if students don’t really care where the information they obtain comes from. As long as the assignment is filled out, they are satisfied. Most students like the bells and whistles of highly interactive websites rather than the content rich websites. Pictures, images and graphics are important on home pages if students are going to continue deeper into the website. Students seem to be more interested in using the computer for informational browsing rather than using textbooks or other media
Conclusions and Questions With respect to my predictions, most students did not use this time to research file folder bridges, but only bridges themselves and the simulations that are available to them on the web. My other prediction from the beginning of this presentation was a bit of a no-brainer: Of course students will want to use and play on the websites with the most bells and whistles. I would too! When this project comes around next year, I think I will try to stress the design aspect of the file folder bridges a bit more. This will be in an effort so students will inquire about that topic as well as the basics of bridges in their searches. Since this was a class of only males, would a mixed classroom have the same results? What about a class of only females? This project was performed with higher than average students in my class, would the results and conclusions have changed if the targeted class was a freshman Earth Science class? As my classes continue to research via the internet, how do I instill a sense of importance on the topic of valid internet website usage? How can I change or modify my own activities in the classroom to help to model valid website usage choices?
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