Using Motion Probes to Enhance Students’ Understanding of Position vs. Time Graphs A Project Presented to the Faculty of the College of Education Touro University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree of MASTERS OF ARTS In Educational Technology by Jefferson Hartman
Chapter II A graph depicting a physical event allows a glimpse of trends which cannot beeasily recognized in a table of the same data (Beichner, 1994). After teaching science toeighth graders for several years most teachers will notice that many students consistentlyhave trouble with graphing, specifically line graphs. Most students understand theconcept of the x and y axis and plotting points, but do not make sense of what the linethey created actually means. Many students struggle with interpreting graphs for severalreasons. The first reason is insufficient exposure to graphing type tasks throughout theirearlier education. The California State Science Standards require that 8th grade studentsunderstand the concept of slope. This is a mathematics standard that should be addressedbefore students reach 8th grade, however, in practice, most students are not taught slopeuntil they take algebra either in 8th or 9th grade. Some students never take algebra at all.This is a significant issue considering that there is a direct relationship betweenunderstanding the concept of slope and interpreting graphs. Students often lack theunderstanding of the vocabulary needed to describe the meaning of a graph. Terms likedirect relationship, inverse relationship, horizontal and vertical all seem to bestraightforward words, but continue to be absent from students’ repertoire. A person whocreates and interprets graphs frequently will become comfortable using the appropriatedescriptive terminology. A student with little experience graphing must put forthsignificant effort in simply translating the vocabulary. The last reason students strugglewith graphing is that they are not accustomed to thinking in an abstract way. The mostimportant cognitive changes during early adolescence relate to the increasing ability ofchildren to think abstractly, consider the hypothetical as well as the real, consider
multiple dimensions of a problem at the same time, and reflect on themselves and oncomplicated problems (Keating, 1990). Eight grade students are 12-13 years old; theyhave not necessarily developed this thinking process. Interpreting graphs requires theobserver to look at a pattern of marks and make generalizations. Again, Algebra is thefirst time many students are required to think in this manner. Adolescents taught in middle school are perfect candidates for inquiry-basedlearning projects because of their natural curiosity. According to the National Institutes ofHealth (2005), inquiry-based instruction offers an opportunity to engage student interestin scientific investigation, sharpen critical-thinking skills, distinguish science frompseudoscience, increase awareness of the importance of basic research, and humanize theimage of scientists. As a student acquiring new knowledge, one might wonder if theywill ever use the information they are learning at a particular time. For example, how islearning the foot structure of a shore bird of Humboldt County going to help in thefuture? This is a learning process that requires one to look for patterns and transfercontext from one situation into another. Learning certain facts through lab and field workdirectly helps with upcoming assessments. But perhaps even more important, it creates aconceptual framework that is transferable to other fields of science. Many students havelimited experiences in their life which, in turn, limits the prior knowledge they bring tothe classroom. Novice science thinkers seek answers that reflect their everyday lifewhich may not resemble valid science concepts. Involving students in a science projector experiment forces them to learn the basic vocabulary and concepts but also immersesthem in the process of asking questions, making hypotheses, finding evidence,supporting claims, and interpreting and analyzing results. After students develop these
inquiry skills they will be better able to solve problems based on empirical evidence andavoid misconceptions. Misconceptions often arise when students are asked to interpret graphs. Studentshave trouble extracting information from graphs because everyday experiences have notprepared them to conceptualize. New technology called probeware (sometimes analogousto MBL) helps students make connections between real experiences and data presented ingraphical form. According to the Concord Consortium (n.d.), probeware refers toeducational applications of probes, interfaces and software used for real-time dataacquisition, display, and analysis with a computer or calculator. By using the MBLapproach, as explained in chapter 1, the drudgery of producing graphs by hand arevirtually eliminated. When researchers(Bernard, 2003; Lapp and Cyrus, 2000; Thornton and Sokoloff,1990) compared real-time graphing of a physical event and traditional motion graphinglessons, two findings emerged. There was some proof of a positive correlation betweenreal-time graphing and improved comprehension of graphing concepts as compared totraditional methods of teaching motion graphing (Thornton & Sokoloff, 1990). However,there was also some evidence suggesting that there was no correlation between the real-time graphing teaching method and improved comprehension of graphing concepts(Bernard, 2003). This evidence lends well to future research that answers the question ofwhich teaching method equips the students with the best skills to interpret therelationship between physical events and the graphs that represent them.
Theoretical Rational The “real” world manifests itself through a combination of all the events a personhas experienced. This idea is explained by Piaget’s (1980) learning theory calledconstructivism. According to Piaget, fifty years of experience taught us that knowledgedoes not result from a mere recording of observations without a structuring activity on thepart of the subject (p. 23). This statement gives reason for a teacher to design theircurriculum in a way that guides the students into a cognitive process of discovery throughexperimentation. With the teacher acting as a facilitator, students are encouraged tomake their own inferences and conclusions with the use of their prior knowledge. ForPiaget (1952, 1969) the development of human intellect proceeds through adaptation andorganization. Adaptation is a process of assimilation and accommodation, where, on theone hand, external events are assimilated into thoughts and, on the other, new andunusual mental structures are accommodated into the mental environment (Boudourides,2003). Assimilation refers to the integration of new knowledge into what is alreadyknown. Accommodation refers to making room for new knowledge without a significantchange. There is a need for accommodation when current experience cannot beassimilated into existing schema (Piaget, 1977). It is a teacher’s job to make surestudents do not fill the gaps of knowledge with incorrect thoughts while learning from a“self-discovery” lesson. In order to prevent students from developing misconceptions theteacher must make sure students do not miss or misunderstand significant events or attachimportance to information that is not meaningful to the study in progress. This idea of experimentation can be thought of as inquiry-based learning.Inquiry-based learning is a pedagogy of constructivism. Students develop a genuine idea
of the “real” world when they make discoveries on their own rather than have a teacherlecture to them. According to Kubieck (2005), inquiry-based learning, when authentic,complements the constructivist learning environment because it allows the individualstudent to tailor their own learning process.Inquiry-based Learning Inquiry is probably the most chosen word to describe the goal of science. Inquiry-based learning is often characterized by the types of procedures used. Chiappeta (1997)described strategies and techniques that have been used successfully by science teachers:asking questions, science process skills, discrepant events, inductive and deductiveactivites, information gathering and problem solving. By asking meaningful questions,teachers cause students to think critically and ask their own questions. Processing skillslike observing, classifying, measuring, inferring, predicting, and hypothesizing help astudent construct knowledge and communicate information. Chiappeta stated that adiscrepant event puzzles students, causing them to wonder why the event occurred as itdid. Piaget (1971) reinforced the idea by stating that puzzlement can stimulate studentsto engage in reasoning and the desire to find out. In inductive activities, studentsdiscover a concept by first encountering its attributes and naming it later. The exactopposite is a deductive activity which first describes a concept followed by supportiveexamples. Much of the prior knowledge needed to ask those important inquiry questionscomes from gathering information through research. Presenting a teenager with aproblem solving activity engages them in authetic investigation. Like Chiappeta (1997), Colburn (2000) agreed that inquiry-based learning is awidely accepted idea in the world of science education. Colburn reported his own
definition of inquiry-based instruction as “the creation of a classroom where students areengaged in essentially open-ended, students centered, hands-on activites” (p. 42).Colburn explained that even though inquiry is important, many teachers are not using it.He also gave ideas of what inquiry looked like in the classroom. Some reasons whyteachers do not use inquiry include: unclear on the meaning of inquiry, inquiry onlyworks with high achievers, inadequate preparation and difficulty managing. Colburn andChiappeta identified similar inquiry-based instruction approaches: • Structured inquiry provides students with an investigation without divulging the expected outcome. • Guided inquiry is similar to structured inquiry except students come up with their own procedure for solving the problem. • Open inquiry takes it one step farther and asks students to come up with their own question. Learning cycle is similar to deductive activity explained above. Inquiry-based learning is suitable for all levels of students because inquiry tendsto be more successful with concepts that are “easier”. Colburn (2000) acknowledged thatto help all middle level students benefit from inquiry-based intructions, the scienceeducation research community recommended: • orienting activites toward concrete, observable concepts • centering activites around questions that students can answer directly via investigation • emphasizing activites using materials and situation familiar to students • chooing activites suited to students’ skills and knowledge to ensure success
In terms of being prepared and managing for inquiry-based instruction, teachers musttrust the process, take their time and allow students to adjust to open-ended activities.The proposed study is a structured inquiry activity where students are faced with learningthe abstract concept of graphing by doing simple activites like moving forward andbackwards in front of a motion probe while observing the corresponding graph beingcreated. Colburn (2000) as well as Huber and Moore (2001) explained how to develophands-on activities into inquiry-based lessons. Huber and Moore contended that thestrategies involve (a) discrepant events to engage students in direct inquiry; (b) teacher-supported brainstroming activites to facilitate students in planning investigations; (c)effective written job performance aids to provide structure and support; (d) requirementsthat students provide a product of their research, which usually includes a classpresentation and a graph; and (e) class discussion and writing activites to facilitatestudents in reflecting on their activites and learning. Chiappeta (1997) had the similaridea of utilizing discrepant events, like balancing a ping pong ball above a blow drier, toprompt student puzzlement and questioning. Huber and Moore suggested using thesestrategies because the activites presented in textbooks are step by step instructions, whichis not characteristic of true inquiry-based learning. All of the literature above supported the idea that inquiry is widely accepted in thescience community, but also suggested that it is not being used effectively. It outlinedwhat inquiry-based lessons should look like and gave strategies on how to utilize thelearning theory. Deters (2005) reported on how many high school chemistry teachersconduct inquiry based labs. Of the 571 responses to the online survey from high school
chemistry teachers all over the U.S., 45% indicated that they did not use inquiry labs intheir classrooms (p. 1178). This seemed to be a low number even though the NationalScience Standards include inquiry standards. Teachers gave reasons for not usinginquiry: loss of control, safety issues, used more class time, fear of abetting studentmisconceptions, spent more time grading labs and students have many complaints.Deters reported on students opinions regarding inquiry-based labs by collectingcomments from student portfolios from an private urban high school. The studentsconcerns included: more effort and thinking are required and the fear of being in control.The positive student aspects included: develop mastery of material, learn the scientificprocess, learn chemistry concepts, improves ability to correct or explain mistakes,increased communication skills, learn procedural organization and logic, and betterperformance on non-inquiry labs. Since planning and conducting inquiry-based labsrequires a significant effort, conducting them can be overwhelming. Deters suggestedthat if students perform even a few inquiry-based labs each year throughout their middleschool and high school careers, by graduation they will be more confident, critical-thinking people who are unafraid of “doing science”. As part of the proposed study,students were required to reflect on the graphing activity by reporting on their perceivedsuccess. Computer-supported learning environments make it easier for students to proposetheir own research focus, produce their own data, and continue their inquiry as newquestions arise, thus replicating scientific inquiry more realistically (Kubieck, 2005).WISE 4.0 Graphing Stories is a computer-supported learning environment that workswith a motion probe. Students produced their own data by moving in front of the device.
This data was simultaneously represented in a graphic format. Students were asked toreplicate the motion by changing the scale of their movements. Along with producing agraph of their motion they are also asked to match their motion to a given graph. Somegraphs were impossible to create, which in turn promotes direct inquiry. The goal of theGraphing Stories program was to teach students how to interpret graphs utilizing aninquiry-based strategy in computer-supported environment.Interpreting Graphs Drawing and interpreting graphs is a crucial skill in understanding many topics inscience, especially physics. McDermott, Rosenquist & van Zee (1987) stated that to beable to apply the powerful tool of graphical analysis to science, students must know howto interpret graphs in terms of the subject matter represented. The researchers wereconvinced that many graphing problems were not necessarily caused by poor mathematicskills. Because most of students in the study had no trouble plotting points andcomputing slopes, other factors must be responsible. In order to describe these factorscontributing to student difficulty with graph the researchers supplied questions touniversity and high school students over a several year period. The students fromUniversity of Washington were in algebra or calculus-based physics courses. The highschool students were in either physics or physical science classes. The researchersidentified several specific difficulties from each these categories: difficulty in connectinggraphs to physical concepts and difficulty connecting graphs to the real world. Whenstudents tried to connect graphs to physical concepts they had difficulty with: 1. discriminating between slope and height of a graph 2. interpreting changes in height and changes in slope
3. relating one graph to another 4. matching narrative information with relevant features of the graph 5. interpreting the area under a graphWhen students tried to connect the graph to the real world they had difficulty with: 1. representing continuous motion by a continuous line 2. separating the shape of a graph from the path of the motion 3. representing a negative velocity on a velocity vs. time graph 4. representing constant acceleration on an acceleration vs. time graph 5. distinguishing among types of motion graphsThe three difficulties of particular interest to the proposed study included matchingnarrative information with relevant features of a graph, interpreting changes in height andchanges in slope and representing continuous motion by a continuous line. One of thetasks in Graphing Stories was to write a story to match a graph and vice a versa. Whenutilizing the Vernier motion probes, students actually saw how their continuous motionwas represented by a continuous line on the graph. Students also noticed that when theymoved faster the slope was steeper and when they moved slower the slope was not assteep. McDermott et al. stated that it has been our experience that literacy in graphicalrepresentation often does not develop spontaneously and that intervention in the form ofdirect instruction is needed. Research done by Beichner (1994) showed many similarities to other studies. Heidentified a consistent set of difficulties students faced when interpreting graphs:misinterpreting graphs as pictures, slope/height confusion, difficulty finding slopes oflines not passing through the origin and interpreting the area under the graph. He
analyzed data from 895 high school and college students. The goal of the study was touncover kinematics graph problems and propose a test used as a diagnostic tool forevaluation of instruction. Implications from the study included: 1. Teachers need to be aware of the graphing problems. 2. Students need to understand graphs before they are used a language of instruction. 3. Teachers must choose their words carefully. 4. Teachers should give students a large variety of motion situations for careful, graphical examination and explanation.Beichner stated that students must be given the opportunity to consider their own ideasabout kinematics graphs and must be encouraged to help modify those ideas whennecessary. Instruction that asks students to predict graph shapes, collect the relevant dataand then compare results to predictions appears to be especially suited to promotingconceptual change (Dykastra, 1992). Incorporating the MBL approach and real-time datacollection seemed key to the focus of this study. Many eighth grade students have not been exposed to the idea of slope prior tobeing expected to produce and interpret motion graphs. Even though algebra classesrequire students to take part in problems calculating slope, students do not understand theidea of slope as rate of change. Crawford & Scott (2000) found that by observing tablesand graphs, students learn to describe and extend patterns, create equations with variablesto represent patterns, and make predictions on the basis of these patterns. In order to helpstudents conceptualize slope as a rate of change, Crawford & Scott suggested threemodes of learning: visualization, verbalization, and symbolization. Instead of calculating
slope from an equation, they stated it was useful to start with a graph then produce a tableof data and an equation that matched the rate of change. Once the students understoodthat slope describes the rate of change it was particularly useful to have students comparegraphs and slopes for two rates side by side. Using information from media that studentswere exposed to, like news from the internet, as an application for teaching slope canincrease interest and connect it to the real world. Often times collected data does not fitperfectly onto one line and require a scatter plot to make sense of it. For example, evenseemingly random data like that shown in Figure 1 can be described through slope.Figure 1. Line of best fit for land speed records. Reprinted from Making Sense of Slopeby A.R Crawford & W.E Scott (2000). The Mathematics Teacher, 93, page 117. Crawford & Scott (2000) stated that from their own experiences teaching algebra,they observed many students calculate slopes and write equations for a line withoutunderstanding the concept of slope. They asserted that when assessing studentunderstanding of slope, it was imperative for assessments to ask students to provide
rationale through written or oral responses. This rationale provided rich informationregarding a student’s understanding of slope. Hale (2000) reinforced ideas from McDermott, Rosenquist & van Zee (1987) andCrawford & Scott (2000) when she stated students have trouble with motion graphs evenwhen they understand the mathematical concepts. The author restated the student graphdifficulties stated in McDermott et al. (1987). Hale’s goal was to report possibleunderlying causes and provide promising remedies to these problems. Whendiscriminating between the slope and the height of a graph, students often make the“simple mistake” of misreading the axes. A discussion in this situation may reveal that,“a student’s principles may be reasonable, but they may not generalize to the givensituation” (Hale, 2000), p. 415. When comparing two types of graphs, like a positiongraph and a velocity graph, students often expect them to look similar. Personalexperience has shaped the way students understand distance, velocity and acceleration.Hale argued that we cannot simply ask students to abandon their concepts and replacethem with ours. Monk (1994) offered the following remedies: • an emphasis on conceptual as opposed to procedural learning-on understanding the ideas as opposed to knowing how to do the procedures • an emphasis on relating the mathematical ideas to real situations • classroom formats that encourage discussion, especially among students, in contrast to lecturing and telling by the teacherAlong with these proposed solutions, Hale suggested that teachers put emphasis on usingthe physical activity involved with an MBL setting. In order for students to repair their
misconceptions they must be put in a learning situation, like in the proposed study, wherethey are confronted by them.Probeware In order to become literate in science students must be able to observe the worldaround them. This starts when an infant picks up an object and places it in their mouth.They are curious and use their mouth, fingers and toes to answer questions. In thebeginning of the school year, a teacher may ask students, “How do you observe the worldaround you?” Most students correctly respond with, “ We use our senses.” The sense oftouch is great way for determining hot and cold but no so good for determining the exacttemperature. We can extend our sense of touch with a thermometer. A themometerprobe is a thermometer that is connected to a computer and can make hundreds ofaccurate reading in a short amount of time. Probeware refers to to any computer aideddevice that accurately takes data (temperature, pH, motion, light intensity, etc.);it oftensimulanteously creates a graphical representation. Several studies investigated howprobeware can enhance students abitliy to interpret graphs. Creating graphs and working with mathematical functions is often the first timestudents work with a symbolic system that represents data. Pullano (2005) pointed outseveral difficulties associated with graphical representations of functions. “Slope/heightconfusion” and “iconic interpretation” are common misconceptions. When asked in adistance vs. time graph, students will often choose a lesser slope to represent a car goingfaster. Is the car B traveling faster on less slope because it looks like a hill with lessincline? Students exhibit “iconic interpretation” which means viewing a graph literally
rather than as a representation of data. A positive slope followed by a negative slopelooks like a mountain rather that an object moving forward and backward. 10 Car A 8 6 distance Car B 4 2 0 0 2 4 6 8 10 timeFigure 2 A distance versus time graph for two cars. Adapted from Using Probeware toImprove Students Graph Interpretation Abilities by F. Pullano (2005). School Scienceand Mathematics, 105(7). In Pullano (2005), the goal of the study was to detemine the effects a probe-basedinstructional intervention had on eighth-grade students abilities to accurately interpretcontextual grap functions locally, globally, quantitatively and qualitatively. Ultrasonicmotion detectors, themometers, air pressure sensors and light intensity sensors were usedby small groups to collect physical phenomena. The results follow: 1. Students developed a formal understanding of slope which is the rate of change of one variable with respect to another, 2. By incorporating appropriate language and ideas learned from previous graphing activities, students used prior knowledge to correctly interpret graphs of unfamiliar contexts.
3. The iconic interpretation exhibited in pre-activity interview was absent from final interviews. (page 374)Pullano’s study had a very clear explanation of two graphing misconceptions, whichshaped the proposed research design of this study. Many people have difficulty with math because they do not see a way to connectit to their life. In a dissertation by Murphy (2004), she stated that the goal of her studywas to help a large number of students to understand the concepts of calculus in a waythat they could use effectively to address real problems. She first identfied two commonmisconceptions: graph as pictures or “GAP” and slope/height confusion. In GAP,students think of a line graph as a road map with the vertical axis as the north/southcomponent and the horizontal axis as the east/west component. Students can correctlyinterpret a map, but incorrectly apply this interpretation to other more abstract,representations of motion (Murphy, 2004). When asked to draw a graph representing awalk to and from a specific location students often create a the graph similar to Figure 3but should look like Figure 4. In slope/height confusion, students focus on the height ofthe graph rather than the incline of the slope when interpreting graphs. Both of thesemisinterpretations have been reported in middle school and high school students, collegeand university undergraduates and middle school teachers.
5 4 3 distance 2 1 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 timeFigure 3. The wrong way to represent a walk to and from a specific location. Adaptedfrom Using Computer-based Laboratories to Teach Graphing Concepts and theDerivative at the College Level by L.D. Murphy (2004) Dissertation. University ofIllinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA, p. 10. 4 3 distance 2 1 0 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 timeFigure 4. The right way to represent a walk to and from a specific location. Adaptedfrom Using Computer-based Laboratories to Teach Graphing Concepts and theDerivative at the College Level by L.D. Murphy (2004) Dissertation. University ofIllinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA, p. 10.
Murphy (2004) compared two methods of teaching derivatives to students inintroductory calculus by using computer graphing technology. The first method, MBL,although shown to be useful, was expensive and inconvenient. The second methodutilized a Java applet. The student moved a stick across the screen and the computerproduced a position graph. Murphy stated that earlier researchers had speculated that themotion sensor approach relies on whole-body motion and kinesthetic sense, whichsuggested that the Java approach, in which motion of the whole body over several feet isreplaced by moving a hand a few inches, might not be successful. Prior to and after theinstruction the sixty students were given an assessment and an attitude survey. Twentyeight students used the Java applet and thirty two students used the MBL method. Thepreinstructional measures indicated that the two groups were similar in graphingknowledge. The achievement tests indicated that both methods of instruction helpedstudents improve their abitlity to interpret motion graphs. Murphy was in favor of theusing the Java applet for her classes in the future because the cost is substantially lessthan that of the the motion sensors. Like Pullano (2005), Murphy clearly demonstratedgraphing misconceptions. In order for students to gain the benefits of probeware, teachers must be trained touse the technology. Vonderwall, Sparrow and Zachariah (2005) described theimplementation and results of a project designed to train teachers to use an inquiry-basedapproach to science education with the help of emerging handheld technology. Bothelementary and middle school teachers learned how to integrate probeware into inquiry-based science lessons. The professional development session lasted two weeks during
which teachers used Palm probes to measure water quality indicators such as pH,pollution levels, water temperature and dissoved oxygen. The projects had several goals: 1. expose teachers to inquiry-based science and emerging technologies 2. improve the access to underserved and underrepresented populations with emerging technologies 3. augment an inquiry-based science curriculum using probeware 4. give access to information and ideas developed in the session by creating a websiteThe purpose of the study was to find the answers to these questions: 1. What are teachers’ percieved proficiency about inquiry-based lessons utilizing probeware? 2. Are these technologies accessible? 3. Is a professional development program useful? 4. What are teachers’ experiences and perspectives on probeware used in inquiry based lessons? With focus on high-need schools districts in Ohio, twenty three teachersparticipated in the program. A pre and post Likert scale survey and open-ended questiondiscussion were implemented to answer the questions above. Teachers were also askedto implement inquiry-based lessons in their own classrooms and report any benefits orproblems. The results indicated that many teachers changed from feeling not proficientprior to the program to feeling moderately proficient after the program. In terms ofaccessibilty (1 = no access and 5 = very accessible) to technology, teachers answersranged between 1.3 to 4.0. During the open-ended questions regarding the usefulness of
the program as professional development, all of the teachers felt the program was veryhelpful. Although some of the teachers reported problems and issues with theimplementation of the inquiry-based lesson with probeware, the general feeling was thatthey valued the fact that students could collect, read and analyze real-life data.Vonderwall et al. (2005) reported that all teachers reported increased student motivationand excitement by using technology to learn science concepts. Similarly, this study willfeed on students’ motivation for technology use to reinforce inquiry. Metcalf and Tinker (2004) reported on the feasibility of probeware through costconsideration, teacher professional growth and instructional design. Teaching force andmotion and energy transformation is difficult and can be eased with use of probeware.The goal of this study was to develop two units that implement alternative low-costhardware in order to make technology based science lessons accessible to all. Metcalfand Tinker (2004) stated by demonstrating student learning of these difficult conceptswith economical technologies and practical teacher professional development, we wouldhave a powerful argument for a broad curriculum development effort using this approach.Metcalf and Tinker suggested using handheld computers and “homemade” probes ratherthan a full computer system and a probe to reduce cost. In this study, students used amotion detector called a SmartWheel, a do-it-yourself force probe, a temperature probeand a voltage/current meter. Thirty different classes, between 6-10 grade, with thenumber of students ranging from 6-47 participated in the study. Each unit (force andmotion and energy transformation) took between 9 and 20 days to complete. Pre andpost-tests were used to assess student preformance. Surveys and interviews were used tocollect teacher insight. When analyzing the student data, Metcalf focused on specific test
questions. For the force and motion unit, they found a 28% improvement on a questionthat asks students to choose the graph that represents the motion of a cart moving forwardand backwards. For the energy transformation unit, they found an 11% improvement ona question that asked about heat flow on a temperature vs. time graph. Metcalf andTinker (2004) stated that post-interviews with teachers found that student learning wasenhanced through the use of the probes and handhelds for data gathering andvisualizations. Some other findings from teacher interviews include: the probes workedwell, teachers were excited about the using technology in the classroom and were eagerto use it again in their classrooms. Teachers were successful in conducting investigationsutilizing probes and handheld technologies and students made the correlation betweenphenomena and modeling, which in turn reduced misconception. The idea thatprobeware helps students learn the difficult concepts of force and motion supports thegoal of the proposed study. All four studies reviewed reported a decrease in graphing misconceptions becauseof the use of probeware. Pullano (2005) and Murphy (2004) used substantial evidencethrough literature review to clearly describe two graphing misconceptions: GAP or iconicinterpretation and slope/height confusion. Both Metcalf and Tinker (2004), andVonderwall et al. (2005) focused some of their attention on professional growth.Technology does not have much chance for success if teachers do not know how toimplement it. Only two studies, Murphy and Vonderwall et al., presented their results inan easily understandable format. Metcalf and Pullano’s conclusions were not completelyclear or convincing. Murphy as well as Metcalf and Tinker focused much attention onthe issue of cost and making technology accessible to all. Although MJHS has a
partnership with UC Berkeley and has access to laptops and motion probes, it isimportant to always consider the cost issue because resources have a tendency todisappear. Vonderwall et al. and Metcalf and Tinker found success with Palm handheldcomputers. The proposed study utilized Vernier probes, which filled the same niche asthe Palm handhelds.Summmary According to constructivism, people learn through experiences. Sometimes theexperiences contribute to correct concepts of reality and sometimes experiencescontribute to misconceptions. Hale (2000) maintained that these difficulties are oftenbased on misconceptions that are rooted in the student’s own experiences. It is the job ofteachers to find these misconceptions and correct them. Interpreting graphs correctlyseems to be a problem for many middle school students. They have trouble gleaninginformation from them and producing graphs that represent the corresponding datacorrectly. These issues may be caused by the inability to reason in an abstract manner orbecause they have limited experiences from which to draw. Teachers have strategies tohelp combat these graphing misconceptions. Inquiry-based learning as cited byChiappeta (1997) and Colburn (2000) is the most widely accepted vocabulary word todescribe science education. Inquiry-based learning, a pedagogy of constructivism,focused on the idea that students learn by doing. The teacher acts as a facilitator andguides the students gently as they migrate through an investigation in which they ask thequestions, decide the procedure, collect and interpret data, make inferences andconclusions. Inquiry-based learning comes in many forms, but all require that studentshave most of the control of their learning. Deters (2005) claimed that even though
inquiry-based lesson requires significantly more effort by the teacher and the student, theeffort is worth it. If a student takes part in a few inquiry-based lessons each year duringtheir middle and high school experience, the fear of “doing science” will be eliminated.The Graphing Stories project is an inquiry-based activity aimed at correcting studentmisconceptions that arise when they must interpret graphs. Interpreting graphs is one ofthe most crucial skills in science, especially physics. McDermott, Rosenquist & van Zee(1987) maintained that students who have no trouble plotting points and computingslopes cannot apply what they have learned about graphs from their study of mathematicsto physics. There must be other factors, aside from their mathematical background thatare responsible. It is the job of the teacher according to Beichner (1994) to be aware ofthese factors and use a wide variety of inquiry-based strategies like the activities inGraphing Stories. It takes advantage of probeware, specifically Vernier motion probes,which has been shown by research to help students interpret graphs correctly. Thecommon misconceptions students have while interperting graphs, according to Pullano(2000) and Murphy (2004), are iconic interpretation and slope/height confusion. In orderfor probeware to be successfully implemented there must be teacher training andsufficient funds. Metcalf and Tinker (2004) stated that by demonstrating student learningof these difficult concepts with economical technologies and practical teacherprofessional development, we would have a powerful argument for a broad curriculumdevelopment effort using this approach. Some of the implications of the proposed study,utilizing the MBL approach, are that teachers must identify graphing misconceptions,design and implement appropriate inquiry-based techniques that present a wide variety ofgraphing activites, and have confidence that the experiences they provide accurately
model how a student preceives the “real” world. References
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