- Beyond the school gate
- Improving student learning
- Let's teach maths and science
- What's real in a virtual world?
- Careers and transition
- Curriculum for the 21st century
- Early childhood education & care
- Teachers and Teaching
The Learning Federation Science 2 Project
The Learning Federation (TLF) is an initiative of the Australian Government, the States and Territories and New Zealand. It is developing online curriculum content for schools across six priority curriculum areas, including science, using the learning object model. STEVE WINTER reports.
The learning object model has been selected by The Learning Federation for two key reasons. Firstly, it has the potential to deliver a more engaging, exciting and enjoyable learning process, that encourages better learning outcomes. Secondly, it allows significant flexibility to provide content which is re-usable across multiple contexts and purposes.
In this model, resources such as images, movies, sound clips and text are available to teachers to incorporate into their own teaching program. This affords teachers the opportunity to provide a wider range of resources that can be organised to suit the individual learning needs of their students, while simplifying preparation and enriching the delivery of lessons.
Students benefit from the scaffolding that is a feature of the learning object model. Instructional demands and ongoing feedback to students about their interactions form an integral, ‘inline’ component of the design.
Before being released to schools, learning objects undergo a rigorous testing and evaluation process, including reviews by educational specialists and experts in each particular subject matter. Most importantly, each learning object is reviewed in classrooms around Australia and New Zealand by teachers and their students.
For simplicity, the content development for the science curriculum area has been broken into four projects. Science 1 content has been released. Science 2 content is being released to education jurisdictions from July 2004, Science 3 from December 2004 and Science 4 from June 2005.
Many objects readily link to a range of other curriculum areas as well as focussing on real-life science contexts. Overall, high quality, student-focussed materials that meet identified students needs are being developed.
Science 2 project overview
The Curriculum Area Reference Group (CARG), comprised of representatives from the education jurisdictions, identified three key teaching and learning issues as being significant for the Science 2 project:
- scientific literacy
- student engagement with science
- student access to the real nature of science.
A range of learning objects that address these issues are being developed.
Learning objects are more often grouped into series. Each series contains a number of learning objects with similar content, incorporating levels of increasing complexity. The learning objects employ a variety of rich contexts, which include interactive narrative structures and ‘game play’ devices to promote engagement for a diverse range of learners. Examples of the recently published objects are outlined below.
Shaping the land
It is expected that this series of objects will be welcomed in schools as it fills a long standing gap in resources. Physical modelling of geological processes is difficult, messy and much less effective than the visual models included in the object, and students can build a wide variety of sequences of their own choosing with ease.
Students will learn about the ongoing and dynamic processes that interact to form and reshape the Earth’s crust, including deposition, folding, faulting, erosion and intrusion. They examine cross-sections and real-life geological landforms, and are challenged to determine the geological events that have led to their formation.
The two learning objects in this series provide students with opportunities to carry out investigations allowing them to gather, synthesise and evaluate data in virtual environments.
In the environmental field trip, students explore four sub-environments of a pond; the pond itself, a grassy bank, a rocky bank and the surrounding trees and shrubs. They gather data using appropriate sampling tools such as a magnifying glass, camera, net, fish trap, their hands and a bucket. Students are able to view a species description and video for each animal they have collected.
Observations are recorded for future reference in their ‘virtual notebook’. Using the printable ‘report builder’, students compile their final report about what makes the pond a good habitat for the plants and animals that live there. The report requires them to explain how each animal meets its basic needs for food, water, shelter and protection.
Based on a real habitat, the environmental evaluation project immerses students in a virtual investigation of the environmental effects on the green-and-gold bell frog population. Using their virtual notebook to view and record data and observations, students test, analyse and synthesise a range of ecological and statistical data to investigate their hypothesis. Students then use the report builder to select relevant data from their notebooks and compile their final report on the variables which impact on the frog population. The report builder includes the opportunity to construct complex food webs of the pond ecosystem.
The learning design is open ended and inquiry based, incorporating structured and scaffolded feedback, to assist students to adequately justify their hypothesis with evidence from their investigations.
Travel back in time
In this series, students explore the concept of geological time and develop an understanding that geologists collect evidence such as rocks, animal and plant fossils that provides clues to the geological past. Students collect, label and display geological exhibits for an exhibition. They can select from four different collections to build their exhibition. The interactive Time portal allows students to simulate travel back through time to gather information about past climates and habitats to include in their exhibition labelling. The object also allows students to create text and add this to an exhibit label. All of the details they have gathered can be printed.
The interface design is highly attractive and students should be easily motivated by the environment with its robot, levitation effects, time machine and great sounds.
In this series students investigate a range of factors which affect performance when riding a bicycle under race conditions. Each of the learning objects involves students investigating scientific principles and then testing these principles in simulated bike-race time trials. Results of the tests are displayed and feedback provided to allow students to determine the ‘ultimate configuration’.
In Get a grip students investigate the role of friction in the performance of bicycle tyres. They test how the type of tread affects grip and speed, allowing them to choose tyres best suited to various track and weather conditions in simulated bike-race time trials. A notebook function also allows students to record observations and these can be printed.
On a roll allows students to investigate the role of physical forces in how bicycle wheels work. They test how wheel size, tyre pressure, tread and load affect rolling resistance, allowing them to choose wheels best suited to various track and weather conditions.
In top gear covers the concepts of how gears work and why you need them to ride a bicycle efficiently. Students test how gear size affects speed and energy efficiency.
Wild ride culminates with race day! In order to get the fastest possible time, students must apply all they’ve learnt to select the most appropriate bike type, wheel size, tyre tread and gear configuration, as well as determining tactics, to suit the track and weather conditions on the day.
Who to contact
The learning objects described here are just a taste of the wealth of material being produced as part of the science curriculum project. If you are interested in accessing these objects in particular, or those from other curriculum areas, please contact the TLF contact liaison officer within your education system. Details can be located using the Education tab on The Learning Federation website at www.thelearningfederation.edu.au
The author owns the copyright in this article. For information related to the reuse of this work in any form please contact the publisher email@example.com