Science 2.0: Developing the Knowledge Constructor

Our past two columns focused on the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Empowered Learner standard and Digital Citizen standard, respectively. This month, we discuss the ISTE’s Knowledge Constructor standard.

When students become a Knowledge Constructor, they should be able to synthesize science information from a variety of resources into a representation of their understanding. Students must meet four performance indicators to achieve this skill.

Meeting the performance indicators
First, students need to “plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits” (ISTE 2016) (italics added). Students must be able to find relevant information to a topic or their unit of study, especially as the amount of information on the internet will grow exponentially over time. Google operators can generate specific search results and can help students develop effective research strategies. It is also important for students to cite their resources. Students can use online bookmarking tools such as Diigo and learn how to employ Add-Ons in Google Docs to easily create bibliographies.

Directly related to the prior indicator is the ability to “evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility, and relevance of information, media, data, or other resources” (ISTE 2016). Good classroom resources are available to teach students how to evaluate online information. One activity leads students to complete a science project that aims to save a fictional endangered species, known as the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Scientifically, this creature seems ridiculous. Yet the activity teaches students to filter online information while finding resources to support or refute the validity of the information. Most students quickly realize that the creature is fictional. Some students, however, create an activity comprised of irrelevant facts that seem to support the existence of such an animal. We must reinforce the importance of corroboration.

Once students have collected a set of reliable resources, it is time for them to “curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.” Using graphic organizers, such as Lucid Chart, Mindomo, or Mind 42, students can connect concepts through articulated maps that structure and organize their thoughts in an actionable way.

For example, students could research the environmental impact seen in communities that adopt consistent and reliable recycling methods. By compiling their research, including case studies, scientific research, and reports of new technologies that make recycling more affordable, students can intelligently discuss how their own community can develop better recycling programs. Curation also implies that students will publish their work publicly. The tools mentioned above can all display work online.

The fourth and final indicator ensures that students can “build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories in pursuing answers and solutions” (ISTE 2016). The class curriculum should foster an environment for students to explore their passions. Teachers need to personalize lessons so students become invested in their own learning, where they construct knowledge in meaningful ways that allow them to explore problems that may not yet exist on a macro scale.

Conclusion
The best way to empower students is to have them solve real-world scientific challenges by focusing on unidentified problems. Authentic work is best for students. In the next issue, we will discuss the Innovative Designer standard.

Ben Smith (ben@edtechinnovators.com) is an educational technology program specialist, and Jared Mader (jared@edtechinnovators.com) is the director of educational technology, for the Lincoln Intermediate Unit in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. They conduct teacher workshops on technology in the classroom nationwide.

Reference
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). 2016. The 2016 ISTE standards for students. Arlington, VA: ISTE. www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students-2016

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published in the December 2016 issue of The tst_dec16_covScience Teacher journal from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).

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