July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
NSF Grantees Poster Session
Engineering design challenges illustrate how computational tools are integral to scientific inquiry. Yet, how to develop challenges that are meaningful and relevant for middle school students in ways that promote design, engineering, and computational thinking remains difficult, particularly during a global pandemic. This poster describes teachers’ professional learning and implementation of an inquiry-oriented instructional unit where middle school students address the design challenge of creating a data display to represent information about their local environment. The instructional unit, called the sensor immersion unit, was collaboratively designed and revised over several school years with fifteen middle school STEM and science teachers in a large, urban school district. Students use low-cost programmable sensor technologies that are composed of a microcontroller, alligator clippable environmental sensors (such as a sound or soil moisture sensor), and a speaker and LEDs to create simple data displays. Students program the microcontroller using a block-based programming language to manipulate and display data streams collected using the sensors. The goals of the unit are to help students understand why and how to assemble the sensor technologies to collect, analyze, and display large streams of information and internalize how the technologies support the transition of their role in STEM or science class from data collectors to producers of the data for their scientific investigations (Hardy et. al., 2020). This poster chronicles the implementation experience of five teachers who enacted the sensor immersion unit in the Fall of 2020 when their schools were engaged in synchronous remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will describe the different strategies used by teachers when students had access to the sensor kits at home and when they did not with regards to four main aspects of the unit: launching the unit, creating hand (or digitally) drawn models of the sensor technologies, supporting small group discussion, and building and programming the data displays. The poster highlights roadblocks encountered by teachers in remote instruction settings and how they were able to navigate them. The supports were modified from previous years to better align with remote learning including more researcher support in the classroom, increased frequency of shorter teacher workshops using Zoom, and the co-creation of a shared online resource library. These unique circumstances helped the team co-design additional resources to help both teachers and students learn the engineering and computational design process. The resources provide alternative methods for students to communicate and participate in the inquiry process and support learning through the creation of video and written materials to help students explore independently. Lessons learned during this era of remote learning are discussed in the context of how they help envision future middle school engineering learning spaces.
References Hardy, L., Dixon, C., Hsi, S. (2020). From data collectors to data producers: Shifting students’ relationship to data. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 29(1), 104-126.
Gendreau Chakarov, A., & Bush, J., & Biddy, Q. L., & Jacobs, J., & Recker, M., & Sumner, T. (2021, July), Supporting Teachers to Implement Engineering Design Challenges using Sensor Technologies in a Remote Classroom Environment Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37789
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