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Using Digital Learning Objects to Help Teach About Physical Change ATA Science Council Conference October, 2011 Banff, Alberta.

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Presentation on theme: "Using Digital Learning Objects to Help Teach About Physical Change ATA Science Council Conference October, 2011 Banff, Alberta."— Presentation transcript:

1 Using Digital Learning Objects to Help Teach About Physical Change ATA Science Council Conference October, 2011 Banff, Alberta

2 Production Team Amanda Thompson, Naomi Mahaffy, David Dykstra, Amanda Vanderhoek, & Ben Scott – The King’s University College The King’s Centre for Visualization in Science (KCVS)

3 Research Team Brenda Gustafson, University of Alberta Peter Mahaffy, The King’s University College Brian Martin, The King’s University College

4 Alberta Elementary Science Program Current program (1996): Grade 5 Classroom Chemistry - focus on observing and measuring macro-properties of matter; revisit ideas about physical change and contrast with chemical change Revised program (2015, 2016): Grade 5 Chemistry – introduce particle behavior in different states

5 Why Change the Program? Teachers report that Grade 5 students ask questions that need particle answers. Some Grade 5 students have already heard terms such as atoms and molecules. A singular focus on the macroscopic can lead to misconceptions that are difficult to relinquish in later years.

6 Potential Challenges for Grade 5 Students It may be difficult to believe that matter is comprised of small, unseen particles. It may be difficult to understand that the movement and arrangement of these particles can account for what we observe – including physical change. Learning about particles involves interpreting models.

7 What do researchers say about physical change? Researchers report that the particle nature of matter is difficult for students of all ages. Students’ misconceptions about physical change include: a) When something evaporates, it ceases to exist, b) When a substance transforms to a different state, it becomes a different substance, c) In order to evaporate, water must be boiled, and d) The solid state of a substance weighs more than its liquid state.

8 What do researchers say about digital learning objects? DLOs are one teaching tool teachers can use to help students begin to understand: 1) the nature of models, 2) the particle model of matter, and 3) physical change. DLOs should be combined with other teaching strategies (e.g., discussion, body movement models) – DLOs are not a panacea for the challenges of introducing particles to students

9 What did we do? CRYSTAL-Alberta ( ) provided the funding for the Grade 5 Classroom Chemistry DLOs posted at: html html

10 Six Digital Learning Objects – Grade 5 Classroom Chemistry Module 1: Models in Science Module 2: Models of Matter Module 3: Modelling Matter Module 4: Physical Change Module 5: Chemical Change Module 6: Signs of a Chemical Change

11 Physical Change – Important Concepts A physical change is when matter changes state (e.g., solid to a liquid). When matter changes state, the particles behave differently. Even though the particles behave differently, no new substances are formed.

12 Viewing the Physical Change Module Try out Module 4! html html

13 What did we find? Grade 5 students easily understood that matter was made of small, unseen particles. Grade 5 students were able to distinguish among particle models depicting solids, liquids, and gases. Grade 5 students struggled to understand what was meant by the term ‘physical change’. Students’ initial ideas about physical change: nail turning rusty, people changing in height as they grow older, rocks being weathered by wind and rain, caterpillars turning into cocoons and then into adults, sharpening a pencil, seed planted and growing into a tree

14 What are we doing now? SSHRC ( ) is providing funding for revising and testing the DLOs Revised DLO on physical change nearly complete Revised DLOs include: student responses stored on a database, Sam and Olivia characters, addressing misconceptions, multiple dynamic models, why water is special, emphasis on salient features (movement, spacing, holding) We need Grade 5 teachers who are willing to help pilot the revised DLOs.

15 MEd in Elementary Science University of Alberta “A Science Leader in Every Elementary School” MEd cohort program in elementary science (planning to commence July 2012 at the University of Alberta) For more information contact: tePrograms/MasterOfEducation/Cohorts.aspx tePrograms/MasterOfEducation/Cohorts.aspx

16 Instructors Needed: Elementary Science Curriculum and Instruction Course Department of Elementary Education, University of Alberta Instructors needed for EDEL 330: Curriculum and Instruction in Elementary School Science Please contact: Dr. Larry Prochner (Chair) at


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