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Learning Through Exploration and Conjecture

There are many ways of learning conjecturally and by discovery beyond the use of digital manipulatives.  Let’s review below the methods and tools that have been shown to be effective in this process.

Web Explorations

Web explorations are like organized field trips with educational ends.  They place the learner in contact with first hand information that he can use as he pleases.  Let’s review two of the best known methodologies and  tools.

CYBERGUIDES are web resources that support the creation of learning units focused on analyzing universal works of literature.  The Cyberguides are instructional units about literature used as supplementary material the responds to the language standards of the State of California. Each Cyberguide contains student and teacher versions specifying the standards that are being addressed, the activities and processes that are being carried out, the sites selected and a rubric for orientation and evaluation.

WEBQUEST is a methodology and a tool for constructing exploration activities using the web.  It was developed in San Diego State University.  It offers teachers the opportunity to examine and to select learning activities based on the web and to structure them as a lesson.

Bernie Dodge, the creator of WebQuest at San Diego State University explains (2007) that technologically, creating a WebQuest can be very simple. As long as you can create a document with hyperlinks, you can create a WebQuest. That means that a WebQuest can be created in Word, Powerpoint, and even Excel! If you're going to call it a WebQuest, though, be sure that it has all the critical attributes.

A real WebQuest....

  • is wrapped around a doable and interesting task that is ideally a scaled down version of things that adults do as citizens or workers.
  • requires higher level thinking, not simply summarizing. This includes synthesis, analysis, problem-solving, creativity and judgment.
  • makes good use of the web. A WebQuest that isn't based on real resources from the web is probably just a traditional lesson in disguise. (Of course, books and other media can be used within a WebQuest, but if the web isn't at the heart of the lesson, it's not a WebQuest.)
  • isn't a research report or a step-by-step science or math procedure. Having learners simply distilling web sites and making a presentation about them isn't enough.
  • isn't just a series of web-based experiences. Having learners go look at this page, then go play this game, then go here and turn your name into hieroglyphs doesn't require higher level thinking skills and so, by definition, isn't a WebQuest.

Digital Exploration of Our Planet

The teaching of social sciences has a large number of applications which support the exploration of our planet from different heights with different levels of details.

GOOGLE EARTH and WORLD WIND [[4]] are two exploration tools of physical sites from any place on the planet that allow visual images to be taken from a satellite and come as close as possible.  Both use geographical information systems with maps that can be seen from different heights with different levels of detail.  Although they may look alike, they are different products.  Both tools offer free versions.  Google Earth is basic, although it is possible to get a more advanced version.  Once installed, one learns how to use the tools through direct experience (trial and error), guided experience (using online support), by demonstration (following the tutorial) or being part of interest groups.

When these tools are used collaboratively by students to research and construct knowledge, they can be combined with other tools to create a publishable document or object. It is becoming popular to use Google Earth to make cyber –excursions through countries where another language is spoken with the purpose of expanding students´ linguistic, literary, cultural, geophysical and geopolitical knowledge by consulting multimedia geo-referenced resources that are associated with the places of the cyber-excursions.  From these findings students can share electronic reflections and participate in discussion forums, or blogs, about the multiple perspectives obtained.