Lifelong Learning Programme

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The Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE), 4th Generation
The Technology Enhanced Learning in Science Community (TELS)
last updated in 2012
Online course
Medium, Advanced
Cooperative learning, Problem solving, Modelling
Fundamental Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry
Lower Secondary School, Upper Secondary School
WISE stands for Web-based Inquiry Science Environment and it is an online platform that includes at least 23 projects in the areas of General Science, Earth Science, Life Science, Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. All of the projects are very well characterized in terms of the scientific topics covered; duration of the activity; software needed and study level of students. They also provide Teaching Tips & Content Standards.

We will focus here on the two projects that stand out, in the Chemistry area:
Project A. How Can Detergents Be Used to Clean Oil Spills?
The main objective is that students learn the chemistry of detergents and their application to clean birds, endangered by oil spills. In this “saving wildlife” scenario, fundamental concepts of chemistry such as polarity, electronegativity, intermolecular attractions, and solubility are addressed.
Besides computer activities, a simple experiment is suggested where students can handle bottles of oil and water and observe what happens when some detergent is mixed.

Project B. How Can We Recycle Old Tires?
This time, the proposed scenario is old tires recycling. By comparing tires with common recycled materials, students analyse the relation between chemical composition, atomic arrangements, bonding, and physical properties of substances.
In this case, as a complementary activity, students may handle materials with different physical properties such as old tires, plastic bottles, steel can, etc.
Both projects integrate very diverse computer activities such as interactive simulations and models, with software tools for drawing, graphing, concept mapping and diagramming.
The WISE Projects were developed in a way that makes them easily applied in the classroom environment. The teacher should create an account to make a run associated to the class.
The project activities can be used as an introductory point or at an intermediate stage of the curriculum. According to the authors, an introduction made by the teacher about the topics covered in the project can be positive. They also advise one computer for each group of two students. If the teacher considers it appropriate, students can sign in from a computer outside school to complete the project activities.
The WISE platform is an extremely valuable source of inquiry-based digital resources. The projects have been specially developed to be used in classroom context which facilitates their introduction in the curriculum. The projects use an enormous variety of online interactive tools which make them quite appealing.

The fact that WISE projects and software are developed by the Technology Enhanced Learning in Science (TELS) Community (involving university researchers, middle school and high school educators, with headquarters at the University of California, Berkeley) is reflected in the high level of the digital resources presented.

The only point of weakness is that it is only available in English.
Instituto Politécnico de Bragança

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2012.09.27

Posted by Rose Lawlor (Ireland)

Message: Teaching Tips
The project can serve as an introduction to the basics of polarity and electronegativity, although prior exposure to these topics can be helpful. The project draws on everyday observations of detergents, so it is nice for students to handle/shake bottles of oil and water and then investigate what happens when detergent (Dawn works fine) is added. Some students struggle to understand how intermolecular attractions help explain (1) why oil and water separate and (2) how detergents function; so teachers should check in with their students on their understanding of these concepts and address them as a class if necessary. The project takes advantage of the Idea Basket tool. We recommend encouraging students early in the project to take advantage of the basket to collect and track evidence that will help them recommend appropriate use of detergents in the final activity.
Learning Goals and Standards
(1g) Students know how electronegativity and ionization energy relate to bond formation (2a) Students know atoms combine to form molecules by sharing electrons to form covalent or metallic bonds or by exchanging electrons to form ionic bonds. (2b) Students know chemical bonds between atoms in molecules such as H2, CH4, NH3, HCCH2, N2, and Cl2 are covalent (2d) Students know the atoms and molecules in liquids move in a random pattern relative to one another because the intermolecular forces are too weak to hold the atoms or molecules in a solid form. (2h) Students know how to identify solids and liquids held together by van der Waals forces or hydrogen bonding (6b) Students know how to describe the dissolving process at the molecular level by using the concept of random molecular motion.

I think perhaps the site is presuming that the student has acquired quite a grasp on chemistry already – I don’t think our junior cert level students would have the standard required to fully benefit from it.
Perhaps a transition year chemistry class would benefit – with a lot of input from the teacher.
I looked at the section on cleaning oil from sea birds after the BP oil spill in the gulf of Mexico. The film archive would certainly grab the attention – it was actually very upsetting – and hopefully let students see how relevant and important chemistry was in our lives.
I liked the way the student was brought through a voyage of discovery about the best cleaner to use for the birds. The idea of a basket to collect ideas for a final decision on how to formulate the cleaner was very good. Just that I think the journey would be very slow unless the teacher was prepared to intervene and explain some of the chemistry concepts along the way. I didn’t find the graphics used always easy to follow.
From a teacher’s point of view, I couldn’t get a handle on how to archive the students project work in the”classroom runs”. I would probably need to get one of my students to help me out here!
The site is certainly very interactive but I had difficulty navigating it and have visited it on several occasions, thinking “I’ll get the hang of it this time…”
The site advises setting up a Test Student Account – try as I may, I didn’t succeed in doing this.
I got very frustrated with the site because I felt that it had a lot to offer that I, for whatever reason, couldn’t access.
I’m sure if I stayed with the site for longer I may have mastered it but the reality is that if a teacher finds it very difficult to use a site he/she will very quickly move on to the next one.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.