We sat down with LabXchange Teacher-in-Residence Kenneth Huff to learn how he uses LabXchange to help his students make sense of phenomena. Kenneth is a science teacher at Mill Middle School, Williamsville Central School District, in Williamsville, NY.
LabXchange helps me address challenges in my classroom because it provides me a mechanism to translate research into practice that I have not found in other digital learning resources. Through LabXchange's powerful digital learning platform, I have been able to provide my students with interactive lab simulations, videos, and narratives that nurture my student’s curiosity in science. Helping all students develop an interest and identity in science is a big deal. I want my young adolescent learners to know that no matter who they are or were they are, science is for them.
I have been able to better adapt my teaching to how students learn science using LabXchange. Specifically, I am able to provide access so all students can engage in investigation. The National Academies consensus study report Science and Engineering in Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center concludes that investigation and design are more effective for supporting learning than traditional teaching methods. When my students use LabXchange as part of an investigation, they are engaged in learning as they develop lines of evidence to explain the causes of the phenomenon they are studying. The great thing about LabXchange is it is always open and is free.
I have found that LabXchange fosters educator agency because the platform provides educators with an online repository of resources that allows teachers to personalize learning pathways for their students. As students make sense of phenomena and obtain lines of evidence for the causes of phenomena, LabXchange provides a variety of resources that can be infused into instruction to address particular student needs. These resources are an excellent way for students be engaged at the nexus of three-dimensional instruction, as called for in A Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
With a plethora of Harvard vetted LabXchange resources to draw from, I see this as more of what do my students need at a particular point in their learning process. I may use a video to introduce a phenomenon, assign students a reading to gather information for evidence in constructing an explanation, or have students engage with a simulation as a formative assessment of student learning or as an extension of learning for students who display full understanding. LabXchange also allows me to design instruction that addresses instructional shifts including various modalities, registers, and interactions throughout the learning process.
With three-dimensional learning, there is an implication to change classroom practice. As a professional educator, I must take action. I must embrace the evidence and research in science education. My students are depending on me to prepare them with competencies they will need in their future careers and as contributing members of a complex society.
My journey in science education began in high school, as an intern at a sound recording studio in Buffalo where I was first introduced to jazz music. It is ironic that after 30 years of science teaching, my favorite music group is also from Buffalo and has a science-based name - Spyro Gyra!