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Improving Student Thinking and Learning With Databases. Roberta Niche, McKinney ISD. How We Should Teach. How Technology Can Assist. How Students Learn. Seeking Patterns. Making Connections. Bunching Facts. Concepts. Thinking Skills. Problem Solving. Concept Formation. Database.

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Improving Student Thinking and Learning With Databases

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Improving Student Thinking and Learning

With Databases

Roberta Niche, McKinney ISD


How We Should Teach

How Technology Can Assist

How Students Learn

Seeking Patterns

Making Connections

Bunching Facts


Thinking Skills

Problem Solving

Concept Formation



“For much of the twentieth century, teachers sought to teach discreet facts. Now it is essential to seek ways of teaching children how to think, how to process information from many points of view, and how to solve problems. The sheer volume of information and the wide accessibility to the Internet make mere knowledge acquisition of secondary value.”

Dr. Terry Armstrong, Idaho Virtual Campus


Some things we know about

How Students Learn


The brain is wired to to look for patterns and connections

  • Learning centered around broad concepts and “big questions” is more likely to be effective than learning based on recall of facts
  • Constructivism: Learners construct their own knowledge by plugging new information into their existing frame of reference.

Patterns and Connections

“We know from brain research that students need to see patterns and connections. And if they have no way to make sense of this massive amount of information that's coming at them, they tend to get confused. It just becomes traipsing over trivia.”

Lynn Erickson, Curriculum consultant and author of Concept-Based Curriculum and Instruction: Teaching Beyond the Facts

Lynn Erickson


My Mistake

  • Memorize the names of the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt (in order).
  • Why do great civilizations like Ancient Egypt fail?

A little example

of how the brain strives to find connections between facts and how it tries to plug those facts into concepts…….


Students who have not been taught how to think often read text from start to end, never making connections or “chunking” (classifying) information. When they get to the end, they remember little and understand less.



“Our brains are constantly seeking patterns and connections. By bunching facts into categories or organizing them around concepts, the brain can make its own sense out of information and begin to understand it. Therefore, to help students see connections and make sense of the curriculum, it should be organized around concepts and principles.”


For Example

  • Concepts in geography would include
  • Location
  • Place
  • Human/environment interaction
  • Movement
  • Regions

Old Way:

Write a report about Arizona. Include the state bird, the state song, and the state flag. Tell when it was founded and list five important facts in its history. List its main natural resources, agricultural products, and manufacturing.


Better Way:

Investigate the Southwest Region of the United States.Work with your team to decide where in this region your “family” should relocate. You will want to consider crime rates, quality of schools, cost of living, amount of pollution, availability of quality health care, entertainment…,


What's better about it?

  • Collaborative
  • HOTS
  • Authentic in purpose
  • Teaches a thinking process, a way of looking at and evaluating information. Students can use this same process in other contexts to learn other information.

“Jerome Bruner recognizes the futility of knowing everything but insists that we should all learn a rich conceptual framework. While it may be impossible to know the dates attendant to all of the world's great revolutions, we should know the underlying ideas that foment such revolutions. Bruner emphasizes concept attainment to allow students to first see the big picture.”

Dr. Terry Armstrong:



  • Learners:
  • Actively construct their knowledge.
  • Don’t simply absorb ideas spoken at them by teachers, or internalize them by rote drill and practice
  • Create new knowledge by assimilating new information with pre-existing ideas, and modifying their understanding when they get new new data.

Active Engagement

Not Just Passive Reception


Let’s see these ideas in action!

  • Concept Formation Teaching Strategies:
    • The Animals Project
    • The Presidents Project

Basic Concept Formation Strategy

    • What did you see? What did you hear? What comes to mind… (Teacher lists items on the chalkboard.)
    • What things belong together? (Students begin to group items by identifying common properties.)
    • What would you call these groups? (Students give labels or names to grouped items. This is categorizing.)

Meta-cognitive Objective(Thinking about their thinking)

Students will reflect upon their thinking processes when using this skill and examine its effectiveness.


Look at your white

covered handout, page titled

“Thinking About Animals”


Look at your white

covered handout, page titled

“Thinking About Presidents”



A great tool for students to use to make sense of this information…….


What is a database?

  • Program to organize and store data

-example: contact information

  • Can:
    • find patterns in data
    • view data various ways
    • filter and sort data
    • explore and analyze problems

Microsoft Works, Excel, Access


Allow students to:

  • Organize data
  • Categorize
  • See relationships between categories
  • Explore problems
  • Formulate hypotheses
  • Compare and contrast
  • Make inferences










Alike and Different



Let’s play with a Database!

Open the practice database from the session web page

Smokers: The Practice Database


Group Project Time

Upper grade project: gold handout

Primary grade project: pink handout

Everyone will:

-Do some research on the Internet

-Open his/her template

-Enter information in the database

-Ask and answer questions

-Groups Report Out


Groups Report Out

Questions you asked and answered

Graphs made (if had time)

Questions for me