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  Feature Name: Authentic contexts in the Jasper project
Author: Editorial Board

Category: Inquiry Tools, Inquiry Tools: Guided inquiry, Support for Problem solving

Subject: Math & Geometry

Kind: Work Environment

 Elementary School
 Middle School
 High School
 Higher Education
 Teachers & Principals


Software URL: The adventures of Jasper Woodbury

Created by: Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt

Reference URL

This Feature is connected to (4) Principles
  • Engage learners in complex projects
  • Connect to personally relevant contexts
  • Communicate the rich diversity of inquiry
  • Model scientific thinking
    Feature in Visual Map
    The Jasper project, using the anchored instruction approach (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1990; 1997), was one of the earliest large endeavors to use technology to anchor instruction in authentic contexts. Jasper includes a set of 12 video-based adventures that focus on mathematical problem solving. Each video ends in a complex challenge. The adventures are designed like good detective novels, in which all the data necessary to solve the adventure are embedded in the story. The Jasper adventures present a believable story that has interesting characters, a complex and important challenge, and extensions to a variety of curricular areas. To solve the challenge, the students combine problem-solving skills, mathematics concepts, and the information in the video. The Adventures were designed to bridge the gap between everyday and school problems. They provide a common context for instruction, an authentic task, and a chance to see that school knowledge can be used to solve real problems.
    The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
    The Jasper series is based on the assumption that thinking is enhanced by access to powerful concepts and not simply through access to a general set of thinking skills. Therefore, Jasper is designed to teach thinking in contexts that are rich in content as well as in the need for general strategies.

    Jaspers close cousins are case-based learning, problem-based learning, and project-base learning. More specifically, Jasper series represents an example of problem-based learning that has been modified to make it more useable in K-12 settings. These modifications include the use of a visual story format to present problems, plus the use of embedded data and embedded teaching to seed the environment with ideas relevant to problem solving. Jasper is also designed to set the stage for subsequent project-based learning. Its overall goal is to help students transform mere facts into powerful conceptual tools.

    Examples of important concepts taught in the context of Jasper include the idea of making predictions about a population by extrapolating from a sample that is representative of that population, creating scale models that allow one to make inferences about the real thing, using invariant mathematical properties of simple shapes such as triangles and squares to measure the earth, representing events as functions (rather than single numerical values) and converting them into SMART Tools for solving a wide variety of problems. These ideas require a great deal of specific content knowledge: specific knowledge about what makes a sample representative and how to extrapolate from it to the total population, specific knowledge of the invariant mathematical properties of triangles such as isosceles right triangles and why they are so useful for measurement. Jasper adventures help students understand the specific knowledge relevant to the content of the adventure and use that knowledge to guide their thinking.
    Context of Use:
    (taken from projects home page)
    After viewing a Jasper adventure, teachers usually encourage students to brainstorm the issues to be considered in solving the challenge. Then they typically work collaboratively in small groups to re-explore the video (usually over a period of 3 to 5 class periods) in order to find the data needed to solve the challenge. Students then present their solutions to their fellow classmates and discuss strengths and weaknesses of each set of solutions.

    Videodisc and CD-ROM technologies make it easy for students to re-explore the video in order to find the relevant data and just-in-time embedded teaching. Students can re-explore by using the rapid scan or frame numbers on a videodisc controller (see Figure 1.1) using barcode technology (see Figure 1.2), or using a computer map controller that allows them to click on locations that were represented in the story and return to them almost instantly. A map controller for Rescue at Boones Meadow is illustrated in Figure 1.3.

    Field-based Evidence:
    (taken from projects home page)
    Our experiences indicate that, in order to understand Jasper, it is imperative to attempt to solve at least one of the adventures. It is not sufficient to simply watch Jasper; the important experience is in the solving of it. (A motto that accompanies Jasper is Its not just a movie, its a challenge.) The challenge is most fun and meaningful when shared collaboratively.

    A video available from LEARNING, Inc. shows a teacher working with the Jasper Adventure Rescue at Boones Meadow in a sixth grade classroom. Watching this video provides a look and feel for the use of Jasper in the classroom. However, it represents only one of many ways that Jasper can be used.

    Data from Research:
    Jasper has been constantly and thoroughly researched since its inception in the 1980s. Findings have been incorporated into ongoing development to maximize learning benefits in the classroom. The following are results from a 1990 U. S. study involving sixteen schools in nine states. This diverse population included many students with special needs (e.g., gifted, learning disabled, ESL). Classes using three or four Jasper adventures over a school year were compared with control classes on several measures. Aggregate pretest scores were equivalent for both groups.
    Post test data indicate Jasper students performed as well as or better on standardized tests, even though the Jasper classes had spent three or four weeks less on the regular math curriculum. Jasper students also demonstrated superior performance on one-, two, and multi-step word problems. Finally, Jasper students scored much higher on planning and subgoal comprehension problems than their control counterparts.
    In attitude surveys Jasper students showed less anxiety toward mathematics and were more likely to see mathematics as relevant to everyday life. Jasper students were also more likely to appreciate complex challenges.

    Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt (1990). Anchored instruction and its relationship to situated cognition. Educational Researcher, 19(6), 2-10.
    Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt. (1997). The Jasper Project: Lessons in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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