Incorporating digital tools into your science classroom can provide new opportunities and amplify learning already taking place. Students can be offered increased personalization, better and more frequent feedback, authentic learning experiences, and opportunities for increased engagement. Educators can also use technology to: provide opportunities that are not available within their analog classroom, establish a more efficient workflow, increase opportunities for quality data gathering to inform instruction, condense workload, and most importantly, increase student learning.
In addition to many instructional benefits, digital tools also align well with the Next Generation Science Standards and can be used to provide rich learning opportunities that strengthen student understanding of science. As a starting point, consider how the Science and Engineering Practices bolded below can be strengthened through the integration of digital applications:
- Asking Questions (for science) and Defining Problems (for engineering): As students are asked to apply various approaches to solving and defining problems, they can use digital tools that are automatically managed with progress-tracking algorithms to allow for multiple attempts. As students apply concepts, they have instant access to virtual simulations, labs, and interactive materials that are available to any student with a digital device.
- Developing and Using Models: Gone are the days when students need large poster boards and expensive materials to model extreme weather, the water cycle, or how viruses are spread. Students can now interact with and use digital models that are already created, or they can develop, create, use, and even share their own digital models.
- Planning and Carrying Out Investigations: As students are asked to plan investigations, they can use digital tools to collaboratively plan and work together. As they carry out investigations, they can capture and collect numerous types of data. They can snap pictures, take videos, and use spreadsheets or other appropriate tools to capture and record data digitally. They have access to devices (like mobile phones) with all kinds of sensors that can measure movement, precipitation, global location, amount of light, pitch, and so much more.
- Analyzing and Interpreting Data: From the youngest students to our oldest, they can all use technology to construct, analyze, and interpret scientific data. It can be made much easier through the use of technology. Students can create simple pictographs, input data into a spreadsheet and create various graphical displays almost instantaneously, and even access and analyze huge amounts of data with a single click. To go even further, students could create their own data analysis programs.
- Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking: Students have access to a broad spectrum of digital mathematical and computational thinking tools that they can use to deepen and show their scientific understanding. Check out the AVID Open Access article, Calculate, Measure, and Compute With Virtual Math Tools and Manipulatives, to gather ideas and resources around math tools that might be helpful in your science classroom. Students also have access to countless coding websites, application creators, and even virtual robotics through a multitude of devices that can connect to the Internet.
- Constructing Explanations (for science) and Designing Solutions (for engineering): Technology can be used to construct explanations and build or create a solution to many problems. With technology, explanations can be constructed and shared through many formats. Students can communicate information through written, oral, and visual media. In our current world, many problems are solved through the use of technology. Students can design apps to solve problems. They can also create media campaigns and podcasts, or even use physical computing to create and program robots to solve problems.
- Engaging in Argument from Evidence: Students no longer just use the spoken word to engage in arguments. They now engage in online platforms, discussions, synchronous and asynchronous video chats, and often through social media. Students have a choice in how to engage in scientific arguments and also how and what type of evidence they would like to share to support their argument.
- Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information: It has never been easier for students to gather and share information. Students can communicate and share their scientific learning, knowledge, and understanding in many different ways to a global audience through digital tools. They can create websites, applications, digital presentations, videos, podcasts, and so much more that can easily be shared beyond the walls of the classroom, making it more authentic and engaging.
Throughout this collection, there are many resources and strategies that you can explore to help ignite your science classroom. When thinking about where to start, consider picking an area in which you are already confident and amplify it even further with the use of digital tools. Learning should always be first, with technology second. Make sure to start with the learning outcomes in mind, and then explore resources to help amplify that outcome. Start small, and little by little, you and your students can put more resources in your tool kit and expand learning far beyond your classroom walls.