As a former molecular biologist turned college and 7-12 educator, I have taught laboratory science classes for the past 3 decades. I’ve seen a lot of changes in science education (especially digital content) over the last 30 years, but one challenge has remained the same: students have to learn laboratory skills.
As a science department chair at a high-performing public high school in Arizona, I can attest firsthand to the stress this component of science education places on young, new science teachers who may not have the benefit of being a trained research scientist in college and who feel intimidated to lead an entire class of 30+ adolescents through a lab that they must by themselves prepare everything for.
This insecurity can lead to many 7-12 science teachers opting not to complete many hands-on labs with their students either because they lack the resources or the confidence to do so. Add to this the fact that districts often emphasize and require science teachers to host and participate in school and district Science Fairs, and it is no wonder that good science teachers are hard to come by.
While digital science content is abundantly available, digital science content that supports and focuses on lab skills is more difficult to come by. Here are my 3 favorite digital resources that can help support ALL science teachers teaching science lab skills:
1. Discovery Education’s Pivot Interactives: This is my number one super recommendation! Whether it is supporting junior high, high school, or undergraduate college labs in physics, chemistry, biology or earth science, Pivot offers lab experiences that are real (not cartoons) and truly interactive where students can analyze real data (depicted through videos) and even select their own data to collect. The auto-graded questions embedded along with the open-ended free response questions allow for immediate feedback to students about what they are doing and if they are on the right track or not (something that even in-person labs do not have.) The scientist-generated questions are all designed to not only provide verification that students are learning what they are supposed to be learning, but also help model how a lab should be executed for newer science teachers who may not already be comfortable doing so on their own.
Each interactive is also fully customizable by the teacher so can be scaffolded easily to target what the teacher wants. In addition, since the Arizona Department of Education purchased Discovery Education’s K-12 platform for the whole state, that content can further enhance and support the Pivot lab resources. Honestly, Pivot is absolutely worth every penny of the $5/student price tag.
2. Science Buddies: While not digitally interactive per se, the digitally searchable activities presented on this website are targeting students who need Science Fair projects but it is also a fabulous lab resource which can provide teachers with scientist-derived investigations that can be tested using readily available and cheap materials supporting science skills for students both in class or at home (for independent work).
Best of all, it is free and it offers labs for all science subjects and levels. This is a particularly great resource for elementary teachers who haven’t specialized in science education but who still want to engage their students with science labs where they (the teacher) feels supported.
3. Edpuzzle: This resource is more generic than the previous two, in that you can take any video and embed relevant auto-graded questions to give students immediate feedback. The good news is that the videos can be of real experiments and phenomena, but the downside is that you either have to make your own or dig through other teachers’ Edpuzzles in order to find what you need. In this way, it does require lab expertise, so it lacks the teacher support highlights of the other two resources. But it is still a great resource for those teachers who know their stuff plus it embeds assignments directly into Google Classroom. Edpuzzle is free for keeping up to 10 Edpuzzles but does cost money for unlimited storage.
Teaching lab science doesn’t have to be scary or daunting when using these resources! Pivot Interactives is a fabulous way to both help introduce students to real labs as well as provide additional at-home practice with the benefit of immediate feedback for auto-graded questions and support for newer science teachers who are insecure about leading labs. Science Buddies has GREAT (subject-searchable) examples of labs that can be done cheaply and easily with home materials and easy-to-follow protocols. And Edpuzzle requires a bit more know-how but allows for questions to be embedded within videos of phenomena or experiments to make sure that students are understanding what is happening in labs. With these tools at your fingertips, you are sure to be a Science Lab Teacher SUPERSTAR!
- 10 key CoSN back-to-school resources for edtech leaders - September 26, 2023
- 15 questions to ask when evaluating communications platforms - September 26, 2023
- 3 strategies to streamline K-12 data management - September 25, 2023