ICT tools to develop skills of scientific inquiry and investigation
One of the main purposes of learning in the sciences is to develop skills of scientific inquiry and investigation using practical techniques.
From “Sciences: Principle and Practice” from Education Scotland “In the sciences, effective learning and teaching depends upon the skilful use of varied approaches, including active learning and planned, purposeful play; development of problem solving skills and analytical thinking skills; development of scientific practical investigation and inquiry; use of relevant contexts, familiar to young people’s experiences; appropriate and effective use of technology, real materials and living things; building on the principles of Assessment is for Learning; collaborative learning and independent thinking; and emphasis on children explaining their understanding of concepts, informed discussion and communication.”
ICT tools can be used to support the development of inquiry and investigative science skills in pupils in primary school, namely: to support pupils to Research, Record, Report, Present, Demonstrate, Identify, and Classify. ICT can support teachers to help pupils to ask questions or hypothesise, plan and design procedures and experiments, select appropriate samples, equipment and other resources, carry out experiments, use practical analytical techniques, observe, collect, measure and record evidence, taking account of safety and controlling risk and hazards, present, analyse and interpret data to draw conclusions, review and evaluate results to identify limitations and improvements, present and report on findings.
How Science Works – the Inquiry and Investigation Process Explained
“How Science Works” is an interactive flowchart which presents, in a visual way, the processes involved in inquiry and investigation in science. As each part of the flowchart is clicked, explanations and illustrated examples appear. Terms used in the process are linked to clearly explained definitions. In addition to explaining the inquiry and investigation process there are examples of this process used in scientists in history. There are resources for teachers, matched to age and stage of pupils.
Some mind-mapping tools provide templates in mind-mapping form for planning and reporting to help pupils organise their thinking and plan actions, before, during and after science activities. Some of these tools are set up as mind-mapping tools with templates in that format. However many users will already have word-processing tools (either software or online) such as Word templates or tools readily available for creating mind-mapping planning or reporting formats.
Popplet is an online tool which can be used as a mind-mapping planning or reporting tool for primary science activity. This can combine text, images, video and links.
Primary Wall is an online sticky notes collaborative planning tool where pupils can add their thoughts and plan together on screen.
Exploratree from Futurelab comprises a series of interactive online writing templates designed for pupils to plan their work. These are grouped in categories from mapping out ideas at the early stages of a task, all the way through to evaluating different perspectives. Each template presents a series of questions or a guide to help structure thinking. And each template can be completed online just by clicking in the appropriate boxes and immediately printed, or by logging in they can be saved for later editing.
Smart Exchange is the online bank of Smart Notebook resources designed for use with the Smart board interactive whiteboard. This searchable bank of resources is grouped in categories or can be searched on specific topics in science. Each downloadable resource comprises material which can be used in the classroom, and each can be adapted for a specific situation. These are designed to be used interactively with pupils.
For further mind-mapping tools have a look at the mind-mapping section of webtools4u2use. This includes a list of resources as well as ideas for use in the classroom.
Jerry Blumengarten on his Cybraryman Website has a page devoted to mind-mapping tools.
Cast Science Writer – provides a template/scaffolding tool for pupils to use to prepare reports on their science activities (or for planning them).
Research Skills Tools
One method of teaching information skills for investigating sources of information from databases, encyclopedias and the internet is that known as “the Big Six.” This process sets out the steps as follows:
1. Define the task – what needs to be done?
2. Information Seeking Strategies – what resources can I use?
3. Location and Access – where can I find these resources?
4. Use of information – what can I use from these resources?
5. Synthesis – what can I make to finish the job?
6. Evaluation – how will I know I did my job well?
Do I just Google that? Internet search engines are powerful tools but many pupils use only a fraction of the power of them, and then can also have difficulty finding the information specific to the task. There are many resources now available to help in developing pupil skills in searching more effectively using online search engines. Click here for more about how to help pupils make more effective use of online search tools.
The Kentucky Virtual Library has an online poster-style How to Do Research site for guiding younger pupils through the steps to finding the information they need on any topic, whether in print form, multimedia or online. Presented in a vidual comic/game style it explains in child-friendly language the process to find the information being sought.
Use graphing tools or spreadsheets to record results of experiments, display in graphical form, and interpret, handle or manipulate the information presented. Spreadsheets help with a series of calculations that need to be repeated often. Once they are set up they can be used to explore the effect of changing one number on the others. The data can also be displayed very easily as a graph or chart. Several spreadsheet tools come with in-built curricular examples (others are available free online). Recording results of investigations in a spreadsheet presents pupils with the opportunity to try “What if…..?” changes on their information, to attempt to predict what they would expect to happen, prior to testing their hypothesis in an experiment. Click here fore more about a range of spreadsheet and graphing tools for use for science in the primary school.
Databases can be used to record results of experiments, display in graphical form, and interpret, handle or manipulate the information presented. Databases provide a means to ask questions of the data. This could be to find all items in the database with certain characteristics (e.g. all pupils in a class with brown eyes). And in addition these questions can be more complex to include additional parts ot the question (e.g. all minibeasts which have 6 legs and which also live near water). Several database tools come with in-built curricular examples. Click here fore more information on databases which can help support primary science. Specifically for classifying and grouping in primary science a branching database cna be particularly useful to help have pupils actively involved ion classifying objects in primary science. Click here for more about 2Question branching database in the Infant Video Toolkit from 2Simple – which also has a range of video lessons for use with children which illustrate how branching databases can be used in the classroom. Click here for Nature Detectives resources – these include tools to help pupils in classifying animals, minibeasts, plants, trees and more. Click here for ready-made databases and support materials from Hertfordshire to use in the primary classroom for science
Data logging, or data monitoring, is where pupils can record information (such as temperature, light levels, sound levels, speed of movment, etc) and then look at the information collected to make predictions, or look at patterns of activity and try to draw conclusions about why patterns happened as they did.
There are several on-screen simulations available for various aspects of science. These differ from visual presentation tools (where images can be selected and manipulated by the pupil) in that a simulation will follow predetermined reactions depending on the actions chosen by the pupil. So rather than simply moving on screen objects will display likely reactions to the efect of actions made by the pupil upon them. Simulations are therefore useful for situations where, for example, the nature of an experiment means it may be unsafe for pupils to undertake the real experiment, the equipment may not be available, or the scale may be beyond the means of the school (e.g. the water cycle). Simulations can also be useful as a means of demonstrating via a projector on an interactive whiteboard a possible likely outcome of an experiment (such as with electrical circuits) for pupils to then try to replicate in smaller groups or individually. Simulations in that kind of context, used as a precusor (and later as a reporting and presentation tool by the pupils) can be useful to provide the means to work with limited amount of equipment in a class situation (where a large class demonstration is a pre-cursor to individual or small-group working with the limited available equipment) – though it would be stressed that where possible and safe to do so it should not replace the hands-on working with the real equipment by pupils (albeit possibly in small groups). It is always useful to remind pupils of the usefulness of simulations, but also of the limitations – they are only as good as the information added to it when created. They act as useful discussion prompts and provide a tool to try out “What do you think would happen if…..” questions, which in turn then can be used in further discussions to lead to clarification of understanding of quite complex scenarios.
The Science Museum in London has online simulation games on a variety of science and technology topics.
See also the resources at the end of this post.
Visual presentation tools
Tools like “My World 3”, and interactive whiteboard software such as Smart Notebook, provide teachers and pupils a means to present in a visual and interactive way with images the materials involved in their science activies, to manipulate these images on screen to indicate what they plan to do, and to present their findings at the conclusion of their activity. These visual presentation tools come with a bank of images and templates from which appropriate images can be selected by the pupil. Smart Notebook software comes with SMART Notebook Gallery Essentials for Educators which includes a wide array of pre-created content (all able to be adapted for any classroom situation) for all areas of science in schools.
Smart Exchange is the online bank of Smart Notebook resources designed for use with the Smart board interactive whiteboard. This searchable bank of resources is grouped in categories or can be searched on specific topics or aspects of the curriculum. Each downloadable resource comprises material which can be used in the classroom, and each can be adapted for a specific situation. These are visual presentation tools designed to be used interactively with pupils.
When it comes to creating a visual presentation, comic-creation tools provide the means for pupils to present a report on their science activity in a visually engaging way. Click here for more about a range of comic-creation tools. These can be printed or added to websites or blogs for sharing with others.
For a wide range of presentation tools then have a look at the presentation tools section of webtools4u2use. This also includes examples of how presentation tools can be used in the classroom, as well as rubrics for helping pupils to evaluate their presentations.
Visualiser (Document Camera)
Visualisers (also known as document cameras) provide the means when connected through a PC to a projector to display a small-scale science activity to a whole class so that all can more readily see detail. This can be used by a teacher to demonstrate techniques or for pupils to show what they plan to do, or what they did, and for all in the class to be able to see with ease. Whatever is shown on screen can also be recorded as video or as snapshots for later use in reporting. Click here fore more information about the use of visualisers in the primary classroom.
Digital video cameras (such as Flipcam-type cameras) can be used by pupils to record, report and present activity in science learning and teaching activities. The cameras can record what is proposed, the development of any activity which is planned, and for later reviewing that record to objectively report on what happened (whether expected or otherwise). Pupils can also use digital video to try to demonstrate their understanding of issues in science – that could be using video cameras, still images, animations, online content or a mixture. In using the medium of video there is often a greater engagement of perhaps quite complex science topics by pupils in that they find deeper understanding of issues when they are trying to convey their understanding of these issues to others through video. And the consequent wider audience viewing a video embedded in a blog or website can provide an added sense of audience for the pupils which also increases motivation and engagement.
Click here for information on using Windows Live Movie Maker for creating videos from still images and video from cameras or other sources. Click here for alternative free online video-editing tools.
Planet SciCast from NESTA provides films on science which have been created by pupils to try to explain a variety of science topics.
Animation-creation tools can be used to help pupils explain their understanding of any concept or to present the processes they undertook in science activities in the classroom. Click here for more information about a range of animation-creation tools.
Resources to Support Science in Education
School Science from the Association for Science Education, the UK’s largest subject teaching association aimed at all who teach science at all ages. Resources and links are grouped in age and stage, as well as in science topics. In addition there is an extensive teacher section which contains lesson notes, details of events, activities, competitions, equipment information, links to resources, CPD
Hunkin’s Experiments website shows a range of science experiments presented in a visual cartoon-style format. These can be useful as visual prompts for pupils to undertake activities, and can also serve as examples of one way of presenting information about science activities undertaken by pupils using comic-creation tools.
Steve Spangler Science Videos is a series of science experiments using everyday objects and materials, demonstrated on video. The end of these then invites learners to contribute their thoughts on why specific outcomes in the experiment happened.
ScienceBob is a site by Bob Pflugfelder which combines videos, experiment guides, Question & Answers, reseacrh help, all on science for pupils. The guides and videos aim to make science accessible to pupils (and non-specialist teachers!) without the need for specialist equipment.
Primary Games Science is exactly what it says! A UK site with free online games matched to the science curriculum for primary schools.
Science Learning – the Science Learning Hub, designed to support the effective teaching of science in New Zealand schools, provides resources for teachers for school years 5-10. It aims to provide a link between science research organisations and science teachers, to promote student interest and engagement in science, to provide contemporary, contextualised resources for teachers, and to demonstrate the relevance of science research to our everyday lives. There are resources based around contexts, each exploring a major theme or idea and providing a gateway to related multimedia files, classroom resources and the stories of the science and technology industry sector in action. There are also resources based around science and technology stories in the media.There are also articles aimed specifically at teachers exploring the nature of science and addressing various domains and ways of thinking about what science is. The site also has interactive thinking tools: designed to help promote class discussions and to explore the impacts science and technology might have on society, both now and in the future.
Science Kids from New Zealand brings together a vast range of science and technology resources aimed at pupils in primary schools (and teachers) grouped in categories : experiments, games, facts, quizzes, projects, lessons, images, videos and topics. Each category is presented in engaging ways and has a great deal of interactive content.
NSDL Resources comprise a vast collection of resources and links collated by the National Science Digital Library to support science teaching at all stages. In addition there are links to resource maps for science across the curriculum so that no matter where the starting point for learning occurs there are provided links to map to resources in science.
Kinetic City is a games-based educational science resource where pupils work together to perform science activities, and then download their data to the Super Crew to help repair their world! They gain points as they progress on their mission. This is aimed at 9-12 year olds and combines technology with hands-on collaboration. There are activiy guides for hands-on demonstrations and experiments, writing and language arts, Internet research, interactive science games, art projects, physical activities. There are also animated episodes of science charatcers and the facility for pupils to record the results of their activities and track their progress, and test their knowledge and skill in interactive games.
ZoomSci is a seies of step by step science lessons and activities grouped in categories, with accompanying videos.
Karen Bolotin has created a livebinder called Sensational Science Sites – just click on the tabs along the top to open up the categories of links to further resources in these catergories: Virtual and Lab Sites, Inventions/Machines, Space/Solar System, Ecology, Science Fair Project, Animal.
Science Display Resources from Schools Links is a series of free downloadable classroom display materials for science combining images with explanatory posters, and vocabulary associated with each area.
The Exploratorium, the museum of science, art and human perception based in San Francisco has a host of online resources to support learning and teaching in science grouped in topics: Evidence, Accidental Scientist: Music, Accidental Scientist: Gardening, Accidental Scientist: Cooking, Origins, Ice Stories, and more.
Deakin University School of Education in Australia has created resources to support teachers teach science in the primary school using a minimum of specialist equipment. This comprises detailed illustrated lesson plans for teachers on each aspect of science for all stages of of the primary school. These are presented in categories for ease of finding the required resource. In addition to the step-by-step guidance for teachers in each lesson there are also notes on research which will aid non-specialist teachers in their own understanding, not only of the concepts presented but also of common misconceptions by pupils (with explanations for teachers).
Web 2.0 Science Tools is an extensive collection of resources collected and described by Laura Turner – each making use of the interactive nature of online tools to support learning and teaching in science at all levels.
The British Science Association Learning Zone brings together resources to help teaching science at all stages, along with science competitions and events for schools, and science award schemes fo schools.
Sciences in the Simpsons is a collection of short clips from The Simpsons cartoon series where each clip is showing a principle of science. The description beside each clip explains the scientific principle, and how it does (or often does not!) apply in real life. These have been collected for science teachers as a fun way to introduce lessons or discussions about science pupils will see.
Selenia Science from the University of the West of England is a series of cartoon comics, each presenting the character in a situation where a scientific principle will help get her out of a problem. There is a teacher section on the site which explains the scientific thinking behind each cartoon. These can serve to then engage pupils in investigating the activities portrayed in the cartoons.
Wonderville is from Canada’s Science Alberta Foundation. It combines games, activities, videos, comics and features on real-life science and technology in work. It is aimed at use with pupils but has sections for teachers (where the activities are presented through age, stage and topic) and parents.
Hertfordshire Science for Primary school has ICT resources for download for all stages matched to learning intentions.
Science Resources for Schools in Scotland
Glow Science for Scottish schools. Glow Science has been developed to help teachers with their planning and implementation of Curriculum for Excellence. The Curriculum view lists Glow Science films and Learning Materials by relevance to the Curriculum for Excellence: Planet Earth, Forces, Electricity and Waves, Biological Systems, Materials, and Topical Science. You can search for films by entering keywords in search box on the top right corner of any page.
Education Scotland Science resources provide a guide to principles and practice in teaching science for teachers, along with details of experiences and outcomes for the sciences, case studies, and supporting materials.
STEM Central brings together Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathemtaics resources aimed at Scottish schools. Here you will find videos about concepts and careers, lesson plans for teachers, news and interactive activities for pupils.
Science 3-18 comprises resources to support teachers in Scotland teaching science at all stages from age 3-18 to support teaching in the sciences as part of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence.