Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Mastering Scientific Practices with Technology, Part 2. (Science 2.0: Using Web Tools to Support Learning

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Mastering Scientific Practices with Technology, Part 2. (Science 2.0: Using Web Tools to Support Learning

Article excerpt

Last month, we discussed how technology can help students engage in three of the scientific practices described in the Next Generation Science Standards. This month, we address three more practices.

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Analyzing and interpreting data

Work with data begins with its collection, a task for which technology offers enormous advantages. Digital probes (e.g., those from Pasco, Vernier, etc.) work quickly and easily, especially now that users can connect the probes to computer devices via standard USB ports or Bluetooth, eliminating complicated setup and wire connections and letting students focus on data analysis. Students can share (or harvest) data online via such tools as Google forms. This has vastly increased the reach of citizen science, in which nonprofessionals can contribute to the collective body of scientific data.

Next comes analyzing data. Online tools help students crunch and graph their numbers to show trends. Students can share data with Google Sheets, a free alternative to Microsoft Excel, from anywhere they have an online connection. Create a Graph (http://1.usa.gov/1OxeRx6) and Plotly (https:// plot.ly/plot) are suitable for beginners. Graphical Analysis (https://goo.gl/XcJovd), a plugin for the Chrome browser, allows more advanced students to collect and graph data from probes. Desmos (www.desmos.com), an online graphing calculator, offers classroom activities that require students to make inferences and predictions from graphs.

Using mathematics and computational thinking

Mathematics is foundational, yet many digital tools make it difficult for students to show their calculations. However, gMath (www.gmath.guru), can be added to both Google Docs and Sheets, letting students type mathematical expressions and symbolic representations within the document. For mobile devices, MyScript Calculator (www.myscript.com/ calculator) converts handwritten mathematical expressions into digital ones, complete with a solution to the problem. Students can then export the image of this work to other applications to show their work.

For their computational thinking, we want students to use digital tools to work through decomposition, representation of data or patterns in data, modeling, and generalizing or abstracting solutions. …

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