Exploration in the virtual classroom?!
Yes, you CAN do it!
Whether we are teaching online, in a hybrid setting, or in a traditional classroom (with all sorts of new rules and regulations), we must still strive for that three-dimensional instruction in our science classes – which means using the Science and Engineering Practices to foster exploration and discovery.
In this recording of a live training I held in the NGSS For Middle and High School Science Teachers Facebook group, I share three activities that can be used to engage students in exploration in any situation — simulations, observation stations, and data analysis.
Simulations are awesome strategies to incorporate exploration. However, let’s be clear about what kind of simulations we’re looking for in an NGSS classroom. In your hunt for simulations, you will find some that are more student-driven than others. Often, what’s dubbed a “simulation” is actually an “amped up textbook.” It’s basically a text in disguise.
The text in disguise simulations basically use computer features to present the same old texts. Students may have to click or drag things, but when you take a closer look, the simulation is still explaining all the content. There’s no student agency in the activity.
Sure, it’s a great tool to use in the appropriate place. But it’s not an exploration.
Check out the video to learn more about what types of simulations we ARE looking for, as well as how to actually use them in your science class.
In a traditional classroom, students are basically moving to different areas of the classroom to make observations and draw conclusions that lead to the discovery of a science concept. Typically, it’s a categorization idea — so the ‘this type versus this type’.
Obviously, we can’t have students going to different stations in a virtual classroom (and maybe not in your physical classroom this year either), but we can have students visiting different “virtual stations.” These could be pictures or videos presented on different websites or in different slides in a self-paced presentation. Students can still draw conclusions and record their observations.
Lastly, data analysis. This approach is great if you have technology — or if you don’t have technology!
If you do have technology, I would highly recommend having students actually collect the data themselves before analyzing and interpreting. You could guide them to the database from which to collect their information, and then give them freedom to use Google tools to manipulate and analyze it on their own.
Alternatively, you could also just give them the data. Then, they still analyze it with spreadsheets or even just paper-pencil. Data analysis is a great way to help students see the connections between factors without telling them those connections. This leads to discovery of science concepts at work in the phenomenon that you can then generalize in your sense-making discussions to help students develop their big science ideas.
Check out the video replay below to learn more.
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