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Elementary Science

Technology in your science lessons

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Valerie Sweeney Valerie Sweeney 230 Points

When I recently attended the NSTA conference in New Orleans I was struck by how much technology many classrooms were using. I teach in a very rural area and they don't have access to computers in their homes or a nearby library. School is the only access to technology for many of my students. What are ways you are addressing this in your elementary classrooms? I have four computers, a smartboard, and one microscope in my classroom. I still felt that it was not enough when teachers were leading sessions about having their notebooks all on line.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Valerie, I am sorry I didn't get a chance to meet you at the New Orleans conference. I had such a great time! If you are going to the Indianapolis conference, let me know via private message. I would love to connect with you in person. Of course there are more things you can have the students do online if they each have easy and continuous access to a computer, but honestly - is it really that much of a disadvantage to have to keep a paper notebook? There is something to be said for both. The advantages of a paper notebook: Students can make sketches and show off their art skills in ways that can't be done directly on a computer. They can take their notebook with them anywhere - including on field trips without having to worry about theft, running out of stored power, or lugging around a piece of equipment that has to be set down in order to type into. I think students need opportunities to work with the simpler forms of technology from time to time - the paper and pencil! I wonder if we will find out in a few years (after new research) that students who always used computers had lower comprehension scores and lower creativity expressions than students who were provided opportunities to work and think with paper and pencil in hand. In the meantime, hang in there. As the technology gets better, it also gets less expensive. Those iPads will be affordable for everyone soon. What are others' thoughts? My Best, Carolyn

Lorrie Armfield Lorrie Armfield 51438 Points

Greetings All, My scholars all have iPads assigned to them, and we have many technologies in which to actively engage scholars of various learning styles and intelligences. Technology not only allows you to do different things, but it allows you to do things differently. That being said, I still require my scholars to keep an ‘Interactive Notebook’ in science. The notebooks are their ‘one stop study shop’. As an Advancement Via Individual Determination (A.V.I.D.) school, my scholars keep activities in their notebooks that require them to work in their zones of proximal development. From Cornell Notes to laboratory reports (right brain activities), it’s all kept in their notebooks. The notebooks also contain activities such as ‘T shirt Art’ (left brain activities) in which the scholars have to design a t-shirt with a science concept, create a slogan and a graphic representation for the concept, and then write at least two paragraphs to explain how the slogan and the picture work synergistically to explain the science concept. While I am a huge proponent for the effective and efficient use of technology, it is important that we teach our scholars to THINK; tThe paper/pencil method still WORKS….we just have to be sure we are giving quality assignments that will help the scholars bridge the gap between the science taught in the classroom and the real world.

Lorrie Armfield Lorrie Armfield 51438 Points

Adah, Excellent points made in your post, and the resources you provided are great. Thanks.

Kathy Renfrew Kathy Renfrew 37248 Points

I think there are some very thoughts provoking pieces here. Technology access and equity are things that need to be considered when thinking about technology. I like that Lorrie's school provides all the students with IPAdS..( I want one :-) ) But I also like Carolyn's thoughts about paper notebooks. I think students should be using these even when the technology is there..just as Lorrie talked about the interactice science notebook. I have looked at notebook pages from da Vinci, Einstein and others and students really see the relevance then. I also tell them that their notebook may become a part of science history because they each have the potential to become scientists. Kathy

Susanne Hokkanen Susanne Hokkanen 79520 Points

I would also suggest checking with you local colleges and universities - especially within their science, technology and education departments. A university near my home and school offers "technology" on loan to schools - things such as IPads, laptops etc...FREE! The university also provides training to teachers on lesson plan ideas to better engage students more effectively in the use of technology. I also use interactive science notebooks, and I agree that balance is important too.

Jessica Peterson Jessica Peterson 2440 Points

Hello, Because you have a smartboard, you are able to have the interaction that will stimulate student and allow for you to present new software. I know that you could start by playing around with different programs on your computer. Think about how you could incorporate them into your lessons. Once you get an idea of activities that you can do, then you can assign students to do projects as well, in groups or individually. Some programs and ideas are: Pixie-create a poster of facts Powerpoint Photo Story Word: Newsletter There are infinite possibilities, but YOU first have to be comfortable enough to introduce them to your students.

Valerie Sweeney Valerie Sweeney 230 Points

Wow! Thanks for all the advice. The articles that you provided Adah were great and got me to thinking in many new directions. I have always used paper notebooks with many foldables to interact with to stimulate thinking. I can also use digital cameras that are relatively easy to get and use them in group projects with the smart board. We might can also bridge the gap by making a class digital notebook from things they find online in the classroom. Thanks for the reboot!!

Lorrie Armfield Lorrie Armfield 51438 Points

[b][color=blue]Jessica, Awesome ideas....thanks for sharing! LA[/color][/b]

Margaret Hunter Margaret Hunter 1655 Points

Valerie, I also live in a very rural area in West Virginia. Many schools have taken the initiative and written grants and applied for funding to get technology into their schools. Does your school have a technology coordinator, or is there a district tech coordinator? Usually these people receive information about grants and such. Several of our schools have written grants to get notebook computers for students to have at home so that all students have access. There is a lot of money floating around out there. You just have to do a search. Many of the grants are targeted at low income or rural populations, so you may be at an advantage. What grade do you teach?

Valerie Sweeney Valerie Sweeney 230 Points

That is my next step Margaret. My plate is a bit full right now with teaching, grad school, and training other teachers in the state. But I am interested in looking into writing a grant for the technology. I think we would be a perfect candidate with the socioeconimic status of our community.

Margaret Hunter Margaret Hunter 1655 Points

Valerie, Do you have a technology coordinator at your school or district level? Because you are so busy, it might be best to get someone else to do the grunt work, and you can continue with your own work. I'll keep my eyes and ears open about grants for technology and email you privately when I hear of something that might help you get the technology you need for your school.

Vanessa Muhammad Vanessa Muhammad 540 Points

Thanks Adah for the resources!! Wow! multiple computers in your classrooms, cameras, iPads for the students!!! I have two desktops (one of which does not work) and very limited access in the building to other modes of technology. Thanks for sharing your innovative ideas. I do, in fact, use the interactive notebooks as well and the students do enjoy having a resource that they built and can refer to at a later time.

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Pam just brought to my attention a great resource for any visually impaired students: She says
Live scribe is awesome!

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

I have put together a collection of weblink to classroom technology resources and applications. Here it is for anyone who is interested.

Technology Resources for the Classroom Collection (9 items)
- User Uploaded Resource
- User Uploaded Resource
- User Uploaded Resource
Jason Pittman Jason Pittman 3435 Points

Valerie, Don't forget that 21st century technology extends beyond just computers. There are quite a few alternative energy lessons that can be done with very simple materials. Small solar panels are very inexpensive, solar ovens can be made from pizza boxes, a wind turbine or hydroelectric turbine is easy to make with found materials (even the generators can be built from copper wire and magnets) If you have even a small budget, there are some great inexpensive tools and kits available. I met the folks at Kid Wind in New Orleans: and picked up a bunch of their kits through a grant.

Lorrie Armfield Lorrie Armfield 51438 Points

Great resource Jason, and very informative post.

Sandra Dolbin Sandra Dolbin 4985 Points

Hi Everyone! I was browsing through the forum and came upon this threaded discussion. The posts have been intriguing as well as informative. I agree that technology is a must have in any classroom, however, depending on where you’re teaching and the resources available to you, that may be a challenge. There is still much to be said for the use of a traditional paper notebook. I am sure to utilize the technology that I have available to me in my classroom (smartboard, presenter, projector, laptop, etc…) so that my students are exposed to these various media, however, I am still mindful to have the students write notes, key learnings, information, etc… in their traditional paper notebooks/tablets. I have found that the students refer to and rely on their tablets and do appreciate having them readily available and handy whenever they need to utilize them. I suppose the lesson learned is that exposing the students to technology is important, however, having them keep and maintain a traditional notebook is also important. The key is maintaining that balance between both of these technologies. PS – Thank you for the great resources as well. They were very informative and helpful.

Christine Bozarth Christine Bozarth 10 Points

I am so glad to see this discussion thread. My school (2-year college) has just acquired iPads for use in lectures and labs. I am compiling a list of iPad apps that are appropriate for college biology classes. Do any of you have a favorite? (My current favorite is LeafSnap.)

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

Hi Christine and welcome to the discussion thread. I thought you might be interested in an upcoming webinar being sponsored by Siemens STEM Academy on February 1, 2012 at 7 p.m. EST. It is called Making Mobile Media Meaningful in (and Beyond!) Your STEM Classroom
It will include iPad apps.

Bambi Bailey Bambi Bailey 9515 Points

I just used the pHet simulations from the University of Colorado with my preservice teachers using a SmartBoard. They really enjoyed the Complete Circuit kit ( Try them out! I am updating my old iPhone/iPad apps list that may be helpful to some. Once I have it sorted by grade levels or special topics, I'll upload it. Bambi

Carolyn Mohr Carolyn Mohr 92316 Points

I just did a search in the NLC where I filled out the search options like this:
Keyword: technology
Type of Learning Resource: lesson plans

Grade Level:
All Grade Levels
Elementary School
Middle School
High School
Informal Education

17 articles with lesson plans on various kinds of technology popped up. They run the gamut - from remote sensing technology to digital microscopy. I love the NLC's advanced search function for finding new ideas on specific topics! This NSTA LC website is a technological treasure trove that opens up so many teaching and learning possibilities. Love it - love it!

Stacey Pearson Stacey Pearson 3125 Points

Jason, I visited the website you posted and it will be of great help. Thank you for your time letting others know about it. I will be utilizing this resource for sure. Thanks again.

Laura Jones Laura Jones 9735 Points

KidWind--what a great site! I can see using this with both my GEMS clubs and our eco-action club. I like the idea of the inexpensive kits.

Lori Towata Lori Towata 2825 Points

Hi all, I'm jumping into this discussion a bit late, but I think the idea about technology in science instruction and learning is a fascinating topic. Valerie--I have a classroom similar to yours: three desktop computers, 1 laptop, 1 document camera, 1 LCD projector. My students are totally fine with me projecting content to the white board and going through the activities together (I have grade 3). In the past I have designed NON-Linear powerpoint presentations that I have shown first to my students projected (like smart board), then they try it out in the classroom computers as station rotations. Lorrie--I just completed three days of AVID training, so it is heartening to read about successes using those strategies from a colleague across the country. I think that graphic organizers in traditional notebooks give students a sense of ownership in their discoveries. My students still love bringing out their science notebooks to sketch and define insects, birds, and weather phenomena outside of the classroom. One positive to our continued dependence on paper and pencil notebooks is that there is no worry about theft, glitches, or power issues. Notebooks/journals are easily accessible, belongs to the students (as opposed to iPads), and gives students meaning to explore science outside of school. I can't imagine taking an iPad on a hike in the rain, but wouldn't feel all that bad if my makeshift note-book got muddy. Additionally, "digitizing" an old-school paper and pencil journal is entirely possible as a culminating one-page activity through digital photography or having students create an individual slide as part of a whole-class slide-show. There are definitely lots of articles that I would like to explore to try to integrate technology at the elementary level, but I still like the tangible quality of writing notes, and sketching out ideas with a pencil/pen.

Daniel Carroll Dan Carroll 18610 Points

Technology does not always increase the meaningfulness of science lessons. It is true that in the classroom having an internet capable computer allows us as teachers to access a wealth of information and tools. I have begun to worry that we might start depending too much on student access to computers while they are away from school. Should we really have access to students 24-7. Also, with families that have 2+ school aged children, we are expecting not only an internet accessible computer, but one for each child.

Daniel Carroll Dan Carroll 18610 Points,0,639053.column I got the above linked article from the NBPTS website. Who really benefits from putting high-tech gadgets in classrooms?

Tiffany Franklin Tiffany Franklin 1170 Points

You classroom sounds a lot like mine, actually. I have 5 computers, one of which is running my weather station (it's a weatherbug station, so we don't pay for the network connection or anything on it! :D ). That means I only have 4 computers for the students to use and no laptop or i-anything. I usually do a lot of centers in my class, anyway, so I just make one of them a computer-based center. When I had a homeroom class, I had centers that surrounded all subject areas, so I could alter what subject we were using the computers for. Whether it was a webquest, portfolio update, graphic illustration or even checking their ePals mail (through In2books <--great program for Reading, btw), or online simulations, they're really excited to do whatever I have cooked up for them to do and they get the computer to themselves for twenty-five to thirty minutes!

Jenn McAdoo Jenn McAdoo 2080 Points

Hi everyone! I love to hear about all the great ways teachers are incorporting technology in innovative ways in their classrooms. If you are not able to offer interactive technology in the classroom itself, the students can still download Smart products on their computer at home. I wrote a grant a few years back to bring interactive technology into my classroom and it has made a huge impact on student engagement. I started off with a simple Powerpoint show, progressed to using Smart Notebook with just the LCD, and finally the school graduated to full interactive boards in every classroom! There are so many interactive lessons available through Smartexchange. It is free to sign up, and student can also download the software for free at home. I post some of my lessons on my class website and the students can then review them at home with interactivity. They of course cannot touch the screen as they do in the classroom, but the mouse becomes the interactive part. Just thought I'd share my expoeriences going from an overhead projector to the 21st century!

Angelica Busk Angelica Busk 4180 Points

Rena Roybal Rena Roybal 1810 Points

Wow, I now feel at home in the Discussion Forum! I am the Technology Coordinator at our school and think it's wonderful that there are so many ways that technology is being used in the classroom. At our school I support over 200 computers (PC and Mac), iPads, Promethean Boards, digital presenters, as well as keep the network running. One of the reasons that I started taking NSTA Professional Development courses was to learn the content so that I would be comfortable integrating science into my technology classes. (Yes, I teach K-5 also!) Before I became a teacher 5 years ago I worked in the Information Technology field for nearly two decades. What I've seen in the classroom is that teachers don't always use technology for the right reasons to prepare our students for the "real" world. My point is that it's not the quantity it's the quality of your technology integration that will make a difference. I still try to have the students write their ideas down, visualize or do some other type of activity before they actually get on the computer. The technology is a tool but they still need to be able to think. Technology also needs to be used in meaningful ways. Using it for research is wonderful and there are a lot of amazing opportunities for this in the school. Utilizing technology to convey ideas is what students will be expected to do when they leave school so be sure to include project based opportunities for your students. Finally, when including a technology project plan on spending a lot of time with the students (especially the younger ones) teaching them how to use the tool before even embarking on a project. When I teach a new program to students I try to give them a fun project to do. For example, a PowerPoint about themselves or a music video in iMovie. This gives them a chance to learn the software/hardware before being asked to express their understanding of a content area. Kudos to all of you for all that you do in the classroom with technology!

Michael Leslie Michael Leslie 2110 Points

Yes technology plays such a big part now in children's education. And I agree while using the computer for research is great that should almost be a second nature skill for all students now like going to library and being able to find a book. ( that's probably harder for them) But teaching the kids skills like power point and being able to do a presentation, or teaching them how to make a newsletter or brochure or even a poster and webpage should be end goals of a students technology prowess when they graduate from high school. Quality meaningful programs ans application that will benefit them when they hit the real world.

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

Technology is great and can really enhance learning But I wouldn't worry too much if students don't have as much access to technology. A lot can be learned using pencil, paper, and books. I have often worried about what we lose by using too much technology. The brain development that comes from developing penmanship and organizational skills needed to use notebooks to express what you have learned will be hard to duplicate with computers, etc. Also staring too long at computer screens is not really good for visual motor development of young children.

Michael Leslie Michael Leslie 2110 Points

Technology is great for any class but I find it helps the most in Science. When I took my first NSTA class last semester on space science there were so many small applets that displayed how the planets and comets moved and also the life of a star and how people viewed outer space long ago. Using this technology provided by the NSTA greatly helped my students understand what was going on in the universe. I wished I had this resource when I was a student learning. I would like to expand on what technology I can utilize in the class but just as a start even the smallest applet can go miles in helping students to become successful in the class.

Zac Hansel Zac Hansel 525 Points

I think its great that the students get access to that much technology. Use it as much as you can. Having it all on-line does not matter as much as having students "play" with the products. I am jealous of all the teachers with more than one computer in their class, but I make due. Work with as much tech stuff as possible, so that the students are aware of what is out there and what they should be looking forward to.

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

I really like teaching students how to make power point presentations once they have done their research. I still have them take and organize notes on paper to avoid wasting time on the computer.

Something I have been thinking about is how to convey my concepts visually?? I think it would be very cool and lots of fun to work with students to develop power points where images represent the ideas and words they want to convey. Thoughts? Kathy

Rena Roybal Rena Roybal 1810 Points

One more thought about using technology... As students start using PowerPoint and other programs that allow them to add images, don't forget to teach them proper ways to cite their work, how to avoid plagarism, and using non-copyrighted images, videos, and music. It is so easy these days to cut and paste but students need to learn even from elementary school how to use information appropriately. Another important consideration is to use legitimate and reputable resources for research. As adults, we have a better idea of how to assess the sources of our Internet research. For example, I had students doing research on coral reef ecosystems and some of the "facts" they used were incorrect. Technology opens many doors but as teachers there are so many considerations that we have to consider.

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

Good point, Rona. That is why I check out the websites first and give the students web sites that I know are okay. Good point about citing where they got their info in their power points.

Joachim Huber Joachim Huber 2080 Points

Kathy I have the kids write up their research from books first. Next they type it into their power point slides. Finally they search google for images that actually illustrate what they talked about. So if their slide is about polyps they look up images of polyps for that slide, or types of coral, they look up say brain coral to get a specific picture. I require that the picture actually fits what they talked about in their slide. I have found that they are able to successfully search appropriate pictures to illustrate what they have learned. It's pretty cool. It is important they cite their work sources.

 Linda Johnson 2010 Points

Valerie, thank you for sharing!

Pamela Auburn Pamela Auburn 68625 Points

Reach Beyond the Science Classroom with Online Tools

Kehau Samuelu DonnaLynn Samuelu 3485 Points

I know this discussion is about technology but I did want to add to what many brought up earlier, 21st century learning is more than just computers. It's about collaboration and sharing. I think we forget how messy thinking and science can be and how paper and pencils are readily available and can really help in the scientific process. I feel if science focuses on collaboration, problem solving and inquiry then having one computer to graph it or share it all is not too bad. I feel that any technology use should only be included when it enhances student learning, even if it is as simple as sharing outside the classroom to a global audience.

Justine Romito Justine Romito 1240 Points

I believe that the use of technology can be a great learning tool for our students. It is especially important to include technology learning in the classroom, especially if you are located in a more rural setting where the students have less access to the internet via home. Options are always a great suggestion, create an activity that can be created with or without the use of technology. I am currently creating a food and nutrition workshop for my science methods course. At that station that I created, the students will be using the data from activity A to create a graph. The students will be given an option of creating a percentage graph on paper, or using an online graph maker. The online graph maker can be found at Both activities allow students to create the same type of product through different processes.

Doris Padilla Doris Padilla 3345 Points

When I recently attended the NSTA conference in New Orleans I was struck by how much technology many classrooms were using. I teach in a very rural area and they don't have access to computers in their homes or a nearby library. School is the only access to technology for many of my students. What are ways you are addressing this in your elementary classrooms? I have four computers, a smartboard, and one microscope in my classroom. I still felt that it was not enough when teachers were leading sessions about having their notebooks all on line. I am a college student and I have seen classroom that have a lot for resources and technology and sadly I have also seen those classrooms that have no resources or technology whatsoever. I think schools should try their best to include more technology in classrooms. Many of you mentioned a science notebook which I think it is a great idea. I also think suggesting science websites is a very nice idea. I think teachers should speak out and try getting more technology in their classrooms.Technology can be very fun and helpful especially in science.

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