Saturday, March 7, 2015

Science and Technology Lesson - Computer Center Science

Science Grades K-5
By Brittany Washburn

Last summer as I was prepping to teach science specials for the first time, I was thinking about ways to integrate technology into my curriculum. I am very lucky to have 16 student computers plus 6 science tables in my classroom. At the time I was prepping to teach grades K-5, but then my schedule was switched to grades 2-5 for this school year. I had already developed 4 units of science "digital task cards" for both kindergarten and first grade for the school year.

It was critical to me that each set of task cards was developmentally appropriate. The kindergarten set is very simple. I set it up as a PowerPoint Show and put it in Kiosk mode, which means that it will take up the whole screen and can only be closed when the esc button is pressed on the keyboard. The idea here is that I could set up each computer before the students come (save the files to the desktop and access it when I need it). Since the students won't know how to get out of it, they will not be asking me for help when they accidentally close the screen. The links open on top of the PPT slide, so when you close each website after use, the PPT slide is right on the screen.

Kindergarten Science Digital Task Cards on Screen- Only Available as a Bundle
Since my classroom only had 16 computers, and all of the Kindergarten classes have more than 16 students, this is an ideal setup for stations. When it is time to transition to the next station, all the students are responsible for is closing the website they are on. Voila, it is ready for the next student. 

Developmentally, kindergarten students are accessing simple websites, practicing their mouse skills, and exploring science. Below is an example of a website chosen for the kindergarten level. 

By first grade, students are ready for an essential question to help focus their exploration. I had to somehow tackle the issue of students still not reading well. I developed a method to solve this problem. The essential question for each activity is given in both text form and audio file format. If the student wants the question read aloud, he/she just has to click the speaker icon- see below: 

There are less pictures and the website link is visible. Students at this age are starting to learn that blue underlined words are hyperlinks to a website. I would have students write the question and answer to each essential question in their notebook. Their goal would be to complete one task card each time they go to the computer during science. Non-writers could answer the questions verbally. 

This brings us to the readers and the scientists (a.k.a. grades 2-5). I use the same format for these grade levels. There are 4-5 essential questions and 8 interactive websites. I do require these students to write the question in the notebook and answer it with labeled pictures and a description. For the oldest students I make them cite which website they found the answer on. For my 2nd grade units, I even included 4 QR code activities for those with tablets that lack a flash browser. 

Second Grade Science Digital Task Cards include Essential Questions and 12 resources.

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Grade Science Digital Task Cards
Some ideas for how to use these resources include:

  • A unit-long project, where students go on the computers when time is available and are expected to complete the activities by the conclusion of the quarter
  • As a teaching resource- 8 fantastic interactive websites plus essential questions, a picture, and vocabulary all in one place
  • Homework if you have students with access to technology at home (but you may not post the file online- flash drives are fine)
  • Extra credit for early finishers
  • Review before benchmark exams

Hopefully this has given you some ideas for how you could incorporate more technology in your science curriculum. It doesn't always have to be whole-group experiences, but should always be developmentally appropriate and require students to show what they have learned.

Thanks for reading!

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