While most schools are under increasing pressure to improve the STEM education of their students, finding more effective—and cost-effective—ways to teach science concepts can be a challenging task. But as with many dilemmas in education, the right technology, when properly implemented, can be a big part of a successful strategy.
Science curriculum software has come a long way over the years, as this content area has benefited greatly from rapidly increasing computing power and broadband Internet speeds. Streaming video, high-definition graphics and more immersive interactivity now enable students to conduct virtual experiments in virtual labs, for example, that are ever more realistic. And now that so many programs are Web-based, students can practice and review concepts or work on science projects and assignments never before possible, from home and at any time. Here are a few examples to consider using in your district.
Online version free, print prices vary
The nonprofit JASON Project, founded by explorer Robert Ballard and governed by the National Geographic Society, provides curriculum resources in a variety of subjects including energy, ecology and weather. Tectonic Fury includes inquiry-based activities, videos, games and other engaging multimedia that teach students in grades 5-9 about geology. It is designed to integrate into existing core science curricula, and includes lesson plans and a variety of other teacher resources. www.jason.org
$12 per student, discounts available
Learning.com's Aha!Science provides supplemental resources for life, Earth, space and physical science in grades 3-5. Instruction modules, lessons, quizzes, games and simulations allow it to be used in whole-class instruction, as well as small groups or individual students to review and practice, apply conceptual understanding and experiment on their own. Aha!Science integrates into lessons and activities created in Learning.com's Sky digital-learning environment. www.learning.com
AMERICAN EDUCATION CORPORATION
$1,500 per installed site
The new A+VLab software from American Education Corporation is available to complement the company's A+nyWhere online coursework. These virtual laboratories include interactive standards-based experiments in which students observe, record and enter data using methods very similar to live laboratories. Students can use the software to complement their AEC online coursework, to reinforce concepts learned in class, or to study independently, and teachers can use the program as part of whole-class instruction by conducting virtual experiments on an interactive whiteboard. www.amered.com
Middle School Science Series
Contact PLATO for pricing
The Middle School Science Series is a three-part curriculum for grades 6-8 from PLATO Learning, consisting of separate Life, Earth and Space, and Physical Science content area units. Each includes lessons with animation, video, narration, interactive glossaries and activities to demonstrate and reinforce science concepts. These lessons are designed for whole-class, small-group, or individual study or test preparation. Test-item banks in each unit enable teachers to assess student understanding and adjust instruction accordingly. www.plato.com
$38 per elementary student, $40 per middle school student The new "techbooks" from Discovery Education are designed to be the primary resource for elementary and middle school science curricula. An alternative to traditional textbooks, they utilize a variety of standards-based multimedia resources. These include digital books and virtual lab simulations, as well as hands-on classroom activities, an interactive glossary, and a variety of assessments for teachers to monitor progress. Professional development, teacher guides and other available tools ensure effective implementation. www.discoveryeducation.com
TOM SNYDER PRODUCTIONS
Pricing varies based on implementation
Science Seekers is a three-part software series for grades 5-8 in which students apply science content skills to solving realistic problems, through video, animation, activities and companion student booklets. The Changing Earth unit explores geology and earth science, Ecosystems in Balance studies life science, and Safe Groundwater examines pollution and the water cycle. Students work collaboratively, investigate problems, and gather, analyze and interpret data throughout. www.tomsnyder.com
Other science curriculum software is available from: Adaptive Curriculum, Pitsco, Discovery Education, Tabula Digita, K12, Vernier, Pearson, Texas Instruments and World Book.