From Integrated to Integral:

Technology in the Science Classroom

Rachel Tourais and Patrick Woessner

METC 2010




Presentation Slides


Technical Overview: Scribe Blogging with WordPress MU

Scribe blogging encourages student reflection, improves summarization skills, and develops the concept of audience. Each class/section should have its own blog and every student be made a blog author. An internally hosted blog such as WordPress MUsimplifies the scribe blog process:
  • Accounts generated from student information system instead of manually created by teacher or users
  • Users are authenticated; eliminates concerns regarding false posts/comments from unverified users
  • Posts and comments can be moderated by the teacher
  • Privacy options include opting out of Google search results and controlling viewing:
    • Blog visible to any logged in community member.
    • Blog visible only to registered users of blog.
    • Blog visible only to administrators.
  • School-wide tool facilitates better implementation

External Blog Options

If self-hosting is not an option, consider one of these blog tool alternatives (source: TeachingTips.com)
  1. **Class Blogmeister**. Created as a blogging platform specifically for educators, this free service will get you and your students blogging in no time. An added bonus to this service is that it is rarely blocked by school filters due to it’s specific safety features.
  2. **Edublogs**. Another blogging platform made just for educators, this service is based on WordPress, so comes with all the features of WordPress. Another benefit of Edublogs is the short and simple URLs for the blogs that make it easy to share with parents.
  3. **WordPress**. Get a free blog with WordPress and you will also have access to plenty of tools such as spellcheck, integrated stats tracker, and spam protection. This is one of the more popular blogging platforms.
  4. **Blogger**. Another popular blogging publisher, Blogger is teamed up with Google and offers lots of tools to make your blogging experience easier. You will need a Google account to create a blog with these folks.
  5. **TypePad**. TypePad lets you select from thousands of designs and has lots of widgets, custom banners, and more. However, this service is not free. You can take advantage of a free trial before you decide to pay the low monthly fee or annual subscription, though.

Integration Overview: Scribe Blogging with WordPress MU

Each day one student is assigned to be the scribe for the class and post a summary of the lesson on the class blog. Students can use the posts when reviewing/studying the material, and are encouraged to leave comments if they have something to add/clarify to the conversation.

Post Requirements and Grading:

Post Title: Post title should include both a title of the topic and who it is by. For example: Infectious Disease Carriers by Rachel Tourais
Blog Body: The content of your post should be written in full sentences with attention paid to both spelling and grammar. Use these two subheadings in your post:
Background: Include just one or a few sentences about what we did in class to learn about the topic. This will help students who were absent.
Big Ideas: This is the most important part of the post. Summarize the main ideas that should be learned. Think big, not too detailed. An understanding of the important vocabulary and major concepts should be evident in your post so that it will serve as a review for your classmates who read it.
Tags: Input at least one tag for you post.
Blog Grading: You can earn a check plus, check or check minus on you post depending on how well you follow the directions above. A zero will be given if a post is not written when assigned.

2009-2010 Science Scribe Blogs:


Technical Overview: Systems Modeling with Stella

Modeling has been used for years to help scientists and policy makers find solutions to complex problems. It is one of the most valuable and useful applications of mathematics. However, most models are difficult to understand and require significant mathematics to interpret. Systems software like STELLA offers an opportunity to create visual models that actively engage students to study a wide variety of problems. Creating a model allows for “real-time” analysis and a more stimulating environment to glean insights.

Stella models are constructed using stocks, flows, converters, and connectors:
  • Stocks are accumulations. They collect whatever flows into them, net of whatever flows out of them.
  • The job of flows is to fill and drain accumulations. The unfilled arrow head on the flow pipe indicates the direction of positive flow.
  • The converter serves a utilitarian role in the software. It holds values for constants, defines external inputs to the model, calculates algebraic relationships, and serves as the repository for graphical functions. In general, it converts inputs into outputs. Hence, the name "converter."
  • As its name suggests, the job of the connector is to connect model elements. The software provides for two distinct types of connector: the action connector and the information connector. Action connectors are signified by a solid, directed wire. Information connectors are signified by a dashed wire.
stella1.pngConstructing/modifying models requires purchasing Stella software. However, models can be manipulated (view, run, print) using the free Stella player, available for Mac and PC. Models can also be published to the web using NetSim and manipulated through a browser.

General Stella Resources:

Stella Homepage
Making Connections: isee systems blog
Systems Thinking in Schools
How to Use Stella

Stella Models

Sample Models from isee systems
Physics and Chemistry Models
Mathematical and Statistical Models

Integration Overview: Systems Modeling with Stella

Our Infectious Disease model simulates the spread of influenza through a population of students. The model assumes that (1) no one is immune to the illness and (2) everyone eventually recovers and when they do they can't get sick again (the virus doesn't mutate). The limitations of the model make for rich discussion with students because, as George Box noted, "All models are flawed, some are useful."

Students are able to manipulate several variables in the model, including the population, number of people initially infected, the infection rate, and the recovery rate. In this manner, they can make and test hypotheses that would otherwise not be possible in a "traditional" classroom or laboratory setting. The Stella model and accompanying resources are available below, and it can also be manipulated online.

Presentation Resources: Model and Activity Packet

Infectious Diseases: Stella Model
Infectious Diseases: NetSim
Infectious Diseases: PDF Activity Packet



Technical Overview: Research Wiki

Using a wiki for scientific research makes the process collaborative and transparent. Each class/section should have its own wiki and every student be made a wiki author. An internally hosted blog such as MediaWikisimplifies the scribe blog process:
  • Accounts generated from student information system instead of manually created by teacher or users
  • Users are authenticated; eliminates concerns regarding revisions from unverified users
  • Changes can be tracked by author with timestamp
  • School-wide tool facilitates better implementation
Because MediaWiki does require the use of some syntax, students will need to be taught basic formatting prior to beginning the project. A quick reference page to MediaWiki syntax is available here.

External WIki Options

If self-hosting is not an option, consider one of these wiki alternatives:
  1. Google Sites: Very easy editing tool that looks largely like what you'd use in your e-mail program, or a basic word processor.
  2. PBWorks: Unlimited premium workspaces for all students, faculty, and staff at your institution.
  3. Wikispaces: Free for educators and student accounts can be created without email addresses.
  4. Etherpad: Web-based word process that allows users to collaborate in real time.

Integration Overview: Research Wiki

The research process becomes collaborative and transparent when students document their progress via a wiki. Our project focused on the human impact on natural selection. Students had to find and research one example in which human activity is driving the evolution of another species or group of organisms. A research sheet will guided them through the specific research topics, and they presented their research to the class using visual aids.

During the project, the teacher was able to monitor progress and leave feedback via MediaWIki's Discussion tab. It's essential to spend time addressing "wiki etiquette" and to remind students working in pairs that collaboration is not simply "divide and conquer." The History tab is useful in tracking changes and seeing to what extent each person in the group contributed.

For more information on wikis, see Using Wikis in Science Classes by David Wetzel.

Presentation Resources: Wiki Sites and Research Guide

Project Homepage
B2 Red
B5 Blue
B6 Green
G3 Purple
G4 Yellow


Search Strategies
Search Strategies

Website Evaluation
Website Evaluation

Presentation Resources: Final Projects

As a culminating activity, students gave oral presentation with visuals that were broadcast live via UStream.tv. The presentations are archived and available on the channel below:

Free live streaming by Ustream