Merlot’s section for Science and Technology offers thousands of resources such as simulations, virtual laboratories, and tutorials. Each listing has links to the resource, a description, and information about the primary audience, technological requirements, cost and copyright (in general, they are free to use for educational purposes). Merlot is the first place I’d stop by to look for a digital component to add to my classroom. Using the resources found in Merlot model digital age work and learning (NETS-T 3) because instructors exhibit fluency in the technology, collaborate with peers (Merlot allows users to upload instructional materials), and communicate content to students via digital formats.
Moodle is perfect for any educator wanting to have an online component in their classroom. Moodle is open source, so it’s available for anyone to use for free. Its features allow intructors to use it as a virtual classroom, with the ability to build lessons, host discussion forums, and ask students to work collaboratively in wikis and databases. I’ve taken a class on how to build Moodle sites, so I have good ideas on how to use it effectively to deliver content to students. A blended classroom is designed to promote student learning via a digital tool, so it covers NETS-T 2 (a). The environment uses collaborative ways to promote student reflection, so it is also part of NETS-T 1, facilitating and inspiring student learning. Constructing a user-friendly Moodle site demonstrates the fluency of the instructor in the use of technology systems, and the site allows collaboration and communication digitally (NETS-T 3).
This complements the use of Moodle. In order to use all the tools offered by Moodle, they need to be on a website hosted on a web server. If your institution won’t allow it or doesn’t have the capabilities to do so, you can build your own Moodle site at Gnomio. Instructors get their own web address at gnomio.com and are able to allow access to their students only. Once again, when teachers exhibit fluency in the use of technology, they are modeling digital age work and learning (NETS-T 3); and we are incorporating digital resources in a technology-rich environment to reach NETS-T 2, “design and develop digital age learning and assessments”.
Jing is a free program that can be used to capture images and video from your own computer screen (a “screencast”). This tool is wonderful for making video lectures for a blended classroom. I have used it before with a powerpoint that I played on my computer as I recorded my voice via microphone. If you use it to capture images, you can easily label them with arrows and text. The only problem is that Jing videos only last 5 minutes unless you purchase the full version, known as Snagit. However, I find that breaking down the information into 5 minute segments makes it very manageable. Using this tool models digital age work and learning (NETS-T 3) because it’s used for communication and shows technological fluency. It can be part of a digital age learning experience if it’s incorporated into the classroom to support student learning (NETS-T 2 (a)).
Another option for a blended classroom is to create podcasts. It is easy to upload files to iTunes and have students download them so they can listen to, for example, a pre-lecture on their way to class. Audacity is a free tool that records audio, which can be saved in many formats. Audio files can be uploaded to a Moodle site as well, where mp3 files can be played directly. Once again, if this tool is incorporated into the classroom it can be part of a digital age learning experience (NETS-T 2 (a)), and shows the technological fluency of the instructor when it’s used for communicating information and ideas (NETS T-3 (a) and (c)).
This tool can be used to make presentations. The usual tool seems to be Microsoft’s PowerPoint, but those files can take up a lot of space. Prezi presentations are more dynamic, “freeform” and lightweight. Prezi can use images, video, and animations, and put them together in a 3-D environment. Students can go through slides at their own pace. The Prezi environment encourages creativity and inventiveness as suggested by NETS-T 1 (a). The learning experience incorporates a fun digital tool (NETS-T 2 (a)) as the instructor demonstrates technological fluency (NETS-T 3 (a)). Both students and instructor can communicate using this digital format (NETS-T 3 (d)).
Online exhibits at Koshland Science Museum
Particularly, the infectious disease webquest and the inherited disease activity. They are interactive, interesting, and up-to-date with the latest scientific research. I could use either of these activities after covering basic content and before a hands-on laboratory, or to replace a hands-on lab completely. This resource is particularly appropriate for distance learning. The museum even includes a teaching guide with worksheets, suggestions for critical thinking questions and group activities. The resources in this website facilitate and inspire student learning because they promote innovative thinking, engage students in exploring real-world issues, and proposes collaborative activities to further their understanding of the topic (NETS-T 1). In a blended environment, we are incorporating digital resources that promote student learning, helping us fulfill NETS-T 2 (a) and (b).
Bio-Alive Biology and Life Science Video Share
Bio-alive lists video lectures, seminars, conferences, simulations, virtual labs and even videos of surgical procedures. Many of these videos are hosted on YouTube, but some of them are hosted on their own institutional websites. Basically, this is a community where users link to relevant scientific video resources; users are forbidden from posting copyrighted material. These videos are a great way to introduce new material to a blended classroom or reinforce what we’ve covered before. Since this is a community, instructors and students must follow etiquette and exhibit ethical use of the technology and intellectual property of the video resources (NETS-4 (a) and (c)). The variety of media offered is a great way for instructors to model digital age work and learning (NETS-T 3 (c )).
DNA from the beginning
I was so excited when I found this resource. We often cover the history of science and the experiments that changed the way we saw nature over time (like Sir Isaac Newton said, “if I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”). This website shows all the classic genetics experiments animated; plus videos, images, biographies of the incumbent scientists, quizzes and links to other relevant resources. I’d love to include this in my classroom for a more engaging way for my students to appreciate everything that scientists have done over the years. According to NETS-T 2 (a), these resources contribute to a digital age learning experience because they are a contemporary tool to promote student learning. Teachers are able to communicate the content thanks to a variety of digital media (NETS-T 3 (c )).
NOVA provides some wonderful videos to complement the blended classroom. Not only that, but they also host interactive activities that act as virtual labs, in a similar way to the article I reviewed. One activity that I would add to my hybrid classroom is “Create a DNA Fingerprint”. Another one is “Extract your own DNA”, a video tutorial that guides students into extracting their own DNA at home, using household products. Thanks to these resources, students would be using simulations to explore complex scientific issues (NETS-S 1 (c)), and practice procedures for solving real-world problems (NETS-T 1 (d)).