Science 2.0: Communicating Science Creatively

We’ve been covering the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards in every issue since September. This month, we examine the final standard, called Creative Communicator, which requires students to communicate effectively and creatively express themselves (ISTE 2016). The science curriculum provides opportunities for students to express their understanding of concepts. Science involves more than collecting data and crunching numbers. Scientists must also be able to explain their work. We need to create persuasive arguments that support our conclusions.

Meeting the performance indicators
The performance indicators of this standard state that students need to choose, create, remix, communicate, and publish. For teachers, facilitating this type of work calls for a change in instructional design. The activities in your classroom must require students to communicate their understanding of a lab and what they’ve learned from it.

Students need to be able to choose the appropriate platform and tool for their presentations. For example, a poster on a trifold board could be used instead of a written report to present scientific work. When technology is brought into play, students have a much wider choice of media when presenting their work.

We ask our students to communicate their results of a lab report in three steps (explain what you did, explain what you found out, and describe how you found out) to summarize their findings. This summary can take place in virtually any medium. When students were learning to use digital graphic organizers, we would allow them to use a flow chart for their conclusions. They can easily paste pictures of lab setups, graphs, and other media into many tools (e.g., Inspiration, LucidChart, Poplet, MindMaps). Some students may make an infographic, while others may use Google Slides, write a song, or even compose a haiku.

Some students concluded a lab on the conservation of momentum with PowToon, an animation tool that creates a video with music. The lab asked students to collide carts and use motion sensors to record the data. Students used tools in Powtoon to explain what they did and then used other tools with imported images of their graphs to explain what they found. Overall, it was a creative, effective effort at completing the three components of the conclusion.

Additionally, this standard asks students to create original work or remix the work of others. We hang signs in our classroom that say “UCC,” which stands for “user-created content.” Almost every laptop, tablet, or phone has a camera, offering opportunities for students to take their own photos of equipment setup, written work, or scientific phenomena. Students can also use online simulations and their own videos to remix and communicate their work.

Finally, this standard requires students to publish their customized work. Online tools make publishing easy. Teachers should consider using a website that allows students to keep a portfolio of their best work. A web tool that allows students to edit pages (Google Sites or Wikispaces) will help accomplish this task. Students can link their products and use this to reflect on the tools they have learned and the methods they have used for communicating.

Conclusion
Becoming a creative communicator requires students to learn a variety of tools and develop the ability to evaluate the choice of the right tool for the task at hand. Students will learn how to become creative by using different tools and incorporating media into their work. This standard allows students to present their scientific work in a way that demonstrates their understanding both visually and verbally.

Ben Smith (ben@edtechinnovators.com) is an educational technology program specialist, and Jared Mader (jared@edtechinnovators.com) is the director of educational technology, for the Lincoln Intermediate Unit in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. They conduct teacher workshops on technology in the classroom nationwide.

Reference
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). 2016. The 2016 ISTE standards for students. Arlington, VA: ISTE. http://bit.ly/ISTE-standards.

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published in the April 2017 issue of The
Science Teacher
 journal from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).

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9 Responses to Science 2.0: Communicating Science Creatively

  1. Elizabeth Petersen says:

    Thank you. The video was really great.
    Nice Job!
    Elizabeth Petersen

  2. Jessica Federovich says:

    You thoroughly explained the final ISTE standard, Creative Communicator. I feel it is far too often that students are asked to simply explain what they did, saw, and learned from a lab experiment. This standard really raises teaching and learning expectations in the classroom. Today, students are creative and can showcase their creativity in science when given the chance. I enjoyed your examples of students embedding pictures, graphs, graphic organizers, and videos into their assignments. Additionally, I loved the example of how a student presented their knowledge of waves by writing haiku poetry. Your blog and video has made me think of how I can allow my own students to be creative in my own classroom as well. As a 4th grade math and science teacher, we discuss technology and design, particularly models. This year, I plan to have students develop an innovative invention. They will create a model/prototype of their invention. Then, they will create a document, in which they will include diagrams and pictures to explain their invention, its purpose, etc. Finally, students will create a video sales advertisement to sell their invention. I’m eager to implement this lesson in the classroom and allow students to be creative in science.

  3. Emily Kulla says:

    I feel that students communicating their findings if very hard for them to do, but also a necessity in assessing understanding. I could not agree more with the point that was made about changing the instructional design; students are asked to explain, but not challenged to explain. Creating the different platforms for explanation is essential to allowing all students to succeed in this standard. I really enjoyed the links you gave to other media tools to be used to help them organize their thoughts. In my science classroom we use science stations that differentiate the learning for the students. I am always looking for other ways to include technology in the lessons, so the resources you gave will really help. I wanted to highlight one more point that you made in your conclusion. You said “becoming a creative communicator requires students to learn a variety of tools…” which I really agree with. I also think we as educators need to do this too. I sometimes feel that communication is something that I could always improve on. I could use more technology in my own explanation of tasks, concepts, and directions. I can’t wait to use the links that you provided to improve myself and my students communication.

  4. Keith Boswell says:

    Often in science classrooms, the entire class does the same activity or experiment. You have incorporated a wide variety of ways for students to demonstrate their understanding. This gives students the opportunity to make their work stand out from the rest of the class. The ISTE standard for Creative Communicator didn’t sound like such an open ended expression of work until I saw your explanation. My understanding of the standard was the student would use the appropriate media to discuss or display their findings (like not using line graphs when it should be a pie chart for example). Your video has presented me with a new perspective. This is great way for any student to be able to display their work in a way that is meaningful to them. In my classroom, I tend to get students who have many talents, unfortunately those talents do not always extend into creative opportunities in the classroom. When it comes to school work, many of them take the easiest way out, and choose to not produce anything close to the promising examples you have provided. They just want to be finished, often copying the first suggested type of expression. By challenging them with the variety of the examples you have provided, I hope to see more effort put into my student’s work. I am going to incorporate ways for my student’s to turn in assignments using different types of media throughout the next school year.

  5. K. Boswell says:

    More often than not when you are teaching science, the entire class is working on the same activity or experiment. You have incorporated a wide variety of ways for students to demonstrate their understanding. This gives students the opportunity to make their work stand out from the rest of the class. The ISTE standard for Creative Communicator didn’t sound like such an open ended expression of work until I saw your explanation. My understanding of the standard was the student would use the appropriate media to discuss or display their findings (like not using line graphs when it should be a pie chart for example). Your video has presented me with a new perspective. This is great way for any student to be able to display their work in a way that is meaningful to them. In my classroom, I tend to get students who have many talents, unfortunately those talents do not always extend into creative opportunities in the classroom. When it comes to school work, many of them take the easiest way out, and choose to not produce anything close to the promising examples you have provided. They just want to be finished, often copying the first suggested type of expression. By challenging them with the variety of the examples you have provided, I hope to see more effort put into my student’s work. I am going to incorporate ways for my student’s to turn in assignments using different types of media throughout the next school year.

  6. Kayla Hibbard says:

    Thank you for an awesome blog post and for so many new technology tools that I can use within my classroom. I currently teach kindergarten and first grade in a rural school district in western Pennsylvania. I agree with you that students need to be able to do more than just display results from a science experiment! They must be able to communicate these results to their classmates in order to develop a thorough understanding of what the results truly mean in relation to the project. I know many times this explanation piece is left out because maybe it is too time consuming or teachers simply do not know how to incorporate communication into the classroom. This post gives so many great ideas on how we can use technology to assist students in developing communication within the science classroom to help them further understand the results from science experiments.
    Technology is a resource that is “endless” in a way. Today so many students are familiar with multiple technology devices and tools, and they absolutely love using them! I have found that technology is a huge motivator for my students. Therefore, we need to incorporate technology tools into the science curriculum. Technology opens the door to so many options and avenues allowing students to find the “right” tool for them to creatively express themselves within their projects. This post has offered so many insightful options, and I went ahead and researched some that were new to me. The PowToon tool is a new idea to me, but I did research it and found that so many students would enjoy using this to make their science projects “come alive”. Students like to express themselves in different ways because of differing personalities, and technology allows the students to have this creative expression within the classroom.
    In our district, we do something called a Science Fair. The students in the intermediate grade levels learn about the steps to conduct a science experiment and then carry out the experiment. At the end of the project, the child creates a presentation to display the results. In the past when I was in these grade levels teaching, I encouraged students to use technology because it allows the students to explain the results and “communicate” the results to the viewers. We used things like Google Sheets to display information and make the charts. We used Google Slides to form a presentation that communicated the results to the class. We also used Podcasts as another alternative that students could use to communicate the results of their Science Fair experiment. I cannot wait to share some of these other technology tools with my district, so that they can start to incorporate even more technology tools into their classrooms.
    Technology allows students to become creative and explore different options to present and communicate information in the science classroom. Technology incorporation builds in-depth understanding for concepts because the students are required to explain and communicate results, instead of simply stating facts or numbers. These tools discussed are just some of the many technology tools available at our fingertips. While students may embrace the use of technology, we as educators need to encourage the appropriate use of the tools to ensure it is strengthening student understanding of important science concepts within the classroom and curriculum.

  7. Lauren Sweitzer says:

    As a primary elementary teacher, I always feel that a lot of STEM ideas and opportunities are created with older students in mind. However, I realize I need to shift my mindset to take examples and adjust them to meet the needs in my own classroom. From this post, I am reminded that is my job to be creative in allowing my students to be creative. Realizing if you give students the option to present creatively, even in primary grades, chances are many will come up with ideas that are beyond expectations.

    One thing I wondered from this post is based from the classroom management perspective: How do students select and operate the media they choose from these examples given? Are most of the media types ones they have been explicitly taught and use in the classroom already, or are they exploring media types on their own? In a first grade classroom, media types and usage are explicitly taught and practiced, with much guidance, so technology options are definitely more limited. However, I believe I would be very surprised with what students come up with if given the chance. I realize now, they may come up with an idea, and I can support them in finding technology that may assist them. Therefore, it is important to let down the shield of fear of what may come of this creativity and allow it to surprise me.

    Another take away was the focus of the creativity. You gave three guiding questions “What did you do? What did you find out? How did you know you found out?” Students can present in any way as long as they provide for these three questions. Using these three points to check students’ performance really shows their understanding. I think it is so important that you added in “How did you know you found out?” because that is really where the students evaluations and analysis shine through. These are three guiding questions I plan to carry into my first grade classroom when we experiment. Pushing the final question will really help me to better understand what my students know.

    From this post, I also plan to implement using the Tools option on Google Images to select appropriate images that can be used. However, I love the idea of using your own images and screenshots from the experiment itself. Why not take pictures of what you experience and connect it to your findings? It gives the students ownership of the science matter in which they are working. I look forward to opening the door to creativity to showcase their new knowledge of the content matter.

  8. Rebecca Roderick says:

    Thank you for clearly explaining the final standard of the ISTE standards. Creative Communicator is a great way to get students to make connections after completing a lab or experiment and truly make sense of what they observed and learned. It is important that our students understand that scientists are not simply collecting data and completing experiments. Scientists are able to explain why these results happened the way they did. This blog post clearly explains the purpose behind creatively communicating your results for students in the classroom. Learning more about the Creative Communicator is beneficial to me as an elementary teacher because I can now effectively teach my students that explaining why things happened and supporting conclusions is important as a scientist. The many examples of the various media tools students can use to communicate and publish their results is also helpful as an elementary teacher. I am always looking for new ways to engage my students and diversify my instructional approaches. The media tools are a great way to summarize conclusions after a lab or experiment. These creative and engaging resources are easy to use and allow students to complete the task in a more exciting way. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Melissa Allabaugh says:

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. We as educators know that all of our students learn differently. I think this blog puts into perspective how many different ways students can communicate inversely in science. I have never heard of Creative Communicator, so I went and looked more into it. I found it to be a very interesting curriculum. It shares a variety of ways educators can get their students involved with hands-on activities such as, projects, forms of writing, technology based, etc…I really liked the example you used with lab reports. I am a middle school emotional support teacher, and my students struggle with getting along most of the time. I just started incorporating labs and experiments in my classroom. I think it would be beneficial to add your three step lab report in my lessons. This way I can see what my students learned from the process. I could also add to the reports, questions pertaining to peer reviews. This would be a great way for peers to communicate and critique each other. I am always looking for new and creative ways to get my students involve in their learning. I think a lot of these new curriculum’s are tying in technology and hands-on approaches to learning. I agree with your conclusion about students determining what tools to use with particular assignments. I feel that aligning these different means of communication with the standards will help teacher meet their objectives as well. This blog inspired me to create my own blog for my classroom. This will give my students the opportunity to express themselves, ask questions, and communicate with one another.

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