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6 Essential Tech Tools for Science Classrooms

Science Under the Microscope

 

6 Essential Tech Tools for Science ClassroomsI am a Science teacher and a techie. With this admission comes the fact that I love to find novel ways to incorporate educational technology into my lessons and my classroom. My students have learned that whenever I find a new tool, I'll bring it in and together we'll brainstorm ways to use it to help us be more effective and engaged scientists.

I know there is great variety in the resources available to Science teachers in school across the country. If you have a tight budget and need to outfit a Science classroom, here is what my students and I consider the six most important pieces of technology for every Science classroom to have.

Digital Projector (LCD or DLP)
I wish we could take for granted that every Science teacher has one of these in her classroom, but I know that not every school can afford these $600+ devices. However, without a projector much of the cool technology can't really come together and reach your students. Don't forget that the replacement lamps cost up to $300, so do what you can to save that lamp.

Document Camera
It's amazing to me that this simple technology (a camera on a flexible neck that connects to a projector) has taken so long to become more common in classrooms across America. By allowing a teacher to display almost anything (images, lab demonstrations, objects, student work, etc.) on the "big screen" in front of everyone, my document camera has become something I use nearly every minute of every day. Better yet, students get excited about showing off their work or reporting out their team's data to the class with this device.

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Livescribe SmartPen
These pens are incredible! With no extra instruction, a child can use one to write or draw something on special paper and record whatever audio its microphone hears. After a 10-second sync to my laptop, I can post and share the video replay of whatever the student wrote on the paper with the audio as voice-over. My students use them to explain tough concepts, record team brainstorming sessions, and even capture classroom notes for students who are absent.

Student Response System ("Clickers")

Formative assessment that leads to differentiation and remediation is the cornerstone of effective teaching. You can't really teach students if you don't know what they know--at the start, middle, and end of the lesson. Clicker systems take much of the pressure off of teachers to design, administer, and score these short formative assessments. Along with my Professional Learning Team, I create a simple set of questions at the start of every unit. Then, I use them as a pre-test, progress check, and review for the final test. Once the questions are entered into the software, it takes only a few seconds for students to complete the assessment and for you to see the results. Newer models even allow open-ended responses.

Pocket Camcorders ("Flip-style Cameras")

There is hardly a teacher I know who isn't familiar with these by now. Combining affordability, ruggedness, and ease of use, these devices have become the best way to capture video at school. In the Science classroom, they can be used to create instructional videos (by students or the teacher), demonstrate lab activities, and even have students narrate nature walks. My students use one on field trips to record the exciting moments for those who could not join us.

Probeware

While this may sound like alien gadgetry, probeware is just a tool for collecting data during class experiments. Usually you get an interface with ports for connecting probes that measure temperature, light, pressure, electric current, and others. Start with one or two types of probes and add on later as your budget allows.

 

Do you know of other tech instruments that every Science teacher should have? Share in the comments section!