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Teaching the Scientific Method: Digital Tools

EducationWorld is pleased to present this article by Lisa Monthie and Lisa Benjamin, education specialists at Education Service Center Region 12 in Waco, Texas. This article originally appeared in TechEdge, a quarterly magazine for Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) members. To join or for more information, visit

Growing up, I vividly remember my Saturday morning routine. I would wake up extra early, grab my Rainbow Brite doll, pour a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, and plop myself down in front of our TV. I was ready for an uninterrupted morning of animated joy. My favorite cartoons were those which gave me a glimpse of the futuristic world. Promises of cars that parked themselves, appliances that tackled the chores for you, and meals that just sprang into being were alluring and exciting.

While our homes and cars may be a few years behind that vision, one place that can compete with “the house of tomorrow” is the modern science lab. Enveloped in technology, the new science lab combines hands-on investigations, inquiry, and collaboration in ways never before imagined. Today’s science lab features digital tools that extend beyond Bunsen burners and microscopes and enhance the learning experience. This article showcases some of our favorite tools and strategies for each component of the scientific method.

Pose a Question

These investigable questions serve as the motivation behind later research. Google Docs works well at allowing students to develop, record, modify, edit, and comment on peer questions. For younger students, Wallwisher (now called Padlet) or are a great repositories for student-created questions. For even younger students, an app such as would allow the students to pose their question out loud and have it captured by the recording feature of the app. Sticky Notes for iPad is another option for capturing the questions posed by younger students. The teacher could display the app and have students individually place their question on separate sticky notes. During a teacher-led investigation, the teacher could pose questions using the same tools.

In addition, an app such as Stick Pick or Roundom allows the teacher to frame questions for higher-order thinking skills. Stick Pick allows the teacher to monitor student progress in answering higher-order thinking skills; Roundom gives the teacher a method for randomly assigning teacher–generated questions to students.

Background Research

In this step of the scientific method, students are gathering, analyzing and synthesizing information about their question. In both a flipped and traditional classroom, there is a need for quality resources that are easy to navigate and informative. Sweet Search, “a search engine for students,” provides resources and highlights key words in the search results. For emerging learners, consider using SweetSearch4Me, a search engine providing age-appropriate results and easy navigation. Other search engines ideal for emerging learners include PrimarySchoolICT and KidRex, both powered by Google Custom Search. Articles, multimedia and video clips can be found in resources such as Discovery Education, the content repository within Project Share, and the archives of Popular Science.

For secondary students, free online textbooks are easily accessible. CK-12 (both web and app) and NetTexts (an app) provide a wealth of information that cannot be accessed through a traditional textbook. Students and teachers alike will benefit from using these tools during this piece of the scientific method.

Construct a Hypothesis

For creative ways of capturing their hypotheses, students could use an app such as Sock Puppets. Older students may find images of their topic and use apps such as Funny Movie Maker or Fotobabble to communicate their hypotheses. Web tools such as Voki, Blabberize and Vocaroo provide the students an opportunity to articulate their hypotheses.

Test the Hypothesis

In testing their hypotheses, students are recording data and observations. For journaling, students could use Penzu as a web tool for recording their questions, reflections and observations. Apps such as Paper by FunInput, Draftpad and Character Pad may be used as well. For data collection, students could utilize apps such as Educreations Interactive Whiteboard, ScreenChomp, ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard and Knowmia Teach.

These apps allow students to record video and capture images, as well as collaborate with peers in data collection. The writing tools in these apps provide an opportunity for students to transcribe their findings and research. Students can also use Evernote (web and app) as a means of collecting data in a digital notebook. Evernote allows the student the capability of taking notes and pictures, and recording voice memos.

Analyze the Data

This is the critical point in the research where the students’ hypotheses are proven to be valid or invalid. Students could utilize Google Forms as a means for analyzing data, either independently or collaboratively. Google Forms pushes data into a spreadsheet, which can then be manipulated, resulting in visuals such as charts and graphs. Google Forms also allows for the embedding of images, further aiding the student in data analysis.

Pic Collage, an app that enables the student to create photo collages, could document the data collection and aid in data analysis. Students could also summarize early findings in any word cloud generator (such as Wordle, Tagul, Tagxedo) or use the app Wordsalad to further analyze their findings. Mind mapping adds a layer of complexity to the text. Students could use iThoughtsHD, Pearltrees and Mindjet Maps for iPad to map out and analyze the data.

Report the Results

During the last step of the scientific method, students are expected to present their findings and conclusions regarding their hypotheses. For younger students, apps such as Tellagami and Skqueak allow students to share their results using audio and images. Tellagami (similar to Voki) is a talking avatar. This would be ideal for younger students sharing their findings orally. Skqueak combines images and audio in a powerful way, allowing the students more flexibility in their presentation.

For older students, Haiku Deck and Prezi are great modes for presentation. Haiku Deck emphasizes images, which is helpful in improving students’ presentation skills. Prezi merges video clips, sound files and data into one zooming presentation. Web tools such as ThingLink, Edcanvas (now called Blendspace) and Narrable further serve as great presentation tools, and nice alternatives to the traditional PowerPoint. Edcanvas and ThingLink allow a variety of multimedia for use during the presentation; however, Narrable emphasizes images and the student’s voice recording.

The scientific method, along with the science lab, is evolving into the futuristic environment of tomorrow. In using the scientific method, the goal should always be to develop independent thinkers and scientists of the future. It is these young minds who will make new technologies of the future a reality.


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