Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Online Tools for STEM Education

There has been much discussion of late about fostering education in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math -- STEM. We've come across some excellent online tools to help students build their competencies in these important fields (and have some fun while they're at it).
EdHeads is the rarest of animals, a site that offers a genuine learning experience that is highly enjoyable too. Depending on the activity, this site will appeal to users in grades 4-10. Students can click on “Choose an Activity” to link to various medical, engineering, and meteorological interactive activities. In the medical section, for example, a surgeon invites the student to scrub in and conduct various surgeries from start to finish. (Graphics are realistic cartoons, keeping gore at a minimum.) Students interested in physics, geometry, or law enforcement will be fascinated by the crash site investigation activity. And for younger students (or anyone with a sense of humor), a walk through a truly inventive Rube Goldberg machine, accompanied by a quiz on physical forces, is a sure winner. These are some of the most appealing and valuable science learning opportunities available online.

Learning Science
Learning Science provides links to lots of great interactive science sites that provide quizzes and teach new information. Far from being a laundry list of available sites, the choices presented here appear to have been carefully selected before being shared with viewers. Some of the highlights include digital animal dissections and a series of oceanographic mysteries which must be solved. Activities are grouped by concepts learned in grades K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.

Remember when you used a ruler and a pencil to draw a graph for your homework assignment or science project? Like the Rolodex, hand-made graphs have become a thing of the past, thanks to technology that makes creating a graph a snap. Create a Graph, a free feature from the National Center for Educational Statistics’s Kid Zone, allows kids to create professional bar, line, area, pie, or xy graphs by supplying a few pieces of information. Users can view a helpful tutorial, browse examples, or simply start experimenting. Create a Graph makes great finished products for printing and sharing, but perhaps its most valuable asset is the ease with which users can create and compare different graphs conveying the same information. It’s easy for students to enter the same data set into the fields for, say, a bar and line graph to determine which represents the information more effectively. In addition, information can be grouped differently and presented in various ways, providing an interesting lesson in how various designs can present the same data in very different ways. Students can use the site not only to create graphs but to learn to read graphs critically as well.

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