Ideas for Enhancing Student Learning by Incorporating 21st Century Tools

Enhancing Student Learning by Incorporating 21st Century Tools
By: Stephanie Pipke-Painchaud

As the theme for the Accelerator is “technology”, I compiled a few ideas for incorporating technological tools into your Science Classroom.  Stay tuned to future issues for more ideas.

  • Creating your own website is a great way to collect and share resources for your science classes. Think of the website as your online binder. When you first start to build your website take time to think about how you would like to organize your site.  In my experience, teachers often like to organize but unit and then outcomes. Once you have decided on your organizational structure then you can build the basics of your website.  Once created you can quickly add resources, videos, assignments or build in new lessons.  You may also want to consider the blog like features of your website, which would enable you to post your plans for the day.

Google Sites and Word Press are easy website creation tools.  Remember if your school division uses Google Apps, then you already have access to Google Sites.  You can also use the LiveBinders or Wikispaces to organize your resources.

  • If you like to collect video of demos or capture segments of your lesson to share with your students later, consider starting a YouTube Channel.  Students and other educators can then subscribe to your channel and get notification as you add videos.  Checkout Bozeman Biology for an example of a great Biology YouTube Channel.


  • Consider creating a Twitter account to connect with other educators.  Twitter is a great source of professional development with links to many websites, videos and articles. You can quickly search Twitter for ideas or you can take part in many types of Twitter chats. Check out #edtech or #scichat 
    • Start by following the SSTS @SkSciTeachers
  • Create a twitter account for each class that you teach and have students link up their cell phones.  Each time you tweet the students will receive a text message update.  I used this feature for sharing the plans for the day through my class blog, sharing links to my YouTube channel after posting review videos and for tweeting out class related links.  Students appreciated having key links available instantly on their smart phones.
  • Check out the SSTS ( website for a growing list of Science Educators on Twitter!

Google: Earlier I mentioned Google Sites, but a Google account (and you have one if you have a gmail account) gives you access to much more.

  • Google Drive:  Formerly known as Google Docs – Drive gives you access to a variety of tools including docs (a word processor), Spreadsheets, Forms (great for quickly collecting feedback and graphing results), Draw or Presentation.  Because these tools are all in the Google cloud, you can access these tools from anywhere. So students or teachers can access these from home or anywhere with wifi.  You can also share any of these with other people, which makes it easy to collaborate.  Another great feature is that your work is saved automatically and it includes a revision history if you need to go back to an earlier version.
    • In Biology 30, students created their assignments in Google Presentation or Docs and then shared it with me.  As an editor, I could leave feedback for the students in the text of their document or in the comments section.  It’s also easy to check the revision history, which quickly shows the progress between the versions.  One of the best parts is no more paper to carry home to mark.  You can access the work from any smart device.
    • We also used Google Presentation for collaboration in class as students could quickly create docs or pres and share with other students in their group. Within a matter of minutes student groups could create mini multi-media presentations to share with the class.  It was easy for students to include images and videos to share with the class.
  • Google Chrome is a free internet browser that lets you connect into your Google account.  Once you are logged in you can add Apps & Extensions to your browser for quick access to a variety of Web 2.0 tools, including Google Drive.  In Google Chrome, the address bar is called an omnibox, which means that you can type in your search information, as well as, math equations.  Apps and extensions that you can add range from Speech to Text and Text to Speech, to Science apps, to Evernote, Diigo, qr code creators, WordPress, Songza, TweetDeck, Twitter & Facebook.  The great part about Chrome is that you never need to update your apps, you can access multiple Google accounts, and all of your Chrome created bookmarks are available within your Chrome account.
  • Skype is another great tool that connects you with learners from around the world.
    • We have used Skype to connect and have interactive sessions with officials from the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as, Professors from the U of R.  Students were engaged and involved in asking questions and referenced these Skype opportunities many times throughout the semester.
    • Skype is also a collaborative tool that you can use to co-teach between classrooms.  For example, my Bio 30 class connected with a Grade 5 class two towns away and built a collaborative learning relationship that began with us Skyping in each day and discussing science concepts that we were learning and ended with the students co-creating a body systems project.  The Grade 5s were each paired with Bio 30 students and then the teams worked together to research and learn about human body systems.  Students collaborated through Skype and a variety of Google and Wikispaces tools. On presentation day, the Grade 5 and Bio 30 student teams presented through Skype by sharing screens.  It was a memorable learning experience for all of us.

  • Digital Portfolios:
    • Consider having your students start a digital portfolio to share evidence of their learning.  What you put in your portfolio depends on what you and the students decide. It could be as simple as a Google Site in which students create pages for your class and then share their assignments, images and videos of their learning.  They can also reflect on their learning within the site or their portfolio could be a reflective blog where they respond to prompts about their learning.
  • iPads, Apps, Androids & other Smart Devices:
    • Opportunities abound for creative ways to incorporate iPads, Apps and other devices into student learning.  For example, students can use iMovie to create digital stories to demonstrate their understanding of various science concepts and their impact on our life on this planet or use Book Creator to demonstrate their understanding of an outcome.  Devices are also great reference tools such as  interactive periodic tables, timers and graphing calculators.
    • Stay tuned to future issues of the Accelerator and the SSTS website for more creative ideas and examples of how to incorporate these devices into student learning.
    • If you would like to be added to the Free iPad Apps mailing list (this includes everything from early learning, diversity to science apps), please send an email to Stephanie at

Remember:   However you choose to incorporate technology into your science class, it’s not just about the technology tools you use it’s really about how you use the tools that you have to enhance student learning.

Links to ideas shared in this article will be available on the SSTS website!

Do you have a story to share about how you use technology or apps or social media in your science classroom?  We’d love to hear about it and share your ideas with our SSTS members.  Send your story to Stephanie at

Be sure to check out the SSTS on Facebook and Twitter.



Just Imagine… the possibilities of the digital world

Speaking of Web 2.0 tools, a colleague of mine recently sent me this video link via Facebook (Thank-you Mr. Brinklow).  Pay Attention is a short video that speaks to the power of digital learning and the potential of the technology in the world around us.  In a simple yet moving digital story, the creator asks educators to imagine the possibilities of the tools that surround us.  How can we use the technology that students already have… the technology students have grown up with … the tools that enable them to connect.  And lets face it the tools that students already know how to use better than us:)   The video raises some interesting questions.  It is well worth the 7 minutes and 41 seconds of your life. 

Here is the Teacher Tube link to the video.

If you are intrigued by the possibilities mentioned in the video, you may find the Beyond Words article – by Jason Ohler an interesting read.

Other Digital Learning Articles:
– Marc Prensky – Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (Part 1)
                         – Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (Part 2) – Do They Really Think Differently

The Digital Experience Begins

My digital journey began many years ago when email and internet first became widely accessible (now I won’t mention when that was:), but it changed the way we accessed information.  Then I began teaching senior science in Tisdale.  Over the years, I was fortunate to collaborate technology savy and creative colleagues, consultants, coordinators and directors who helped me learn the skills that I have today.  My interest in web development began when I started developing online resources for the Ministry of Education (formerly known as Sask Learning and even earlier Sask Ed).  Some of you will remember wblrd and CentralIschool.  My next educational venture was as a part time Learning Resource Facilitator (or the modernized title of Teacher Librian).  An excellent way to learn about the value of literacy in our schools.  It also continues to give me the opportunity to learn about all of the excellent resources that teachers and students have available to them, as well as, the chance to collaborate with staff and students.

As H1N1 began to affect my life, students and consequently my teaching, I began looking for ways to communicate with students and parents.  In Novemember, many students were out for several days with the flu and just as some returned others left and I was constantly being asked, “what did I miss?”  So with the help of our technology consultants, I started a webpage for my class.  My Drupal experience began as a way to record my daily plans for each subject and what we accomplished each day.  I then started to encourage students to check the website for what we did or if they missed several days to print it out and we would start from there.  Soon students began asking if that powerpoint we had just gone through in class was on the website.  As I added links to my website, I began to wonder what other tools existed.    (Who knew H1N1 could have a positive impact 🙂

As my web collection grew, my job description has also grown to include some time as a Differentiated Instruction Facilitator.  So it has been with a new perspective that I have learned all about Drupal and Web 2.0 (wikis and blogs and connect and more).  And now I am venturing into the world of me actually blogging my experiences. 

Next post…. examples of how my students are using new and traditional tools to enhance their learning.