Creating a Science Fair in a Virtual World

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					Creating a
Science
Fair in a
Virtual
World
A Guide for Media Specialists & Teachers

By Benjamin Dickerson
L595 – High Tech Learning

Introduction
In this exciting guide, you will be given all of the knowledge and tools to be able to
produce and manage your very own virtual science fair at your school. Through the
integration of traditional science fair methods and new and innovative technology,
students will be able to gain a better appreciation for science and the need to share the
information and knowledge they have acquired with others. This virtual science fair
framework will have the following technological components: a wiki, a blog, digital
photography, and a PowerPoint element. You will find that with a little bit of patience,
some hard work, and a positive attitude the technology will not be as overwhelming as it
might seem right now.

Audience
The ideal audience for this type of unit of study would be 5th graders. These students
are curious about the scientific world around them and are eager to explore it. They
have been given the basics of what the scientific method is and why it is necessary to
follow its structure. They have also been given opportunities to research areas of
interest in the past and are capable of taking their inquisitive minds to another level, with
sufficient guidance of course.

Need
Many different Indiana State Academic Standards may be addressed in this unit,
depending on the students’ interests.

Here are a few of the 5th grade science standards that could be covered:
5.1.1     Recognize and describe that results of similar scientific investigations may
          turn out differently because of inconsistencies in methods, materials, and
          observations*.

5.1.3     Explain that doing science involves many different kinds of work and engages
          men, women, and children of all ages and backgrounds.
5.1.6     Explain how the solution to one problem, such as the use of pesticides in
          agriculture or the use of dumps for waste disposal, may create other
          problems.
5.2.4     Keep a notebook to record observations and be able to distinguish
          inferences* from actual observations.
5.2.6     Write instructions that others can follow in carrying out a procedure.
5.2.7     Read and follow step-by-step instructions when learning new procedures.
5.2.8     Recognize when and describe that comparisons might not be accurate
          because some of the conditions are not kept the same.
5.5.7     Explain that predictions can be based on what is known about the past,
          assuming that conditions are similar.
5.5.8     Realize and explain that predictions may be more accurate if they are based
          on large collections of objects or events.
5.5.9     Show how spreading data out on a number line helps to see what the
          extremes are, where they pile up, and where the gaps are.
5.5.10    Explain the danger in using only a portion of the data collected to describe the
          whole.
5.6.4     Investigate, observe, and describe that things change in steady, repetitive, or
          irregular ways, such as toy cars continuing in the same direction and air
          temperature reaching a high or low value. Note that the best way to tell which
          kinds of changes are happening is to make a table or a graph of
          measurements.

The following English/Language Arts will also be addressed:
5.2.1     Use the features of informational texts, such as formats, graphics, diagrams,
          illustrations, charts, maps, and organization, to find information and support
          understanding.
5.2.2     Analyze text that is organized in sequential or chronological order.
5.2.6     Follow multiple-step instructions in a basic technical manual.
5.4.11    Use logical organizational structures for providing information in writing, such
          as chronological order, cause and effect, similarity and difference, and stating
          and supporting a hypothesis with data.
5.4.5     Use note-taking skills when completing research for writing.
5.4.6     Create simple documents using a computer and employing organizational
          features, such as passwords, entry and pull-down menus, word searches, the
          thesaurus, and spell checks.
5.4.10    Edit and revise writing to improve meaning and focus through adding,
          deleting, combining, clarifying, and rearranging words and sentences.
5.6.3     Identify and correctly use appropriate tense (present, past, present participle,
          past participle) for verbs that are often misused (lie/lay, sit/set, rise/raise).
5.6.6     Use correct capitalization.
5.7.1     Ask questions that seek information not already discussed.
5.7.12    Give precise directions and instructions.
5.7.15    Make descriptive presentations that use concrete sensory details to set forth
          and support unified impressions of people, places, things, or experiences.


Technology Effectiveness
Technology can be an asset to any unit of learning, if used correctly. When technology
is misused, then it can become bothersome and ineffective. The following technology
will be used throughout this unit of study. Along with each component, a justification for
that specific technology is given.

Wiki – A wiki is an interactive website that allows its users to edit and enhance their
own work as well as others. It is a constantly evolving technological tool that helps to
enhance students writing skills as well as communication. By being able to assist each
other, wikis provide students with instant feedback and a sense of community. It is a
“form of online collaboration, like email, shared folders, and discussion servers.”
(Ginsberg 2006)

Blog – In the simplest terms, blogs are an online journaling tool. Just like with a paper
journal, individuals are able to record observations, steps to a process, and other
information with relative ease. Their creator can constantly revise the Blogs and others
can comment on specific entries to gain more clarification, give tips, or just add their
own interpretations. They are relatively “easy to create and help to promote
conversation.” (Achterman 2006)

Digital Photography – Photos also help to tell a story and enhance a project. Through
the use of digital photography, students are able to post their photos within their wikis or
blogs to help explain their work and add a visual element to their online presentation.

PowerPoint Story Starter - This technological element will be used for students to rate
their peer’s projects. It allows an instructor to design a specific format for an
assignment and gives the opportunity for students to express themselves in a structured
way. By using the discussion notes, instructors are able to explain how to properly
complete the story starter to their students. These starters can be printed for display or
saved to a shared drive on a school network to be reviewed/assessed later.


Technology Issues
Even though much advancement have been made in terms of technology, there will
always be some problems with in the innovative field. Some concerns that might arise
when using the technology in this plan are:

Wiki – Wikis can be great tools for educational purposes, but all who visit them must
treat them with respect. It is easy for an individual to add something to a wiki that can
be inappropriate or may detract and distract from the original intention of the wiki
creator. It is important that all are aware of the responsibility of what is published on the
Internet and that tracking is possible on most wiki sites.
(Ginsberg 2006)

Blog – Blogs do offer their unique set of concerns. The fact that they are published in
reverse chronological order, with the final posting appearing first on the screen does
take some adjustment, but the pros far out weigh the slightly annoying cons. Some of
the blog software will also allow the blogger to change dates of entries, which can be a
problem if part of your assignment is to complete a daily journal. Unless you check
everyone’s blog on a daily basis, students can wait until the night before it is due to
enter their work. This is also a problem for printed journals, too.

Digital Photography –
Not every one of your students will have access to a digital camera, which may be a
problem if the experiments that students are conducting are occurring at home. There
are ways around this dilemma. If you are confident that the student will bring back the
piece of equipment, then you could try to loan it out to them. If students have access to
a traditional camera, then students could just can the prints once they are developed. If
neither of these are a possibility, then students could create illustrations of their
observations and scan them digitally using a scanner and use that image in their blog
and wiki.

PowerPoint Story Starter -
Most computers are equipped with Microsoft Office and PowerPoint. The only issue
that may arise from using this software is that certain fonts or graphics may not appear
on a slide when used on a different version of PowerPoint. Make sure that you check
this out by downloading your Story Starter to a few different computers (if students are
using a computer lab, check on one of their computers, etc.) to make sure it works.


Works Cited
      Achterman, D. (2006). Making connections with blogs and wikis. CSLA Journal,
       30, 29-31. Retrieved November 26, 2006, from Library Literature and Information
       Full Text database.

    Ginsberg, D. (2006). A wiki wiki (quick) introduction to the wide world of wikis.
       AALL Spectrum, 10, 8-10. Retrieved November 26, 2006, from Library Literature
       and Information Full Text database.
Final Products
Wiki
Creating a wiki is very easy to do and it requires little upkeep, considering the students
will be adding the bulk of the content. It will require obtaining an account at a specific
wiki site. The one used for this example will be http://www.wikispaces.com. When you
visit the site, it will give you directions to make a new space. Be sure to give your wiki a
unique name that will be easy for students to remember and locate. Follow the
directions and in no time your wiki will be created. You can also add “personal touches”
by modifying the color scheme, layout, and graphics associated with your wiki. The wiki
I designed for this unit is http://nwevirtualsciencefair.wikispaces.com/.

Blog
Just like wikis, there are many different blog sites available that are free of charge. The
blog site that I used for this unit was http://www.blogger.com. It requires students to
register for an account and then allows them access to create as many blogs as they
would like. If you are concerned about students giving their email addresses out in the
registration process, then I would suggest creating a school account that the students
can add their blogs. There is an unlimited number of blogs per account, so it would be
relatively easy for one account to carry all of the blogs for the students. Once you
create an account, follow the simple procedures as outlined by the website. The
website used for this unit is http://www.soapscumnomore.blogspot.com.

Digital Photography
Digital photography can be added to any project to help enhance and clarify the
intended purposes. The ways in which pictures are taken and stored vary greatly with
the type of camera you use. Some cameras have “memory sticks” while others use
floppy disks. If a camera contains a floppy disk, the easiest way in which to transfer the
pictures to the computer is by ejecting the disk from the camera and inserting it into the
computer. If the camera does not have this option, then more than likely there is a
cable that can be connected from the camera to the computer. See the instructions that
came with the camera to determine how to complete this process.

Once the pictures are found to be on the computer, it can be relatively easy to insert
them into the wiki or blog. Both wikis and blogs have a picture icon on the editing
toolbar. It looks like a picture of a landscape. Once that button is clicked, it will then
ask you to enter the needed directory information to locate the image. If you click on
the browse button, all of the different directories for your computer will appear and then
you can select the folders to open and then select the image. Follow the directions on
the screen to finish selecting the photo.

The digital photography used to enhance this unit can be found at the blog and wiki
addresses noted above.

PowerPoint Story Starter
A story starter could be used to help students to give feedback and “rate” each other’s
projects. Within the story starter, directions for how to complete the slide are given in
the discussion notes. Students can either save their work to a shared drive within your
schools network or to an external Flash drive or floppy disk. In order to determine how
to save work in your school, check with a technology person either in your building or at
the district level. Please feel free to modify the story starter that was designed for this
unit to suit your needs. These could also be printed and given to the student who is
being critiqued for reference. Since it is a PowerPoint presentation, you will need the
PowerPoint software already installed to your computer before you download.

Here is the story starter when it is blank:
https://oncourse.iu.edu/access/content/user/bmdicker/ScienceFairFeedback.ppt

This is a completed story starter:
https://oncourse.iu.edu/access/content/user/bmdicker/ScienceFairFeedbackExample.ppt

Newsletter
In addition to the technology components explained above, I have also created a
newsletter that can be either posted on a school website or printed and copied to be
sent home for parents to get involved.

The newsletter can be viewed at the following address:
https://oncourse.iu.edu/access/content/user/bmdicker/ScienceFairNewsletter.doc