Engaging Students with Spongelab


logo_spongelab_tagBy Stephanie Fairweather

Curriculum Connection: High School Biology

www.spongelab.com

Many of us knew from a very early age exactly what we wanted to be when we grew up. If you did, then you are one of the lucky ones. I did not know until recently that my true passion was teaching. I made the decision to leave my career in the field of toxicology to return to school as a mature student to pursue my passion — to educate and to (hopefully) inspire. Then, last April, with my husband and I expecting our first child, I received the wonderful news that I was accepted to UOIT’s Intermediate/Senior Bachelor of Education Program. Now a year later, as we approach my son’s first birthday, I am proud to say that I am a teacher!

As a graduate of UOIT, if I were to submit an article that does not highlight the use of technology as a teaching tool, or share with you my favourite technological resource, I am fairly certain that the faculty would petition to have my degree revoked! Luckily, I am a firm believer in incorporating technology in education as a means to engage students and expose
them to the many wonders of science that cannot otherwise be reproduced in a classroom setting.

I had to think long and hard to come up with an idea or topic that I could share with the members of STAO that would be novel and beneficial to as wide an audience as possible. What I came up with was Spongelab!

If you have not yet had the pleasure of visiting the Spongelab website (www.spongelab.com), I encourage you to stop reading this article and do so immediately! (But then please come back!) Spongelab is a free online global science community devoted to science literacy and the use of digital content to engage and facilitate understanding. I believe it is an invaluable resource for both new and experienced teachers. Yes, you do have to sign up to gain full access, but signing up provides additional benefits. Signing up allows you to gain experience points that can be cashed in to gain access to, or “purchase”, the available resources and activities (think of it like an Air Miles account). Another benefit to having your own account is that it allows you to customize the Spongelab experience for you and your students.

Once you have signed up, complete a quick site tour to familiarize yourself with the site and unlock its potential. You will have the choice to create a profile, explore science content, and place the content you have “purchased” through experience points on your list which you can then incorporate into a lesson that can be assigned and deployed to your class.

Science content is presented in the Explore Window. This window allows you to view all the media assets that are available in the Spongelab library. Search results are organized into eight categories: Graphics and Images, Games and Simulations, Animations and Videos, Linked Animations and Video, Case studies, Lesson Plans and Quizzes, E-textbooks and E-books, and Tools and Equipment. Whatever it is that you are looking for, I’m confident you will find it at Spongelab!

My favourite applications are the anatomy and physiology features. Whether you teach intermediate or senior sciences, if you are looking for a way to include technology in your discussion of diverse topics such as Sugar Maple trees, frog anatomy, or cancer, Spongelab has high quality tools to bring your lessons to life. Many of the applications are also available in French. I could go on, but really the best way to see all that Spongelab has to offer is to visit the site for yourself. I’m not the only one who thinks Spongelab is a great resource for teachers — their national and international award wins are proudly displayed on their Awards Page.

If you are looking for a great teaching resource and a user-friendly way to bring technology into your classroom, I highly recommend taking a few moments to discover what Spongelab has to offer.

SFairweather

Stephanie Fairweather was a pre-service teacher at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, IS Division when she wrote this article. Stephanie was a recipient of the 2012 Don Galbraith Pre-Service Teacher Award of Excellence with this submission.

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