Create a Driving Question or Prompt
Students and teachers set up an investigation in the classroom prior to any field work in out-of-class settings (e.g., museums, parks, etc.). Students and teachers work together to create a driving question or prompt for their inquiry, which should be open-ended, interesting, complex, and able to be explored via resources in the out-of-class setting. Students and teachers can also create sub questions to help direct the investigation and serve as more focused advance organizers and cognitive supports for the out-of- class experiences.
The driving question grounds the inquiry and provides a purpose for the out-of-class experiences. For example, in our early pilot studies in conjunction with the University of Michigan Natural History Museum, we used a driving prompt: “Design an animal that could have survived in the Cretaceous period in Michigan”, which connected with science concepts and resources at the museum.
Develop Labels to Tag and Annotate Collected Information
Students and teachers create labels in the classroom and in the field to describe important aspects of the data or information being collected. Thus students use these labels to tag and annotate information as they collect it. Labels enable articulation of ideas, encourage reflection, provide simple, convenient cognitive support for encoding and organizing data, and facilitate external storage and retrieval of ideas for later use.
Collect Information in Out-of-Class Settings
Students use their data collection tools (on iPod Touch, iPhone, and camera-enabled iPads) to capture data and information in the out-of-class settings that they are exploring. As they collect this information, they use their devices to add labels, text notes, or audio notes to annotate the data. Students sync their devices with their cloud accounts so that all of their collected data, information, and annotations can be saved and accessed from different settings.
Review, Summarize, and Build Explanations
After collecting their data and information, students review and synthesize their information and, if desired by the teacher, information collected by their classmates, all to develop a scientific explanation that addresses their driving question. Students develop their explanations using a new iPad-based explanation builder tool that structures the explanation process using a claim-evidence-reasoning approach. Students can also present their explanations to classmates and teachers using the iPad tool.