Citizen Science, Mobile Technology, and the Next Generation Science Standards [GUEST POST]

How one science educator used SciStarter to inform pre-service teachers how to use citizen science in the classroom and in curricula.

See the Citizen Science App Matrix, which aligns citizen science projects found on SciStarter to teaching standards!

This is my first attempt to enter the blogosphere, so please bear with me. As part of my duties of assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma, I teach science education methods to elementary education majors (preservice teachers) in the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education. Beginning in 2012, my college launched an iPad initiative where every undergraduate education major would receive their very own iPad for use in their university and field experience classrooms.

Upon receiving my own iPad, I immediately began searching the internet for viable iPad applications (apps) that were specific to science education. It was through this searching that I came across the concept of “Citizen Science” and the SciStarter website. Citizen Science, as a formal concept, has been prevalent in our society for more than 30 years. As the internet and subsequent technologies continue to develop over this period, so do the opportunities for amateur “scientists” to get involved in these types of research-based projects. These mobile smart technologies allow teachers and their students to collect and analyze data, as well as to contribute these data for the dissemination of the findings related to these projects.

Seeing the vast potential of the citizen science projects listed in the SciStarter database for my elementary school science methods course, I utilized the SciStarter Project Finder’s “Advanced Search” option to identify those citizen science projects that specifically require an iPad. After reading each summary posted on SciStarter, I then visited each project’s website to examine thoroughly the project task. To justify using these projects in the elementary school classroom and for my own edification, I aligned each citizen science project with the scientific practices, disciplinary core ideas, and related performance expectations in the Next Generation Science Standards.

Once I gained proficiency in this task, I assigned the citizen science project to my preservice teachers. My students were responsible for visiting SciStarter and selecting one citizen science project that required the use of an iPad. They were then instructed to determine the research question that guided their particular project and to prepare instructions for data collection and an appropriate data organizer. Students were expected to collect and submit data pertinent to the project and analyze the current and existing data by generating or reproducing graphs that best represented these data. After experiencing these projects, students then aligned the scientific practices that best aligned with the project and determined the disciplinary core idea(s) and performance expectations inherent in the project.

Most of my students thoroughly enjoyed this assignment and related experiences. Many of these students incorporated their chosen project in their field experience placement during the semester. Through this assignment, I have observed the value of citizen science apps and their relevance to elementary education majors and their field experience students. Thank you, SciStarter, for providing this database for my students and me.

Image: Wikimedia

Timothy A. Laubach is an assistant professor in science education at the University of Oklahoma. He holds a BS in earth science education and a MEd and PhD in science education. Tim has 20 years of combined teaching experience at the elementary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate levels. He has published 12 peer-reviewed journal articles and one book chapter and presented 40 papers at national/international to state-level science education conferences. Tim has also lead extensive professional development for science and mathematics teachers across the state of Oklahoma. He will occasionally be advising SciStarter on aligning citizen science projects to Common Core, Next Generation Science Standards, and the basic scientific practices.

Categories: Guest Contributor, Science Education Standards

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About the Author


Lily Bui

Although she holds dual non-science bachelors’ degrees in International Studies and Spanish from the University of California Irvine, Lily has long harbored a proclivity for the sciences. A daughter of an engineer and an accountant who also happen to be a photographer and musician, respectively, Lily grew up on the nexus between science and art. Lily has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.; served a year in AmeriCorps in Montgomery County, Maryland; worked for a New York Times bestselling ghostwriter in California; and performed across the U.S. as a touring musician. She currently works with WGBH-TV Boston and Public Radio Exchange (PRX) in Cambridge. In her spare time, she thinks of cheesy science puns (mostly to entertain herself). // Tweets @dangerbui