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1. Pedagogical Approach

2. ICT tools for education

4. Equity, inclusion and diversity

5. Self-Assessment tools

3. Synchronous and asynchronous collaborative learning

Digi-Science Framework overview

Educational framework

for effective science online/distance and blended teaching and learning

Developing innovative practices in a digital era for the teaching of Natural Sciences

How to use the Digi-Science tools and materials

The five elements of our Digi-Science framework have been designed so that they can be deployed by teachers either separately or as a whole. Teachers can choose to use any element they like as a standalone part. Or, they can choose to deploy elements progressively, one by one at their own pace starting from whichever element they prefer. The Digi-Science team proposes a certain way of progressive integration which we believe as the optimum one. You can see this progression in the image below.

Orientation is focused on stimulating students’ interest and curiosity towards the problem at hand. During this phase the learning topic is introduced. Introduce the topic by adding materials such as videos, photos or images that the students can use in order to familiarize themselves with the problem at hand. Try starting a conversation on the topic by asking questions so that your students get engaged. Provide ample time for your student to respond and discussion among themselves.

Conclusion is a phase for drawing the basic conclusions based on the data that have been collected and processed during the investigation that was carried out. In this phase learners address their original research questions or hypotheses and consider whether these are answered or supported by the outcomes of their investigation. It leads to new theoretical insights – a more specific idea is created on the relation between variables (following Question) or whether the hypothesis is supported by the results of the study (following Hypothesis). Guide your students to draw their conclusions and ask them to compare them to their original hypothesis. Bring to the students’ attention any mistakes they made in the previous phase, and which they failed to figure out, so as to correct them. Depending on the activity you might also need to ask your students to compare their findings with the respective bibliography or theoretical values.

Discussion is about sharing one’s inquiry process and results. It involves the process of describing, critiquing, evaluating and discussing the whole inquiry process or a specific phase. In each step of the inquiry cycle, generate a discussion by asking questions so as to stimulate your students and provoke their curiosity. Sub-phase – Communication: Communication can be seen as the process where students present and communicate their inquiry findings and conclusions, while listening to others and articulating their own understandings. Encourage your students to put together a report which describes every step of their experimentation. The report does not necessarily have to be an essay-type report. Encourage your students to come up with creative ways to communicate their work. Inspire your students to be as creative as possible while preparing the presentation of their work. Try to facilitate them in making effective presentations depending on the type of presentation they have chosen. If for example your students choose to make a scientific report, make sure to explain to them the notion of references. In some cases, students often get carried away and make very extensive and over-analytical presentations. Thus it is important for them to understand what is really important to present and which parts are secondary. Sub-phase – Reflection: Reflection is defined as the process of reflecting on the success of inquiry while proposing new problems for a new inquiry and suggesting how the inquiry process could be improved. Reflection is also defined as receiving feedback from students themselves, teachers or peers so as to improve this (sub-) phase or the whole inquiry process at the next trial. Both Discussion sub-phases can be seen at two levels – discuss or reflect the whole process at the end of the inquiry or in relation to every other phase during the inquiry. Generate a discussion among the students to talk about their results. Try to identify alternative explanations and point out the strong and weak points of their work. Encourage the students to propose corrective moves and refinements of the experimentation process.

Start your journey by switching to a student-centred teaching approach. Inquiry learning is an excellent approach to teach science effectively. In Digi-Science we have made a set of flip cards to give you ideas how to introduce each step in an effective way. What is inquiry-based learning? Inquiry-based learning is a pedagogical approach during which students employ scientific practices and processes to develop understanding about physical phenomena, as well as to comprehend the way scientists work. This approach aims to cultivate scientific literacy and skills, positive attitudes towards science and an active way of thinking which portrays the way scientists investigate the natural world. Inquiry-based learning is a student-centred approach utilizing appropriate student-centred environments and tools (Pedaste & Sarapuu, 2006). Students become active learners who employ their curiosity and skills to solve a problem that interests them and relates to their everyday life. There are a lot of adaptations of the inquiry-based learning approach that a teacher can follow to develop learning activities. The Inquiry Cycle presented in the Figure below, was developed by Pedaste et al. (2015) based on a systematic literature review. It includes five inquiry phases, some of which incorporate relevant sub-phases. The arrows presented on the Figure showcase the multiple routes an inquiry lesson can follow which can of course be adapted based on students’ prior knowledge, skills and experience (Pedaste & Sarapuu, 2014). A brief description of the inquiry phases is provided below.

Conceptualization is a process of understanding a concept or concepts connected to the problem that has been presented. It is divided into two (alternative) sub-phases, Question and Hypothesis whose outcomes have similar components. Building on the discussion started in the previous phase, continue discussing and encourage your students to identify all the concepts that are related to the problem under discussion and make the correct connections between them. Do not point out any mistakes students might make (Alternatively, you may note them down and bring them back to their attention at a later stage). Students are supposed to discover these mistakes themselves and correct them. Remember that even a false hypothesis can contribute greatly in the learning process. Students should not feel intimidated to make hypotheses and understand that hypotheses are tested to be proved either right or wrong. Thus, even a ‘wrong’ hypothesis is a part of the scientific procedure. Sub-phase - Question: Question is a process of generating research questions based on the stated problem. After the students have identified all the related concepts guide them to formulate their questions on the subject. Sub-phase – Hypothesis: Hypothesis is a process of generating hypotheses on the stated problem based on theoretical justification. After the students have identified all the related concepts guide them to make specific hypotheses which they will later set out to investigate.

Investigation is where curiosity is turned into action in order to respond to a stated research question or hypothesis. Students design plans for experiments, investigate by changing variable values, explore (observe), make predictions, and interpret outcomes. Investigation has three-sub phases; Exploration, Experimentation and Data Interpretation. It is recommended that in this part of the activity students are divided into groups. You may assign different parts of the investigation to each group or you can have each group doing the same inquiry. Sub-phase – Exploration: Exploration is a systematic way of carrying out data manipulation with the intention to find indications for a relation between the variables involved. In Exploration there is no specific expectation of the outcome of the data manipulation and it naturally follows the Question phase. Encourage your students to propose ways to explore the questions they have set. After the students have made their proposals encourage them to explore them and try to retrieve information. Sub-phase - Experimentation: Experimentation concentrates on developing and applying a plan for data manipulation with a specific expectation of the outcome in mind and naturally follows the Hypothesis sub-phase. Encourage your students to make an investigation plan in order to investigate the hypotheses they have set. Ask them to identify what kind of tools they will need to deploy and what parameters they will have to investigate. After the students have completed their investigation plan ask them to put it in action so as to collect their data.

Self-assessment tools transcend all elements of our framework as they cover all of its strands. The Digi-Science self-assessment tool (SAT) allows users to test their knowledge and skills of Digital Education Tools. Empowered by the Digital Competence Framework this tool checks the digital literacy, synchronous and asynchronous collaboration and communication, inclusion and diversity learning as well as digital content creation. The goal of Digi-Science SAT is to provide teacher with important information how well-skilled the user is digitally, and where and how she/he can improve. The SAT of seventeen Digi-Science tool categories are divided into six Sections: five Sections of the Inquiry-Based Learning phases, Conceptualisation, Investigation, Conclusion and Discussion and general Accessibility Section. You can use the assessment tools at any given moment (perhaps at the beginining of the school year and then at the end of the year again) to get an idea of your level of achievement. These tools are over arching and cover all elements introduced in our framework.

ICT tools can enhance the pedagocial approach and be a part of it. ICT tools can be added in any step of the learning process. Depending on the task at hand different tools are fit for the job. In Digi-Science we have made a selection of ICT tools to introduce to teachers. We have organized them in two different ways, one is per inquiry phase and one is per category. Go over the collection of tools, and start introducing tools in your class progressively, starting from those that are the easiest for you to integrate or from those you believe as most useful. Gradually you can increase them number of tools used by your students. Using ICT-tools is about facilitating the learning process while at the same time developing students digital skills. However, to achieve that it is essential that teachers develop their digital skills first. The Digital Competence Framework for educators is an excellent starting point for your to learn what are the necessary digital skills, how their are orchestrated and how they can be enhanced.

Inclusion and equity are essential parts of any lesson. They are overarching pedagogical approaches and their elements can be plugged in any pedagical approach and alter it as a whole. To ensure equity, activities need to accommodate different learning speeds, styles and needs for students. Different types of teaching (synchronous, asynchronous, blended, collaborative, etc). as well as the use of different ICT tools can greatly help you differentiate the learning process based on students' individual needs. Designing inclusive lessons, does not mean making many different versions of the same activity, its about differentiating tasks and assignments to match students needs. To help you achieve that, Digi-Science offers guides for accessibility online, equity, diversity and inclusion as well as for the Universal Design for Learning principles.

Working in asynchronous settings, or in synchronous online settings has become part of our reality especially after the COVID pandemic. Having familiarized yourself with ICT tools that facilitate collaboration can greatly help you adapt to different class needs and demands. Adapting your lesson based on these elements means adapting the pedagogical approach used and customizing each step of the process accordingly. In Digi-Science we have made a set of flip cards that give you suggestions about how two introduce these elements in each step of the inquiry cycle. How can I foster collaboration in blended, asynchronous and synchronous settings? Collaboration is an integral aspect of the scientific community since sharing information with peers, reviewing their work, participating in conferences for communicating results, collaborating in laboratories etc. are common practices of scientists. Similarly, there is a profound relationship between inquiry-based learning and collaborative learning. On the one hand, effective collaboration in a science classroom can promote the meaningful integration of inquiry through a community of students and teachers functioning as scientists that work together to investigate the natural world (Hofstein, & Lunetta, 2004). On the other hand, inquiry-based learning provides the opportunity for the development of students’ collaboration, communication and reflection skills, as well as to create genuine and positive social interactions in the classroom. As NRC (1996) points out, collaboration is an essential aspect of inquiry and teachers should encourage group work while teaching their students the necessary skills for meaningful collaboration. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for effective digital education more prominent than ever. However, a lot of schools have encountered difficulties in providing high-quality online/distance learning and the facilitation of collaboration between students was a difficult task. Hence, supporting teachers in facilitating collaboration in online or physical settings is of pivotal importance. Furthermore, based on the European framework DigCompEdu (2017), the fostering of digital communication and collaboration between students through relevant assessments and assignments is an important competence of teachers. The rapid development and availability of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the subsequent integration of digital resources in education can foster collaboration for asynchronous (online) or synchronous settings (through physical or online presence) and blended learning (i.e. the combination of physical and online settings). The interaction of digital collaboration in asynchronous settings is mostly based on text and it is not bound by time or space constraints. This type of collaboration can also facilitate the provision of equal opportunities for participation since students can respond on their own time and present their personal point of view. On the other hand, synchronous settings provide more opportunities for easier interaction and communication which can be a lot faster and richer. Blended learning can incorporate the advantages of both settings.