STEM & Google Docs

STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and Google Docs creates a collaborative environment for authentic scientific inquiry.

Figure 1: Changing Emphases of Science Teaching in a Standards-based Classroom
(Adapted from: National Science Education Standards, National Research Council, 1996)

 Less Emphasis on  More Emphasis on
Treating all students alike and responding to the group as a whole Understanding and responding to individual student’s interests, strengths, experiences, and needs
Rigidly following curriculum
Focusing on student acquisition of information
Selecting and adapting curriculum
Focusing on student understanding and use of scientific knowledge, ideas, and inquiry processes
Presenting scientific knowledge through lecture, text, and demonstration
Guiding students in active and extended scientific inquiry
Asking for recitation of acquired knowledge
Providing opportunities for scientific discussion and debate among students    
Testing students for factual information at the end of the unit or chapter
Continuously assessing student understanding
Maintaining responsibility and authority Sharing responsibility for learning with students
Supporting competition
Supporting a classroom community with cooperation, shared responsibility, and respect
Working alone
Working with other teachers to enhance the science program

Fundamental Abilities Necessary to do Scientific Inquiry
(From: Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning, NRC (2000))
Grades K-4
  • Ask a question about objects, organisms, and events in the environment.
  • Plan and conduct a simple investigation.
  • Employ simple equipment and tools to gather data and extend senses.
  • Use data to construct a reasonable explanation.
  • Communicate investigations and explanations.
Grade 5-8
  • Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations.
  • Design and conduct a scientific investigation.
  • Use appropriate tools and techniques to gather, analyze and interpret data
  • Develop descriptions, explanations, predictions, and models using evidence.
  • Think critically and logically to make the relationships between evidence and explanations.
  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions.
  • Communicate scientific procedures and explanations.
  • Use mathematics in all aspects of scientific inquiry.
Grades 9-12
  • Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigations.
  • Design and conduct scientific investigations.
  • Use technology and mathematics to improve investigations and communications.
  • Formulate and revise scientific explanations and models using logic and evidence.
  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and models.
  • Communicate  and defend  a scientific argument.

Essential Features of Classroom Inquiry and their Variations

(Adapted from: Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards, National Research Council (2000))

Essential Features


More  …………………………..Amount of Learner Self-Direction   ………………………………Less


Learner engages in scientifically oriented questions

Learner poses a question.

Learner selects among questions, poses new questions.

Learner sharpens or clarifies question provided by teacher, materials, or other source.

Learner engages in question provided by teacher, materials, or other source.

Designing and Collecting

Learner gives priority to evidence in responding to questions

Learner determines what constitutes evidence and collects it.

Teacher directs learner to collect certain data.

Teacher gives learner data and asks learner to analyze.

Teacher gives learner data and explains how to analyze.


Learner formulates explanations from evidence

Learner formulates explanation after summarizing evidence.

Teacher guides learner in process of formulating explanations from evidence.

Teacher gives learner possible ways to use evidence to formulate explanation.

Teacher provides learner with evidence.

Learner connects explanations to scientific knowledge

Learner independently examines other resources and forms the links to explanations

Teacher directs learner toward areas and sources of scientific knowledge.

Teacher gives learner possible connections.


Learner communicates and justifies explanations

Learner forms reasonable and logical argument to communicate explanation.

Teacher coaches learner in development of communication.

Teacher provides learner broad guidelines to sharpen communication.

Teacher gives learner steps and procedures for communication.

Oregon Science Teaching & Learning to Standards pdf (2007-2009)  03/10/2008 (2.85 MB)  The purpose of this science education document is to provide resources and advice for teachers, professional development personnel, and teacher educators to help them implement state standards in Oregon’s schools.

Collaboration in the Science Classroom - ideas from John Sowash, Google Certified Trainer

Student Generated Surveys:  Collaborative surveys provide students with an opportunity to learn about experimental design, data collection, and data analysis. Develop a question that can be tested quantitatively through a survey. The purpose of this assignment is to collect data for analysis.   more ---> 

Data Aggregation and Analysis:  The ability to analyze data does not come naturally and must be taught and modeled for students. Providing opportunities to collect data in small lab groups, compile their data with that of the class and then analyze and interpret the data will help students develop the necessary analytical skills they will need in STEM fields.   more --->

Journal Summaries:  To ensure that students are exposed to current, cutting edge research they must read scientific journals, papers, and articles.  In addition to exposing students to new scientific discoveries reading scientific journals also increases fluency, builds vocabulary, and encourages critical thinking. To experience the full benefit of these articles students must summarize what they have read and engage with their peers in discussions related to the potential uses, misuses, and impacts of these new discoveries.  more --->

InfographicsInfographics are the blending of design and data. They are sometimes referred to as "visual data." This project requires students to use both the analytical and creative/artistic sides of their brain. This is an excellent collaborative project that can be combined with data aggregation and analysis. more --->

Multimedia Lab Reports:  Text doesn't inspire. Writing down answers does not solidify concepts in the minds of students. Multimedia authoring, on the other hand, can accomplish both.  A Flip camcorder or  iPod touch 4G with still and video camera has the potential to become a essential laboratory tool. more --->

This is John Sowash discussing collaboration in the classroom.  Starting at 19.20min, he explains some of the ideas above.

The Collaborative STEM Classroom

The Google Tools:

Docs (for writing, reflection)

Forms  (for collecting data)

Organize student research:
PS 131-Animals in the Wild Multimedia Project Google form for Grade 3:

Science Labs:
HS Biology:  Perform Catalase test on two food substances and document lab results in a Google form to compare with other class sections:

Math project
The idea is a middle school math class can collect data on height and wingspan and see if there is a strong correlation between the two as we expect from Da Vinci's vitruvian man. We can add categories to see if this relationship is independent of age or sex if necessary.

6 Ways to collect data using a Google Form
  1. Have students conduct experiment in classroom and one member goes to teacher's computer to enter data for that group
  2. Have students create surveys using Google forms and display on own computer; students travel from machine to machine to fill out the survey
  3. Email the form to participants to collect data (can embed the form in the email); must know all members email addresses
  4. Email the form by using a distribution list from your contacts  (very easy if using Google Apps since all domain names are the same)
  5. Share the URL of the published form; consider using a URL shortener for easy access like:, or 
  6. Embed the form in a Google Site, wiki, blog or Moodle.

Spreadsheets (for data analysis)

7th Grade Science Fair Project:
Student used a Google Form to collect data on left/right hand dominance to compare to right-brain/left-brain  and then analyzed the results and even had the location of participants show up on a Google Map!  Initial post here - Final research paper results (pdf)

Create self-grading quizzes using Flubaroo script & Google Spreadsheet -

Charts (for sharing data)

Collaborative Lab Experiments:
Observing and charting the rate of photosynthesis in Elodea



National Digital Science Library K-12 Collection

CIESE collaborative projects

Science Net Link from Thinkfinity -

Neuroscience for Kids (cool experiments that could easily be adapted with Google Docs)

Incorporating Engineering into High School Algebra and Trigonometry: An Initiative of the Georgia Tech Student and Teacher Enhancement Partnership (STEP) Program (pdf)

Dan Meyer's dy/day blog - check out his WCYDWT (what can you do with this) series on using real images & videos for math instruction

**MORE** -->  Colette Cassinelli's STEM bookmarks on Diigo