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The Concord Consortium
Pros: Free access to online manipulatives that promote the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices.
Cons: Some activities are Java-based and hard to use in schools.
Bottom Line: A selection of online science simulations paired with a teacher dashboard to track progress.
The Concord Consortium is filled with great tools to support teachers who are redesigning their curriculum in light of the Next Generation Science Standards. By signing up for a free account, teachers can create their own classes and push out activities to their students. They can also track which assignments students have completed.
Search through the Concord NGSS Pathfinder to look for tasks specifically aligned to the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices and Crosscutting Concepts. Prepare for lessons by checking to make sure which activities must be downloaded to student computers ahead of time.
The Concord Consortium has hundreds of science activities and computer simulations best used with middle and high school students. Teachers can use the site to find tasks aligned to their standards, push assignments out to their students, and track student progress. By assigning a task to their class, teachers can view written responses that students provide throughout an activity.
Activities are organized by discipline in the life, engineering, physical, and earth sciences. Teachers can select from official Concord Consortium activities or those created by other community members. One option is to choose larger thematic collections of activities, lesson plans, and assessments -- like Geniverse -- where kids learn about genetics by breeding virtual dragons. Alternatively, teachers can choose stand-alone activities like Describing Velocity, where students manipulate velocity-time graphs and act as racetrack commentators.
The Concord Consortium embraces the "phenomena first" emphasis in the Next Generation Science Standards. For instance, kids learn about gas laws through the phenomena of bottles crushing and ears popping. Like ExploreLearning Gizmos, the collection utilizes online computer models to make both micro- and macro-scale phenomena easy to view and manipulate. The Concord Consortium adds to this an emphasis on written reflection and a tool for teachers to track students' written ideas over time. Whether describing the motion of atoms in a gas or the change in a lion population, kids type thoughtful explanations of the phenomena.
Each activity varies in format and therefore in its strengths and weaknesses. In the African Lions task, kids explore actual lion population data. They graph predictions, modify their graphs in light of new information, and reflect on how their predictions compare to reality. Unfortunately, they cannot go back and review work earlier in the module. Other activities, like DNA to Protein, are Java-based and must be downloaded to computers to use. This may be problematic for classrooms with Chromebooks or for districts that block students from downloading.