At first glance, Educurious' offerings can be overwhelming. Even as a lot of the planning is done for you, it might be best to test-drive one of the free lessons first and ease into the experience. In addition to opening with a specific question, each unit begins with separate overviews for students and teachers. The teacher overview lists all of the necessary resources and recommended sites -- it's advisable to brush up on all of this in advance.
With the assistance of your LMS, you can group students and assign units of work (what Educurious calls Modules) at a pace you choose. When starting out, project the Unit Overviews and Modules for your whole class -- these are also accessible at any time, via tablet or computer, for in-class group work or study outside of class. The program can also easily support independent study for a variety of use cases -- this could be particularly useful for older or more advanced students. As you become more familiar with the process, try adapting some of your existing curriculum into Educurious' lessons -- you could even develop your own PBL unit.Continue reading Show less
Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a student-centered method of teaching based around inquiry and 21st-century skills. One of the main goals of PBL is to make learning meaningful for students by striving to meet concrete outcomes they can easily connect to their lives. Through an online platform, Educurious offers PBL curricula for high school students in both ELA and biology. Additionally, Educurious offers professional development for teachers, as well as access to a network of experts who can assist and mentor students. In addition to the courses that are provided, teachers are encouraged to adapt their own content and even create their own units and courses over time. Participation in Educurious' courses requires access through an LMS like Canvas or Schoology. (For the purposes of this review, Educurious was accessed through Canvas.)
Courses are designed to cover a year's worth of content and support high-quality blended learning through a combination of strategies. At any point in the process, students might collaborate during hands-on group work, conduct research using quality online sources, or reach beyond the classroom's confines using various Web 2.0 and social media tools. Each course is divided into multiple units that center on teen-friendly essential questions like "How can we use art as a voice for social and personal change?" and "How do you get people to listen to your opinion on topics that matter to you?"
Full Disclosure: Educurious and Common Sense Education share a funder; however, that relationship does not impact Common Sense Education's editorial independence and this learning rating.
For teachers who don't have the time or resources to design their own PBL courses from scratch, Educurious can be a great way to provide this type of dynamic learning experience in a neatly packaged yet customizable way. The program provides a rich set of materials, including Common Core-aligned content, vetted online resources, and professional development for teachers, as well as access to a community of experts for guidance and collaboration.
All of Educurious' units feature a specific culminating project, like a documentary film or podcast. Throughout, students receive mentorship from an assigned expert, use multimedia tools, and collaborate through online discussion, peer review, and in-class group work. Along the way, students get a bit of practice with critical thinking, communication, and creativity. What's more, content is designed with both teens' interests and 21st-century skills in mind. The program's support for overall instruction and implementation is thorough, but might offer more specific tools to support learning for ELL and special education students. There are audio versions for a limited number of texts (with more reportedly on the way) and some suggested accommodations (like using a text below grade level), but teachers may wish for some more help in this area.
Key Standards Supported
Reading Informational Text
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper).
Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).
Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.
Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning.
Speaking & Listening
Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.
Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience’s knowledge level and concerns.
Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.
Key Standards Supported
Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Communicate scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence.
Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment.
Apply concepts of statistics and probability to support explanations that organisms with an advantageous heritable trait tend to increase in proportion to organisms lacking this trait.
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations.
Create or revise a simulation to test a solution to mitigate adverse impacts of human activity on biodiversity.
Earth and Human Activity
Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.
Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.
Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Use mathematical and/or computational representations to support explanations of factors that affect carrying capacity of ecosystems at different scales.
Use mathematical representations to support and revise explanations based on evidence about factors affecting biodiversity and populations in ecosystems of different scales.
Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for the cycling of matter and flow of energy in aerobic and anaerobic conditions.
Use mathematical representations to support claims for the cycling of matter and flow of energy among organisms in an ecosystem.
Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.
Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
Evaluate the evidence for the role of group behavior on individual and species’ chances to survive and reproduce.
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.
Develop and use a model to illustrate the hierarchical organization of interacting systems that provide specific functions within multicellular organisms.
Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence that feedback mechanisms maintain homeostasis.
Use a model to illustrate the role of cellular division (mitosis) and differentiation in producing and maintaining complex organisms.
Use a model to illustrate how photosynthesis transforms light energy into stored chemical energy.
Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for how carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from sugar molecules may combine with other elements to form amino acids and/or other large carbon-based molecules.
Use a model to illustrate that cellular respiration is a chemical process whereby the bonds of food molecules and oxygen molecules are broken and the bonds in new compounds are formed resulting in a net transfer of energy.
Heredity: Inheritance and Variation of Traits
Ask questions to clarify relationships about the role of DNA and chromosomes in coding the instructions for characteristic traits passed from parents to offspring.
Make and defend a claim based on evidence that inheritable genetic variations may result from: (1) new genetic combinations through meiosis, (2) viable errors occurring during replication, and/or (3) mutations caused by environmental factors.
Apply concepts of statistics and probability to explain the variation and distribution of expressed traits in a population.