Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2017


Virtual labs epitomize the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices

Subjects & skills
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Teachers receive real-time alerts about where their students are struggling.

Cons: Currently, simulations are only available for some of the NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas.

Bottom Line: Earth, life, and physical science simulations coach kids through the NGSS Practices.

Inq-ITS is best used when the activities are integrated into a middle school science curriculum; they do a good job of highlighting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). By using these activities throughout the year, students will see that NGSS Cross-Cutting Concepts (such as cause and effect) and Science and Engineering Practices (such as analyzing data) occur in all the scientific disciplines. Additionally, teachers and students can watch these skills grow as the school year progresses. 

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Inq-ITS is a collection of virtual labs for middle schoolers, including topics such as Plate Tectonics, Natural Selection, Forces & Motion, and Phase Changes. Students learn this content through virtual simulations that allow them to design and conduct their own investigations. The virtual labs are broken into four sections described as the Phases of Inquiry: Hypothesis, Collect Data, Analyze Data, and Explain Findings. 

Each virtual lab begins with a scenario and a question such as "Why does a population of Slinquettes have different fur colors?" There are multiple variables that students can manipulate, including mutations, temperature, and amount of foliage, for example. Kids make selections to build a hypothesis; support is embedded if students don't include an independent and dependent variable in their hypothesis or if their hypothesis doesn't answer their question. Students use the simulation to run trials and gather evidence. This is followed by an analysis section, where kids make a claim about whether their observations support their hypothesis and select the trials that support their claim. The virtual lab culminates with an online Claim-Evidence-Reasoning form that helps students construct an explanation of the phenomena.

Inq-ITS truly embodies the three-dimensional nature of the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices; students discover the science content while engaging in inquiry. Emphasized throughout are opportunities for students to create explanations and modify those explanations in light of new evidence. For example, many students think that adding more green leaves will lead to the presence of Slinquettes with green fur. Inq-ITS has a structure that encourages kids to experiment more and discover that the new green trait only shows up in the presence of a mutation. Piece by piece kids are coached through the the Practices: designing investigations, using evidence to make claims, and backing up those claims with evidence and reasoning.

Similar to products such as ExploreLearning Gizmos, Inq-ITS helps teachers track student progress through reports. Inq-ITS reports focus on inquiry practices such as hypothesis formulation, investigation design, and data analysis. Inq-ITS has also taken reporting a step further with real-time alerts. Notes such as "Jill is changing too many variables at once" pop up while students are working. This helps teachers quickly identify who needs one-on-one support.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Easy-to-use cartoon simulations provide nice visual representations of scientific phenomena. Students drive the investigations, selecting which variables they would like to manipulate. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Scientific inquiry is truly embedded in Inq-ITS labs, enhancing student understanding of disciplinary content. Kids can learn from their mistakes and modify their explanations as they go.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Teachers can choose to assign activities with or without the dinosaur tutor Rex. Rex gives students immediate feedback, coaching them through inquiry tasks.

Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Bob G. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Woodland Elementary School
Milford, United States
The Inq-ITS science lab simulation program, Inq-Blotter real-time data, and tutorial feature (Rex the Dinosaur) are a science education game-changer!
The real-time data provided through the Inq-Blotter feature is well worth the added modest expense per teacher. To be able to track student progress, make adjustments to instruction, and observe the results of your instructional intervention in real-time is a classroom game-changer. The tutorial feature (Rex the Dinosaur) provides students with just the right amount of support that allows them to "figure it out". I have also been very impressed with the customer service and tech-support provided ...
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