Common Sense Review
Updated November 2013

JASON

Excellent immersion in science community; digital tools could do more
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • Student Argonauts are integrally involved in JASON videos and explorations.
  • The Coaster Creator stands out among JASON's games, although others aren't as dynamic.
  • JASON's niche is in connecting students in classrooms with scientists in the field.
  • The student home page has lots of links and information, although assignment information doesn't automatically display.
  • The teacher dashboard can help track assignments.
Pros
Impressively tackles real-world issues – like climate – by connecting students with field scientists and their research.
Cons
Site navigation -- for both teachers and students -- could be improved; sharing within the online classroom can be somewhat unwieldy as features are limited.
Bottom Line
Despite a few shortcomings, it's a gem among science sites because of the way it brings professional science into classrooms.
Christie Thomas
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

Learning about professional, real-world scientists doing their work will intrigue students and open minds. However, to sustain interest, the site's interface could be improved; some games could use a boost for more fun.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 4

The ability to link students with leading scientists is irreplaceable. While the activities and real-world connections are great, the dense, traditional science content could be revised to feel a bit less like a digital textbook.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 3

High-quality teacher tutorial videos are excellent, but there isn't a parallel for students. Improvements could be made with regard to navigation, clear directions for students, and the ability to track progress with ease.

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

With JASON, teachers will still be responsible for assessing students' misconceptions, addressing holes in students' background knowledge, and guiding students towards conceptual understanding. Still, what JASON offers is immensely valuable; connecting kids to the real world of science may be one of the most important responsibilities of a science teacher.

Design your classroom around the JASON reality show! Show the videos, talk about the scientists by name, and try the labs and field activities. Encourage your students to be Argonauts, participate in live science talks, and play the online games. You'll need to teach background information and provide practice modules, and you may want to post journal prompts on a class website. Though it may require quite a bit of extra work, including JASON in your real-world science classroom will be worth it.

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What's It Like?

JASON hooks kids by immersing them in the real world of science. Online videos introduce actual scientists in various workplaces, from government laboratories to field locations. JASON also piques kids’ interest by highlighting student participants (known on the site as Argonauts).

Units begin with a brief overview video. For example, in “Terminal Velocity” (the physics unit), the stage is set with current events and modern issues, like the Mars rover landing, or car crash safety. From here, unit content is organized into a handful of missions revolving around real world scenarios. Each mission includes text, journal prompts, and video clips, as well as labs, field assignments, and digital games that simulate scientists’ experiences.

It's important to note that the site serves as a digitized version of the print curriculum; labs aren't completed online -- while journal entries can be submitted through the site, there aren't any social tools for sharing them.

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Is It Good For Learning?

Kids crave the kind of reality that JASON provides. Video clips, live chat opportunities, and even scenarios within digital games all help plug students into the real world of science. Most field activities and classroom labs model the actual work of JASON scientists. JASON presents content within the context of real world issues -- like “monster storms” or energy use -- helping kids connect school learning to their daily world.

However, some kids might need help keeping up with JASON's content. The program could do more to help identify student preconceptions, as well as help differentiate tasks for all learners. The web interface -- including the teacher dashboard -- could be improved some to smooth out the experience of viewing assigned tasks and related curriculum. Also, an online tool to help students collect, upload, analyze, and share local data -- such as weather information or species counts -- would be an excellent addition.

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See how teachers are using JASON

Lesson Plans