Review by Christie Thomas, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2014

Science Bits

Scenarios, videos, activities intrigue in ways textbooks can't

Subjects & skills
  • Science

Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Teachers say (2 Reviews)

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Pros: Videos, dynamic images, simulations, and quick activities can grab students' attention and interest better than tedious or material-intensive in-class labs.

Cons: There's a lack of built-in corrective feedback and forced review.

Bottom Line: Facinating options for providing kids with great exposure and experiences, although finding what’s worthy is one more task for your to-do list.

Even while you probably won’t use these as stand-alone units, the smaller chunks of content within them make Science Bits a gold mine. Just be prepared to dig! The search option doesn’t always provide hits for expected keywords, so you may need to try several approaches. The site’s interactive practice activities don’t pop up at all via the search engine. Find them instead in the Explain segment of a 5E unit by clicking the icon with a pencil next to it. This will take you to a list of related interactive activities that can be practiced individually or as a whole class, depending on your subscription.

The Engage videos are an effective way to introduce topics, such the Sun-Earth-Moon system. Show them to the whole class and follow up with your own clicker-based pre-tests to gather students’ initial ideas. Use activities and short lessons with individual students to reinforce topics or provide extensions.

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Science Bits is an online source of complete science units, each following the 5E Model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate). Units fall into five categories: Life, Earth & Space, Physics, Chemistry, and Nature of Science. Segments within the units are usable separately. Teachers can organize content in their library as well as piece together their own units (repertories). Those with connected student accounts can make assignments and view student scores.

Units follow a consistent design. Engage segments use short videos to introduce students to real-world situations (e.g., trash sorting centers) or ideas (e.g., the cause of the seasons). The Explore, Explain, Elaborate sections provide learning and practice through online activities, simulations, questions, and dynamic images. The Evaluate sections begin with great summary videos based on unit concept maps, and include the final student assessment.

Science Bits is true to its name: It’s full of snippets that can enhance many science classes. Options like the microscope simulation can prepare kids well prior to in-class labs. Others, like videos of expansion and contraction in solids and gases, allow students to gather experiences that may be difficult or time-consuming to re-create in some classrooms. Short, focused practice activities on topics from classification to chemical makeup provide great opportunities to target specific learning goals.

Because Science Bits' units aren't intended to be self-paced, all-encompassing curricula, kids will be most successful with a teacher's guidance and scaffolding. Explanations tend to be text-heavy, and some vocabulary may be too advanced for the audience (reverse sublimation, for example). Also, since kids can move forward to the next question -- or the next section -- without checking their answers, it could be challenging to ensure that they’re learning and understanding.

Overall Rating

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

Quick-paced videos -- meshing superb footage with interesting scenarios -- will pique kids’ interest. Interactive practice and quality simulations drive learning, but text-heavy explanations may stall some students.

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

Online activities and video clips are targeted and relevant. Kids will love controlling the pace, but they'll also be able to move on without correcting. Increasing feedback and requiring kids to fix mistakes would help ensure learning.

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

Unit navigation is easy, and user progress is clear. Help contents are great, but users can't search for topics. Audio options and linked vocabulary could increase student accessibility; hints within activities would help.

Common Sense Reviewer
Christie Thomas Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Michael M. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
An easy and effective way to apply a constructivist 5E model of learning in your classroom
This tool has helped me apply a constructivist methodology in my classes and specially to teach science by doing science. My students love learning with this inquiry based system and I'm really satisfied with the experience. I truly recommend using Science Bits in your classroom, as a complement or a substitute for your traditional textbooks. But Science Bits can not work by itself as a self paced system. Students need the guide of a teacher to take the most of it.
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