Website review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2016

Zooniverse

Real research powered by volunteers makes classroom content relevant

Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 1 review
Privacy rating
Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
2–12 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.
Subjects & Skills
Science, Social Studies, Communication & Collaboration, Critical Thinking
Great for
PBL

Take a look inside

5 images

Pros: Students make a difference by contributing to actual investigations.

Cons: Research tasks usually involve more classifying than higher-order thinking.

Bottom Line: Engage in meaningful, relevant research with citizen scientists from around the world.

Teachers can best use Zooniverse to help make student learning relevant to what scientists are actually doing in the field. When kids ask why they must know the structure of a cell, have them spend some time comparing cell structures to find cancer cells. Tutorials like those offered in Galaxy Zoo can help kids learn about classification if that is a part of your curriculum. Teachers who have incorporated personalized learning into their classroom, such as Genius Hour, could offer Zooniverse as a resource to get kids started. 

A separate ZooTeach site is available with project guides and sample lessons created by teachers who use Zooniverse. Find the teacher resources by selecting About and then the Education menu. The Zooniverse Blog and the Zooniverse Education Talk board both provide ways for teachers to share and discuss citizen research in their classrooms.

Continue reading Show less

Zooniverse is an online platform that allows volunteers from around the world to contribute data to research. Students choose research projects that range from transcribing documents from Shakespeare's era to cataloging galaxies through Galaxy Zoo. Tutorials show kids how to participate in each project. If they are not sure exactly how to analyze a certain artifact or image, then they can engage in discourse with other volunteer researchers in chat rooms. Tons of data is compiled and used by researchers to form actual conclusions. The ZooTeach companion site provides lessons and other materials from teachers who use the site.

Zooniverse empowers students by letting them contribute to major research. They can search for cancer cells on slide images to help Cancer Research UK find a cure. Students can also identify various species of plankton to help scientists determine marine health. By working with citizen scientists from around the world, kids see that science is a social field and that we work together to learn about our world. Zooniverse also lets students see that research can happen in all disciplines. In Operation War Diary, kids are citizen historians and analyze diary entries from World War I. Engaging in historical research will help students see that history is so much more than just memorizing dates and locations.

Unfortunately, the tasks that students participate in may not actually require deep thinking. Transcription from documents in Shakespeare's era will provide unrecorded spellings to improve the Oxford English Dictionary. But the students will only be typing handwritten text that they see on a screen. When kids identify individual whales by looking at their tails, they aren't actually learning about inquiry or animal behavior. Someone else has asked the question, has designed the investigation, and will be forming the final conclusions.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Zooniverse is easy for students to use, and they get excited to be part of a real investigation. After a while kids may find the tasks tedious.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

As the data accumulates, students can access it to form their own conclusions. Kids can use the site to engage in meaningful investigations that make their required science or social studies content more relevant.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Tutorials walk volunteer scientists through the precise protocols to provide data consistent with others from around the globe. Chat rooms allow students to discuss the image they are analyzing with other citizen scientists.


Common Sense reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Community Rating

Write a review
Featured review by
ALEXANDER K. , School support staff
School support staff
Bethel School District
Spanaway, United States
Wonderful tool at let your students become actual citizen scientists!
Overall this was a really neat addition to my classroom. Students enjoyed doing something that actually contributed to the realm of science, and not just recreating other work by doing labs. That said, some of the tasks were too complicated/not explained well enough for my 8th graders to be able to manage. If students came across this issue, they solved it by changing to another task. Student happily engaged with this tool for 15-30 minutes but began losing interest after that. It did, however, become o ...
Read full review

Privacy Rating

This tool has not yet been rated by our privacy team. Learn more about our privacy ratings