Open Source Science Teaching Tools

One of my personal challenges is to teach using only free, open source classroom tools. I love science texts, but I don’t love the cost. I would much rather have more lab supplies and training. I am so thankful to our school for investing in training as opposed to books. With this in mind I want to share an example of how I am using “open source” science resources in my Biology Class.

We just finished a unit on DNA:The code for life. I really like teaching genetics and unraveling the mystery of life. I am using Google Classroom to link students to all of my classroom resources. We use our text book for background information. books are great. They are up to date, interesting, easy to read, and accurate. They are as good as any text on the market.

We use our book as an informational text. I present the content as an interactive lectures using Nearpod. I use the book as an outline and the students take notes in sketch note style as we explore the material. Students then complete the Adaptive Practice and Quizzes on All of these resources can be linked to in Google Classroom. The Adaptive Practice and Quizzes are self grading and give students immediate feedback and scores are recorded in Google Classroom.  There are interactive PLIX to reinforce ideas through manipulatives with challenge questions. All of these tools are free and customizable.

I use web based multimedia tools to enhance my presentations. HHMI Biointeractive has a wonderful video called Gene’s as Medicine. I use Playposit to embed questions throughout the video. It has a unique broadcast mode that allows just the presenter (me) to show the video. The students log in to the broadcast and see a question dashboard. The video automatically stops the and pushes questions to the student dashboard. This allows me a chance to check for understanding and add discussion. The students get instant feedback unless it’s an open ended question.BS Learning Media also has a really good movies called A Mutation Story. I try to search for 3-5 minute videos that tie our topics into current medical research and career information. ( The broadcast mode in Playposit is a paid feature, the free mode operates like EdPuzzle)

I also want to thank the Biology Corner for supplying us with the DNA and Transcription and Translation coloring worksheets. This website has some of the best free Biology activities on the web. I teach the students about protein synthesis by completing the Investigations, Proteins and Mutations worksheet. Then we apply this to the DNA in Snorks lesson.  It’s such a great way of making connections between DNA and proteins that produce traits.

As an evaluation of our learning, we complete an Argument Driven Inquiry(ADI) Lab 15: Mutation in Genes from ADI’s Life Science Book. ADI is transforming my teaching. It’s the first instructional model I have used that truly supports my growth in facilitating inquiry learning as opposed to concept based text book approaches. I remember struggling with the 5 E model, when I was first introduced to it. I could understand the parts and the approach, but I couldn’t see how I was supposed to facilitate it. The 8 stages of ADI give me the framework for teaching any lab through inquiry. The student lab handouts are available free online at NSTA Extra’s.

This lab asks students to study mutations using the Protein Synthesis model from another one of my favorite sources for open source web based models. the Concord Consortium. This model allows students to work through the steps of DNA transcription and translation. They can edit the DNA code and visualize the effect of different kinds of mutations.

I have embedded an example of how I introduce this lab using Nearpod below. If the code to this Nearpod expires before you stumble upon it. email me and I will renew it.


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