Science 2.0: Communicating Science Creatively

We’ve been covering the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards in every issue since September. This month, we examine the final standard, called Creative Communicator, which requires students to communicate effectively and creatively express themselves (ISTE 2016). The science curriculum provides opportunities for students to express their understanding of concepts. Science involves more than collecting data and crunching numbers. Scientists must also be able to explain their work. We need to create persuasive arguments that support our conclusions.

Meeting the performance indicators
The performance indicators of this standard state that students need to choose, create, remix, communicate, and publish. For teachers, facilitating this type of work calls for a change in instructional design. The activities in your classroom must require students to communicate their understanding of a lab and what they’ve learned from it.

Students need to be able to choose the appropriate platform and tool for their presentations. For example, a poster on a trifold board could be used instead of a written report to present scientific work. When technology is brought into play, students have a much wider choice of media when presenting their work.

We ask our students to communicate their results of a lab report in three steps (explain what you did, explain what you found out, and describe how you found out) to summarize their findings. This summary can take place in virtually any medium. When students were learning to use digital graphic organizers, we would allow them to use a flow chart for their conclusions. They can easily paste pictures of lab setups, graphs, and other media into many tools (e.g., Inspiration, LucidChart, Poplet, MindMaps). Some students may make an infographic, while others may use Google Slides, write a song, or even compose a haiku.

Some students concluded a lab on the conservation of momentum with PowToon, an animation tool that creates a video with music. The lab asked students to collide carts and use motion sensors to record the data. Students used tools in Powtoon to explain what they did and then used other tools with imported images of their graphs to explain what they found. Overall, it was a creative, effective effort at completing the three components of the conclusion.

Additionally, this standard asks students to create original work or remix the work of others. We hang signs in our classroom that say “UCC,” which stands for “user-created content.” Almost every laptop, tablet, or phone has a camera, offering opportunities for students to take their own photos of equipment setup, written work, or scientific phenomena. Students can also use online simulations and their own videos to remix and communicate their work.

Finally, this standard requires students to publish their customized work. Online tools make publishing easy. Teachers should consider using a website that allows students to keep a portfolio of their best work. A web tool that allows students to edit pages (Google Sites or Wikispaces) will help accomplish this task. Students can link their products and use this to reflect on the tools they have learned and the methods they have used for communicating.

Becoming a creative communicator requires students to learn a variety of tools and develop the ability to evaluate the choice of the right tool for the task at hand. Students will learn how to become creative by using different tools and incorporating media into their work. This standard allows students to present their scientific work in a way that demonstrates their understanding both visually and verbally.

Ben Smith ( is an educational technology program specialist, and Jared Mader ( is the director of educational technology, for the Lincoln Intermediate Unit in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. They conduct teacher workshops on technology in the classroom nationwide.

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). 2016. The 2016 ISTE standards for students. Arlington, VA: ISTE.

Editor’s Note

This article was originally published in the April 2017 issue of The
Science Teacher
 journal from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).

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  1. Elizabeth Petersen
    Posted April 18, 2017 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    Thank you. The video was really great.
    Nice Job!
    Elizabeth Petersen

  2. Jessica Federovich
    Posted June 18, 2017 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    You thoroughly explained the final ISTE standard, Creative Communicator. I feel it is far too often that students are asked to simply explain what they did, saw, and learned from a lab experiment. This standard really raises teaching and learning expectations in the classroom. Today, students are creative and can showcase their creativity in science when given the chance. I enjoyed your examples of students embedding pictures, graphs, graphic organizers, and videos into their assignments. Additionally, I loved the example of how a student presented their knowledge of waves by writing haiku poetry. Your blog and video has made me think of how I can allow my own students to be creative in my own classroom as well. As a 4th grade math and science teacher, we discuss technology and design, particularly models. This year, I plan to have students develop an innovative invention. They will create a model/prototype of their invention. Then, they will create a document, in which they will include diagrams and pictures to explain their invention, its purpose, etc. Finally, students will create a video sales advertisement to sell their invention. I’m eager to implement this lesson in the classroom and allow students to be creative in science.

  3. Emily Kulla
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    I feel that students communicating their findings if very hard for them to do, but also a necessity in assessing understanding. I could not agree more with the point that was made about changing the instructional design; students are asked to explain, but not challenged to explain. Creating the different platforms for explanation is essential to allowing all students to succeed in this standard. I really enjoyed the links you gave to other media tools to be used to help them organize their thoughts. In my science classroom we use science stations that differentiate the learning for the students. I am always looking for other ways to include technology in the lessons, so the resources you gave will really help. I wanted to highlight one more point that you made in your conclusion. You said “becoming a creative communicator requires students to learn a variety of tools…” which I really agree with. I also think we as educators need to do this too. I sometimes feel that communication is something that I could always improve on. I could use more technology in my own explanation of tasks, concepts, and directions. I can’t wait to use the links that you provided to improve myself and my students communication.

  4. K. Boswell
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    More often than not when you are teaching science, the entire class is working on the same activity or experiment. You have incorporated a wide variety of ways for students to demonstrate their understanding. This gives students the opportunity to make their work stand out from the rest of the class. The ISTE standard for Creative Communicator didn’t sound like such an open ended expression of work until I saw your explanation. My understanding of the standard was the student would use the appropriate media to discuss or display their findings (like not using line graphs when it should be a pie chart for example). Your video has presented me with a new perspective. This is great way for any student to be able to display their work in a way that is meaningful to them. In my classroom, I tend to get students who have many talents, unfortunately those talents do not always extend into creative opportunities in the classroom. When it comes to school work, many of them take the easiest way out, and choose to not produce anything close to the promising examples you have provided. They just want to be finished, often copying the first suggested type of expression. By challenging them with the variety of the examples you have provided, I hope to see more effort put into my student’s work. I am going to incorporate ways for my student’s to turn in assignments using different types of media throughout the next school year.

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