The Association for Science Education

IntoScience

Title: IntoScience
Resource type: A web-based digital learning resource for KS3 with relevance to KS2 and KS4 
Publisher: 3P Learning
Price: tbc
Ages: KS3 (age 11-14)
Link: www.3plearning.com/uk/intoscience/

ASE Expert Evaluation:

Introduction

Digital resources have great potential to supplement and support effective and inspiring teaching. IntoScience is an attention-grabbing product aimed mainly at KS3 (age 11-14), with many good ideas and a range of possibilities for use with students from upper KS2 and into KS4.

Getting started

Separate logins are available for teachers and students. The former are able to access additional functionality such as the facility to keep track of students’ progress. The introductions work nicely. The teachers can easily get going by using a series of tutorials. Students start with an activity that teaches them about four famous male and female scientists. They can spend time customising their avatar so that it all feels more personal.

Looking deeper

Firstly, it is important to recognise that IntoScience, although linked to the KS3 Programme of Study, does not attempt to give complete coverage. For example, in biology, core topics are covered, such as cells, feeding relationships and body systems; however, others such as evolution and inheritance are not. The level of demand appears to be about right for the majority of KS3 students.

There are many different features for students to get their teeth into. There are interactive pathways through each topic, which provide a range of learning experiences. As students work through them, they collect ‘inquiry points’ for exploring, participating and responding correctly. Many teachers will be able to identify students who will stay on track better given this incentive!

There are many different features for students to get their teeth into. There are interactive pathways through each topic, which provide a range of learning experiences. As students work through them, they collect ‘inquiry points’ for exploring, participating and responding correctly. Many teachers will be able to identify students who will stay on track better given this incentive!

The main activity sections cover a wide range of topics to develop knowledge and understanding, using a combination of photos, videos, text and questions. A bit of reading is needed, but it should be well within the grasp of the vast majority at this key stage and many at KS2. There are true/false and drag and drop activities, and also some that require a typed response involving description, explanation or application. You may be struck that some of the sections and activities would be useful at GCSE, and schools that are thinking in terms of a five-year plan for progression, rather than completely dividing KS3 and KS4, will recognise the broader possibilities.

There are different 3D worlds or locations to explore, such as a biodome, a research lab and a monorail station. Students are set objectives to achieve as they explore. These look quite engaging, especially for the younger students. The tasks are reasonably easy to follow, but take some time. The graphics may look familiar from the ‘Tomb Raider’ game, but are modern in feel. Hopefully students won’t be disappointed that the level is not that of a modern games console.

Some of the science is above what is expected at KS2 and KS3, for example the reactions used in the chemical change section. However, the importance of application in the latest GCSEs means that students can benefit from getting used to applying their understanding to unfamiliar reactions. Additional ‘Explore’ sections can help the students decide when they want more information. For example, in the section ‘Familiar Forces’, the students can click to find out more about Newton’s second law. Many Year 6 (age 11) students could cope well with the content of this section, so this illustrates the pretty wide spread of the resource. Another section, ‘Science – journey of discovery’, deals with scientific process and attributes of scientists. Most teachers will use this to reinforce and/or assess, rather than teach the skills from first steps.

The ‘mid’ and ‘end’ challenges give students the opportunity to show their knowledge, application and reasoning. Students will probably find these fun and motivating. The ‘3rd degree’ is an against-the-clock quiz in which students compete against one another. This is another nice option and it is easy to picture students working in teams in the style of ‘University Challenge’ to try to outdo their peers.

The ‘Walkthroughs’ give teachers guidance that supports the quests that students attempt. Although not essential, some teachers will appreciate the straightforward pointers provided. Students will probably prefer to dive straight in! Helpful answers are provided to all the activities. A separate teacher login ensures that the students cannot get to them. Teachers may also wish to take advantage of the printable worksheets; however, the teacher can be quite ‘hands-off’ in how they use IntoScience. Provided students have access to a decent computer/tablet with the necessary Internet speed, they can work independently from their teacher and out of school. The teacher can look at the status for each class and an overall report online.

A word about technology: during the review, the resource was run through Internet Explorer and also a Beta version through Google Chrome. The former was definitely better, although it still suffered a few go-slows. IntoScience offer a free trial, and do commit to working with schools to ensure that everything works smoothly.

There is the occasional giveaway that this was originally developed for Australia, such as the reference to the Australian curriculum in the ‘View my results’ section. Since this is an online resource, IntoScience are continually refining the product without schools needing to take any action.

Trials are freely available, so if a school decides to commit, what costs are involved? The starting price is £4 per student per year based on at least 60 students. However, as is often the case, a site licence can bring the cost down.

In summary, it is probably correct to think of this resource as a really useful and engaging tool for reinforcing and extending. For schools that want to be as narrow as possible in just covering the programme of study, there is content beyond what is needed. Others will see the potential for engaging and extending students from Upper KS2 and older to take a broader interest in science. There are some idiosyncrasies, but this resource is something that students should look forward to using. Variety is one of the watchwords and students can have a rich experience using this worthwhile support for their learning.