Green Tick: Kognity
‘What sets the Kognity resource apart from printed textbooks is the interactive content, sprinkled throughout the sections and including animations and videos.’
‘A very positive addition, which helps bring the science to life, is material that goes beyond the AQA specification.'
This review covers the Kognity “intelligent textbooks” designed for AQA GCSE Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Combined Science (Trilogy). Sitting alongside these, but not reviewed here, are statistics and tracking for the teacher.
What sets the Kognity resource apart from printed textbooks is the interactive content, sprinkled throughout the sections and including animations and videos. These have been well chosen and add real value. Models, such as Lego-style bricks in the Elements and Compounds section, are used sensibly and helpfully. In addition, there are exam-style questions with mark schemes and a facility for the teacher to send differentiated assignments to students by selecting from the resource.
How might Kognity be used?
Whether students use it independently or as directed by the teacher, Kognity is a valuable learning tool and one that can make teaching more efficient – no small bonus when many schools complain of insufficient time for teaching science.
What is Kognity like?
The online pages are organised in a logical and familiar manner: well sequenced/explained and supported by exceptionally clear illustrations and graphics. The topics follow the same order as the AQA specification, but can be tackled in any sequence.
Each topic starts with a section entitled The Big Picture, which is well worth students reading to develop their sense of the topic as a whole. Important terms are highlighted in blue and clicking on them displays the definition from the glossary. “Worked examples” (which are often calculations) appear throughout the sections and offer useful interactivity and practice. The solutions are hidden so that the student can attempt them first. In one example, power is calculated using P=I2R. Of the three worked examples, one requires the equation to be rearranged. It is worth being aware that you may not use the same routine for rearranging and substitution as Kognity, so some students may require extra support here. Maths skills are practiced extensively throughout Kognity, but not taught from basic principles. Some teachers will be disappointed to see that formula triangles are used, even though they are now regarded as poor practice (ref: Language of Mathematics in Science: A guide for Teachers of 11-16 Science, Association for Science Education, 2016). However, we understand that Kognity is looking at removing formula triangles, such is their desire to provide the best product that they can.
Having studied each section, the student is invited to “complete” it, usually by answering a small number of questions. The style of the questions requires recall, understanding and calculation. The responses are multiple-choice or short answer, e.g. in chemistry, students are required to type the word “reactants” when completing a sentence about reversible reactions. Wrong answers are part of the learning process: the student’s response is immediately marked and further attempts are allowed. Students can look at the solution if they wish, so there is the potential for them to copy the answers and give the impression that they are diligently working through the sections and succeeding. Hopefully, most would recognise the futility of foxing their teachers in this way! At any time, the questions can be reset by the student, which would be useful when returning to a section for revision after it had already been studied.
A very positive addition, which helps bring the science to life, is material that goes beyond the AQA specification. For example, a short animation on body-building links to muscle structure. However, it is not entirely clear that this does not need to be learned, so students would benefit from guidance.
Boxes of additional help are spread liberally through the sections. “Be aware” boxes are salmon coloured; e.g. students are advised to make sure that units are the same before using quantities for a calculation. Blue boxes contain “Exam tips”; green boxes highlight skills (working scientifically, mathematics, apparatus and techniques) and beige boxes link to any relevant required practicals.
Students aiming for Foundation Tier are guided on what to miss out, with sidebars alongside the unnecessary content and a checklist and at the end of each section. Sitting alongside the main content is a “Practice” centre where the student will find “Strength Tests”, “Exam Style Questions” and “Strength Battles”.
The Strength Tests act as end-of-topic tests. Where students do not answer correctly, they are provided with the correct answer and an explanation. Students have the option to “Take a new test” if they want to get a better score. Kognity draws from a bank of questions, so a new test will not be the same as the previous one. The Strength Tests can be done at any time, even if the sections have not been completed. This allows Kognity to be used by the teacher to identify starting points for a new topic or to help students decide which areas to target during revision.
A nice, novel touch for students to try is the “Strength Battle” against a classmate or against “Kogbot”. It is easy to envisage this really appealing to the more competitive students!
There are extensive exam-style questions, accompanied by mark schemes, which are a reasonable representation of GCSE exams. Unlike the other questions in Kognity, these are not marked online.
The four Interactive books do not communicate with each other so, if a student starts studying separate sciences and has completed some sections, but later swaps to Combined Science, the completed sections are not transferred to the new book.
Thankfully, Kognity’s functionality is free of eccentricities, and frustration is avoided so that the student can just get on with it. It all runs with impressive smoothness and there is even a “report feedback or error” button, should you find anything amiss.
Whist not replacing great teaching, Kognity is a highly versatile resource worthy of very serious consideration to support learning, progress and achievement. It helps facilitate a lot of the nitty-gritty learning and practice that students need. Time is freed up for a broader range of practical work, skill development and working with the content in a wide range of contexts, so that students experience science far beyond just passing the exam, developing a life-long interest in the subject and hopefully being inspired to pursue further study and careers in science.