Using VoiceThread for Virtual Science Fairs

How can schools ensure that science fair projects are fair? A recent article by The Atlantic details some of the ways science fair projects have been corrupted by over-involvement from parents and we would like to offer a solution to this growing problem.

This problem exists mainly because teachers can’t observe and assess the student’s work at home. Most science fairs are essentially take-home projects, so parents who mean well may be taking over much of the design and creation process from their children. While these parents are trying to help, they often undercut the initiative and learning experiences of their children. Science fairs aren’t intended to be assessments of a parent’s understanding of the scientific process, but often that is exactly what they are.

So how can educators redesign science fairs to recapture the original intent? Our suggestion would be to ask students to document their process with VoiceThread. If students and teachers interact asynchronously via VoiceThread during the planning process, parental involvement will be limited to buying materials and supporting the learning instead of hijacking it.

Here is one example of how this might look:

The process can be made even more transparent with the use of video if the student “shows their work” by recording the construction of the experiment as well as their thinking. Because VoiceThreads are living, evolving content, students can upload work, get feedback from their teacher, then revise and upload new iterations all in the same place. In essence, students can use VoiceThreads as a transparent, digital portfolio tool. We think this can help restore science fairs to their original status as amazing ways to create hands-on learning experiences that genuinely impact student understanding of the scientific method. What do you think?