Constructing Meaning with Chromebooks and OER

Students at all K-12 levels are increasingly diverse in terms of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, learning styles and abilities, and learning preparation. In content instruction such as science and social studies, this diversity can be less well supported than in math and language arts instruction, which are often successfully differentiated at the primary school level.

Yet for all ages, there is more diversity among readers’ ability to understand scientific and technical texts than to understand narrative text (Otero, Leon, & Graesser, 2002). However, approaches to primary science education in the upper elementary grades that bypass texts or text-based OER in favor of wholly experiential science learning or that do not support science reading comprehension skills prevent all students from building the ability to comprehend and mentally represent scientific concepts that comes from reading. Learning how to read science texts also allows for earlier and deeper understanding of scientific thinking.

This post features a conference presentation and instructional materials designed to demonstrate how teachers can leverage existing technology infrastructure (in this case, Chromebook and student Google accounts), along with OER, NGSS science standards, and evidence-based literacy instruction to create a differentiated approach to building reading skills specific to  scientific texts.

An additional key consideration in this curricular design is modeling the role of the teacher (rather than the technology) as the maximizer of learning for all students (ISTE Standard 3 for Coaches).



For many teachers, it is difficult to find the time and training to effectively integrate technology into classroom instruction. Curriculum companies and school districts provide training sessions for individual curricula and technology tools, but rarely help teachers develop a larger skill set and creative vision for effective integration of those discrete tools.

One of my passions as an educator is to empower both students and teachers to surmount obstacles to effective teaching and learning. I believe that technology can be used to create innovative ways of learning that would not be possible in non-digital environments. In turn, I believe that such learning environments can develop the critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaborative work skills students need for college and career readiness in ways that classrooms poor in technology integration cannot.

Two important considerations for effective technology-based learning featured in the instructional approach presented here are that (1) when possible, innovations leverage existing and/or open access infrastructure; and (2) that technology-based teaching demonstrate the primary role of the teacher in personalizing learning, connecting diverse students to learning experiences, and fostering logical and scientific thinking, literacy, and social/emotional engagement (Redding, S., & Center on Innovations in Learning, 2013, p.6).


Community Engagement Project

In this project, Teaching Science Reading, Constructing Meaning with Chromebook and OER, I present via a Google Slides conference presentation and embedded conference and instructional materials, an instructional module for upper elementary (4th grade) students in which ELA and science skill development and content learning are developed as reciprocal, integrated skills through student independent and collaborative projects on Chromebooks using students’ Google accounts, literacy software (a Google-compatible app called Read&Write), and a CK-12, a Common Core State Standards-aligned source of open access science texts. In this module, students:

  1. Access and read (or read with the assistance of text to voice technology) free open-source standards-aligned text to support their understanding of their science content;
  2. Interact with that reading through use of literacy software, annotating strategies, and through constructing visual tools (similar to graphic organizers); and
  3. Use writing (with the optional assistance of voice to text technology on the Chromebooks) to compose informational paragraphs that summarize reading knowledge. Students can then partner in a shared digital space to collaboratively edit their own and others’ work in real time.

This project integrates CCSS- and NGSS-aligned reading, writing, and science content skills, using district science curriculum and open access materials and technologies to create context for standards-aligned ELA skill instruction and literacy-based science instruction. The technology supports differentiation as well as skill acquisition.

Designed for presentation in February 2019 at the NCCE (Northwest Council for Computer Education) 2019 Conference, my Ignite Talk also features an introduction to Open Educational Resources (OER) as well as to the collection of openly licensed courseware aligned with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) that has been established as as part of the Washington State / Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction OER initiative

The presentation demonstrates the characteristics of “strong professional development” outlined by Soine & Lumpe (2014) that include appropriate length, engaged and collaborative learning, and addressing of both content knowledge and teacher needs.



Marzano, R.J. (2007). The art and science of teaching: a comprehensive framework for effective instruction. Alexandria, VA: ACSD.

Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Learning and Teaching Department. (2017). 2017 Open education resources review. Retrieved from

Otero, J., Leon, J.A., & Graesser, A.C., (Eds.). (2002). The psychology of science text comprehension. New York: Routledge.

Redding, S., & Center on Innovations in Learning. (2013).  Through the student’s eyes: A perspective on personalized learning and practice guide for teachers. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University. Retrieved from

Soine, K.M., & Lumpe, A. (2014). Measuring characteristics of teacher professional development. Teacher Development 18(3), 303-333. doi:10.1080/13664530.2014.911775

Trilling, B. & Fadel, C. (2009). 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

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