Fundamental Elements of Digital K-12 Science Instructional Materials

Digital instructional materials start to make more sense for K-12 schools as states and districts align science education practices with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and prepare students for 21st century science and engineering jobs.

In an effort to orient families, teachers, administrators and curriculum designers to the work, I’ve gathered some evaluation  tools for instructional materials from NGSS and laid out a vision of an ideal digital K-12 science curriculum that would include all of the five NGSS Innovations while addressing International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) standards for coaches supporting teachers.

Ideally, my vision would serve as a model for digital science instruction. Instead of the current slide show plus lecture state of my presentation, I would begin with a phenomenon (e.g., the gender gap in math and science occupations), offering a range of entry points across modalities (e.g., video, graphic representation, mathematic, kinesthetic) to allow people to connect the topic to their own lives, and then provide appropriate supports for people to show what they know through multiple modes of expression, including online tools (e.g., polls, message boards, asynchronous video chat).

As it is, it is a starting point for stakeholders to hear what a middle school science teacher would need in an ideal 21st century science class, and an opportunity to preview evaluation tools used by school districts to adopt new curriculum.

To participate in this practice, family members, teachers, administrators and curriculum designers would:

  1. Read Box 11-1 on page 278 of “Chapter 11: Equity and Diversity.” How do you understand equity in education? Share with a partner.
  2. Review the NGSS Lesson Screening Tool.
  3. With equity and diversity in mind, use the “less” and “more” columns of each of the NGSS Innovations to brainstorm ways that digital technology tools could help to engage and support students.

Innovation 1: Making Sense of Phenomena and Designing Solutions to Problems

Less: Focus on delivering disciplinary core ideas to students, neatly organized by related content topics; making sense of phenomena and designing solutions to problems are used occasionally as engagement strategies, but are not a central part of student learning.”

More: Engaging all students with phenomena and problems that are meaningful and relevant; that have intentional access points and supports for all students; and that can be explained or solved through the application of targeted grade-appropriate SEPs, CCCs, and DCIs.”

Brainstorm: Each unit of study can be presented through an engaging real-world phenomenon that encompasses the SEPs, CCCs, and DCIs. Students will engage with the phenomenon through multiple modalities including online research and digital modeling along with hands-on activities and kinesthetic learning. Student will have the opportunity to show what they know through multiple modes of expression including speaking, reading and writing, diagramming, mathematical representations and programming. Students will also have opportunities to share their learning with students in their own as well as have opportunities to share their ideas and make scientific arguments with authentic audiences.


Slides: “Fundamental elements of digital K-12 science instructional materials”

NGSS Lesson Screening Tool

NRC Framework Ch. 11: Equity and Diversity in Science and Engineering Education

Five NGSS Innovations


Khazan, O. (2018) The more gender equality, the fewer women in STEM. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

National Research Council. 2012. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Next Generation Science Standards. “Evaluating Instructional Materials.” Retrieved from