Your Digital Classroom: The Topic Selection Wizard
If finding a project is the stumbling block, Science Buddies has the answer! The Topic Selection Wizard helps match students with projects that may be of interest to them. With Google Classroom Integration, you can turn project finding into a classroom assignment!
Note: This post has been updated! See the new version here.
For some students, the assignment to do a science fair project is conceptually difficult from the very beginning. Whether the student doesn't think he or she is interested in science or just doesn't know how to hone in on a science question and experiment, being assigned to do a science project can seem like a very big and amorphous task for some students.
At Science Buddies, we believe the first step in helping to ensure that students enjoy the science project experience is helping them locate a project of personal interest. With more than 1,100 scientist-authored projects on the site, browsing for a project in any of the 30+ areas of science is one way to search for a project. But the Topic Selection Wizard makes things even easier.
A Teacher and Student Favorite
At home, in class, or on a class trip to the computer lab, teachers have been having students use the Topic Selection Wizard to locate projects of interest for years. The Topic Selection Wizard is one of the most popular features on the Science Buddies site. The Wizard's success in matching students with great projects and helping students discover projects they might not have otherwise considered keeps teachers and students coming back to use the tool again and again, year after year.
How does it work? Students respond to a series of multiple-choice questions about their interests, and our custom algorithm recommends projects that the student may most enjoy based on the student's answers. (If the student returns to the questions and changes his or her answers, different projects will rise to the top of the recommendation list.)
Thanks to our Google Classroom Integration, teachers can now use the Topic Selection Wizard as a Google Classroom Assignment. Once students take the Topic Selection Wizard survey, their recommendations will be saved, and teachers can review the recommendations, seeing exactly what the students see. Pair the Topic Selection Wizard with our new My Science Project Topic form, and teachers can streamline both project discovery and project approval.
Using the Topic Selection Wizard and Google Integration
Let's walk through the steps you might take to assign the Topic Selection Wizard to your students.
- If not already logged in at Science Buddies, log in as a Google Classroom Teacher so that Science Buddies can interact with your Google Classroom to create the assignment.
- Go to the Topic Selection Wizard at Science Buddies.
- Click the "Google Classroom" button. (If you didn't already log in at Science Buddies, you will be prompted to do so now.)
A cropped screenshot of the Topic Selection Wizard on the website ScienceBuddies.org with Google Classroom button highlighted (to the right of the title). The Topic Selection Wizard page shows three questions for a potential due date, grade level and area of study.
- Fill in the assignment details, including the due date, points possible, and any specific directions for your students. In this example, the assignment includes a note that the student should review 6 of the projects recommended after using the Topic Selection Wizard and list three that sound interesting in a Google Classroom comment. (Be sure and remind students to "Turn In" the assignment as Science Buddies. This ensures you will be able to review their results.)
A cropped screenshot of an assignment being created for Google Classroom shows 5 fillable fields for a selected course, title, description, due date and points possible.
- Click the "Create Assignment" button to confirm the assignment.
- Your students will be notified of the new assignment by email, and the assignment will also appear in their Google Classroom streams.
- To complete the assignment, your students will follow the link to the Topic Selection Wizard from Google Classroom.
- If not logged in at Science Buddies, they will be prompted to log in with their Google Classroom account to view the assignment details at Science Buddies. (Please note: if they have never logged in at Science Buddies before, they will be prompted to create a Science Buddies account with the email address associated with their Google Classroom account.)
- The Assignment Information will appear at the top of the page in a blue box. To begin the Topic Selection Wizard survey, your students will need to answer the questions that appear below that, noting the timeframe for the project, whether they can choose a project in any area or need to focus on a specific area, grade level, and reading level. After making their selections, they should hit the "Continue" button to move to the next page.
A cropped screenshot of a Google Classroom assignment detail box above the Topic Selection Wizard on the website ScienceBuddies.org. The assignment details box shows a course, assignment name, teacher, date assigned, due date, points possible and a link to the assignment in Google Classroom. The Topic Selection Wizard page shows four questions for a potential due date, grade level, area of study and reading comprehension.
- Students should carefully fill in the survey on the next page, marking "Yes," "Sometimes," or "No" for each question. (Students must make a selection for every question.)
- After answering all 26 questions, a final set of three questions appears. These are used to better help Science Buddies understand how the tool is being used. (The answers to these questions are not used to recommend projects to students.)
- Once they click the "Make Recommendations" button, they will be presented with a set of projects that are sorted based on which ones best match their interests.
A cropped screenshot of the Topic Selection Wizard on the website ScienceBuddies.org shows the last few questions of a questionnaire. Each question has radio buttons to answer yes, sometimes, or no, and concludes after question #26.
- Students can click through to view additional information about specific projects and return to the Topic Selection Wizard using the back arrow on the browser. If a student has trouble returning to the results, they can be reached again by going to the My Science Buddies area and clicking the My Recommendations link. (Note: to "Turn In" the assignment, students must start from the assignment link in Google Classroom, and they may need to submit the survey again to view the results and the "Turn In" button.)
- In the sample assignment, the teacher has requested that students list 3 projects from the recommendations that are of interest. Students fill that information in as a Private Comment on the assignment in Google Classroom. If you have notifications enabled in your Google Classroom settings, you will receive the comment in email.
(Note: narrowing to three projects of interest may be a good first step for students and allows teachers to engage with students during the selection process before students make their project selection. Teachers can make a separate assignment for the project selection using this form.)
- Back on the Science Buddies page, the student clicks the "Turn In" button to complete the assignment.
- In your Google Classroom, you will see the number of students who are "Done" with the assignment.
A cropped screenshot of an assignment in Google Classroom shows a completion tracker at the top-right of the assignment. In this example the tracker shows that 1 assignment has been completed and 1 assignment is marked not done.
- When reviewing submissions, you can open a student's submission to see any comments made in Google Classroom. You can also leave a reply comment to the student in Google Classroom, as needed.
- To review the results of the student's Topic Selection Wizard survey and return the work, click the link to the submission at Science Buddies. The student's science project recommendations will be shown. From this screen, you can enter the grade and leave a comment or feedback for the student, as needed. Click the "Return Assignment" button to return the work and record the score.
A cropped screenshot of an assignment grading dialog box for a Google Classroom assignment shows assignment details above fillable fields for a grade and comments.
Note: When you open a page at Science Buddies that you have assigned before, you will see the assignment summary box at the top. If you want to create the same assignment for another class, use the "Need to create this assignment again?" link that appears on the right side on top of the summary box and create the assignment again.
Try the Topic Selection Wizard with Your Students!
Give the Topic Selection Wizard and our new Google Classroom Integration a try! We would love to hear your feedback. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make the Most of Science Buddies and Google Classroom Integration in Your Classroom
To learn more about using Science Buddies with Google Classroom, see:
- Back to School with Science Buddies' Google Classroom Integration
- Your Digital Classroom: Assigning Science Reading with Science Buddies' Google Classroom Integration
- Google Classroom Integration page
In weekly installments, this Science Buddies Blog series will cover a range of tips, strategies, and ideas for using Science Buddies and Google Classroom Integration. Follow us at Twitter or Facebook to be alerted to each new post in this teacher-focused series.
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