Pivot Interactives is a web-based platform with interactive videos to help teachers use recorded lab experiments with students rather than animations or simulations. Each activity shows actual footage of experiments taking place, giving students opportunities to make real observations and collect real data rather than just watching a simulation. The activities include exciting and engaging experiments covering biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science topics. What makes these videos interactive are the tools that can be overlaid on them directly for measurement and graphing and the ability to manipulate variables in real time. These experiments can be used as they exist on the site, or they can be fully customized to suit a teacher’s needs.

Once on the site, teachers can find the experiments they want by searching for specific NGSS practices, NGSS strands, or topics, including AP Bio, AP Chemistry, AP Physics, and specific subtopics of biology, chemistry, earth science, and physics. Activities can be sorted further by five levels of scaffolding, location in instructional sequence, and instructional purpose. The five levels of scaffolding range from step-by-step instructions with definite learning targets to “goal-less” instructions that allow students to figure out the procedure and reach their own conclusions. The location in instructional sequence offers choices between introduction, application, and assessment. The instructional purposes include argument from evidence, modeling instruction, and lab skills (data linearization, error analysis, experimental design, graphing, slope and intercept, measurement).

There are currently activities within biology topics for molecules to organisms, ecosystem interactions, energy and dynamics, and heredity. These are common classroom life science lab experiments, such as egg osmosis, catalyzed activity, cellular respiration, fermentation, fruit fly genetics, and homeostasis.

Once a teacher has chosen an activity, they can preview and edit it before adding it to “My Library.” A typical activity video will have options to manipulate variables within the video and a menu of interactive tools that can be used on top of the video. The tools can be dragged and rotated for taking accurate measurements while the video is playing or the video can be paused for measurements to be taken. For example, in the Egg Osmosis lab, the video starts with an egg in 0% corn syrup with two tools available by default to students: a ruler and stopwatch. As students watch the video, they can measure the change of size in the egg over time. Students can then increase the concentration of corn syrup in 10% intervals up to 100% and rerun the video while taking measurements. The preloaded activity has two parts. The first part includes a brief description of the activity, open-ended and multiple-choice questions, instructions for taking measurements and calculating volume, and a data table and graph. The second part coaches students through the process of building a model to explain their observation of the change in size of the egg.

The activity can be assigned to students through “My Classes.” Student responses can be graded in a number of ways. The teacher can choose to view one student at a time or one question at a time, or to grade anonymously.

The teacher has full control of the amount of scaffolding, including the tools to which students have access. The questions are fully customizable, including adding or deleting certain items, adding or deleting hints, and allowing multiple attempts for each question. There is also a full library of short, targeted tutorial videos for teachers, ranging from basic functions of the site, such as finding activities, creating classes, inviting students, and adding or deleting assignments, to more in-depth topics such as using data tables and graphing tools, customizing activities, and grading student responses.

The cost of Pivot Interactives is $5 per student per calendar year, and site licenses are available. It is compatible with all platforms and operating systems, can be used on any device, and integrates nicely with Google Classroom, Canvas, and Blackboard.

As remote learning has taken over classroom learning in the last year, new resources that actively engage students in real scientific thinking have become essential. While it can certainly be used in a classroom setting, Pivot Interactives provides a great way for students learning remotely to still engage with real science.

Bonnie Nieves
High School Life Science Teacher
Nipmuc Regional High School
Upton, MA 01568