Digital Models for NGSS

September 20, 2020 No Comments

Many teachers have switched to using a digital notebook this year. But, this brings up the question – “How can students create digital models?” In this post, I will discuss options to help your students create digital models in order to meet the intent of the NGSS Science and Engineering Practice of Developing and Using Models.

Why should students create digital models in their NGSS aligned class?

Many students are starting the school year working online. However, this is the only reason to have students create digital models. Here are a few additional reasons.

Digital models work better for digital notebooks.

Many teachers are using digital notebooks in their classroom this year. Digital models work well with this format.  

Rather than using physical models or diagrams that are hand-drawn, students can use any of the tools discussed below to add a digital model to their interactive notebook. Then, they can embed their model directly into their digital notebook. This provides students with a model they can easily refer back to throughout the lesson sequence and beyond.

Digital models are great for collaboration.

Digital models allow for collaboration between students on a whole new level. Models shared between students allow them to work on the same model simultaneously. This makes collaboration easy.

Also, when students develop a common model, it allows them to discuss the model and associated phenomenon.

In a remote learning scenario, assign students to digital breakout rooms to work on their models. Or, assign the model and allow students to work on it together asynchronously.

Digital models are easy to present.

Because they are digital, it's easy to present digital models using a projector at the front of class. Also, students can share these models with other classmates in order to get critiques and feedback from their peers.

What tools help students make digital models for the NGSS?

There are many free resources and tools that students already have access to and can used to create models. Here are a few options to create digital models.

Drawing Tools on Google Slides™ or Google Drawing™

Google Slides ™ includes embedded drawing tools. This is a great option if you are already using slides for your digital notebook. Also, Google Slides™ studen are easily shared between students and projected at the front of a classroom.

One benefit is that the tools that are available are quite extensive. Students can use shapes, lines and other tools to create their model. Also, the drawings can be shared between students. Finally, they work well with other Google Applications.™™ is an easy to use platform for digital drawing. This is a free, web-based platform. There are features aren't seen on other platforms such a grid feature which can be used for graphs or tables.

Teachers create a class which generates a share code and link to the digital whiteboard. Then, students enter the code to join the class. The teacher can view student whiteboards in real time through the teacher portal.

The digital class that the teacher creates expires after 2 hours of inactivity. So, this program is best for simple models that are created in a class period.


Jamboard™ is a part of the Google™ Suite. It features easy to use-drawing tools and works well with other apps in the suites.

This is my favorite platform to use for collaboration. These models can be shared between peers in the same way that other Google™ items can be shared.

Also, I can create an initial model that includes important components. Then, I assign this model through Google Classroom™. Finally, I ask student to add to the model that I have created.

Sand colored square labeled sand and stream table.  On the left side, there is a small blue rectangle labeled water source.

This option has the added benefit of having an app that can be added to a smartphone or other digital device.

What devices can be used for digital modeling?

Digital models can be created using almost any device that has access to the internet. Student can use Chromebook™, laptops, tablets and even their phones to create digital models.

There are benefits to having devices with a touch screen. A touch screen allows students to draw using the screen in a way that is similar to drawing on paper. However, this isn't necessary for creating digital models.

Want to learn more?

Erin Sadler

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