The Technology Enhanced Learning in Science Foundation (TELS) is a funded consortium of seven universities, a non profit educational organization and several public schools around the country. They have released a web-based tool for science instruction called WISE (Web-Based Inquiry Science Environment.
Here is a snippet directly from their site:
"WISE is a free online learning environment supported by the National Science Foundation. In WISE modules, students work on exciting inquiry projects on topics such as global climate change, population genetics, hybrid cars and recycling. Students learn about and respond to contemporary scientific controversies through designing, debating, and critiquing solutions, all on the WISE system.
Students do most WISE activities on the computer, using a web browser. The WISE software guides students through evidence and information pages that provide content, films, and discussion tools that encourage students to reflect and collaborate, and other tools for data visualization, casual modeling, simulations and assessment."
Students typically work in pairs on WISE Projects. The site allows teachers to create a teacher account. From the teacher dashboard you can assign projects and generate an access code for your students. The students then access the site, provide the project code and create their own account. From the teacher dashboard a teacher can monitor and view student progress and results. WISE is web-based. Projects range from 3-8 days. The software is web-based which means students can work on the projects in school or at home.
Why use an inquiry approach to science instruction
Research has proven that inquiry based learning is an effective approach to science instruction. This type of learning involves the students taking on the role of a scientist. "When students are active participants in asking questions, designing procedures, carrying out investigations, and analyzing data, they take responsibility for their own learning, and begin to think like scientists." (Glencoe)
WISE has released a new version called 4.0. It can be accessed here - http://wise4.berkeley.edu/webapp/index.html. The site is still in BETA. They are in the process of adding resources and cleaning it up. I would recommend registering your account with the new site. To view a short flash presentation on the features of WISE you can visit their original site by following this link: http://wise.berkeley.edu/pages/intro/wiseFlashIntro.php