Paper on the pedagogy of science teaching and technology use in the classroom.
|Running head: SCIENCE
Science and Technology and Pedagogy
Northern Arizona University
School of Educational Technology
Science pedagogy has not changed much over the years, yet technology has improved by leaps and bounds. It has become less expensive and more pervasive throughout society and business. So why are schools so slow to adopt this technology in the classrooms? Science classes would be able to explore other experiments and manipulate variables for faster results via a computer. Classes would also be able to talk with other scientists and ask questions, possibly leading to a stronger interest in a science career. Teachers and schools are hesitant to use technology because of the cost, time, and logistical problems related to implementation.
Science and Technology and Pedagogy
“Science has a long association with new technologies and as a discipline was responsible for many of the technological developments that have found their way into the school science laboratory…” (La Velle, Linda Baggott, McFarlane, John, & Brawn, 2004, p.124). Science has always been thought to be on the cutting edge; practicals and labs were seen as a necessary motivating part of student education. “However, some teachers drew a distinction between school science and scientists’ science…and felt that students were doing something separate and distinct” from what real scientists do (La Velle, Linda Baggott et al., 2004, p.124). “The numbers of students wishing to study science in higher education has fallen and the trend continues downward” (La Velle, Linda Baggott, McFarlane, & Brawn, 2003, p.184).
“A major factor in this is the current model of science offered in schools. It fails to effectively prepare pupils for their experience of science beyond school and to present science as a fascinating, interesting, and rewarding subject at the fulcrum of human existence” (La Velle, Linda Baggott et al., 2003, p.184).
In the scientific world, technology has become an integral part of research. Scientists communicate with each other via email, monitor equipment around the world, share data and on it goes.
“Science in schools requires students to engage in asking questions, make predictions, build hypotheses, make observations and measurements, manipulate variables to inform those hypotheses, evaluate and interpret the results they have gained from those measurements and observations, and feed those observations back into their original hypotheses to refine and modify their ideas” (La Velle, Linda Baggott et al., 2003, p.185).
“Traditional science teachers used lectures, demonstrations, a few experiments, and paper and pencil tests as primary approaches to instruction and assessment” (Goodnough, 2001, p.180). “Here we see a mismatch between pedagogic subject knowledge in science education in schools and the applied academic knowledge of the scientific community” (La Velle, Linda Baggott et al., 2003, p.184). Teachers are unable to implement this process (real science) effectively without the use of technology which has been shown to increase motivation, learning and time that they spend “on task”. So, “how can teachers support students in using interactive technology to access the ‘theory world’ of science?” (Hennessy et al., 2007, intro.).
The ideal educational setting for a science class is the constructivist classroom. “Constructivist classrooms are characterized by engagement and use of students’ prior knowledge and experience which forms the basis of collaborative, active student learning of content material” (Riggs & Kimbrough, 2002, p.49). Constructivist teaching uses an inquiry-based learning approach to teach the steps, methods, and routines in the scientific method. It is recognized as a necessary technique to increase the depth of understanding because students build their own knowledge through inquiry exercises. “The constructivist approach differs from traditional laboratory exercises in that it is open-ended to some degree and is designed to make students confront a problem as a researcher does, looking at all angles, trying different hypotheses and tests, and using the power of collaborative thinking and their collected prior knowledge and problem solving skills” (Riggs & Kimbrough, 2002, p.49).
One approach to incorporating technology into the constructivist classroom is to use virtual labs or simulations, but there is concern that these can’t hold up to the hands on approach and the 3D views provided by real dissections where students can touch and see organs and muscles. Also, “teachers have to accept that learning in such an environment is often chaotic, messy, may have no tangible beginnings and ends and might breed more confusion before genuine understanding occurs” (John & Sutherland, 2004, p.13). “Technology itself is not a panacea. The crucial element remains the way in which the technology is incorporated into pedagogical patterns” (John & Sutherland, 2004, p.2). Studies have found that teachers using a constructivist teaching method chose software that didn’t have set answers or were designed to engage students in certain behaviors. The constructivist teachers who are skilled in ICT (information and communication technology) understand that since the software most often used in science classrooms requires group work they must carefully prepare their lesson. The students can easily get off task and end up playing rather than learning. Using simulations allows students to investigate more complex models because they are able to make adjustments and test different aspects of scientific processes. This can often keep them more engaged than the traditional lab experiments that often go awry. It also allows the teacher to assist students in developing more substantive science knowledge, and higher order thinking skills, through deeper investigations online.
Many schools have also tried the inquiry method, moving away from a strict constructivist methodology, and are finding that it doesn’t work as well because students need direction and structure to construct a deeper understanding of science. The inquiry method was seen as necessary because many schools are becoming data driven and need to ‘get through’ certain information. The move toward technology is also beneficial for this type of instruction because many science classes are too large to safely take into the lab. Technology allows these teachers to utilize the constructivist method, keep students interest, and learn concepts that can aid in increasing scores.
A technology that has been around for years in the public sector, but is only now making its way into classrooms is the “clicker”. It was originally designed to control televisions as a remote way of changing channels and volume level. The remote has also been designed for use in controlling radios, garages, and has been incorporated into computers to control different items in the home while at work. “Clickers can be used to permit student participation during lectures, to conduct in-class polls, or to hold quizzes that count toward final grades” (Taylor, 2007, p.73). These “clickers” are being used to tabulate quiz scores for faster feedback and identification of areas that are difficult for students so the professor can spend more time on that topic.
Another technology that has been around for several years is the handheld PDA. It is used to download information from the computer such as schedules, files, and games and can be an invaluable tool. “Yet it is the very game-like nature of many handheld devices that cause some educators to remain skeptical of their potential and use in the classroom” (Purcell, 2005, p.85). According to Purcell (2005), “No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation with its emphasis on standardized testing has created an environment where it is essential that educators expand students’ learning opportunities by using technology in achieving instructional goals and preparing them for future success.” There are several reasons cited for choosing handhelds to use in the classroom: first, they are used in the business world; second, they are more cost effective; third, they are versatile; fourth, collaboration can be achieved more easily; fifth, technology is being built into national standards.
Combining these two technologies would increase student’s interest and attention to class detail. Most technology is already being equipped with infrared sensor ports; for example, the Play Station Portable, which has allowed students to turn teachers’ TV’s on and off remotely. The “clicker” and PDA can be combined to be used effectively in the classroom. Teachers can give pop quizzes to find out how much students understand and be able to quickly adjust instruction. With the PDA being small, it is easy to carry from class to class and they are versatile. “Students can write, create animations, develop concept maps, draw pictures, collect and analyze data, use spreadsheets, query databases, read documents, conduct research, take quizzes and more” (Purcell, 2005, p.86). The ability to wirelessly transmit data also aides in the collaboration of students because they can transmit data to each other and reach a consensus on their ideas and everyone is heard. There is also no need to worry about cheating because there are several programs on the market that are available to watch what the handhelds are doing and, if necessary, catch cheating or the perusal of inappropriate websites. However, for many schools, technology integration, at a suitable level, is very far away. At the pace that they are able to integrate technology they may never be able to catch up unless there is a huge infusion of cash and that is unlikely to happen.
In conclusion, I believe that there are two relevant parts to the subject of pedagogy and technology integration found in the articles used for this paper. The first relevant part, or concept, concerning the pedagogy of teaching science is disturbing. It is the thought that what science teachers are required to teach isn’t real science. It is difficult to engage students in the classroom while you are trudging through the information required to fulfill the NCLB requirements, but to not even be teaching them science that is currently used today is a travesty. The second relevant part pertains to technology. Technology is used in all manner of science research, but it is not deemed important enough to begin using in science classrooms so that we might attract more students for research and competition in a global market. Students use technology everyday outside of the classroom with their phones, MP3 players, gaming units, and home computers. Don’t you think that you might be able to hold their attention better, and engage them in the classroom more, if they could see other ways of applying their current technology? I believe that students would be more interested in a science career if they could view other possible uses for their “toys” in this area.
Technology has become intertwined in all aspects of our lives except in the classroom teaching experience where it should be seen as a necessity to move forward and compete locally as well as globally.
Goodnough, K. (2001). Multiple intelligences theory: A framework for personalizing science curricula. [Electronic version]. School Science and Mathematics, 101(4), 180-193. Retrieved September 4, 2007, from Wilson Web database.
Hennessy, S., Wishart, J., Whitelock, D., Deaney, R., Brawn, R., La Velle, L., et al. (2007). Pedgaogical approaches for technology-integrated science teaching. [Electronic version]. Computers & Education, 48(1), 137-152. Retrieved September 4, 2007, from Science Direct database.
John, P. D., & Sutherland, R. (2004). Teaching and learning with ICT: New technology, new pedagogy? Education, Communication & Information, 4(1), 102-107. Retrieved September 3, 2007, from http://libproxy.nau.edu:3854/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=13532057&site=ehos...
La Velle, Linda Baggott, McFarlane, A., & Brawn, R. (2003). Knowledge transformation through ICT in science education: A case study in teacher-driven curriculum development - case study 1. [Electronic version]. British Journal of Educational Technology, 34(2), 183-199. Retrieved September 4, 2007, from Academic Search Premier Database. doi: 10.1111/1467-8535.00319
La Velle, Linda Baggott, McFarlane, A., John, P. D., & Brawn, R. (2004). According to the promises: The subculture of school science, teachers' pedagogic identity and the challenge of ICT. [Electronic version]. Education, Communication & Information, 4(1), 109-129. Retrieved September 2, 2007, from Academic Search Premier database. doi: 10.1080/1463631042000210962
Purcell, S. L. (2005). Educators' acceptance of and resistance to handheld technologies. [Electronic version]. Curriculum & Teaching Dialogue, 7(1/2), 79-93. Retrieved September 4, 2007, from Eric database.
Riggs, E. M., & Kimbrough, D. L. (2002). Implementation of constructivist pedagogy in a geoscience course designed for pre-service K-6 teachers: Progress, pitfalls, and lessons learned. [Electronic version]. Journal of Geoscience Education, 50(1), 49-55. Retrieved September 4, 2007, from Eric database.
Taylor, P. (2007). Can clickers cure crowded classes? [Electronic version]. Maclean's, 120(26/27), 73. Retrieved September 4, 2007, from Wilson Web database.