Relative Advantages of Using Technology to Enhance Learning in Science

With technology’s growing presence in K-12 classrooms, many teachers are asking, “How can I best use technology to enhance the learning experience of my students?”  This post focuses specifically on how technology can make science education more engaging, relevant and authentic for students.  M. Roblyer and A. Doering argue that technology possesses relative advantages over other teaching tools in several key areas, most notably: engaging and supporting students in authentic scientific investigation, supporting science skills and concept learning and accessing science information and tools (Roblyer & Doering, p. 320).

Authentic Investigation

Global scientific initiatives such as Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE), Project FeederWatch and Journey North are engaging students by involving them in authentic, ongoing investigations across the planet.  Students participate in all aspects of the science process, from asking questions, collecting data to analyzing results.  Students in the GLOBE Program use data loggers to record information about their local environment before uploading it to the GLOBE database, becoming collaborators in a world-wide scientific investigation.  This process not only provides science students with a greater sense of purpose than when conducting typical labs, it teaches them to think and act like practicing scientists via an authentic learning experience.

Support of Skills and Concept Learning

Inquiry-based learning has never been easier to implement than now: interactive simulations such as those produced by the University of Colorado and virtual labs like those found at the ChemCollective provide students with opportunities to derive scientific principles, rather than simply study them.  Complex systems can be poked and prodded and cause-and-effect relationships can be established.  Teachers can use animations to teach abstract concepts, or assign auto-graded practice problems to students who need more practice.  Science games make learning fun and help students hone their problem-solving skills.  In short, technology has moved well beyond drill-and-practice capability, ushering thousands of teachers into the role of learning guide, rather than content-deliverer.

Accessing Information and Tools

The Internet provides contemporary students and teachers with information and learning tools that are transforming science classrooms across the globe.  Up-to-the-minute scientific data is available for student use, such as that found at NOAA, NASA and NIH; rather than working with hypothetical numbers, students now calculate, graph and analyze data with real-world relevance.   Teachers and students can follow the latest advancements in scientific research as they happen via RSS readers like Feedly, fostering discussion and providing tangible examples to theoretical concepts learned in school.  Finally, Teachers can access thousands of lesson plans within seconds, no longer confined by their lack of experience, time or resources.

References

Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A.H.  (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

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