Teachers of all disciplines face unique challenges and obstacles to integrating technology into their curricula. This post focuses on two significant obstacles to integrating technology into science classrooms: the mandate to focus on more hands-on learning in science classes and the call for more authentic, inquiry-based activities that mimic the science process.
The first major obstacle faced by science teachers interested in incorporating more technology into their classrooms is the directive to integrate more authentic, hands-on experiments and activities into their curricula (Roblyer & Doering, p. 318). Both the National Science Teachers Association (2007) and the American Chemical Society (2011) caution against using virtual labs and simulations in K-12 classrooms as substitutes for hands-on experiences in which students touch and manipulate chemicals and physical objects. One solution would be to avoid an “all-or-nothing” approach to virtual labs and simulations, integrating only those that that are impossible to perform (either because of cost or safety) in K-12 classrooms. By doing so, students could benefit from the “virtual experience” of using particle colliders and cloning mice, while still building real-life laboratory skills neutralizing acids and bases or growing crystals of salt in physical classrooms.
A second major challenge facing science teachers today is the emphasis on authentic, inquiry-based approaches in the classroom that reflect science as it is practiced by professionals in the field (Roblyer & Doering, p. 317). At first glance, such an approach might appear to argue against the large-scale integration of technology into classrooms in favor of more hands-on approaches that get students “doing” science on a daily basis. However, technology has shown remarkable value in allowing students to access, collect, communicate, analyze and share data much more efficiently than through traditional means (Roblyer & Doering, p. 317). In addition to allowing students to access and process more data in less time, technology is allowing students to participate in actual scientific studies (such as GLOBE and Project FeederWatch) by collecting and uploading data specific to their local environments, often with the same technologies used by scientists in the field. Thus, when used judiciously, technology can help, rather than hinder, students’ ability to think and act like practicing scientists.
American Chemical Society. (2011). Importance of hands-on laboratory activities. Public Policy Statement 2011-2014. Retrieved from: http://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/policy/publicpolicies/invest/computersimulations/2011-04-importance-of-hands-on-laboratory-activities.pdf
National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). (2007). The NSTA Position statement: The integral role of laboratory investigations in science instruction. Retrieved from: http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/laboratory.aspx
Roblyer, M.D. & Doering, A.H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching (6th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.