Technologies that Support Science
Enhancing great pedagogy with great technology usage
Technologies that support constructivism and inquiry in science
Barak (2017) examined technologies that teachers use in science courses through the lens of social constructivist learning and identified technology weaknesses amongst teachers that, if bolstered, could lend support to a three-dimensional learning stance. These technologies included the use of online simulations and models, digital data collection and analysis, and the use of collaborative cloud-based applications in knowledge creation and communication. (Barak, 2017) When performing scientific inquiry, tools similar to those used in real-world science can be a key element in providing an authentic experience. Digital data collection and probeware are used extensively in the scientific community.
Spreadsheets and data analysis software are incorporated ubiquitously. Digital modeling, concept representation, as well as collaborative writing and presentation permeate the scientific community. Such tools should also be introduced and utilized within the science classroom. This year, I have been having students work with the digital lab notebook software shown below called LabArchives that allows for many of those functions to occur within one platform, integrated into an LMS. It is used in post-secondary and professional lab settings.
Digital collaboration has become a staple in a technology-rich classroom. Google Docs and Sheets normalized simultaneous editing and peer-feedback. McKnight et al. (2016) found that the enhanced collaboration between peers increases the interactions that contribute to learning and helps to put the learner at the center of instruction.
probeware: digital data collection tools that interface with a computer. There are many types of probes that measure quantities such as temperature, gas pressure, magnetic field strength, wavelength, speed, and more.
virtual labs: simulated versions of laboratory activities, objects, or applications. Often simulate labs that cannot be done in the classroom due to time and cost.
Virtual labs and simulations such as those created by the University of Colorado, Boulder, an example of which is embedded below, provide opportunities to perform lab activities without some of the costlier tools or resources in a lab setting. These tools can also help students recognize interactions between variables in ways that is not always clear in a real-world lab environment. A remarkable feature of the PhET simulations is their use of implicit scaffolding, which guides and constrains students without giving explicit instructions. Often the simulations have multiple levels that increase in difficulty, making them appropriate for a wide range of levels. Many of them also utilize games to reinforce learning in a variety of contexts. (Johnson-Glenberg et al., 2014)
Building Bridges to New Science Classrooms
As part of Dr. Chan's class, I thoroughly enjoyed conducting a study that revolved around my former student teacher. I gained insight on the variety and value of qualitative methods and I was able to see and ponder the larger picture, rather than worrying about a set of variables in this particular situation. The paper is embedded below. The focus of the study was to observe and document ways that a first year teacher was able to utilize technology in support of inquiry learning.
One of the biggest ideas that I came away with is that the transition to the new standards will be more difficult than I anticipated. Teachers bring with them a host of misconceptions and preconceptions. To add to that, they are busy and may lack the training, time, or resources that would help them realize the potential that the new standards hold.
I found that the teacher in my research did not yet know how to authentically embed science inquiry throughout lessons, and that she really was still finding her footing in both her pedagogical and technological knowledge. She underutilized the resources available to her in relation to three-dimensional learning as well as technology-supported inquiry practices. It underscores the need for high-quality tools and professional development for teachers at all levels.
Researcher: “In your Science methods courses, how do they teach you Science Inquiry? What was your experience in preservice in learning how to teach science specifically?”
Participant: “We were just kind of assumed you've been in a science you should understand how it works ...I picked up some inquiry stuff with a class I did in the summer, a field guide class where I went to Wyoming for a couple weeks, so that was a lot more inquiry. I understand the frustration that the kids got because I was that Student."