Supporting learning in science using ICTs
Serena Matheson, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Getting students engaged in the scientific process is critical but challenging (Harmer & Cates, 2007). Science is hard to learn because it sometimes means thinking about theories or lines of thought that are abstract or without concrete evidence (Elliot, Wilson, & Boyle, 2014). Some students have said that there is a lack of understanding or an unawareness of the issues (Ellis, Weyers, & Hughes, 2012). According to Nadirova and Burger (2008), finding science challenging and boring are just two of the reasons given by students as to why they do not continue to take the subject in high school. Nadirova and Burger found that students’ gender was also a factor in whether or not science was looked at with a positive or negative attitude. They also found that females had less exposure to the technology and scientific process and that this lack of exposure in turn led to a more negative outlook toward science and a lack of confidence in their success.
According to Mujawamariya and Hamdan, (2013) in the early 20th century, there was concern from educators in Britain and the rest of Europe that students’ enthusiasm for science would weaken because of it being “dry and dehumanized” (p.426). They found that students were not seeing themselves or their lived experiences in the curriculum. One example they identified of alienation felt by students was the lack of concrete examples in the diversity of the history of science. The authors found that, because of the omission of the history of science in the Ontario Science and Technology curriculum has continued to omit the history of science, marginalized students did not see themselves mirrored in the curriculum and as such, they were not encouraged to continue their studies in science. Scanlon (2012) concluded that it can be challenging to persuade students from disadvantaged backgrounds that science is an option for the future.
Role of ICTs
Gallardo-Virgen and DeVillar (2011) suggest that while language is the primary means of constructing meaning and understanding of science concepts, classrooms that incorporate the use of ICTS can both supplement and enhance traditional learning. It is suggested by Elliot, Wilson and Boyle (2008) that using multimedia in the science classroom could address the abstract problems students face when learning science, increase our students’ motivation and comprehension of science and help our students become self-directed, independent learners. They found that “72% of users and potential users endorsed the view that the resources contributed to pupils’ learning enjoyment. Over half acknowledged their “great influence” on improving pupils’ understanding of science lessons (56%) and increasing level of engagement (53%)” (p. 577).
Students have been engaging in authentic experiences, learning to conduct science research using the Internet to gather and share information, to present their research using a variety of online tools and coming up with solutions to scientific problems (ChanLin, 2008). There has been a variety of Web 2.0 tools that have been adopted for use in the science classroom; one such tool, nQuire was developed to give support, create community, improve the way young people perceive science, and their futures in that career area (Scanlon, 2012). Another ICT tool, a virtual game created for use in science curriculum titled The River City project enabled students to act as scientists who were working together to collect information to help them save the environment was successful in that it produced results that showed students from the bottom third of the class, who had “given up” (p. 58) dramatically improved in their academic outcomes in the science class (Ketelhut, Nelson, Clarke, & Dede, 2010). Liu, Rosenblum, Horton and Kang (2014) demonstrated that students’ science test scores significantly increased after participating in fun, interactive, game-like environments such as Alien Rescue. They found that students were able to learn scientific literacy, more scientific concepts and the process of conducting scientific research using the instruments of science. Using ICT in the science classroom also worked toward closing the divide between boys and girls in that the girls who were learning science curriculum through ICT game-like environments gained slightly higher points than boys (Liu et al, 2014).
Waycott, Dalgarno, Kennedy and Bishop (2012) have observed that advances in mobile technology has allowed devices with cameras in them to aid in the scientific process as they have allowed students to take pictures and /or record their findings and share their results with others on ICT photo/video-sharing websites. They found that in using these ICT tools, students were able to extend their learning in that they were continuing the scientific process by analyzing and interpreting the results of their peers’ data and seeing the significance of “scientific concepts and ideas” (p.3).
The question that Avaraamidou (2008) has asked is whether or not integrating technology into the science curriculum is what is needed to support students learning of science? Elliot, Wilson and Boyle (2014) suggested that the impact of ICT in the science classroom is directly correlated with the teachers’ level of scientific knowledge and confidence in their abilities to teach the subject. The value of using ICT in the science classroom is only high when used by teachers and students in the classroom (Piecka, Studnicki, & Zuckerman-Parker, 2008). As 15% of teachers appear to be “out of touch” (Crook, Sharma, Wilson, Muller, 2013) with their students and the use of laptops, the implications on how this affects science students performance are not known and need to be further studied.
According to Turel and Gurol (2011, p. 274) some students considered the use of the Learning Object Moodle in their science class as “boring” and responded with “disliking” its use by the teacher because the students felt their teacher didn’t teach the material through lecture and note-taking. Waycott et al (2012) found that 67% of the students in their study did not find their online photo-sharing ICT activity beneficial in helping them learn chemistry and only 26% stated that the activity helped them develop their thinking skills in their first-year chemistry course.
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