Secondary science education

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ICT enables a teacher to support learning as much as to deliver knowledge. This brings many benefits to both pupils and staff. Where such use can provide resources for learning which are more effective, richer and available out of contact hours, students will have greater control over timing and pace, and there will be more likelihood of resources suiting the style and stage of each student's learning. Of equal importance, teachers can expect to gain time for more individual attention to students and also to devote more effort to some other aspect of the teaching and learning process, or to make space for research or administration.

Stephen Brown Potential benefits to teachers include:

  • enabling pupils access to rich resources;
  • more up-to-date information;
  • providing differentiation strategies;
  • more motivated pupils;
  • better levels of performance;
  • time saved in preparing,
  • marking and administering;
  • more time for individual attention to students;
  • better inspection ratings;
  • career advancement.
  • Potential benefits to institutions include:

There are two very different kinds of interactive whiteboards. The first is a 'virtual' electronic version of a dry wipe board on a computer that enables learners in a virtual classroom to view what an instructor, presenter or fellow learner writes or draws. It is also called an electronic whiteboard and can be found in conferencing and data-sharing systems such as Microsoft NetMeeting.

The second type is a large physical display panel that can function as an ordinary whiteboard, a projector screen, an electronic copy board or as a computer projector screen on which the computer image can be controlled by touching or writing on the surface of the panel instead of using a mouse or keyboard. Typically, interactive whiteboards are used in lecture or classroom environments and the technology allows you to write or draw on the surface, print off the image, save it to computer or distribute it over a network. You can also project a computer screen image onto the surface of the whiteboard and then either control the application by touching the board directly or by using a special pen. The computer image can be annotated or drawn over and the annotations saved to disc or sent by email to others.

What are the benefits?

Because interactive whiteboards are so like conventional whiteboards, they can help even technophobic teachers to use this medium with ease for presentations from the front of the room. They help in broadening the use of e-learning because they rapidly demonstrate the potential of alternative modes of delivery. They make it easy for teachers to enhance presentation content by easily integrating a wide range of material into a lesson, such as a picture from the internet, a graph from a spreadsheet or text from a Microsoft Word file, in addition to student and teacher annotations on these objects. They allow teachers to create easily and rapidly customised learning objects from a range of existing content and to adapt it to the needs of the class in real time.

They allow learners to absorb information more easily. They allow learners to participate in group discussions by freeing them from note-taking. They allow learners to work collaboratively around a shared task or work area.

When fully integrated into a VLE (virtual learning environment) and learning object repository there is potential for widespread sharing of resources.

When used for interactive testing of understanding for the entire class, they can rapidly provide learner feedback.

What are the disadvantages?

Interactive whiteboards are more expensive than conventional whiteboards or projector and screen combinations.

Their surface can become damaged, necessitating expensive replacement.

Front projection boards can be obscured by one or more users.

Fixed-height boards are often mounted too high for users to reach the top of or too low to be readily visible by all users.

Free-standing boards (and their associated projectors) are more difficult to secure and need to be realigned every time they are moved.

If multiple data entry is allowed, inputs can get jumbled, resulting in on-screen gibberish.

If remote access is allowed, some users may be tempted to send disruptive comments or drawings to the screen.

How might they affect further and higher education in the UK?

Interactive whiteboards create a range of learning opportunities for both students and teachers. Studies have found them to be highly motivating and learner-centred when integrated innovatively. They offer a powerful facility for integrating media elements into teaching to enhance content and support collaborative learning. The drawback is that they may not be used to their full potential, serving in many cases as little more than a glorified whiteboard. This may change as users become more familiar with them and are more readily available. They are ideal for small group, collaborative work, where several people can cluster around the board and interact with it as they develop ideas, work with an application or deconstruct an image. However in larger groups there may be problems associated with height and positioning. To be used interactively, the board has to be low enough for all parts of it to be within reach. This often means that it must position so low that users in the back of a room without ranked seating cannot see the whole board. Some boards have portable pads that can be used as remote controls to overcome this problem, but this adds to the cost.

Other solutions to the line-of-sight difficulty are tablet PCs connected to a data projector aimed at a conventional whiteboard or screen, interactive white board tablets, wireless graphics pads or wireless keyboards. These devices allow the board to be positioned high enough to be viewed by all users and the device to be passed around to users. These options are generally cheaper than an interactive whiteboard and offer greater flexibility of use. The disadvantage is that having to take turns at using the device inhibits the spontaneity of group working. It is possible to overcome this by using more than one device, but this would increase costs significantly. On balance we believe that interactive whiteboards, where the user interacts directly with the surface, are a technology worth investing in now, wherever the investment costs can be justified for small group working. On their own, they are not such a good investment for working with large groups because of the limited opportunities for interaction within large groups. However, they can be supplemented with a range of hand-held devices which extend their usability in large groups. It seems likely that they will have a significant role to play in further education colleges, where they are already well established. Market penetration in higher education is lower and may be overtaken by lower cost and more flexible alternatives or both. An exception to this is in the area of teacher training where interactive whiteboards are already well established because of their 6 high uses in schools (for example all schools in

The use of interactive whiteboards can not only extend and develop teaching styles, it can also enhance teacher efficiency by, for example, saving time by promoting the sharing of resources, making it easier to prepare lessons in advance, improving the flow of lessons and facilitating the keeping of records for continuity of learning.

A possible reason for this is that teachers possess only a partial understanding of the potential contribution of ICT to the processes of teaching and learning. To discuss this contribution in greater depth, we need to begin by considering some fundamental aspects: the aims of teaching science and the different types of learning involved in science. Teaching and learning

'The primary responsibility of the teacher is to encourage the cognitive development of the child, to ensure the retention, understanding and active use of knowledge and skills' (Underwood 1994: 2). To consider how ICT can contribute to achieving these goals in science requires us to think about the different types of learning implicit in this statement. Science teachers will readily identify with a vocation to promote the learning of concepts, knowledge and skills. Each type of learning requires different teaching approaches, which are best understood by considering three models of learning.

Experience and research (Lee and Winzenried, 2006,2009) have shown that the value brought to the classroom by an IWB can either be completed transformational or barely worth the trouble, depending on a few critical factors. Implemented wisely, IWB's can raise the learning across the whole school and take even the best schools to a higher and more exciting plane. Implemented poorly, there will be very little noticeable change, which will include wasting of money and having unhappy, frustrated teachers.

A 'constructivist' model is most appropriate for describing the learning of concepts. New experiences are interpreted in the light of previously acquired knowledge; new ideas are assimilated when they conform to previous cognitive schemas (Underwood 1994: 3). Concept development is central to science teaching, such as when teaching topics like energy, forces and particles. To develop concepts and to counter misconceptions, students need to be encouraged to think for themselves. Their ideas need to be made explicit and challenged by new experiences. ICT tools have great potential to encourage this style of learning, which requires responses to the student's individual needs.

learning occurs through imitation and the acquisition of cultural traditions. The study of science requires specific skills, such as observation, manipulation of apparatus, measurement, recording, graphing and so on, as well as generic skills, such as communication and presentation. In order to apply such skills in a meaningful way, learners also require a procedural understanding, which is, essentially, the thinking that needs to accompany the exercise of the skill (Gott and Duggan 1995: 26). This type of understanding encompasses, for example, identifying variables, ideas about fair testing, repeatability and accuracy of measurements and interpreting graphs. The effect of ICT is to change the relative importance of a range of skills used in science; for example, data logging can diminish the mechanical aspects of collecting data but can enhance the use of graphs for the interpretation of data. Tutorial programs can usefully facilitate the practice and reinforcement of skills, aspects of learning that are implicit in an apprenticeship model. Unfortunately, there is a training cost to this benefit, in that ICT also adds to the overall skills requirement in the classroom in respect of the operational skill needed to use software and the computer itself.

In science there is a multitude of facts and information upon which concepts and skills depend. For example, facts about the physical and chemical properties of elements are a prerequisite to the development of ideas embodied in the periodic table of elements. Such knowledge requires storage in readiness for recall but no reconstruction in the head of the learner. This type of learning is described by a behaviourist model that requires learners to modify their response to the learning process until the 'correct' knowledge is recalled. Clearly ICT provides numerous means of conveying informational knowledge and potentially usurps this aspect of traditional teaching.

powerful is ICT in giving access to large volumes of information, skills of searching, selecting and validating data need to assume a more prominent role in relation to the use of the Internet in science teaching.

Often, with 'real-time' data logging, students can use the time to make more careful observations of the experiment while data collection is in progress. As a general principle it is useful for students to develop a culture of questioning and observation during experiments so that the time bonus is not wasted. Interactivity is an implicit theme in certain software properties. The overt indicators of interactivity are software features that offer choices to the user and appear to customize the behaviour of the program to the user's responses. It is important to recognize that genuine interactivity requires the learner to be engaged (Wills 1996, cited in Stoney and Wild 1998) and this goes beyond pointing and clicking, which, at its worst, can be a superficial, haphazard activity. Engagement requires an element of reflection on choices and their effects. It might also include prediction, trial and evaluation. The prize of interactivity is understanding, but it cannot be won without cognitive effort (Laurillard 1995, cited in Stoney and Wild 1998)

For conceptual learning, although software tools can provide excellent interactivity, it is difficult to replace the skill of the teacher as an interpreter. As a general principle, computers are at their best at facilitating learning when students work individually or in pairs (Loveless 1995: 147). It is argued that cooperative groups, facilitating discussion and sharing of learning experiences, provide the most effective class arrangements (Underwood and Underwood 1990: 168), but wholeclass teaching, using the computer as a demonstration tool, often fails to exploit the interactive potential of software. Thus, with ICT, the balance of teaching and learning styles in science needs to move towards more student autonomy and less teacher direction.

In the meantime, science teachers should strive to employ their well-rehearsed professional skills during lessons with ICT to maximize its potential. For example, they should be seeking constructive interventions such as these: • remind students what they have learnt already and build upon this; • highlight the special qualities of the software techniques and suggest further examples of their useful application; • prompt students to make links between observations or some other knowledge; • help to reduce the possibility of 'early discussion; • prompt students to make a prediction and compare it with actuality; • help to interpret the implications for science and keep the science questions to the fore.

A brief examination of the range of software tools available to science education reveals an impressive array of visual aids, simulations, calculating tools, graphing tools, publishing tools and information systems. Such is the wealth of software material available to the present generation of students, it may seem an impertinence to ask 'How much effect has ICT had in actually improving children's understanding of science?' Some encouraging answers can be found in two major studies conducted in the UK during the early 1990s, the ImpaCT study (Watson 1993) and the PLAIT report (Gardner et al. 1994), but the findings do not reflect the effect of substantial advances in software and hardware design during the late 1990s. However, at the time of writing the initial findings of the ImpaCT2 project are being published (Harrison et al. 2002), which suggests that the use of ICT in science has a measurable effect on the performance of students studying science in the secondary school. The author's view is that answers to the question will always be influenced by factors that are extrinsic to the software. ICT merely provides learning tools whose use alone cannot ensure learning any more than mere attendance at lessons can ensure examination success. Of prime importance are 'application skills', discussed earlier in this chapter. Their development is a key factor in the successful integration of ICT in teaching and, at the present time, further research is needed to inform this development. Operational skills cannot be ignored but they need to be prioritized with regard to teaching purposes and every effort must be made to keep them to a minimum, lest they predominate over application skills. The identification of learning objectives usually springs from curriculum statements and schemes of work but it is desirable that an iterative process evolves whereby teachers' developing vision of what makes software worthwhile and notions of 'added value' inform and help to redefine learning objectives. The encouragement of this process also has to be seen as a longer-term goal of teacher training in ICT, as well as guiding curriculum reform, enabling it to embrace the full potential of ICT.

  • Barton, Roy. Teaching Secondary Science with ICT.
  • Berkshire, , GBR: McGraw-Hill Education, 2004. p 157.
  • Copyright © 2004. McGraw-Hill Education. All rights reserved.

Wellington, Jerry (1999) explained about the Data-logging typically involves using a computer to record and process readings taken from sensors. Perhaps the simplest data-logging system is shown in Figure 10.5. The sensor plays the part of a translator. It responds to some property of the environment and sends a message to the computer. The message, or signal, has the form of a voltage at one of the computer's input ports. The computer is programmed to record the value of the input signal. Temperature is an example of an environmental property which can be sensed in this way.

With modern data-logging systems, sensors can identify themselves, logging rates are automatically optimised, and interfaces match the type of information given by the sensor to the type which the computer can accept. Teachers should expect many of these features in new data-logging equipment. The result should be that the 'inauthentic labour' of matching the computer to the environment is removed from the teacher and is incorporated in the hardware and software design of the system. Here are a few practical examples of using sensors in science:

temperature sensors to study cooling curves or insulation, e.g. heat loss from the building; a light sensor to study the rate of the reaction where a precipitate forms; light and temperature sensors as simple meters to compare habitats; a data-logger to measure light, temperature and oxygen readings in an aquarium, pond or greenhouse; light gates to measure speed, time and acceleration; a position sensor to monitor the movement of a pendulum; sensors to study current- voltage relationships. • • • • • • What added-value comes from data-logging? The following advantages have been claimed: • Speed. Computers can often log much faster and more frequently than humans. Memory. Computers have enormous capacity for retaining and accessing a large body of data in a compact form. Perseverance. Computers can keep on logging - they do not need to stop for food, drink or sleep. Manipulation. The form in which data are gathered may not be the form in which we want to communicate. Computers come into their own when it comes to fast manipulation of large bodies of data.

Communication of meaning. Computers can present data when gathered, in realtime, using graphic display to enhance the meaning which is communicated to the observer. • • • • Some of these advantages are aimed at transferring 'inauthentic labour' from the human to the machine, (see Barton's Chapter 14 in Wellington 1998). The change of emphasis away from the routine process of logging towards the use of interpreting skills can enhance scientific thinking, creativity and problem solving ability. However, this view is not universally shared by teachers. It has been pointed out that perseverance, ability to organise data systematically and calculating skills are part of science and that students should go through these processes in practical work.

  • Sorensen, Peter (Editor) Sears, John (Editor)Issues in Science education, Routledge Publisher (2000)