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What is the role of ICT in Nature of science and science teaching and learning? To answer this question, we need to understand what modern IT systems (both hardware and software) are good at
Collecting and storing large amounts of data
Performing complex calculations on stored data
Rapidly processing large amount of data and
Displaying it in variety of ways helping to present and communicate ideas.
All these answers have direct relevance to the process of education and these help us to address an important question of when to use ICT?
Before we discuss how ICT enhances the science education, we will see what activities involve in school science. The science particularly school science involves lot of practical activities. It includes observing, measuring, communicating, discussing, investigating, handling, watching, monitoring and recording the results. On the other hand science is equally a theoretical subject. It involves thinking, inferring and having god ideas, hypothesising, theorising, simulating and modelling. ICT can help as much in this aspect of science and in same way they do in practical aspect.
In the mean time science teachers should use ICT along with their professional skills during lesson to maximise its potential. There are ranges of software tools available to science education such as Interactive White Board, Simulations, Data logging, Spreadsheets, Word processing, Virtual Learning Environment, Desktop Publication etc. Out of these, I will concentrate on Interactive white board and how it enhances the science education.
What is Interactive White Board?
It is a large physical display panel that can function as an ordinary white board, a projector screen, an electronic copy board or as a computer projector screen on which computer image can be controlled by touching or writing on the surface of the panel instead of using mouse or keyboard.
Smith et al (2005) introduced the term 'Pedagogic interactivity' within the use of interactive white board. Jones and Tanner (2002) related this term to 'Interactive teaching' where teachers use higher order questioning skills that make student active contribution towards discussion and their views are valued. Also the teachers used their opinion to test their understanding against particular topic. Taber (2003) found that teacher role is critical in structuring activity in ways that challenge and build upon pupil's prior knowledge white integrating new scientific ideas.
Introducing IWB, can make learners interactive with whole class teaching gives new opportunity for them to express their ideas. These are not only done verbally, but using graphical and other representations. It helps them to share their scientific ideas with whole class and get back the teachers and peer feedback.
Rogoff (1990) explained that the introduction of IWB in school environment provides a dynamic and manipulate object of joint reference which offers new forms of support for 'inter subjectivity'. This is a form of socially shared cognition which facilitates explicitation and exchange of ideas and negotiation of new meanings in accordance with others perspectives.
The use of IWB is not only develops the teaching styling. It also helps to enhance teacher efficiency. To make this happen, teachers should understand the potential contributions of ICT in teaching and learning. There are different types of learning involved in science. Underwood (1994) explained that the primary responsibility of the teacher is to encourage the cognitive development of the child, to ensure the retention, understanding and active use of skills and knowledge.
Lee (2006) and Winzenreid (2007) found that the effects brought to the classroom IWB can be completing transformational or not change at all. All it depends upon how best the system is implemented and how it is used by the teachers to enhance the students learning.
Mortime and Scott (2003) explained the teacher's role who acts as mediation between the IWB and the students. The full understanding of technical interactivity is an integral part of this. In Science, interactive communication is vital between students and teachers to explore ideas together, drawing own hypothesis, discussing recent socio-scientific issues, consolidate scientific and informal ideas. The IWB contributes to the flow of interactive communication. Godwin and Sutherland (2004) described how teachers represented their individual constructed knowledge in order to develop student common understanding. Thus the IWB plays a vital role in science education. But how active the pupils are learning? The answer is how far the teachers understand and implement the technology successfully and careful blending of technology and pedagogy.
On the other hand Hargreaves et al (2003) found that the class with non-technology context raised some issues. The issue such as higher lesson pace, collaboration and participation in discussion, assessing pupil knowledge, all these shown that the technology interactivity is highly helpful.
Thus the teachers understand the features of IWB those associated with pace, motivation, involvement, participation and collaboration. (Becta 2003). But Moss Et al(2007) argued that this is not sufficient to develop students learning. But Hepper (2004) argued that the IWB provides teachers an opportunity to teach in their own professional way with a central focus of aboard, but with the excitement of media rich content. Thus it does not collide with existing pedagogy practice.
Nieder Hauser and Stoddart (2001) and Olson (2000) found the choices of technology by teachers are based on their own conception of teaching and learning. Hennessey etal (2005), Kerr (1991) accepted the above argument that introducing new technology does not produce radical pedagogical change. Instead a slow evolutionary process where these new powerful tools interact slowly with existing particles. Roger and Finlayson (2004) demonstrated that whole class teaching with technology in science forced to use computer for demonstration with little manipulation by pupils.
In Science the understanding of skills and concepts by students depend upon the facts and information provided by teachers. Clearly IWB provides number of ways of providing this knowledge.
How much the students understanding of science is improved by using ICT?
impact 2 Project (Harrison et al 2002) found that the use of ICAT has a measurable impact on the performance of students studying science in the secondary school. ICT is just the learning tool just it does not ensure learning. The most importance is 'application skills; which improves students understanding. Operational skills cannot be ignored, but teachers should make sure that this should not predominate over application skills. For the science teacher, an important aspect of application skill resides in the investment in task design, target setting and intervention strategies.
An optimistic view is that school laboratories, like classrooms, will continue to be places where people meet and exchange ideas. Social interaction, discussion and 'hands-on' activity are vital aspects of the educative process that are inadequately satisfied by the solitude of individual computer use. Computers should not be allowed to displace essential intellectual exchanges between people but should be used in ways that amplify and complement them. Thus it is important to identify and understand both the benefits and the disadvantages of individual ICT tools, so that judgements about fitness for purpose can be made at every stage of planning. The preparation of students for a task, the definition of task objectives and the nature of teacher interventions all contribute to the quality of the outcomes. These factors need to be borne in mind as we consider the possible impact of some of the innovations.
ICT is transforming all aspects of society: its institutions, commerce, industry, home life and education. In education, there is a growing assumption that using computers is a 'good thing'; after all, the response of many students seems to be predominantly one of high motivation. There is, however, a certain risk that the educational rationale for ICT becomes overshadowed by the glamour and progress of the hardware and software technology. Undoubtedly, technological developments will continue to invite thinking about new opportunities for teaching and learning, but it is very much easier to engage with the new technology than to seek a deep understanding of its implications for education. It is important, therefore, that pedagogy and technology are equal partners in the development process. In particular, innovations should not be driven by technology for its own sake. As guardians of pedagogy, teachers have a significant role in shaping the use of ICT for learning. The future success of ICT in science rests on the quality of thought given to its use, with a clear focus on learning outcomes.