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Educational Technology and Science - A Perfect Fit

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Even as a long-time proponent of the use of educational technology, I am still amazed at the rapid pace at which it has become a necessity rather than a source of enrichment activities. Today's students, and even many of the parents, having grown up with technology as a part of their daily lives, retain certain expectations and assumptions regarding the way technology is used for learning. No longer can the classroom computer be set off in the corner to be used sporadically for special activities nor can video be used as a babysitter. Technology must become an integral part of classroom life.

What Students Need

If our job, as educators, is to prepare students to become successful members of our society, then in addition to the traditional knowledge and skills, students must now be prepared to access, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize immeasurable quantities of information. They need to have exceptional listening skills, be able to use email, understand basic operating systems, use word processing and other software, and use the internet for research.

This need poses new challenges for teachers, especially those who may not feel as prepared to use technology as their students might be. It is time for educators to overcome the outdated idea that they must be experts in educational technology before the students are allowed to use it.

Some Benefits of Educational Technology

o increases interest (even in rote tasks)
o provides a purpose for learning
o promotes the perception that all knowledge is related (not isolated bits)
o allows for student individuality in learning styles

Educational Technology in the Science Classroom

The decision to apply technology in the learning environment is often not driven by the technology but by the task at hand.

Take, for example, the case of the physics teacher who needed to set up some labs for thermodynamics but had no money left for supplies or equipment. Because he was lucky enough to have 8 computers in his classroom, he was able to use them to create the labs. The students were sent to science software the school uses and a website. The site has some great simulations that this teacher feels are more interactive and that do a better job of demonstrating the physics behind the topic than traditional labs.

Because science learning requires a great deal of critical analysis, using educational technology in the science classroom is especially warranted. Learning to solve complex problems requires a different instructional approach than learning isolated skills and information required for standardized testing purposes. For example, while doing internet research, a student needs to be able to evaluate an internet source for reliability, accuracy, and bias; the same type of information required in science exploration activities.

In order to fully prepare our students for "real" life, as educators we need to not only provide them with the content knowledge they need, but also the ability to:

o accurately acquire information from visual and auditory sources (watching and listening)
o develop solutions to problems and then present these solutions to others using various forms of media
o display originality and employ problem solving skills during the creative process
o be team players and good collaborators
o demonstrate cross-cultural awareness
o communicate complex ideas effectively

I contend, as do many educational experts, that the use of technology in the classroom is, by far, the best way to accomplish these lofty goals. Educators must prepare for a future that involves much technology and they need to keep abreast of change by adopting effective strategies that use appropriate technologies.

In the science classroom, we need to do more with technology so that our students are better educated and better able to succeed in life.

 

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