What is the role of technology in a science classroom?
When we think about the goals science teachers have in their classes, it’s easy to focus on the science content – that’s what everyone’s there for, isn’t it – but what if learning goals were broader than that? What if they included more than just science topics? What if learning science was inseparable from literacy and technology?
The reality of our world today is that we really can’t separate anything from technology, especially in education. Personally, I can hardly imagine what learning would look like without tools like word processors, spreadsheets, email, learning management systems, and search engines. (Not to mention the fact that in the times of COVID-19 and remote emergency teaching classes could never have continued online without the massive presence of technology)
Education isn’t simply enhanced by technology in these instances. Technology often makes education possible.
When we think about how teachers can help their students develop the crucial skills necessary to develop competency and literacy in digital technologies, there is a clear responsibility to meet these educational needs. The best technology education looks a lot like the best science education – it’s deeply situated in relevant and authentic experiences. As science teachers, this context of situated learning draws not only on relevant and useful ways to apply technology, but also on the role of technology in science.
“a complete science education has, in principle, involved a commitment to the inclusion of technology, both as a tool for learning science content and processes and as a topic of instruction in itself”Flick, L. & Bell, R. (2000). Preparing tomorrow’s science teachers to use technology: Guidelines for science educators. Contemporary issues in technology and teacher education, 1(1), 39-60.
Science and technology have a reciprocal relationship. Advances in a field of science (optics, for example) drie advances in technology (microscopes), which in turn drive advances in science (microbiology). This continues so on and so forth in a mutually-beneficial dance. In a science classroom, the conversations about technology and the learning goals for the use of technology must be approached in such a way that this reciprocal relationship is displayed.
“Using technologies in learning science provides opportunities for demonstrating… the reciprocal relationship between science and technology.”Flick, L. & Bell, R. (2000). Preparing tomorrow’s science teachers to use technology: Guidelines for science educators. Contemporary issues in technology and teacher education, 1(1), 39-60
There are so many authentic ways to incorporate technology into the classroom. One such way involves digital and critical literacy. Students must be given the tools they need to approach science communication with the skills they need to search out and evaluate scientific sources for themselves. And now, so much news is presented on social media.
“the role of social media in science should be part of the conversation on digital literacy… As forums like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook become news generators, students need guidance on how to find accurate and reliable sources of scientific information.”Havlik, B. (2014). How Social Media Can Support Science and Digital Literacy http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/blogs/education/2014/08/how-social-media-can-support-science-and-digital-literacy/ Retrieved on July 12, 2017.
Students ought to be able to practice these skills in a safe and supportive environment. What better place than their science classroom?
Using technology in science education goes beyond the tools that make school easier. Situated science and technology learning enhance one another, making each other more relevant and meaningful for students. Additionally, when students use technology like real scientists do, they are better able to adopt the identity of scientist for themselves, and have a deeper connection to and understanding of the material being presented and the tools they are learning how to use.