Why Use Technology in the Science Classroom?
Chances are that in a school that is rich in educational technology, a teacher like Ms. Ramirez is given more opportunities to enhance her technology skills and is able to incorporate the available technology into her student’s classroom experiences. However, as Ms. King and Mr. Denton demonstrated, even in a setting in which access to educational technology is difficult, the decision to apply educational technology in the learning environment is often driven by the task at hand, not the available technology.
Educational technology can be seamlessly incorporated into a classroom whether you are a teacher who is more comfortable using classroom content strictly prescribed by the school curriculum or you are in a school environment in which creating content based on statewide learning outcomes is encouraged. Even though you may be an expert at using one computer application, you may be a novice at another. Teachers must overcome the notion that they must be experts in using all educational technology before their students are given a chance to use it. As Ediger’s (1994) studies on Technology in the Elementary Classroom have revealed, applying technology in the classroom does several things to student learning: (1) It increases interest even in rote tasks; (2) it provides purpose for learning; (3) it can attach meaning to an ongoing lesson; (4) it provides opportunities to perceive knowledge as being related, not isolated bits; (5) it allows for individual student differences; and (6) it can affect students’ attitudes toward learning.
Teachers in today’s classrooms are experiencing students who are “digital natives.” These students have grown up with technology and often are more proficient in its use than their teacher is. These students also have no understanding of why technology would not be used in the classroom. Parents of these digital natives believe that technology provides a way to enrich their children’s social lives and academic abilities.
Parents, teachers, and students are living in an age of information overload. According to the North Central Regional Education Laboratory (NCREL), parents have high expectations that students will “learn high-level skills such as how to access, evaluate, analyze, and synthesize vast quantities of information” (NCREL, 2005, paragraph 1) needed for future employment. In contrast, “teachers are evaluated by their ability to have students pass tests that often give no value to these abilities” (NCREL, 2005, paragraph 1).
Expectations about students’ abilities to solve complex problems are often incompatible with the teaching and learning of isolated skills and information that must be taught by teachers for testing purposes. Finally, teachers are expected to meet the needs of all students and help them reach their full potential when high-stakes assessment tests are the primary measure of student and school success (NCREL, 2005).
Technology can assist with some of these expectations and make teachers—and their students—more successful. As the world becomes more complex, teachers must “continue to shift from teaching and learning isolated skills and information within each content area, to teaching skills that enable students to solve complex problems across many areas” (NCREL, 2005, paragraph 1). “Students in today’s Web-dominated environment need to learn how to prioritize and manage a dizzying array of information coming at them through Web sites and e-mails, how to think critically about what they find, and how to use multiple media to communicate well, among other skills” (Vadero, 2007, p. 32). “Educators must prepare for a technology-rich future and keep up with change by adopting effective strategies that infuse lessons with appropriate technologies.” (NCREL, 2005, paragraph 1).
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