By Michael Hilkemeijer
When it comes to lesson planning for science with ICT it is about identifying the sorts of activities where ICT can enhance and support the learning of science. Some activities can develop scientific knowledge, skills, and understanding of young children but do not support the development of ICT capability.
In this article you will learn about:
- Curriculum opportunities;
- Building on home use of ICT;
- Planning the incorporation of ICT;
- Other important considerations
- How to analyse the situation?
- Planning for progression.
You can learn all this in our advanced online professional development for science teachers >>> 'How to Integrate Technology in the Science Classroom? (Primary)'
Looking through the Australian Science Curriculum, for example, there are many opportunities to plan for the integration of ICT in science lessons. In the context of science inquiry, ICT capability development through technology integration in science learning activities enables you to use ICT to enhance subject learning in the following ways across the year levels from Year 1 to Year 6.
You may find similar examples in your own curriculum.
- Use informal measurements to collect and record observations, using digital technologies as appropriate.
- Consider the elements of fair tests and use formal measurements and digital technologies as appropriate, to make and record observations accurately.
- Decide variables to be changed and measured in fair tests, and observe measure and record data with accuracy using digital technologies as appropriate.
- Construct and use a range of representations, including tables and graphs, to represent and describe observations, patterns or relationships in data using digital technologies as appropriate.
- Communicate ideas, explanations and processes using scientific representations in a variety of ways, including multi-modal texts.
(Australian Curriculum, 2021)
The above examples of how technology integration can be accomplished in the science learning area represent only small way in which this can be done. Technology integration is about imagining the potential for learning with the available technology in the context in which it will be taught. This emphasises that there are many widespread opportunities available to you if you do this.
According to the Australian Curriculum, ICT capability in the Science learning area is developed when:
“…they research science concepts and applications, investigate scientific phenomena and communicate their scientific understandings. In particular, they use their ICT capability to access information; collect, analyse and represent data; model and interpret concepts and relationships; and communicate science ideas, processes and information.
Technology can be used to access information beyond our senses capability and to represent scientific phenomena in ways that improve students’ understanding of concepts, ideas and information. Digital aids such as animations and simulations provide opportunities to view phenomena and test predictions that cannot be investigated through practical experiments in the classroom and may enhance students’ understanding and engagement with science.”
Building on children’s home use of ICT
If you are to gain the most from their ICT work in school, it is important that learning activities are interesting to children and structured in such a way that will engender understanding that would appear difficult for them unaided. So in planning these learning activities you need to appreciate the extent and nature of children’s computer work at home.
Planning the Incorporation of ICT in Science Lessons
The role of ICT in the primary science classroom is a complex but potentially powerful tool. It is essential that the principles of good teaching that you apply to science learning are also applied to the teaching of ICT capability. However, if you are to integrate ICT effectively into the science curriculum rather than add on it as an extra activity, it is imperative that you have good understanding of ICT concepts and their relation to the science learning area.
Planning allows you to focus on the objectives of the classroom activities. If you plan to develop student ICT capability prior to using ICT in science learning, your students can then focus on the science objectives. It is essential that science objectives take precedence over ICT capability objectives.
This is an issue that can arise in assessment, however, the ultimate aim in developing ICT capability is to make the use of technology transparent. Students need to be focused on using ICT as a tool to achieve the science learning outcomes in such a way that they hardly notice that they are using ICT itself.
In the past, teachers have found that the most effective learning of and with ICT involved a shift of focus between ICT objectives and other learning objectives such as that of science during the course of an activity. This is achieved through planned teacher intervention.
Your role as a teacher is to ensure that the above curriculum opportunities are included at the planning stage along with appropriate preparation and skilled, but focused open-ended questioning that extends students thinking about scientific knowledge and skills that extend student understanding.
Whatever the lesson that you will teach, it is important that the fundamentals of good teaching don’t go away. Fundamentals such as dedication, imagination and creativity are very much reliant on good teaching.
An effective lesson where ICT is used to enhance science learning and the development of ICT capability is accomplished is only going if you ensure that the key features of the ICT tool – like speed, automatic function, provisionality and interactivity – are harnessed to the full and this as Williams & Easingwood (2003) stated is reliant on you as the teacher and not the technology.
How to Analyse the Situation
If you are to teach effectively then you will need to plan effectively and this depends on a thorough analysis of the situation on the outset. Using your expertise in science education, the following questions in relation to ICT could be adapted for similar use:
- What do you know about the children’s existing knowledge, skills and understanding of the subject?
- What has been their previous experience with ICT?
- What does the curriculum set out for the children in this year group?
- What does the school’s scheme of work require?
- What am I therefore expecting the children to achieve?
- How will I differentiate the activity to reflect the different needs and abilities in the class?
- What relevant pieces of theoretical writing and/or case studies are there to support my planning?
- What will be the demands on me in terms of my own knowledge, skills and understanding of ICT?
- What is the resource setting for the school and how does this impact on what I can plan for the class?
- What are the additional time costs and constraints on me when planning to use ICT?
- What kind of grouping or organisation am I planning to use?
- How do I go about the physical management of the activity?
- Are there any further cross-curricular links?
- How will I go about including the whole class in the activity?
- What are the assessment and record keeping opportunities in the activity?
(Allen, Potter, Sharpe, & Turvey, Planning for ICT in other subjects, 2012, p. 33)
This is all cyclical in nature and so no sooner do you finish answering the last question do you realise that it must be used to answer the first question. Additionally, your planning should also create assessment opportunities because good assessment informs good planning.
Planning Science Lessons where ICT is used
ICT can never replace your role as a teacher in the classroom and it is always going to be your responsibility to ensure that its power is harnessed. If you are to use ICT to support the science learning area then it must support good practice in teaching and be considered at the planning stage. It is also important that you are clear on how and why the lesson will be taught.
There are many advantages of using ICT in science lessons for both teaching and learning. Firstly, as you know by now the use of technology motivates students to learn. However, it also acts as a means to encourage and facilitate collaborative and active learning. This is fantastic for group work, where raw data is transformed into information through the use of graphs, tables and charts. We mustn’t forget how presentation software can incorporate still images and videos, text and animations.
The Importance of Interactive Activities
As a teacher, you need to consider in your planning the significance and role of having interactive activities. It is very important that you understand that active learning is a crucial part of any lesson especially when using ICT in primary science.
When it comes to integrating ICT in primary science that is one important fact that you need to consider and that is interactivity is achieved when children have full control of the technology. They must be able to interact with the technology and not be passive recipients of the data or information on the screen.
For you as the teacher, it is absolutely critical that you interact with both students and technology. This will be covered further later on. When intervening, it would be important that your questions asked are sufficiently focused to ensure that the student thinks carefully about the concepts being taught. Additionally, they need to be open-ended so that you will get more than a yes/no answer from them (Williams & Easingwood, 2003).
Examples of questions might include:
- What would happen if the variables in this spreadsheet were changed?
- Why do you think that the crosses on the scattergram are clustered together? What is it telling you?
- How might variables in the spreadsheet be changed?
This clearly demonstrates the importance of your role as a teacher when it comes to ensuring that ICT tools for teaching science are powerful in their use.
The above questions can also be used as a form of assessment through a formative method. Assessment for learning in science will be discussed in more detail later. And we also examine how to assess ICT capability.
Yet, if ICT capability is also part of the national curriculum as being embedded in the primary science learning area then including this as an objective is needed along with the science objectives. The Australian Curriculum is one such example where teachers are required to teach and assess 21st century skills or general capabilities.
ICT Tools for Science Learning
Having full control of the ICT also lends itself to your ability to develop student ICT capability, effectively integrating technology in the science lessons. The ICT tools for teaching science facilitate the use of technology as tools. Good examples include content-free software and generic software. We provide a detailed look at these in our online professional development for science teachers.
ICT tools for teaching science like this can be used in many different ways and the demands and the possibilities will depend on the objectives of the lesson planning for science.
Planning using Data
It is important that you collect and interpret a range of data that will establish students’ learning in both science and ICT capability. The data that you will collect will help establish each students’ learning goals and needs. Beauchamp (2012, p.156) offers a suggestion for assessing existing understing with ICT that include:
- Presconceptions – either a misconception, that is, a scientifically incorrect idea or partially understood scientific idea;
- Missing – a scientific idea for which there was no evidence of any knowledge or understanding;
- Knows – a scientific idea of which the child demonstrated knowledge and understanding.
He further suggests that in making the above judgements you could use a range of practical activities with no ICT.
You will need to make adjustments to your planning in order to ensure that you meet the learning needs of students in your science lesson.
Data collected will be used to identify student learning goals, needs and to plan strategies for student learning progression in science and ICT capability. It would be needed to be continuously gathered throughout your teaching to establish what learning is occuring and how well.
Planning for Learning Progression
Learning progression in relation to ICT capability is a current problem amongst primary school teachers. In terms of science education, how can ICT be integrated successfully in the learning area in such a way that learning progression occurs?
A four stage approach to planning
When planning for the integration of science projects in your teaching, I suggest using the following approach.
Determine the ICT teaching objectives for the planning period – (year/term/half)
Your desired, expected or anticipated outcomes should exemplify the learning they represent and relate closely to the learning objectives to each activity.
- ICT Skills;
- ICT techniques;
- Key ideas.
For example ICT teaching objectives for a long-term plan could be the following:
- Word processing skills – entering text, changing font and size, copying and pasting;
- Image handling – creating simple pictures for insertion into a word processing document.
Clarify the key topics for science for the planning period
An example for science could be ‘plants and growth’.
Identify the key opportunities for ICT capability in the Science learning area
Example: Digital photos to record plant growth and pasting photos into word processing accounts.
I noted earlier that there are a number of opportunities in the Australian Science learning area in the form of the general capability ICT.
Examples of these can be found earlier.
However, the opportunities for ICT to enhance science can also come from you imagining the potential for learning science with technology.
Select and adapt the ICT projects which are most appropriate for achieving the ICT objectives in the science context.