Science and Technology in Early Childhood Education

By Michael Hilkemeijer

Science in the Early Years of Education

 

What is science in early childhood education?

To understand the benefits of technology in early science education it is best to first understand ‘what is science in early childhood education’.

 

In the early learning of a young child’s education, it is important that they raise questions and search for answers, collect and measure things, make observations of a qualitative nature, organise these collections and observations, and discuss their findings.

 

These are what researchers (Saracho & Spodek, 2008) identified as the benchmark for young children in science.

 

It was highlighted that a young child’s early science experiences should focus on the beliefs in the unity of nature and its consistency.

 

 

What are the components of science in early childhood education?

Given this, what are the components of science in early childhood education? In 1993, the American Associations for the Advancement of Science wrote the Benchmark for science literacy and stated that young children need to about Scientific World View, Scientific Inquiry and Scientific Enterprise.

 

Scientific World View refers to a person’s work and belief in science and for a young child a belief consists of such things like how can they work together to discover how the world works. It also about the understanding that the universe is a unified system and the results obtained from one section can be generalised to other sections. Finally, it is about having the belief that knowledge can be consistent but change.

 

By the end of Year 2, a young child is expected to know the following:

  • When a science investigation is done the way it was done before, we expect to get a very similar result.
  • Science investigations generally work the same way in different places.

(Saracho & Spodek, 2008, p.5)

 

Science Inquiry is concerned with complex concepts. Young children need to explore phenomena both in and out of class that is of interest to them. Additionally, it is important that they enjoy and are excited about their investigations. Sharing their experiences with others is significant and they need to be given opportunities  to discuss their observations.

 

In terms of educational expectations, they should have learnt by the end of Year 2:

  • People can often learn about things around them by just observing those things carefully, but sometimes they can learn more by doing something to the things and noting what happens.
  • Tools such as thermometers, magnifiers, rulers, or balances often given more information about things than can be obtained by just observing things  without their help.
  • Describing things as accurately as possible in important in science because it enables people to compare their observations with those of others.
  • When people give different descriptions of the same thing, it is usually a good idea to make some fresh observations instead of just arguing about who is right.

(Saracho & Spodek, 2008, p. 5)

 

Finally, Science Enterprise is about social structure, discipline and institutional identification, ethics, and scientists’ role in public affairs.

 

By the end of Year 2, young children are expected to know:

  • Everybody can do science and invent things and ideas.
  • In doing science, it is often helpful to work with a team and share findings with others.
  • A lot can be learned about plants and animals by observing them closely, but care must be taken to know the needs of living things and how to provide for them in the classroom.

(Saracho & Spodek, 2008, p. 5)

 

 

Importance of Science in ECE

Let me put this another – why teach science to preschooler? There are a number of reasons why science is important in early childhood education.

 

Young children are naturally curious about life – they are full of questions about the world around them and the drive to investigate how things work. The importance of science in early childhood includes:

  1. The opportunity to foster a lifelong love of science in young children.
  2. Instil key science concepts and thinking in young children.
  3. Support the development of other skills and attributes.

 

Furthermore, it:

  • Feeds natural curiosity in young children.
  • Engages young children in learning.
  • Teaches Literacy and Numeracy Skills Authentically.

 

Other benefits of teaching science in early childhood education include:

  • Giving children an understanding of their world.
  • Helps children to see themselves as learners.
  • Fosters a growth mindset.
  • Promotes higher order thinking skills.

 

 

As early childhood educators, how can we promote science in early childhood education? In the section, I will discuss the role of STEM in early childhood education has.

 

 

 

 

 

STEM in early childhood education

STEM in ECE

STEM in early childhood is a significant part of a child’s education in the 21st century classroom. It is skill-based, it is relevant and it is hands-on. Yet, in the past, such activities in the early years have only focused on the science and maths part of things leaving big gaps in the technological and engineering aspects of it.

This is significant as technology and science are intertwined together. They are like how a hand fits into a glove. Science in the 21st century simply cannot thrive without technology.

The use of technology permeates throughout the entire STEM in early childhood curriculum as it supports not only science but maths and engineering. It is kind of like the silent partner to all of them enabling effective support and learning in the subjects whilst all along offering you the opportunity to develop ICT capability and ICT literacy.

This, after all, is the ultimate aim of using technology in the classroom, to remain transparent in the background supporting subject learning and giving children the opportunity to advance in their learning progression in ICT capability without them even thinking about it.

 

 

 

 

 

Science and Technology in early childhood education

Science and Technology

Earlier, I discussed and highlighted the role and importance of science in early learning experiences. In this section, I will be highlighting how the successful integration of digital technology in early childhood education can help early childhood practitioners to facilitate teaching science through technology.

Both science and technology have been perceived as the indispensable foundation for economic advancement. Researchers within the science education community perceive technology as an entrance to children’s understanding of scientific concepts. They relate them through studies that include pedagogical approaches that enhance both scientific and technological literacy in young children.

It has been suggested that young children need to understand the technological world as the objects are developed with sophistication. Additionally, the changes in society mean that education needs to change in the areas of science and technology.

 

 

Connecting Science and Technology in ECE

Science and technology in early childhood education are natural, long-standing partners and as education reflects changes in society this becomes increasingly important.

 

As you will find out in our online ECE workshop, teaching science through technology is about knowing where technology could solve a pedagogical problem that you might face. This instinctively addresses the importance of technology in early childhood education.

 

Understanding your own ICT capabilities is very important in this instance as it is to do not just acquiring ICT skills, but also developing understanding and judgement about how to use those ICT skills appropriately.

 

In the end, you will need to make a decision as to why the technology would be better than other teaching strategies.

 

Additionally, when asking the question about the importance of science and technology in education as an educator you need to understand science teaches the basics of how certain devices work. Children learn from this and begin to develop their own ideas and may start to possibly invent new technologies in the future. Not to mention gaining the basic knowledge of technology to assist fixing minor problems at home.

 

 

Why ICT is important in ECE?

It is important to further understand the importance of technology in early childhood education. Technology in ECE is a tool to facilitate learning. It enhances and supports key learning areas but it also:

  • Supports the development of fine motor skills.
  • Strengthens coordination and reaction time.
  • Improves social and emotional development.
  • Promotes collaboration and relationships.
  • Builds cultural awareness.
  • Helps language and communication development.
  • And offers opportunities for information processing.

 

In relation to science in early childhood education, ICT can:

  • Facilitate links with other places, subjects, and other people.
  • Facilitate the asking of questions and forming or modification of opinions
  • Provide access to secondary sources of information with more breadth and depth.
  • Support communication, thereby raising issues of audience and viewpoint
  • Enable the gathering, storage, and manipulation of data and other information
  • Enable more effective analysis of data and information
  • Enable simplification, simulation, and modelling of scientific ideas
  • Enable more effective communication of understanding of experimental results
  • Support the asking of ‘What if…?’ questions through experimentation and testing
  • Support teachers’ professional development alongside students’ learning.

(Williams and Easingwood, 2003, p7)

 

 

The Role of ICT in Early Science

It is important to acknowledge that science and ICT have an important role to play in different aspects of children’s development.

 

There are many special ICT tools that can be used when teaching science through technology. When ICT applications in science are used appropriately they should support you as the educator in challenging children to ‘engage their brain’ by drawing upon personal scientific knowledge and understanding as well as everyday experiences and skills (Feasy and Still as cited in Hayes & Whitebread, 2006).

 

Research has shown that it is important that you ensure that you encourage young children to participate in making a range of decisions such as what, when and how to use it.

 

Another important role of technology in science education is to support the development of positive dispositions in this areas of the early learning curriculum. This means that as an early childhood teacher when you are involved in supporting early years science you need to be creative, enthusiastic and open-minded in the teaching and learning in your teaching approaches.

 

What this highlights is the significance of the positive use of ICT to support science learning as it is crucial to the development of not only scientific concepts but also the whole child.

 

What technology to use?

As part of your TPACK that you will acquire as a participant in this online ECE workshop you will become knowledgeable about what technology is available and deciding what digital technology in early childhood education to use.

 

The embedded lesson plans to do with science teaching include a range of hardware such as handheld devices, laptops, calculators, and probes for example.

 

You will find that they fall within three categories:

  • Technology that is unrelated to science but is used in the service of science – examples include word processing, spreadsheets, or graphics software.
  • Technology that is designed to for teaching and learning science – Model-IT, Virtual Frog, Cooties and BIOKids.
  • And technology designed and used to do science – microscopes and scientific calculators.

 

You as the early childhood practitioner have reasons to use each of these categories of digital technology in early childhood education.

 

If you want to develop your TPACK further and learn about how to teach science in preschool with technology in ECE, access this resource here for just $10 per month or become a member of the ICT in Education Teacher Academy for just $20 per month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technology in Preschool

Using Technology Appropriately in Preschool

When using technology in preschool activities it is important remember key strategies to ensure that children learn to use technology appropriately in their lives. It involves fostering the notion of ICT as a tool for learning. A major strategy to always keep in mind when using technology appropriately in the preschool classroom is to provide tech that children to have full control over it.

This helps to facilitate the development of ICT capability in preschool activities.

 

Here are some other strategies in which you can support the use of technology in preschool.

ICT Teaching Strategies in Preschool

Model safe and appropriate use of technology – young children are very observant and learn a lot in this younger age by watching you use technology yourself. So model the best ways to keep them safe from harm and demonstrate what they need to know about appropriate use of technology in their lives.

 

Choose child-friendly hardware - new technological innovations are continuing to emerge that make it easier for young children to use technology in preschool activities. So choose devices that make it easier for their physical capabilities.

 

Select appropriate programs – software that gives them full control is a start. Ensure that you emphasise interactive, open-ended learning and avoid drill and practice programs. It is best to introduce a program to a few children at a time.

 

Locate the technology in the preschool classroom for social exchange – allow spaces for children and teachers to collaborate with technology.

 

Encourage children to verbalise their thinking and solve technology problems – you can help children reflect on their solutions. Ensure that you are nearby so that they don’t get frustrated or discouraged.

 

Using technology appropriately in the preschool classroom is about ensuring that children understand ICT is a tool designed for learning. 

 

 

How you can use Technology in Science Inquiry-based Learning in ECE today?

If ICT is to make an impact on student science learning, then you as a teacher need to scaffold science ICT activities so that students can participate in the inquiry process.

So what is inquiry based learning in early childhood and how does it help young children? Well, it emphasises the role of the child in learning and engages them in the process in an active way. It helps children make meaning of what they are learning about and provides them with authentic learning experiences such as what they experience in the real world.

 

Applying Technology to the Learning Experience

As a teacher, you want to provide your children with the most authentic learning experience and by applying technology to inquiry based learning in early childhood education, like for example in the science inquiry process, you can achieve this. That is what education in the digital age is all about.

For this to occur, there has to be an adjustment in your mindset and shift away from looking at technology as a means to an end and towards technology as a medium for all kinds of learning. 

When technology is meaningfully integrated into the science inquiry-based lesson, the students benefit from the positive transformative effects of it such as:

  • Shifting the emphasis from content to skills;
  • Allowing constant engagement;
  • Democratising learning;
  • Connecting to the world and;
  • Simplifying the back-end work.

(Pahomov, 2014, pp. 15-20)

 

Therefore, it is recommended that the early learning years framework that you use needs to include these five core values:

  • Inquiry;
  • Research;
  • Collaboration;
  • Presentation and;
  • Reflection.

 

Here is how technology is involved. 

In each of these five steps, there are key characteristics such as choice, personalisation, relevance, and empowerment in the inquiry. There is a strong digital connection to each of these. 

Take for example choice, students are swamped for choice not only for the range of technologies available to them but for the choice of information, communication, and features that technology brings. 

Technology can really transform students’ work in the early learning environment making it very personalized. Early Childhood teachers can assist children in looking up information on the Internet related to the child’s interest which directly links it back to child development. 

 

The use of technology or ICT in inquiry based learning in early childhood plays a significant role in a young child's learning. It is essential that you practice the strategies to ensure that is potential is realised by yourself and the impact on child learning great.

 

What is IBL?

To put it simply, inquiry based learning in the classroom is about providing authentic learning experiences for children so that they can learn something new.

Through authentic learning, you will be able to trigger inquiries by the children as they seek to find the answers that interest them. For this to occur, you will need to model the inquiry process for them and generate enthusiasm so that they can also generate enthusiasm for learning something new.

 

 

 

 

Science in early childhood education

 

 

 

 

 

Moving forward to Primary Education

STEM education in Primary Schools

STEM education in primary schools is an essential part of children's learning in the 21st-century classroom. Throughout its learning, the use of ICT or in a more user-friendly term, 'technology', is there to support the applications of science, maths, and engineering. Today, even the letter ' A' has been added to include the Arts.

 

In this article, I will address the use of ICT tools for teaching Science education in primary schools.

 

ICT can enhance teaching and learning in the primary science lesson and while ICT capability is embedded in the Science learning area, you as a teacher can make the most of this opportunity and develop ICT capability within the context of science.

Your aim as a science teacher should be to help children develop ‘transparent’ routines and techniques until it becomes part of their unconscious actions. This is your goal as a primary teacher to ensure that children are equipped with sufficient experience to enable them to use ICT without them having to stop and think.

 

In other words, it enabled them to reach the stage where the technology they are using becomes sufficiently ‘transparent’ that they are almost unaware of its existence.

 

The list that is present throughout this resource reflects the features of common software under each of the categories identified. As a teacher you must be aware of the capabilities and limitations of software packages of any program as this will influence your choice of software for any teaching and learning activity. They represent in my view the best science resources for primary schools today. Here is a list of top science resources for primary school.

 

 

10 Powerful ICT Tools for Teaching Science

Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are mainly used in primary science for data entry, tabulation and graph production. They are very useful and form an important element in determining fair testing results and seeking patterns.

Primary students are expected to use spreadsheets but are not expected to create them as this would detract their concentration from the science objectives.

When it comes time to explaining the equals sign in the spreadsheet formula you will need to ensure that the children know it doesn’t balance the equation showing that one side is equal to the other, but provides a function, effectively instructing the software to perform the calculations that follow it.

 

Databases

The use of databases in primary science teaching can reduce the demands on students in the manipulation of data. To ensure effective use, it is significant that you ensure that value is placed on interpretation and understanding rather than on the presentation of the graphics.

As always you will need to remember that just exposure to databases will not ensure successful teaching and learning. This will depend on appropriate task-setting, differentiation, and intervention.

In selecting appropriate databases you and the students will need to make informed decisions about the most appropriate ICT tool for a particular purpose.

 

Word Processor

Throughout the entire primary curriculum from Foundation to Year 6 students can use word processors such as MS Word to assist with sequencing and sorting information in primary science. As children develop the degree of structuring and preparation may vary.

Students in the early years can begin to use this ICT tool as an onscreen word bank that features images with text labels. An example might be to sort the materials into hard and soft.

Word processors are very useful for helping students to seek information from databases. They can make their own notes about what they have found and then supplement them with images or text copied from electronic sources.

 

Graphics software

Science work in all year levels requires illustration to aid communication and graphics programs such as painting and drawing software can enable this to occur. Images can be created, imported and modified by the students with considerable easy these days given the various levels of software sophistication available for primary students.

Students can also use these programs to create labels to aid in the identification and explanation of images. An idea would be to have the students create a poster that is designed to illustrate scientific understanding.

Other ideas would be to use painting software to produce images that illustrate the effects of light sources such as street light at night time.

 

Data Logging

Graphing programs offer a range of opportunities to record and represent experimental data. Programs these days allow text to entered and displayed alongside graphs and these can typically be copied and pasted into other applications such as word processors.

Activities at times may involve the collection, entry, and representation of data while others are to do with prepared data for students to look for patterns.

Data-logging can be used by students to facilitate the development of scientific experimental techniques such as enabling the realistic repetition of experiments to achieve consistency in results and enabling the testing of variables over a greater range of values.

 

Digital Camera

Digital cameras in primary science are primarily used as a recording device. There are many varieties as we know to choose from. Your school may have a range of stand-alone digital cameras or alternatively, may have a set of tablet computers such as iPads which all come equipped with digital cameras. For some teachers, this may seem like the better option as more of these are handed out to classrooms in schools and the fact that they are easy to transfer images to applications.

Observations and recording is an important part of primary science lessons. By using digital cameras, students can provide quick and accurate records.A lot of scientific experiments can exploit the power and immediacy of digital still images. As a teacher, you need to consider how images taken are stored and managed once on the computer.

A single image can be used an innumerable number of times, in a great variety of ways. This allows young children even to take responsibility for the process from start to finish. Students can decide what they wish to photograph, capture the image and decide if they wish to use it, but if not then delete it.

Some ideas or units of work which may benefit from the use of digital cameras include:

  • Growing plants;
  • Plants and animals in the local environment;
  • Variation;
  • Helping plants grow;
  • Characteristics of materials;
  • Habitats;
  • Interdependence and adaption.

 

Presentation Programs

Presentation tools such as MS PowerPoint and Prezi combined with Interactive Whiteboards can provide fantastic opportunities for students to consolidate knowledge, assume responsibility for, and ownership of their learning. PowerPoint presentations can engage them in higher-order thinking skills and be able to support them in communicating their learning to their peers.

The slide and bullet point structure can aid students’ identification, development, and sequencing of points to be made. This is not only valuable for teachers who find that this creates a coherent lesson, but also for students as it helps them present their ideas. It helps them present to the class and also to turn their ideas into a written report and forms an important tool for reflection.

When it comes to ICT skills, concepts, and attitudes, such a tool has enormous potential for enhancing students’ learning in primary science. By preparing presentations, they could be involved in communicating all aspects of planning and carrying out experiments, rehearsing hypotheses, describing methods, and discussing their recording procedures.

This might also lead to data interpretation, inference, and drawing conclusions which would mean that they would have to ‘tell the story’ of their work to their peers. By effectively encouraging presentations in primary science, you will be able to help promote key attitudes such as cooperation, perseverance, originality, responsibility, independence of thinking, self-criticism, and open-mindedness.

 

 

Internet

The Internet in primary science can be used either as a reference source or as a means of communication. It can provide a wealth of resources for learning and teaching.

Browsing the Internet and searching online means finding science information. However, a single word is likely to generate a large number of suggestions. Therefore, it is important that students are educated in information literacy and being able to evaluate sources of information on the Internet and narrow their search results using more sophisticated criteria.

There are many websites for primary science that provides activities that aid students’ concept development in specific content areas and have the potential to arouse curiosity.

 

VR and Simulators

 

Virtual reality and simulators is on the rise in science classrooms bringing new learning experiences to students. These are great means of enabling students to explore places without leaving the classroom saving on costs for schools.

As a teacher, you would instant feedback to reinforce student learning of the topic being examined.

A key benefit of this ICT tool is that it allows teachers to create a unique learning experience in which students can learn by failing, in a safe learning environment.

 

 

Primary school science has the opportunity to exploit technology in the classroom in the sense that it enables students to use ICT resources as tools for science learning. ICT in primary schools should also be used to ensure that student ICT capability and ICT literacy are developed whilst in the learning of science and to ensure that curriculum requirements are met across all key learning areas.

 

 

Mobile technology is helping to represent abstract ideas in science. It has the potential to make significant contributions to the teaching of science including helping students understand scientific phenomena, assist in recording, exploring relationships and finding and researching information. 

 

When organising mobile technology in the Science classroom consider the following:

  • The current level of ICT capability in students;
  • The management of the resources;
  • How to evaluate the use of technology in the classroom and;
  • Technical support. 

 

Mobile Technology in STEM Education

Here are six teacher-tested ideas and strategies on mobile phone lessons in the Science context:

  1. Get students to text the correct answer on their mobile phone to a question. The first student to do so would be the winner – Andrew Douch;
  2. Ask students to take photos on a field trip and then to use them in a report – Rebekah Randall;
  3. Text message images of minerals or elements – Lynne Sullivan;
  4. Research a science topic that generates controversy such as global warming – Judy Pederson;
  5. Use mobile phones to take pictures of everyday activities related to the study of chemical elements. Students could then use these images in their chemistry studies – Rebekah Randall;
  6. Create a mobile-friendly website regarding nutrition and fitness – unknown teacher;
  7. Take photos of objects in their natural settings – unknown teacher;
  8. Document and take photos of different types of insects then send them to a class map on the Internet – unknown teacher;
  9. Use the phone calculator app to make calculations.

 

 

Mobile technology in the classroom

Science Teaching Strategies in STEM

STEM education in Australia is really starting to take off these days. The integration of technology in the classroom can go a long way in enhancing the learning of science in STEM science lessons. ICT in STEM lessons, however, opens up a lot more avenues for primary teachers in relation to developing progression in student ICT capability throughout the Learning Continuum.

 

 

ICT can help children in their science lessons work:

  • To access, select and interpret information;
  • To recognise patterns, relationships, and behaviours;
  • To model, predict and hypothesise;
  • To test reliability and accuracy;
  • To review and modify their work to improve quality;
  • To communicate with others and present information;
  • To evaluate their work;
  • To improve their efficiency;
  • To be creative and take risks;
  • To gain confidence and independence.

(Ager, 2003)

 

 

In this section, you will learn about teaching strategies in science such as:

  • Planning the use of ICT/technology in the classroom
  • The role of the teacher when using ICT in science lessons.
  • Selecting the appropriate ICT tools

 

These are what I consider to be the best primary science connection to technology as they will provide you with a strong foundation to effortlessly support the use of digital technologies in science learning.

 

 

Technology tools for teaching science

Planning the use of ICT in Primary Science Lessons

 

When planning to integrate ICT into primary science lessons, you will need to take into account children’s ICT capability in order to pursue opportunities to exploit and extend it. It is part of a set of factors that will make up a good lesson plan.

 

For example, the year 3 Science Inquiry Skills in the Australian Curriculum provides opportunities for students to Manage and Operate ICT along with Investigate with ICT which involves selecting and using hardware and software in addition to locating, generating and accessing data and information.

 

Look at the context of the features of ICT which make it a learning tool and decide whether it is appropriate to the learning outcome for which you are currently planning.

 

You also need to take into account, at the same time, other factors otherwise planning will be ineffective and even counterproductive.

 

 

Like in any other subject, the use of ICT must support and enhance the learning of science. You need to be mindful that some activities may develop scientific knowledge, skills, and understanding of children and this is fine if this is your intention.

 

However, they do not necessarily generate further ICT skill development. It is important that science lessons is interactive as active learning is a crucial part of any lesson, but especially for ICT in science. Students must interact with the computer in that they should not be passive recipients of the data or information on the screen.

 

A vital factor in developing ICT capability is that students must always be in control of the ICT tool whether it be a computer program or an iPad app.

 

Above this, you as the teacher must interact with the students and the computer as it is through monitoring ICT activities that you learn to intervene at the right moments. It is at this time that you begin asking key questions to ensure that children think critically and carefully about the concepts being taught.

 

Open-ended questions are ideal so that you avoid simple yes and no answers from them.

 

Examples 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 this telling you?
  • How might the variables in the spreadsheet be changed?

 

Remember it is your ability to provide detailed subject and pedagogical knowledge in addition to asking the right questions at the right time that makes ICT a powerful tool for teaching and learning in science lessons

 

These questions will also help you in when assessing students through formative assessment strategies as it provides opportunities to assess student progress. Additionally, it can also be useful as assessing ICT is a particularly difficult area. You will need to know what exactly is being assessed and why. Your goal as a primary school teacher should be to not only assess the subject knowledge, but also the use of technology and the technology itself. This is because ICT capability is being developed and assessed in primary education. Planning should ensure that ICT capability is enhanced as well as learning in the other subjects, even where there is only the potential for lower levels of ICT skills.

 

The Role of the Teacher

The key to successful teaching and learning with ICT lies in how the technology is used and employed, not in teaching of the technology itself. It is this that makes your role as the teacher crucial.

 

As a primary science teacher, you will need to:

  • Help students to raise questions and suggest hypotheses;
  • Encourage students to predict and say what they think will happen and;
  • Encourage closer and more careful observation.

 

Additionally, this may also involve you helping children to see ways in which their tests are not fair and ways to make them fairer which will ultimately encourage students to measure.

 

Above all, it is important that you:

  • Encourage children to think about their experiences;
  • Talk together and;
  • Describe and explain their findings and thoughts to others.

 

Technology teaching strategies in science such as the above can play a key role in STEM education in primary school. It is often how well you plan and understand your role as the teacher that make the difference between how well mobile technology in the classroom will help students achieve the learning outcomes and the development of ICT capability in science lessons.

 

 

 

Structuring lesson plans

How to Structure Your Primary Science Lesson with Ease?

Integrating technology is never straight forward. In fact, it becomes more complex when planning and as we know planning lessons for teachers is essential to ensure that all students benefit from the curriculum. For those of you who teach STEM, lesson plan structure needs to be in such a way that you effectively integrate technology in the classroom.

 

In this article, therefore, I will highlight how to make a lesson plan for primary science when ICT is being planned to enhance to learning and to develop student ICT capability.

When it comes to planning for primary 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.

To understand what ICT capability in primary education is to understand what true technology integration. The one factor that both ICT capability and technology integration have in common is that they require the use of technology to be ‘transparent’ in its integration in learning areas.

So they are both the same and achieve the same goals.

It is advised (NSW Education), that a lesson plan is important as it enables decisions to be made about:

  1. What the students will learn?
  2. How will you know that learning has taken place?
  3. How you intend students to learn it?

 

The following lesson plan structure we recommend for when integrating ICT in primary science aligns with what is advised by NSW Education:

  • Clarify the lesson purpose and identify the learning goal/ intention for the lesson:
    • What do you want the students to learn?
    • Why does this learning matter?
  • Consider assessment:
    • How will you know the learning goal has been achieved?
    • What will the students do/ produce?
  • Structure the lesson as a series of episodes:
    • How will the lesson flow to ensure the learning goal/ intention is achieved?
  • Decide what will occur within each episode:
    • Which learning experiences and resources best support achievement of the learning goal/ intention?

 

 

Lesson Overview

Include the Science element and the ICT element. For example, “To study the behaviour of woodlice in their habitat and in classroom using CD-ROM and images from the Internet”.

Learning Objectives

In this section, the key objectives for your lesson or sequence of lessons will be derived from any medium or long term plans in which you have prepared subject to requirements of the national curriculum. This determines what should actually be taught and at times will come from a scheme of work. It will also indicate what needs to be taught and the way it could be taught.

For example:

To understand what kind of animal it is;

To understand something about its natural environment.

Prior Learning

This ensures continuity and progression in learning.

Development of lesson and Teaching Points

This should always be taught together as the former directly informs the latter. Some examples of ICT teaching points in science lessons include:

Computers at home –

Awareness of the role of ICT in society.

Parts of a plant –

Use of basic art package tools;

Incorporating text;

Simple introduction to desktop publishing.

Insulation –

Setting up and using sensing software;

Interpretation of graphical representation of data.

Differentiation

It is important to think about differentiation at the planning stage. You need to consider not only the science but also the ICT content. It may be entirely possible to have students who are high achievers in science but low achievers in ICT. It is best to differentiate on the science rather than the ICT – if the science is the key focus of the lesson. On the hand, if the child is strongest in ICT rather than in science then the power of the computer can be harnessed to develop the scientific knowledge, skills and understanding.

Assessment opportunities

If you are to differentiate effectively, you will need to ensure that you have an ongoing strategy as it enables you to prepare for individual students that is appropriate to their ability. This is vital as it assessment needs to be linked to your planning stage and lesson objectives. This will determine how successful the lesson has been.

When assessing children’s work when integrating technology in primary science lessons it can take several forms – formative, summative or testing. As ICT capability is largely practical, formative assessment is encouraged here in order to accurately plot a path for ICT learning. This is linked directly to planning and will involve observation, open-ended questioning and perhaps self-assessment.

Resources

Science and ICT combined brings a far-reached and detailed. Your lesson needs to be resourced and this should be made explicit in the lesson plan. For the science component, resources could involve the use of scientific apparatus, investigative equipment, and research and references sources. And for the ICT component it might include digital cameras, data logging sensors or computer microscopes.

Cross-Curricular links

Here you will need to identify cross-curricular links at your planning stage.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other areas might include the following (Allen, Potter, Sharpe, & Turvey, 2012, pp. 35-37):

Key questions -

What are the key questions which you will ask the children during the lesson which draw out the teaching and learning objectives? How will you maintain the dialogue with children who are experiencing difficulties? Record a few possible prompts which you could use.

 

Lesson format 

Depending on your resource setting (whether you are in a classroom with one computer, in a computer suite or a hub in a corridor), how long will the different phases of your lesson last? The three-part lesson may not always be the best model but it is certainly a common one. If your time with the children is going to be organised in this way, give timings for:

  • An introduction outlining the learning objectives;
  • Development of the lesson through focused activities and integrated tasks;
  • A plenary, where all the strands are drawn together and children have an opportunity to share successes and problems.

 

Evaluating the Lesson (Operational issues & learning outcomes) 

Good planning includes a space in which to reflect on how the lesson actually proceeded. It only needs to be a few lines, written at the time or soon after, which can give you a perspective on things you needed to change to make the lesson work (and which could, in turn, inform your planning later). Did you need, for example, to alter the timings of the introduction to ensure understanding of what was required for all the children? Did you find that you talked too much and the children needed more time and more independence in their working?

 

How far did the lesson achieve the intended learning objectives? Make a judgement based on your identified assessment opportunities. If it is part of a sequence of activities, how much is there still left to do? Comment on how the lesson went for the children experiencing difficulty and for those children of high ability. How well were you able to meet the needs of those with English as an additional language? Did children with special educational needs have full access to the activity and were they able to succeed?

 

National Curriculum context 

What aspects of the programmes of study are you teaching? Consider the ICT and any links to other subjects.  List the main cross-curricular focus. If you are working in an Early Years setting, what elements of the curriculum are you hoping to work with during the activity?

 

 

 

ICT in science

How you can plan tech integration with ease in your science classroom today?

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)'

 

Curriculum Opportunities

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.

 

 

Important Considerations

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.

 

 

 

ICT in science

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:

  1. What would happen if the variables in this spreadsheet were changed?
  2. Why do you think that the crosses on the scattergram are clustered together? What is it telling you?
  3. 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.

 

This includes:

  • ICT Skills;
  • ICT techniques;
  • Concepts;
  • 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 that are most appropriate for achieving the ICT objectives in the science context.

 

How to successfully integrate Tech in the science lesson with ease today?

Science is a core subject in primary education and since the introduction of STEM education in elementary schools its significance has ramped up tremendously.

The importance of STEM education in elementary schools lies in the fact that young children will go on to play an integral role in a nation’s global competitiveness and economic stability.

As a teacher, you will need to “foster critical thinking through problem-solving in elementary STEM education and provide students with an academic edge over the competition” (University of Florida, 2021).

In this article, we are going to look at the integration of technology in science education. However, it is important to first understand this question:

Why is science and technology important in education?

 

 

The Importance of Science and Technology in education

In the 21st century, we all live in a world surround by science and technology. As young children grow up in a technologically dominated society they need to also be scientifically literate to succeed.

 

Teaching children how to think scientifically is about enabling them to think, learn, solve problems and make informed decisions. All these are integrated into a young child’s education and life.

 

 

The Importance of Technology in Science Education

The importance of technology in science education lies in the fact technological developments provide many tools for scientific study and experimentation.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can enhance the teaching and learning of primary science and science can provide a meaningful context in which to develop ICT capability and technological literacy.

 

For example, ICT can:

  • Facilitate links with other places, subjects and other people;
  • Facilitate the asking of questions and forming modifications of opinions;
  • Provide access to secondary sources of information with more breadth and depth;
  • Support communication, thereby raising issues of audience and viewpoint;
  • Enable the gathering, storage and manipulation of data and other information;
  • Enable more effective analysis of data and information;
  • Enable the simplification, simulation and modelling of scientific ideas;
  • Enable more effective communication of understanding or experimental results;
  • Support the asking of “What if…?” questions through experimentation and testing;
  • Support teacher professional development alongside students’ learning.

 

All this falls into two broad areas of which are: Communicating and Data handling. Classroom activities that are a part of this include:

  • Researching;
  • Searching for information;
  • Analysing data;
  • Simulations/demonstrations;
  • Modelling and;
  • Drawing diagrams, writing up and presenting findings.

 

ICT and primary science are inextricably linked. They are mutually depended in that ICT assists scientific development and vice versa and I hope that by the end of this article that you will come to same conclusion.

 

The use of ICT in science education is also beneficial in that it can be used to adjust the needs of the children. For example, the learning outcome of a science activity could be to label a picture of a plant.

  • Children with little experience of ICT can drag and drop the labels from one part of the screen to another;
  • Children with more experience could extract labels from a word bank;
  • Children who are more confident could type the name of the label into the picture;
  • Children with advanced skills could locate a suitable image from the Internet or use a graphics program to draw one themselves.

 

 

Technology Integration Vs ICT Capability

When using technology to teach science elementary it is significant to understand that you are in effect integrating ICT in the classroom. This point was raised in the introduction where I mentioned that the use of ICT in primary science can in fact develop student ICT capability.

 

The reason why this is important is that ICT capability can only be developed in meaningful subject-related learning activities. There is also a direct link between what defines technology integration in the classroom and ICT capability.

 

To elaborate on this further, the two elements that bind them together are the fact that they both require the transparency of technology in learning activities. Therefore, you could say that technology integration is ICT capability.

 

And it is in this respect. However, ICT capability is more than just this. Many consider the integration of technology in the classroom as just the teaching of ICT skills, but this is not the case.

 

 

Science in early childhood education

How to Differentiate Learning with Tech in Primary Science Today?

Given that it is impossible really to separate technology and science in learning it must be remembered that differentiated instruction with technology has to be considered as a key strategy. It will highly likely that you will teach or are teaching in a diverse classroom with each student being unique in their interests, experiences, readiness to learn and learning preferences.

What tools can you use today to maximise individual student learning?

 

In the science classroom where Information and Communication Technology (ICT) meld so well together it is best to facilitate opportunities for students to move in and out of different grouping structures, or provide a wide range of choices for learning so that success is achieved.

The following strategies to do with differentiated instruction with technology is there to help you strengthen your teaching skills by adding technology tools to differentiated instruction in science today.

 

Here is how to differentiate in the classroom today.

 

Differentiate Instruction with Technology by Content

When you provide access to content for students, you empower them to take ownership of it. When you differentiate by content, you vary what you teach as well as how you teach it. This requires you to become more resourceful and innovative.

 

To differentiate content you need to:

Differentiate content by readiness

 

For more able students, you can compact the curriculum in the following ways:

  • Pre-assess – identify content goals and outcomes; pre-assess students on the identified objectives before teaching;
  • Modify learning objectives – identify which students have mastered the learning objectives; Decide whether the identified students need enrichment or accelerated activities; Create replacement activities for students who have met the objectives that are about to be taught.
  • Manage – develop a plan with students to determine they’ll do while others work on regular lessons; Create guidelines, timelines, work rules and assignments for content mastered.

 

For less able students, you can apply scaffolding to aid in the completion of a task so that they will gain the skills needed to do work that you have set out for them. You may need write the content materials in a simpler reading levels and use multisensory components that appeal to them.

 

Differentiate content by interest

This means choosing topics students choosing to explore because they are eager to learn about them. It is a very good hook to engage students in their learning. Some ideas that you could use include:

  • Setting up an Interest centre in your classroom – a physical space within the classroom and contains a variety of materials grouped together by interest or theme.
  • Online explorations – there are many websites devoted to content for students to explore and investigate.
  • Software – there are software programs that you can use and that have been developed.
  • WebQuests – you can also create a WebQuests that compliments students’ interests.

 

Differentiate content by learning profile

You can also differentiate content by learning profile as students come with different, unique backgrounds, learning styles, and preferences.

As you communicate concepts and core material to them differentiating by learning profile will be an effective and essential tool for this to occur.

Ideas include:

  • Create graphic organisers and diagrams to aid visual-spatial learners;
  • Create rap or songs to emphasise key points and offer multiple texts and resources to help students learn;
  • Share information by printed text, by digital text, by pictures and videos, by music and field trips;
  • Offer content that appeals to and strengthens the multiple intelligence.

 

Videos are a great way to address the multiple intelligences as they can come with close captions that appeal to text-based learners. They are a great way to enhance classroom instruction by visually demonstrating an abstract concept.

 

 

Differentiate Instruction with Technology by Process

You need to use sense-making activities with students to enable comprehension of content. This involves giving students opportunities to explore key concepts that make an essential part of the input side of the equation.

By doing so, you are giving students the chance to come to grips with the material they have been learning. They are able to play with it, twist it, and experiment with it.

Through this process, the activities that you create allow students to take ownership of the material.

 

Flexible grouping is a strategy that is very popular in primary education. Flexibly grouped students learn how solve problems and encourage others while they are actively talking ownership of content.

 

Strategies include:

  • Grouping students by interest;
  • Grouping students by learning profile;
  • Grouping students by readiness.

 

Here is a sample grouping assignment when you use ICT in primary science (Smith & Throne, 2007, p. 121):

“Pair or triad students and allow them to play the role of the teacher or peer tutor. Each group is responsible for writing a set of science truths or concepts that correspond to the unit they are studying. Students generate a slide show with an explanation of the concepts and examples.

 

Variation: Each group produces a poster about a scientist who made a significant contribution to the field of science. Offer a list of research topics, such as background, contribution, education, importance of the field, timeline and related themes.”

 

Cubing and ThinkDots

This strategy is said to be very versatile and engaging as it involves the use of a manipulative to perform tasks that work their assignment. Here is an idea for your science classroom (Smith & Throne, 2007, p. 127):

 

This activity may be used to explore or review what a plant needs in order to grow.

 

On the faces of each cube, write six things a plant needs to grow. Divide the students into six groups and ask students to take one turn rolling the cube within the group. (Students role again if their roll turns up a face revealing a topic that has already appeared).

 

Students create a picture in Kid Pix or Paint to represent the plant’s need that turns up on the face of the cube, and they may also key in a short textual explanation. After they’ve completed their pictures, they return to their groups, show the pictures and explain why a plant must have that particular element to grow.

 

This activity may be modified and used with the life cycle of a plant or the part of a plant.”

 

 

Differentiated Instruction with Technology by Product

The diversity that your classroom will bring requires this strategy to be embedded into science lessons as it allows students to truly take ownership of their learning. Your students will react enthusiastically when they are given choices and when given product activities that they have had a part in designing.

 

The aim is to create powerful product assignments and the following seven step process will guide you (Smith & Throne, 2007, p. 148):

  • Identify the essentials of the unit that will determine what students learn, make sense of and apply – These fundaments understandings include which facts students need to know, which concepts must be comprehended, and which skills must be mastered. Product assignments can be created based on these facts, concepts and skills.
  • Identify some possible formats or ways of expressing the product – Can the products be based on the multiple intelligence of the learners? Can students create options? Can students choose from a set of option?
  • Identify your expectation for quality – These expectations revolve around quality of content, process and product. Your expectations can be expressed in the rubrics you create and what you spell out for students to do.
  • Identify the scaffolding needed for students’ success – Strategies might include rubrics, peer editing, time lines and learning contracts.
  • Identify modified versions of the assignment by readiness, interest or learning profile – These modified version of product assignments allow for and honour various learning styles, interests and abilities.
  • Identify the product assignments to students, providing explanations, guidelines and expectations – This is the time to show sample products other students have made and distribute guideline sheets, rubrics and other help sheets.
  • Identify coaching, consulting and public relations strategies to use with students – We want out students to succeed with their products as they become engaged and excited about learning.

 

 

ICT tools for teaching science

How you can use ICT with Primary Science with ease today

In science, it is very important to make accurate measurements and observations. It is really helpful to be able to record these measurements or observations in a meaningful way. Using ICT in Primary Science can be extremely good at achieving both. For measurement, computers are great at gathering various forms of data automatically, accurately and wherever and however necessary. In terms of recording, databases and spreadsheets can be extremely useful in helping you collect relevant information, to search through and sort that information and then to help you display that information in many ways.

 

Measuring and recording is encouraged to be taught throughout the Australian Science Curriculum in the context of Scientific enquiry and science as a human endeavour.

 

Monitoring

You can collect data that cannot be gathered in other ways by using methods of monitoring. Spreadsheets and other data monitoring software can present the measurements collected in a chart either in a bar or line graph. Let us now examine the role of spreadsheets more closely.

 

Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are another kind of data-handling software that is widely used by adults in the science industry. They manipulate numerical data which makes them well suited to mathematical calculations and modelling.

 

When teaching with and about spreadsheets, it is therefore important it involves the following activities:

  • Selecting appropriate opportunities – this is about deciding when the use of spreadsheets can enhance or extend children’s learning such as through a research project that involves exploring number patterns and rules.
  • Selecting appropriate resources – both teachers and children need to make the informed choice as to when a spreadsheet.
  • Exploring the full range of data-handling activities – spreadsheets are not just about storage and retrieval of information, they facilitate hypothesising, decision-making, organising and analysing and synthesising.
  • Making explicit links between knowledge, skills and understanding – knowledge, skills and understanding have relevance across the primary science curriculum so make explicit and reinforce the links between children’s previous experiences and new learning across the range of contexts.
  • Modelling appropriate use of ICT – for example, how spreadsheet formula can be replicated using the ‘fill down’ function.
  • Demonstrating and intervening – for example, demonstrating the effect of changing the price of a sausage in a spreadsheet budget.

 

These points should be used in conjunction with the teaching strategies in the next module.

 

When to use Spreadsheets?

To explain when spreadsheets should be used I will use the following example of children recoding plant growth. The following discussion takes place between the teacher and the Year 2 students (Williams & Easingwood, Spreadsheets, 2003, p. 72).

 

Teacher Q: “What type of information have you collected?”

Student Answer: “How much the plant has grown in centimetres?”

Teacher Q: “How are you going to write this down?”

Student Answer: “By measuring the plant every day and writing the height of it next to what day it is.”

Teacher Q: “Which program are you going to use?”

Student Answer: “Database.”

Teacher Q: “Why? How are you going to use a database to show this?”

Student Answer: “I can make a new card for every day to show how much it has grown.”

Teacher Q: “But how will it show how much it has grown?”

Student Answer: “By drawing a graph.”

 

While the student had a good idea of the outcome the understanding of the process to get to the outcome is incorrect. If the whole point of the exercise is to record the total growth then a database would not work as they do not show cumulative results.

 

You would need to explain the following essential information – databases search and sort information whereas spreadsheets model and manipulate numbers.

 

Although spreadsheets are valuable for mathematical calculations young children need to be introduced to them gradually. The formula required to make the best use of spreadsheets can be quite sophisticated and it is better to leave it until the latter stages of Stage 2. Despite this, it is important that children use a spreadsheet to record results as soon as they can so that they make sense of its ability to handle data quickly and present it in graphs. Williams and Easingwood (2003, p. 73) state that “in using these sheets for recording, children will at least soon learn how to fill in the spaces, or cells as they are called, and be able to alter their size and format.”

 

 

What do you need to know about Spreadsheets?

In order for you to teach effectively with spreadsheets, the following list identifies the knowledge, skills and understanding that is required.

  • Creating, opening, saving, closing, deleting and printing documents;
  • Selecting worksheet and cell size;
  • Selecting font and font size;
  • Inserting, modifying and deleting row and column labels;
  • Inserting, modifying, moving and deleting textual and numerical data;
  • Inserting, modifying and deleting formulae and functions;
  • Using fill down and fill right functions to replicate formulae;
  • Inserting and deleting cells, rows and columns;
  • Formatting data, e.g. left alignment, centring on decimal point;
  • Searching and sorting data;
  • Adding, modifying and deleting borders and shading;
  • Selecting, modifying and displaying graph types;
  • Formatting graphs to include axes labels, key and text;
  • Exporting graphs and spreadsheets to other applications;
  • Importing information from other applications, e.g. clip art, data;
  • Utilising help;
  • Altering defaults;
  • Customising the spreadsheet program, e.g. switching off functions not needed;
  • Utilising alternative input devices, e.g. data-loggers;
  • Protecting cells and documents.

 

 

Introducing Spreadsheets

You can introduce spreadsheets to children through the functions that they perform. Another way would be by making the link with calculators and place emphasis on a spreadsheet’s potential for supporting and facilitating calculations, especially those of a repeated nature.

 

As suggested by Potter et al. (2012, p. 151):

 

“Children may begin by entering a number and choosing an operation to perform on that number, for instance, adding 3.This process can be repeated focusing on emerging patterns, predicting and checking. At this level, spreadsheets have a number of advantages over calculators, the most pertinent being that they are easily checkable, by reviewing the formula for a calculation, or by graphing results to identify anomalies. It is important that the copying and pasting of formula is not offered as a solution too soon, before the purpose and process of formula-writing has been understood.”

 

Additionally, you could use a ready-made spreadsheet to introduce spreadsheets to children and when they get conversant with these you can introduce them to a whole-screen blank spreadsheet where they can fill in the cells with their names and measurements depending on the topic.

 

 

Making records

The application of spreadsheets in science lessons can also be used to record data in an organised and efficient way. Through the use of data organised in tables children can make accurate records because units of measurement can be listed with column headers and the table structure makes it clear for children to understand. Additionally, spreadsheets have the ability to present numerical data as charts and graphs.

 

Data presentation and analysis

As discussed earlier, spreadsheets are great for recording information and in doing so can help students to analyse, interpret and present findings from their experiment. When used effectively, spreadsheets enable students to collect and analyse data and this helps them with a range of scientific skills such as spotting possible errors in the data to identifying patterns and predicting outcomes.

This type of data can be turned into graphs and charts allowing the discussion of data as it emerges on screen thus refining their thinking and their predictions about the experiment.

 

Teaching Point:

When monitoring the use of spreadsheets in the classroom you may decide when it is best to intervene. Be mindful that a student’s understanding of a process such as spreadsheet modelling, cannot be represented by a checklist. It will require a description of the approach in which they approached the task and the support they needed. The level of description which best match the student’s approach can be recorded together with an indication of the degree of help required.

 

 

Databases

The use of ICT allows children to display their science in a clear and concise manner. No other computer is as practical and important as databases in terms of being an essential precursor to any ICT. Yet, some literature like Ball (2003) is fairly dismissive of the value of databases in primary science.

Two examples of using databases include 10 year olds building a database about flowers and dinosaurs. In both instances, children were able to interrogate a prepared database successfully.

So what do you need to know about databases?

There are three different types of databases – binary, flatfile or tabular, and relational e.g. CD-Roms.

 

Binary:

  • Creating, opening, saving, closing, deleting and printing documents;
  • Adding, modifying and deleting data and questions;
  • Plotting and replotting branching tree keys;
  • Inserting titles;
  • Selecting font and font size;
  • Exporting branching tree keys into other applications;
  • Importing information from other applications, e.g. clip art;
  • Utilising help;
  • Altering defaults;
  • Customising the branching tree program, e.g. switching off functions not needed;
  • Utilising alternative input devices, e.g. overlay keyboards;
  • Protecting documents.
  • Flatfile or tabular:
  • opening, closing, deleting and printing existing datafiles;
  • navigating through records using forwards and backwards;
  • simple and complex sorting (more than one condition);
  • searching to retrieve data;
  • plotting and replotting graphs/reports, including:
  • adding text, title, etc.
  • selecting graph type
  • selecting and modifying colours
  • saving
  • exporting graphs to other applications;
  • entering data into a prepared datafile, including:
  • selecting a new record/answer sheet
  • entering, modifying and deleting data
  • saving;
  • designing a new datafile, including:
  • opening a form/questionnaire designer
  • selecting font, font size, font colour, background colour
  • inserting and modifying questions, including making appropriate selections for style and format of answer supported:
  • words numbers dates;
  • yes/no multiple choice;
  • inserting text, images, borders, arrows;
  • saving.

 

Relational:

  • Loading, including installation prior to first use;
  • Modifying computer display and volume settings;
  • Opening and closing;
  • Navigating using menus, hyperlinks, forwards, backwards, home;
  • Searching and retrieving information using menus, indexes, keywords and hyperlinks;
  • Playing audio and video;
  • Copying and pasting text and graphics into other applications;
  • Selecting and printing information;
  • Utilising help;
  • Critical evaluation.

 

Teaching with and about databases involves you as a teacher doing the following:

  • Selecting appropriate opportunities – this is about deciding when the use of databases can enhance or extend children’s learning such as through a research project that involves interrogating a database.
  • Selecting appropriate resources – both teachers and children need to make the informed choice as to when set up a database.
  • Preparing suitable resources – it may be instructive for children to construct a database by determining their own fields and records, it may also be suitable for them to interrogate prepared resources.
  • Exploring the full range of data-handling activities – databases are not just about storage and retrieval of information, they facilitate hypothesising, decision-making, organising and analysing and synthesising.
  • Making explicit links between knowledge, skills and understanding – knowledge, skills and understanding have relevance across the primary science curriculum so make explicit and reinforce the links between children’s previous experiences and new learning across the range of contexts.
  • Modelling appropriate use of ICT – for example, how producing a branching tree database in electronic format enables modifications to be made quickly and easily.
  • Demonstrating and intervening – for example, intervening to assist a child to identify the tallest child in a class by sorting height data in descending order.

 

 

Using the power of the Database

An important part of a database in primary science is the powerful search and sort functions as they are the key to accessing a higher level of understanding. For children to be able to look for and find quickly different types of data that is usually buried deep in a huge amount of information is extremely valuable. They can display it on the screen, look for relationships, similarities and differences and patterns. Just by using a database and is very powerful as it accesses new levels of learning.

 

An example of this occurring might be on a topic of ‘ourselves’, where children might interrogate a database for the number of children who have brown hair or eyes, favourite food or the number and types of pets.

As a teacher, you need to be aware that if the children are going to build a database then a certain set of skills will be required and these are different to that when interpreting the database itself. For example, children will need to identify and search different sources of information, and then make judgements on the value of the information to determine which are useful, valid, relevant and accurate and those are not. A search strategy will have to be planned and this will require putting together and framing key questions. Keywords and operations such as AND, OR and NOT will need to be used when searching for information. All these features allows for rapid and dynamic feedback and response.

 

 

Integrating technology is never straight forward. In fact, it becomes more complex when planning and as we know planning lessons for teachers is essential to ensure that all students benefit from the curriculum. For those of you who teach STEM, lesson plan structure needs to be in such a way that you effectively integrate technology in the classroom.

 

 

 

Structuring your Lesson

In this article, therefore, I will highlight how to make a lesson plan for primary science when ICT is being planned to enhance to learning and to develop student ICT capability.

When it comes to planning for primary 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.

To understand what ICT capability in primary education is to understand what true technology integration. The one factor that both ICT capability and technology integration have in common is that they require the use of technology to be ‘transparent’ in its integration in learning areas.

So they are both the same and achieve the same goals.

It is advised (NSW Education), that a lesson plan is important as it enables decisions to be made about:

  1. What the students will learn?
  2. How will you know that learning has taken place?
  3. How you intend students to learn it?

 

The following lesson plan structure we recommend for when integrating ICT in primary science aligns with what is advised by NSW Education:

  • Clarify the lesson purpose and identify the learning goal/ intention for the lesson:
    • What do you want the students to learn?
    • Why does this learning matter?
  • Consider assessment:
    • How will you know the learning goal has been achieved?
    • What will the students do/ produce?
  • Structure the lesson as a series of episodes:
    • How will the lesson flow to ensure the learning goal/ intention is achieved?
  • Decide what will occur within each episode:
    • Which learning experiences and resources best support achievement of the learning goal/ intention?

 

 

Lesson Overview

Include the Science element and the ICT element. For example, “To study the behaviour of woodlice in their habitat and in classroom using CD-ROM and images from the Internet”.

Learning Objectives

In this section, the key objectives for your lesson or sequence of lessons will be derived from any medium or long term plans in which you have prepared subject to requirements of the national curriculum. This determines what should actually be taught and at times will come from a scheme of work. It will also indicate what needs to be taught and the way it could be taught.

For example:

To understand what kind of animal it is;

To understand something about its natural environment.

Prior Learning

This ensures continuity and progression in learning.

Development of lesson and Teaching Points

This should always be taught together as the former directly informs the latter. Some examples of ICT teaching points in science lessons include:

Computers at home –

Awareness of the role of ICT in society.

Parts of a plant –

Use of basic art package tools;

Incorporating text;

Simple introduction to desktop publishing.

Insulation –

Setting up and using sensing software;

Interpretation of graphical representation of data.

Differentiation

It is important to think about differentiation at the planning stage. You need to consider not only the science but also the ICT content. It may be entirely possible to have students who are high achievers in science but low achievers in ICT. It is best to differentiate on the science rather than the ICT – if the science is the key focus of the lesson. On the hand, if the child is strongest in ICT rather than in science then the power of the computer can be harnessed to develop the scientific knowledge, skills and understanding.

Assessment opportunities

If you are to differentiate effectively, you will need to ensure that you have an ongoing strategy as it enables you to prepare for individual students that is appropriate to their ability. This is vital as it assessment needs to be linked to your planning stage and lesson objectives. This will determine how successful the lesson has been.

When assessing children’s work when integrating technology in primary science lessons it can take several forms – formative, summative or testing. As ICT capability is largely practical, formative assessment is encouraged here in order to accurately plot a path for ICT learning. This is linked directly to planning and will involve observation, open-ended questioning and perhaps self-assessment.

Resources

Science and ICT combined brings a far-reached and detailed. Your lesson needs to be resourced and this should be made explicit in the lesson plan. For the science component, resources could involve the use of scientific apparatus, investigative equipment, and research and references sources. And for the ICT component it might include digital cameras, data logging sensors or computer microscopes.

Cross-Curricular links

Here you will need to identify cross-curricular links at your planning stage.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other areas might include the following (Allen, Potter, Sharpe, & Turvey, 2012, pp. 35-37):

Key questions -

What are the key questions which you will ask the children during the lesson which draw out the teaching and learning objectives? How will you maintain the dialogue with children who are experiencing difficulties? Record a few possible prompts which you could use.

 

Lesson format

Depending on your resource setting (whether you are in a classroom with one computer, in a computer suite or a hub in a corridor), how long will the different phases of your lesson last? The three-part lesson may not always be the best model but it is certainly a common one. If your time with the children is going to be organised in this way, give timings for:

  • An introduction outlining the learning objectives;
  • Development of the lesson through focused activities and integrated tasks;
  • A plenary, where all the strands are drawn together and children have an opportunity to share successes and problems.

 

Evaluating the Lesson (Operational issues & learning outcomes)

Good planning includes a space in which to reflect on how the lesson actually proceeded. It only needs to be a few lines, written at the time or soon after, which can give you a perspective on things you needed to change to make the lesson work (and which could, in turn, inform your planning later). Did you need, for example, to alter the timings of the introduction to ensure understanding of what was required for all the children? Did you find that you talked too much and the children needed more time and more independence in their working?

 

How far did the lesson achieve the intended learning objectives? Make a judgement based on your identified assessment opportunities. If it is part of a sequence of activities, how much is there still left to do? Comment on how the lesson went for the children experiencing difficulty and for those children of high ability. How well were you able to meet the needs of those with English as an additional language? Did children with special educational needs have full access to the activity and were they able to succeed?

 

National Curriculum context

What aspects of the programmes of study are you teaching? Consider the ICT and any links to other subjects.  List the main cross-curricular focus. If you are working in an Early Years setting, what elements of the curriculum are you hoping to work with during the activity?

 

To learn more about effective planning for integrating ICT in Primary science, visit this link.

 

 

Mobile Technology in STEM Education

Mobile technology is helping to represent abstract ideas in science. It has the potential to make significant contributions to the teaching of science including helping students understand scientific phenomena, assisting in recording, exploring relationships and finding and researching information. 

 

When organising mobile technology in the Science classroom consider the following:

  • The current level of ICT capability in students;
  • The management of the resources;
  • How to evaluate the use of technology in the classroom and;
  • Technical support. 

 

Here are six teacher-tested ideas and strategies on mobile phone lessons in the Science context:

  1. Get students to text the correct answer on their mobile phone to a question. The first student to do so would be the winner – Andrew Douch;
  2. Ask students to take photos on a field trip and then to use them in a report – Rebekah Randall;
  3. Text message images of minerals or elements – Lynne Sullivan;
  4. Research a science topic that generates controversy such as global warming – Judy Pederson;
  5. Use mobile phones to take pictures of everyday activities related to the study of chemical elements. Students could then use these images in their chemistry studies – Rebekah Randall;
  6. Create a mobile-friendly website regarding nutrition and fitness – unknown teacher;
  7. Take photos of objects in their natural settings – unknown teacher;
  8. Document and take photos of different types of insects then send them to a class map on the Internet – unknown teacher;
  9. Use the phone calculator app to make calculations.

 

 

Mobile technology in the classroom

Science Teaching Strategies in STEM

STEM education in Australia is really starting to take off these days. The integration of technology in the classroom can go a long way in enhancing the learning of science in STEM science lessons. ICT in STEM lessons, however, opens up a lot more avenues for primary teachers in relation to developing progression in student ICT capability throughout the Learning Continuum.

 

 

ICT can help children in their science lessons work:

  • To access, select and interpret information;
  • To recognise patterns, relationships, and behaviours;
  • To model, predict and hypothesise;
  • To test reliability and accuracy;
  • To review and modify their work to improve quality;
  • To communicate with others and present information;
  • To evaluate their work;
  • To improve their efficiency;
  • To be creative and take risks;
  • To gain confidence and independence.

(Ager, 2003)

 

 

In this section, you will learn about teaching strategies in science such as:

  • Planning the use of ICT/technology in the classroom
  • The role of the teacher when using ICT in science lessons.
  • Selecting the appropriate ICT tools

 

These are what I consider to be the best primary science connection to technology as they will provide you with a strong foundation to effortlessly support the use of digital technologies in science learning.

 

 

 

Planning the use of ICT in Primary Science Lessons

 

When planning to integrate ICT into primary science lessons, you will need to take into account children’s ICT capability in order to pursue opportunities to exploit and extend it. It is part of a set of factors that will make up a good lesson plan.

 

For example, the year 3 Science Inquiry Skills in the Australian Curriculum provides opportunities for students to Manage and Operate ICT along with Investigate with ICT which involves selecting and using hardware and software in addition to locating, generating and accessing data and information.

 

Look at the context of the features of ICT which make it a learning tool and decide whether it is appropriate to the learning outcome for which you are currently planning.

 

You also need to take into account, at the same time, other factors otherwise planning will be ineffective and even counterproductive.

 

 

Like in any other subject, the use of ICT must support and enhance the learning of science. You need to be mindful that some activities may develop scientific knowledge, skills, and understanding of children and this is fine if this is your intention.

 

However, they do not necessarily generate further ICT skill development. It is important that science lessons is interactive as active learning is a crucial part of any lesson, but especially for ICT in science. Students must interact with the computer in that they should not be passive recipients of the data or information on the screen.

 

A vital factor in developing ICT capability is that students must always be in control of the ICT tool whether it be a computer program or an iPad app.

 

Above this, you as the teacher must interact with the students and the computer as it is through monitoring ICT activities that you learn to intervene at the right moments. It is at this time that you begin asking key questions to ensure that children think critically and carefully about the concepts being taught.

 

Open-ended questions are ideal so that you avoid simple yes and no answers from them.

 

Examples 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 this telling you?
  • How might the variables in the spreadsheet be changed?

 

Remember it is your ability to provide detail subject and pedagogical knowledge in addition to asking the right questions at the right time that makes ICT a powerful tool for the teaching and learning in science lessons

 

These questions will also help you in when assessing students through formative assessment strategies as it provides opportunities to assess student progress. Additionally, it can also be useful as assessing ICT is a particular difficult area. You will need to know what exactly is being assessed and why. Your goal as a primary school teacher should be to not only assess the subject knowledge, but also the use of technology and the technology itself. This is because ICT capability is being developed and assessed in primary education. Planning should ensure that ICT capability is enhanced as well as learning in the other subjects, even where there is only the potential for lower levels of ICT skills.

 

 

 

The Role of the Teacher

 

The key to successful teaching and learning with ICT lies in how the technology is used and employed, not in teaching of the technology itself. It is this that makes your role as the teacher crucial.

 

As a primary science teacher, you will need to:

  • Help students to raise questions and suggest hypotheses;
  • Encourage students to predict and say what they think will happen and;
  • Encourage closer and more careful observation.

 

Additionally, this may also involve you helping children to see ways in which their tests are not fair and ways to make them fairer which will ultimately encourage students to measure.

 

Above all, it is important that you:

  • Encourage children to think about their experiences;
  • Talk together and;
  • Describe and explain their findings and thoughts to others.

 

Technology teaching strategies in science such as the above can play a key role in STEM education in primary school. It is often how well you plan and understand your role as the teacher that make the difference between how well mobile technology in the classroom will help students achieve the learning outcomes and the development of ICT capability in science lessons.

 

Online ECE Workshop 

Science and Technology in Early Childhood Education

Science and technology in early childhood education