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 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 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 the 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.
In this article, you will learn about:
- Planning the use of ICT/technology in the classroom
- The Role of the teacher and technology;
- Selecting the appropriate ICT tools
Planning the use of ICT in Primary Science
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 which 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 every science lesson 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 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 of open-ended questions to use
- What would happen if they 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 of science.
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.
Selecting the Appropriate ICT tools and Resources
There are a number of things which you ought to consider when choosing software to support science learning.
The most useful software evaluation for primary school teachers is the one which ensures that it will also development student ICT capability in the primary curriculum.
ICT Capability or the integration of digital technologies is part of the science curriculum and therefore, should be taken advantage of. There are many opportunities which ICT can provide in science lessons. The majority of these come from generic and content free software which can be used for a multitude of tasks.
You need to consider:
- What features and facilities does the software provide to extend children’s learning?
- How easy are these features to use?
- Will the children need to be instructed in their use before or during their use of the software?
- What is the educational purpose underlying the children’s use of the software? (To develop ICT skills? To learn how to use the software? To use the software as a means to an end? To develop communication skills and knowledge?)
Additionally, there are three general requirements according to Williams and Easingwood (2003, p35):
- It should reflect the current industry standard.
- It should have a transparent and intuitive graphical interface.
- It should have the capacity to offer a series of configurable ‘front ends’, to make it appropriate for students of different ages.