Science and technology work well together; however, there are some obstacles to implementing a technology into the science classroom. According to Roblyer, “authentic science not only involves having students ‘do’ science, it also includes connecting science to students’ lives” (p.323). Making those connections can be challenging, using technology can help. Some obstacles include: 1. resistance to using virtual labs and simulations to replace hands on labs, 2, access to technology, 3. professional development.
- Minds-on, Hands-on virtual vs “real”: Currently online science courses and virtual schools must have a hands-on lab component in order to receive AP endorsement from the College Board (Roblyer, p. 321). More research is needed to determine outcomes of virtual vs hands-on lab investigations. Since my class is not on line or virtual, I think it is beneficial for students to do both virtual and hands-on investigations. In my experience, the virtual labs help students understand the concepts, sometimes more so than the hands on component. Many students disassociate hands on lab time from class work (thinking lab is “time away” from class!) and have a difficult time tying the labs to concepts. The virtual labs help students to make those connections. For now, virtual labs can be used to enhance hands on learning.
- Access to technology : Teachers and students need to have access to computers and the internet. Some schools have limited access to technology due to the cost. For schools with limited technology access, this requires planning of resources and time as equipment needs to be shared between classrooms. With advanced planning, technology can be woven into a classroom. For example, our library has enough desktops and Chromebooks for three or four class to use, so teachers must plan in advance and “sign up” for library computer or Chromebook time. The science department also has a laptop cart of about twenty laptops. Additionally, some classrooms have laptops (my classroom has sixteen!), so if I am doing an activity that requires all students to use a laptop, I will sign out additional laptops from our cart. It takes planning, but is doable.
- Support for technology and professional development: According to Nagel, reporting on the NMC Horizon Report:2013 K-12 Edition, the number one obstacle is professional development (2013). In terms of support, Guzey and Roehrig found that schools that encouraged the use of technology were more likely to give “support from the school community” that “allowed these teachers to reform their practices.” Meaning, that teachers who have access to and support from the community feel more comfortable using and adjusting their use of technology in the classroom. In other words, infusing technology takes time and practice! “Well-developed programs that provide opportunities for participating teachers to build and sustain “learning communities” seem to have positive impacts on science teachers’ technology integration. Continuous support is necessary to help teachers overcome the constraints in incorporating technology” (Guzey and Roehrig, 2009). Again, time, practice, and professional development are key to successful technology integration. Moreover, Guzey and Roehrig found that is is necessary “to provide teachers follow-up assistance during the time when they were designing and implementing their technology-enriched lessons and action research projects…Thus, professional development programs focusing on technology integration should provide teachers opportunities to reflect on their teaching and share their experiences both with professional development leaders and their peers” (2009). From my experience, professional development must include time to not only learn about a technology, but also include time to think about and plan for using the technology, and finally, include time for reflection, refinement, and collaboration. In our district, we get the first piece basic training on a technology, but do not always have the time to find ways to use the technology or time to reflect on and adjust the practice.
Successful technology integration is a process that takes time, practice, and training. I recommend that teachers try to infuse a single lesson or unit with technology rather than revamping the entire course. Based on the success of the pilot, teachers can determine what works and begin to find ways to implement more technology into their lessons.
Guzey, S. S., & Roehrig, G. H. (2009). Teaching science with technology: Case studies of science teachers’ development of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge.Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss1/science/article1.cfm.
Nagel, D. (2013). Six technology challenges facing education. The Journal, Retrieved from http://thejournal.com/articles/2013/06/04/6-technology-challenges-facing-education.aspx
Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating technology into education. (7th ed.). New York, NY, Pearson.