why we use IT in science teaching (1994)

Scientists need to measure and communicate, to handle information and model ideas. In essence, they need to process information. Young scientists have similar needs. When they write, draw graphs, do maths and make measurements, they too are doing the same thing. They are processing information.

The technology for processing information includes the word processor, the spreadsheet, database programs, sensors, and modelling programs. Spreadsheet programs take the strain of making tables, drawing graphs and working with numbers. Database programs allow us to search for information and look to patterns within it. Sensors help us to measure changes and draw graphs. Modelling programs help represent scientific ideas that are too hard to get a grip on in real life. If there’s a common thread, they allow the scientist to do more and go further.

It’s important that children see how today’s scientist works. It’s important that they be equipped for the technology-rich world in which they live. It’s also important, a legal requirement even, that they use information technology. But when teachers started using the technology in the classroom, other advantages became apparent. When the children became fluent in using sensors, the computer offered them a new insight into science. They gained something that helped them to understand and encouraged them to explore. When the children used databases and spreadsheets they didn’t just draw graphs, they could go on to interpret them. And when they worked together with a word processor, they started talking with zeal, not the usual gossip, but about science. Children who were challenged by doing things ‘the old way’ were able to move on. The tools that started life as information processing tools became special tools to enhance our teaching. These were tools for the mind.

And for all the speed of computers, I doubt if anyone saved any time. What was saved – by not having to draw tables, or colour-in graphs, or write it out neatly or take thermometer readings – was spent straight away, examining the science that had started to open up. In the search for more science, this site aims to show where information technology can be exploited and add value to our science teaching.

Preface from The IT in Secondary Science Book and IT in Primary Science by Roger Frost

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