Internet Environments for Science Education

By Schmidt, Philip A. | Quarterly Review of Distance Education, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Internet Environments for Science Education


Schmidt, Philip A., Quarterly Review of Distance Education


Internet Environments for Science Education, Marcia C. Linn, Elizabeth A. Davis, and Philip Bell. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004, 412 pages, softcover: $39.39; hardcover: $89.95.

As a mathematician and mathematics educator, I was somewhat surprised when a colleague asked if I would be interested in reviewing a collection of essays centered on important issues related to science education. Though my administrative responsibilities at Western Governors University include coordinating the science education programs, and while it is the case that I am interested in science education as it relates to mathematics education, it seemed at first to me that others might be more academically equipped to do this work. However, after an initial reading of this outstanding book, I found that the power of this work is its applicability to fields outside of science education while providing tremendous power for those actively involved in science education.

In this collection, Linn (and her colleagues) provide what is, in essence, a roadmap for reform in science education. With an emphasis on the relevance of science to students' worlds and on developing in students a verve for learning independently in science, this book focuses on the following critical topics:

* Inquiry and Technology

* The Knowledge Integration Perspective on Learning

* The Scaffolded Knowledge Integration Framework for Instruction

* Design-Based Research in Education

* Creating Critique Projects

* Promoting Students' Argument Construction and Collaborative Debate in the Science Classroom

* Fostering Productive Collaboration Offline and Online

* Hands-on Investigation in Internet Environments

* The Web-Based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE)

* The Educational Opportunities of Contemporary Controversies in Science

* Synergy Research and Knowledge Integration

* Partnership Models

* Specific Design Principles

* Internet Environments for Science Education

For those of us involved in various models and philosophies of online and Internet education, this series of topics represent a collection of ideas and arguments that might not seem necessarily new. What, then, makes this book so compelling? Why would I recommend it strongly to all those in science education and other areas of education that intersect broadly with Internet education? It is not only that the individual topics are treated creatively and articulately; and, it is not solely that the actual topics are important ones. It is, most importantly, that the broad issues that are central to science education today are successfully addressed in these chapters in a way that makes them seem immediately critical to successful science pedagogy.

What are these issues? First, the authors describe a research program that is truly inquiry-based. Second, and most importantly, the authors push the reader to focus intensively on the conversion of students into lifelong learners of science. And it is particularly impressive that not only can non-science educators benefit amply from this work, but that education professionals involved in curriculum development, professional development, and technology in general can as well.

In the first four chapters of this book, called Part I: Starting Points, the various authors focus on a variety of important, foundational issues, including the natures of the learner and metaprinciples for the design of inquiry learning. In Part II: Curriculum Design Patterns for Knowledge Integration, the authors bring to us various sequences that are geared toward the promotion of investigation in science and activities for teachers and curriculum coordinators to encourage the design of inquiry instruction. In Part III: New Partnerships, the reader's attention is turned to various partnership models, including WISE and Knowledge Integration Environment (KIE), with emphases on customization of curriculum, communicating the nature of science, and mentoring. …

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