Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Software for the Synergistic Integration of Science with ICT Education

Academic journal article Journal of Information Technology Education

Software for the Synergistic Integration of Science with ICT Education

Article excerpt


In 1996, the Advisory Committee to the National Science Foundation Directorate of Education and Human Resources issued its Review of Undergraduate Education entitled Shaping the Future--New Expectations for Undergraduate Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology. The key recommendation to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) faculty was to "model good practices that increase learning; start with the student's experience, but have high expectations with a supportive climate; and build inquiry, a sense of wonder and the excitement of discovery, plus communication and teamwork, critical thinking, and life-long learning skills into learning experiences." Shaping the Future charges college-level science educators to use technology effectively to enhance learning and communication and to develop curricula "that take full advantage of modern technology, particularly personal computers, multimedia materials, digital libraries, hypertext links, and access to vast networked resources, including databases and activities on other campuses." Recent innovations in computer technologies, particularly in computer-mediated communication via the Internet, are being increasingly used as resources to enhance teaching and learning in the college classroom (Capri, 2001; Carnevale, 2003; Chasteen, 2001; Stone, Bongiorno, Hinegardner, & Williams, 2004; Towns & Zielinski, 2004).

Educators and administrators also agree that it is essential for citizens in a democratic society to understand and make informed decisions about various, political and economic choices. Many of these choices require scientific literacy, which requires an understanding of concepts and principles underlying current issues. This demands awareness of the context, compelling the integration of real-world elements into every classroom.

The higher goals of science education and policy are thus well defined and the significance and importance of achieving these goals have been widely accepted. The challenge at this time concerns the design, implementation, and assessment of teaching methods that accomplish this ambitious goal in a systematic fashion. These methods should be fit for widespread adoption so as to serve as teaching tools that can affect systemic change. With the Chemistry Is in the News (CIITN) Project, we are addressing this challenge in the context of college science instruction (Borman, 2004; Leslie, 2004). It is the objective of the CIITN Project to facilitate learning activities based on authentic news media in small collaborative groups particularly in the context of large lecture setting. The CIITN activities consist of the online study, creation, and peer review of CIITN portfolios, which consist of (a link to) an electronically published news article from online media, particularly the popular press, interpretive comments, pertinent links, references to professional journals, and questions.

To accomplish these complex learning activities, one must rely on and further develop the ICT literacy of the students and their instructors. ICT literacy is a worthwhile objective in and of itself because students must be prepared to access and use information to make the decisions demanded of them as citizens of a democratic society. However, stand-alone ICT education falls short of achieving real ICT literacy as "it was becoming abundantly clear that unless students could integrate information technology in with other cognitive skills, it was really not causing any transformation in their learning," (O'Conner et al., 2002). This insight calls for the combination of ICT education with discipline content knowledge. It is this combination of science content and IC technology found in the CIITN Project that exemplifies well the new paradigm of teaching ICT literacy as advocated in Digital Transformation (O'Conner et al., 2002).

CIITN connects abstract scientific concepts with real world experience and constructivist learning theory (Bodner, Klobuchar & Geelan, 2001; Taylor, Gilmer & Tobin, 2002) holds that such connections can help motivate students to learning and remember the content. …

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