Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Beyond the Classroom Walls: Technology Infusion Advancing Science Education

Academic journal article Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin

Beyond the Classroom Walls: Technology Infusion Advancing Science Education

Article excerpt

Why Teach beyond the Classroom Walls?

As American society develops into a more knowledge-based one, it has become critical that individual citizens possess science, technology, and mathematics skills in order to benefit from and contribute fully to the world at large (National Research Council [NRC], 2011). The intent of this article is to provide a brief overview of educational technology tools in relation to informal science education in order to support learners within and across various learning environments.

What Educators Know So Far

Teachers seeking to incorporate educational technology tools need to consider several factors connected to learning outcomes and goals. Current science and technology curricula give educators new roles and responsibilities that go beyond the traditional; educators are now facilitators and guides who assist student learning by having the students construct their own knowledge. This perspective on teaching and learning is rooted in constructivist philosophy. Technology tools for learning are appealing to youth today (Gee, 2003). These tools provide for rich learning environments that allow for personal experiences, social experiences, and real-world learning situations. Informal learning environments-and the learning that occurs within them-are enriched by the effective use of technology (Lai, Khaddage, & Knezek, 2013). The effectiveness of technology integration in core content areas remains a goal for educators in this digital age. Ultimately, the goal for educators is to inspire people to become life-long learners (Christensen, Overall, & Knezek, 2006).

Who Are the Occupants of the Digital Age?

Two major occupants of the digital age exist in the educational world: the digital native, also known as the Net Generation, and the digital immigrant, also known as the digiteacher (Barnes, Marateo, & Farris, 2007; Lindsey & Davis, 2010). Both occupants play a critical role in the use of emerging technology in classrooms. Digital natives are defined as "those currently between the ages of 11 and 30, who have grown up completely steeped in technology and, for the past 12 years, the internet" (Tapscott, 2009, p. 106). A more detailed list of character and learning traits of the digital native, extracted from Teaching and Learning with the Net Generation (Barnes et al., 2007), includes a need for instant gratification, use of multitasking, a tendency to be easily bored, and a desire for different forms of communication. Similarly, Hay (2000) found that the digital native wants more hands-on, inquiry-based approaches to learning and is not as willing to be a passive learner. In contrast, Barnes et al. (2007) found that digital natives often lack information-literacy skills; they typically have weak critical thinking skills; and they are less likely to be content with any delayed gratification in the classroom.

Everyone who does not have the characteristics of a digital native is, according to Prensky (2010), a digital immigrant, defined as "those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology" (p. 1-2). Among the digital immigrants are a few educators who excel in leading the technology movement in education. They are known as the "digiteachers" (Lindsey & Davis, 2010, p. 13) and constitute a small, but growing, population of the digital world. They are the teachers who are competent in teaching digital natives. In today's educational settings, a digiteacher is not necessarily classified by his or her technology ability but more by technology tolerance and acceptance.

Teachers must adjust to the new needs and characteristics of the Net Generation. They cannot continue to deliver educational messages in the same old, analog way. Accessing videos, putting exams on line, and using technology in a more active role in education are becoming the norm, and the digital immigrants must learn how to match their Net Generation students to the online tools that are now available to educators. …

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