Guidelines for Integrating
Technology in Science Instruction
RANDY L. BELL AND JOE GAROFALO
An interesting disconnect has taken place in science education in the past 20 years. In nearly every science discipline, new technologies have pushed advances in scientific knowledge to unprecedented levels. The Hubble telescope has allowed scientists to peer farther into the universe than ever before. Scientists use particle accelerators in their work with subatomic particles to probe the very structure of matter. The Human Genome Project has depended on computers to parse mind-boggling masses of data on DNA. Yet, in the majority of K-12 classrooms where our students are learning about science, the advantages of computer technology are virtually ignored.
You have no doubt heard about Larry Cuban's book, Oversold and Underused, in which he found that less than 5% of teachers integrated computer technology into their regular curricular and instructional routines (Cuban, 2001, p. 133). This finding is not surprising. Few K-12 science teachers have ever had the chance to observe effective uses of technology to teach science content, so they do not have a vision for how it fits into their instruction.
Of course, technology can be used in the classroom merely for its own sake. Technology enthusiasts have been accused of advocating any and every use of technology without regard to its effectiveness or pedagogical soundness. We are advocating quite the opposite view. In many situations, technology makes no sense in the science classroom. However, we have found that technology, when used appropriately, can move science learning from the realm of rote memorization to conceptual understanding. Computer technologies can help students go beyond cookbook-style [experiments] to visualize the invisible, transcend time, and experience the inquiry that drives real-life science.
This book provides you, the science teacher, with appropriate models for enhancing your science teaching with technology. The activities encourage students to understand, question, and explore. We begin by describing four guidelines for integrating technology in your science instruction. The guidelines reflect what we believe to be appropriate uses of technology to enhance and extend student learning. These guidelines are adapted from our similar guidelines for integrating technology in science and mathematics teacher preparation courses, which can be found in Flick and Bell (2000) and Garofalo, Drier, Harper, Timmerman, and Shockey (2000), respectively. These guidelines are intended to help teachers design instruction that takes advantage of technology's potential. They also framed the thinking of our authors as they developed the individual units in this book.