Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(3), 280-315. (2009)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
The goal of this study was to examine the effects of inserting laptops and science technology tools into middle school environments while providing responsive professional development in the classrooms of motivated middle school science teachers.
The authors considered the following research questions:
What is the impact on students’ learning and science knowledge when teachers employ inquiry pedagogies with technological tools?
How do students perceive themselves as learners and their teachers’ efforts with technology to improve science teaching?
Which educational technologies do students perceive as helpful in learning science?
This study was conducted at a suburban middle school, located in the state of New York. Working together with a local university, two middle school science teaching faculty members wrote and aligned curricula, explored relevant science education literature, tested lessons with summer school students, and prepared evaluation measures for their year-long implementation of laptops, probeware, and other scientific hardware and software.
This quasi-experimental study revealed differences in student achievement, responses to pedagogy, and effectiveness of tools implemented by teachers over the course of the year.
The technology made it easier to both gather and understand the information, because it was presented in a way the students preferred. Students felt that technology helped facilitate their learning in ways that they had not experienced in previous years.
Science Teachers’ Use of Technology
Project science teachers said that their students’ accounts reflected that using technology was novel, but more importantly, that certain aspects of the technology were inherently helpful to them for learning science. Noting not only students’ comments but also students’ behaviors, teachers saw increases in students’ motivation and academic achievement as their students expressed appreciation and use of other learning styles, rather than just being told information.
Students’ Response to Technological and Pedagogical Shifts
Students’ Achievement Indicates More Project Students Than Nonproject Students Were Able to Succeed With Technological and Pedagogical Classroom Shifts. Though this middle school’s students achieve at high levels relative to the rest of the state of New York, students in the project classrooms showed increased achievement across the board where curriculum areas were targeted. More importantly, students reported specific ways technology assisted them in learning science concepts.
The authors argue that not only students found their teachers to be more effective, teachers themselves also reported renewed vigor in their teaching, and their scores improved from their prior years’ successes. Teachers compared their own students’ achievement to those of past years and saw improvement as well and noted comments from students informing them about important changes they had observed that would not have happened in the former poorly equipped environment.
Implications are discussed for the effectiveness of laptops in science, as well as future studies identifying differences in instructional practices associated with technology tools.