Exploring the Use of iPads to Investigate Forces and Motion in an Elementary Science Methods Course

May. 01, 2013

Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 13(2), 105-126. (2013).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article describes the aspects of iPad use which preservice teachers perceived as beneficial in the forces and motion unit.

The participants were 98 elementary preservice teachers, who enrolled in elementary science methods courses.
Data were collected through a survey, which administered to the participants at the end of the fall semester 2012.


The results revealed that at many stages of this process, the preservice teachers used iPads to abstract ideas from physical experience: videotaping and discussing footage, photographing and drawing on photographs, graphing and exploring relationships represented by the graphs, and modeling content using apps.
Preservice teachers’ responses showed that these experiences were perceived as valuable, both in terms of an understanding of the underlying content and completion of the project as a whole. Therefore, the act of taking the videos of experimental trials and replaying them was perceived as positive and deemed beneficial by the preservice teachers.

In addition, the preservice teachers frequently described how recording and replaying images and videos in the design project helped their groups to connect science concepts of forces and motion to their specific vehicle performance.
For example, videos of trials were used by preservice teachers to check for consistent measurements to aid in more accurate mathematical relationships for evaluating the performance of their vehicles.
The iPads also functioned as efficient graphing tools when the students utilized an online graphing program to represent and analyze their data.

Additionally, participants described how the iPad influenced instructional efficiency, engagement, and social learning.
The iPad helped students connect numerical relationships to the real world—albeit, in the case of weight and mass on the moon, a virtual version of the world.
The experiences of these participants suggest positive outcomes.
The iPad is particularly suited for interactivity and allows students to gain a sense of connection and mastery through the use of a technological tool that enables them to exchange information in a variety of formats.

This study found that the iPad was also seen as a beneficial tool for creative presentations of science content understanding.
Preservice teachers commented on the benefit of recorded videos of experimental trials in initiating discussions of how the science related to the performance of their vehicles.

The development of their science explanations within groups using the images, videos, and graphs was mostly seen as a positive experience.
Many preservice teachers felt that the shared viewing of videos and construction of their Educreations explanations was due to the shared nature of the iPads within the process.


Several implications from this study can have relevance for science teacher educators.
As technological tools become more ubiquitous in classroom settings, teachers must expand their pedagogical content knowledge to include a critical stance about technology use.
Hence, science teacher educators must explicitly encourage preservice teachers to question how technological tools can facilitate the inclusion of the eight Practices for K-12 Science Classrooms.

Technology should serve as a mechanism for supporting students as they ask questions, plan and carry out investigations, analyze and interpret data, use mathematics, construct explanations, and obtain and communicate information.
However, teachers must frame its use always in the service of and not as a replacement for those direct experiences.

While the iPad is clearly a tool for collaboration, the interface remains the relatively small screen even when connected to an interactive whiteboard.
It is highly relevant to the development of preservice teachers’ critical pedagogical skills that they confront and discuss both the strengths and weakness of the device for various purposes, as well as analyze the way the device shapes student interaction.

As teachers are identified who use the iPads as a tool for supporting inquiry-based practices, it would be instructive to develop cases of their classroom practice.
The teacher must stay focused on the underlying goals of the classroom and evaluate each tool in light of those goals.

Updated: Feb. 26, 2015