Systematic Review of Outdoor Science Learning Activities with the Integration of Mobile Devices

Systematic Review of Outdoor Science Learning Activities with the Integration of Mobile Devices

Trina J. Kilty, Andrea C. Burrows
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/IJMBL.2020040103
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The purpose of this systematic study review was to describe how researchers integrated mobile devices into outdoor science learning, assessment of those activities, and alignment of purpose, integration, and assessment. From initial 980 search results, the authors selected 45 articles based on the eligibility criteria of: (a) empirical study; (b) learning activity with science content; (c) outdoor setting; (d) mobile device integration; and (e) assessement. Researchers designed outdoor science learning activities integrated with mobile devices for the purposes of science knowledge gain, affective domain gain, and scientific inquiry. Researchers aligned components of scientific inquiry including hypothesis formation, observation, data collection and interpretation, and communication and collaboration. Conclusions describe benefits to integrating mobile devices with outdoor science learning activities by supporting scientific inquiry skill development. Alignment of purpose and assessment provides evidence of student learning important in meeting accountability standards.
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Designing meaningful learning experiences and measuring the impact of that learning is important to many stakeholders including education administrators, and school funding may be impacted by student performance (Ravitch, 2016). Increasingly, science educators at all levels of education experience an external push to design instruction towards accountability and addressing science standards (Chesky & Wolfmeyer, 2015). In the US, for example, Next Generation Science Standards guide learning outcomes for science domain learning for K-12 (ages 5-18 years) students (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Scientific inquiry, integrated with engineering design practices, serves as one NGSS dimension of the standards, along with the dimensions of cross-cutting concepts and disciplinary core ideas (NGSS Lead States, 2013). These three dimensions ideally are covered in all age and grade bands and provide a basis for postsecondary science educators to accumulate prior knowledge. There is flexibility, however, regarding how science educators implement and assess NGSS, leading researchers to recommend, “Thus, at the school and classroom level, research is needed to examine rigorously how standards are interpreted” (Fulmer, Tanas, & Weiss, 2018, p. 1095). The authors of this systematic review partially address this recommendation by examining how science educators implement an aspect of science education that some consider innovative. The authors conceptualize this innovation as science learning activities, with integration of mobile devices, in formal and informal outdoor settings for students of all ages, and aim to provide a global perspective of this issue. Although standards are not the same in many countries nor uniformly implemented at a collegiate level, all science educators should design and integrate science learning activities with intention and assess whether that intention was fulfilled. Thus, standards such as NGSS were used as a broad conceptual framework for the systematic review but were not used as a measure of attainment by each study.

The concept of alignment deserves mention, as it played a key role in this systematic review. Alignment is a term that, like scientific inquiry, has different meanings depending on context. In a broad sense, alignment is the degree of similarity in aspects of curricula, programs, or educational standards (Webb, 1997). In this study, the authors define alignment as how closely intentions or purpose for an outdoor science learning activity match the assessment. Other researchers show how science educators’ intentions followed through in their assessments (Sandlin, Harshman, & Yezierski, 2015; Webb, 1997). Examining earlier work presents another cloudy concept. Words such as goals, expectations, outcomes, objectives, purpose, and intent may generally encompass what science educators intend to accomplish in terms of student learning (Sandlin et al., 2015; Webb, 1997). In this study, the authors used the words intention and purpose to capture this concept. The authors did not use the terms objectives or outcomes because those terms may have accountability connotations and the authors did not examine documents such as lesson plans in which these terms would have been precisely documented.

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