Integrating iPads in Middle School Science Instruction: A Case Study

Integrating iPads in Middle School Science Instruction: A Case Study

Lana M. Minshew, Janice L. Anderson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2000-9.ch003
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With the appropriate support and experience, iPads and other mobile devices can be used for collaborative scientific inquiry moving beyond individual skill practice and assessment appropriations. The mobility and access the iPad provides opens up the classroom for innovative instructional practices, allowing students to physically explore their world, though the devices themselves are not enough to guarantee student engagement and learning. The Gradual Increase of Responsibility (GIR) model for teacher coaching (Collet, 2008) is used as the instructional coaching model of professional development. Through GIR, coaches model, make recommendations, ask probing questions, and affirm teachers' decisions over the course of several months to increase the teacher's independence in using technology to transform instruction for students. This study aims to examine how middle grades teachers' integration of one-to-one technology moves beyond drill and practice and using apps as extension activities.
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Portable, handheld devices are commonplace in today’s modern society. With the majority of adults in the U.S. owning smart phones, our use of technology on a daily basis has grown. Everyday use of technology has allowed for mobile devices, such as the iPad, to seep into the classroom. The age of the single computer lab for an entire school is slowly fading and in its place are ubiquitous mobile devices for each student. The iPad, and other such mobile devices, have been used in classrooms for a variety of activities, such as note taking, games, simulations, formative assessment purposes, as well as for student research (Alvarez, Alarcon, & Nussbaum, 2011). However, the possibilities for the use of mobile devices, like the iPad, are endless when teachers and students are provided support and guidance for developing technology enabled learning environments.

Mobile devices, such as the iPad, offer the potential to bridge the gap between school-specific tools (i.e. calculators) and everyday tools (Looi, et al., 2009) that can be used to enhance learning in the classroom. However, teachers’ limited experience with technology integration and instances of one-time professional development encourage technology use to be centered on reinforcement of previously taught disciplinary content. As a result, integration resembles drill and practice rather than the integration of technology to create an inquiry-learning environment (Minshew & Anderson, 2015). This chapter will examine three middle grades science teachers’ experiences in the integration of one-to-one technology (iPads) into their instructional design. The teachers participated in a coaching or modeling professional development technique that took place at their school, working with our research team for an academic year to design, construct, and implement inquiry-focused science curricular units. This work contributes to a developing body of research that examines the impact of integrating technology into science instructional practices through the use of TPACK and coaching models. Additionally, it allows for the examination of how targeted professional development and coaching helps (or does not help) teachers integrate technology into their core disciplinary instructional design and implementation. In these case studies, we examine the integration of iPads in instructional design.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR): A framework created by Pearson and Gallagher, rooted in socio-cultural theory where responsibility is gradually released from the teacher to the student, anticipating students taking responsibility for their learning.

TPACK: Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge framework that suggest that teachers can synergistically call upon their knowledge in three domains – content, pedagogy and technology.

Inquiry Learning: The activities through which students develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world.

Internal Barrier: Teachers’ individual barriers that prevent them from using technology during classroom instruction. Teachers’ personal beliefs, attitudes, and self-efficacy with technology can be an internal barrier.

Mobile Devices: Portable computing devices such as a smartphone or tablet computer.

Gradual Increase in Responsibility (GIR): A professional development coaching model developed by Collet, designed to scaffold support for individual teachers as needs vary within disciplines and time. GIR also has the goal of generating teachers interdependence and collaboration among colleagues and to begin to rely less on the instructional coach over time.

Design Based Research: An iterative process that incorporates cycles of data collection, analysis, and reflection to inform the design of educational innovations and develop theory.

Comparative Case Study: Qualtiative data collection that explores in depth a program, event, activity, or process where multiple individuals are analayzed as a means to gage varying experiences.

RAT Framework: Hughes’ technology integration framework that describes teachers’ use of technology in their classrooms. Replacement- the addition of technology does, in no way change the instructional practice, student learning processes, or content goals of the intended lesson. Amplification – the technology allows for the task to be completed more efficiently and effectively, yet the tasks remain the same. Transformation – the technology changes student learning, including content, cognitive processes, and problem solving.

External Barrier: Outside inhibitor that prevents teachers from implementing technology in the classroom. For example, limited access to technology, insufficient infrastrure to supporttechnology, and limited technical support.

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