Successful Implementation of Technology to Teach Science: Research Implications

Successful Implementation of Technology to Teach Science: Research Implications

David A. Slykhuis (James Madison University, USA) and Rebecca McNall Krall (University of Kentucky, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-750-0.ch012
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In this review of recent literature on the use of technology to teach science content, 143 articles from 8 science education journals were selected and analyzed for the use of technologies in teaching science, pedagogies employed, and successes of the implementations. The resultant data provides a snapshot on how technology is being used in the teaching and learning of science, and the research methods used to explore these issues. Levels of research and levels of success were developed and applied to the article data set to characterize the types of research and technology implementations described in the literature. Articles that showed high levels of successful implementation of technology along with a high level of research were explored and explained in greater detail. The review underscores the research trend toward using technology to illustrate abstract concepts and make objects that are invisible to the naked eye, visible and malleable in computer modeling programs. Implications for successful use of technology to teach science are discussed.
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Business leaders are calling for technologically and scientifically literate workers to enhance U.S. corporations’ competitive edge in the global marketplace (Friedman, 2005). Technology enthusiasts tout the motivational potential of educational technologies to promote and improve students’ problem solving abilities. Technology advocates have underscored the potential of computer technologies as a panacea for improving students’ scientific literacy and 21st century skills—a necessary skill base for success in the increasingly competitive global marketplace (Metiri Group, 2003). Likewise, the National Research Council (NRC, 1996) and the American Association for Advancement in Science (AAAS, 1993, 2000) recommend using technology to foster student experiences analogous to those carried out by scientists—such as data collection and analysis, constructing and manipulating models, and communicating results—as well as to help students construct conceptual understandings of abstract science concepts.

The call for increased use of technology in schools is evident in the dramatic increase in computer availability in classrooms today. From 1988 to 2009 there has been a dramatic drop in the computer to student ratio from 1:30 in 1988 to 1:5.3 in 2009 (Gray, Thomas, & Lewis, 2010). The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported that in 2009 97% of all teachers had access to at least one computer in the classroom, 93% of which offered Internet access (Gray et al., 2010). With the increased accessibility of classroom computers, one might expect the instructional use of computers also to rise. A ten-year review of NCES data, however, suggests the rise in use has been less than what might be expected (NCES, 2000; Gray et al., 2010). As Table 1 illustrates, teachers have increased their use of computers from 1999 to 2009 by 44%. However, the greatest increase was attributed to their use of the Internet to support student research (64% gain). Other areas showing significant gains included the use of graphics (e.g., digital images, animations) to illustrate concepts (34% gain), the use of drill and practice programs to promote student learning (19% gain), and using computers to support problem solving and data analysis (18% gain).

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