Teaching Natural Sciences to Kindergarten Students Using Tablets: Results From a Pilot Project

Teaching Natural Sciences to Kindergarten Students Using Tablets: Results From a Pilot Project

Emmanuel Fokides (University of the Aegean, Greece) and Dimitra Zachristou (University of the Aegean, Greece)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1486-3.ch003

Abstract

The chapter presents the results of a project in which tablets were used for teaching natural sciences to kindergarten students. The classification of animals depending on certain characteristics was the subject matter. Forty-five students participated, divided into three groups. The first used printed material, the second used computers and webpages, and the third used tablets and AR applications. Bybee's 5Es provided the teaching framework for all groups. Data were collected using evaluation sheets and structured interviews. The students in the tablets' group performed better in all the evaluation sheets compared to the ones who were taught using printed material, but there were no statistically significant differences compared to the computers' group. A positive impact on motivation and enjoyment was noted in the tablets' group. Thus, it can be concluded that tablets are an interesting alternative teaching tool for very young students. Implications for research and practice are also discussed.
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Introduction

In recent years, the importance of introducing concepts related to natural sciences in early childhood education has been acknowledged, as it contributes to the cognitive development of very young students (Eshach, 2006; Harlen, 2018; Trundle, 2010). Indeed, the exploration of the natural world is the source of children's primary experiences; their innate curiosity and effort to comprehend the world that surrounds them compels them to build their original understanding/perceptions for it. As a result, children establish a body of ideas, in the form of interpretative models, before they even enter formal education (Akerson, Flick, & Lederman, 2000; Driver, Squires, Rushworth, & Wood-Robinson, 2014). Then again, studies have confirmed that many concepts related to this field are difficult to understand; both preschool and primary school children face serious problems. The plethora of their misconceptions, as recorded in the relevant literature, serves as a proof of the above statement (e.g., Driver et al., 2014). An area in which students face significant difficulties is the classification of living organisms on the basis of scientific criteria (Allen, 2015; Braund, 1998; Chen & Ku, 1998; Cinici, 2013; Gelman & Meyer, 2011; Κattmann, 2001; Kubiatko & Prokop, 2007; Papadopoulou & Athanasiou, 2015). Usually, their classifications are arbitrary, random, uncorrelated, and lack hierarchical reasoning (Driver, 1985). It has to be noted that most of the above studies involved primary or high-school students; kindergarten students were not that well studied.

Contemporary views for learning and teaching, such as mobile learning, highlight the role of digital technologies and introduce new instruments into instruction. Tools such as smartphones and tablets combine game and learning while offering students a better visualization of phenomena related to natural sciences. This, in turn, allows them to have a better understanding of these concepts. Children come into contact and are attracted to these devices from a very young age (Shuler, 2009). Since very young children view the school environment as a natural extension of their family environment, the use of mobile devices at school is self-evident, at least in their own eyes. Additionally, their interest, as well as their enthusiasm and enjoyment for lessons are amplified (Blackwell, 2013; Fokides, 2018; Fokides & Mastrokoukou, 2018). The learning outcomes of preschool children who participated in tablet-assisted projects were encouraging, to say the least (Al-Zu'bi, Omar-Fauzee, & Kaur, 2017; Bebell & Pedulla, 2015; McManis & McManis, 2016; Papadakis, Kalogiannakis & Zaranis, 2016; Zaranis, Kalogiannakis, & Papadakis, 2013; Zomer & Kay, 2016). At the same time, other advantages that emerged from tablets' use included opportunities for the development of fine motor skills and practical training of functional capacities (Bebell & Pedulla, 2015; Blackwell, 2013), fostering of students' creativity and imagination, and development of problem-solving skills (Blackwell, 2013). Kindergarten teachers can benefit from the use of mobile devices as well. They can record the teaching process for evaluating it at a later time, develop students' digital portfolios indicative of their progress, and save important incidents/observations that could help them to plan and organize their teaching (Parnell & Bartlett, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Constructivism: A learning theory supporting the view that people construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world, through experiencing things and reflecting on those experiences.

Augmented Reality: A technology that merges the real with the digital world by presenting to the user, in real-time, a combination of real and virtual objects.

Kindergarten Education: A level of education preceding primary education. Depending on each country's educational system, it is either a mandatory or optional for a child to attend this level.

Tablet: A mobile device, with a mobile operating system, a touchscreen display, a processing circuitry, and a rechargeable battery, in a thin, flat package.

Quasi-experimental Design: An empirical interventional study used to estimate the causal impact of an intervention on the target population without random assignment.

Natural Sciences: A branch of science which deals with the physical world (e.g. physics, chemistry, geology, and biology).

Animals' Classification: A methodological grouping of animals that allows scientists to study the relationships in animal groups and to see the whole animal family tree as it has developed through time.

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