Using Digital Resources to Support STEM Education

Using Digital Resources to Support STEM Education

Carol Adamec Brown (East Carolina University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9577-1.ch006


Scientists and science educators recommend use of dialog and argumentation to support scientific ideas. Use of peer-reviewed publications, shared data, images, models, and multimedia presentations provide the resources needed to support scientifically based arguments and design of inquiry learning projects. Open source digital resources are freely available for scientists and their students. These provide the rich data needed to educate young scientists and promote digital literacy in the science community. This chapter defines the meaning of science literacy, reviews digital resources recognized by professional scientists, and offers strategies for mapping digital resources to Science education curricular.
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Rodger Bybee (2010), the developer of 5E model for teaching science says one doesn’t study science, one experiences it. Science is something students do, not anything done to them. To be fully engaged in a science lesson, one must also be able to think like a scientist, engage in argumentative learning, and reach a high level of scientific literacy (National Academy of Sciences, 1996). To think and read like a scientist, students must be able to understand the nature of science and read with precision paying close attention to intricate detail. The reader must be able to interpret claims and arguments as well as synthesize complex information. Thinking like a scientist requires investigation, data collection, proposing claims and reporting conclusions. These practices are not complete until the scientist can communicate ideas with clarity and effectiveness. Earlier research in learning and cognition shows the importance of making connections between new ideas and prior knowledge. Mental models, taxonomies, and flowcharts are useful tools for assimilation of new knowledge and accommodating for mis-matches that don’t seem to fit. Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (1999) distinguish novices from experts with the ability to organize knowledge into systematic categories. An example of this would be DeLuca’s (2011) study on students’ learning and higher order thinking skills based on data analysis of renewable energy sources. The topic of study is a highly relevant social issue situated within systematic data collection. The results of the study suggest the importance of a scientist’s personal reflection combined with application of conceptual/procedural knowledge to authentic problem solving. DeLuca’s study is categorized as a type of disciplined inquiry which is based on the work of Jerome Bruner. Bruner (1977) emphasizes the importance of providing structure built on clear relationships between cultural concepts and scientific ideas. Bruner later refers to this as “disciplined understanding” (Bruner, 1977, p. 122). It is not enough to have factual information. A student’s knowledge must be structured so that he or she can expand understanding within the context of a problem or particular cultural setting. This perspective led to Bruner’s seminal work in discovery learning and later “disciplined inquiry”, (Bruner, 1979, p. 123-124). According to Bruner, a student is motivated to learn based on curiosity and is rewarded by uncovering of answers. Thus it could be said, reading and thinking like a scientist requires the careful organization of facts, figures, and concepts, and construction of new knowledge, all of which undergird scientific literacy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Stem Education: A category of science education inclusive of topics related to physical and life sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics. STEM education places emphasis on the inter-relationships across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Critical Thinking: A cognitive process by which the learner analyzes, compares, and evaluates principles, rules, ideas, and concepts within a specified problem space and environment.

Inquiry-Based Learning: A theoretical construct associated with problem-based learning environments. The student generates a question related to a curriculum topic, gathers resources to support necessary knowledge base, analyzes data in a variety of formats, and proposes a well-grounded solution or conclusions.

Argumentative Learning: A dialogic process by which students sharpen and elaborate on their own ideas, especially concepts related to scientific discovery.

5E Model: Based on theoretical foundations in inquiry based learning, this model applies 5 processes for learning in the science classroom-engage or generate interest; explore to examine new ideas; explain to connect new ideas with prior knowledge; extend to apply new learning to different or similar situation; and evaluate to assess one’s learning.

LiveBinder: An online digital organizer used to display links to categories of resources. The student or teacher uses tabs, sub-tabs, and hyperlinks to organize resources based on a theme for the binder.

Lexile Analyzer: An online tool used to analyze reading passages for level of readability. The algorithm within the software counts words, word length, and sentence length to determine reading levels k-16.

Google Cloud Computing: A type of computing that relies on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications. The term cloud is the equivalent of Internet. Google, Inc.: Includes several products that permit sharing of documents, spreadsheets, slides, and images.

Open Source: Refers to digital and print resources available to the public. Information is the property of the original author or developer and cannot be sold for profit but is used for knowledge sharing and distributed learning.

Common Core State Standards: A common curriculum adopted by the majority of states in the U.S. The purpose is to establish a common set of concepts, skills, and competencies to leverage students’ achievement when compared with global K12 assessments.

Digital Literacy: The ability to identify, access, evaluate, and use resources within electronic and/or digital environments. A digitally literate person is able to communicate effectively, and create new knowledge objects, using digital tools and resources.

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