Friday, January 25, 2019

Use and misuse of technology in teaching science: Issues on teachers’ epistemology and ICT integration in the teaching-learning process

by Rolando Tan

While the ubiquity of the World Wide Web continues to pervade society, digital content also increases paving the way for the information superhighway as a platform for educational experiences for everyone having online access (Myers, 2011). Even if the student-centered learning environment offered by ICT runs counter to the position of traditional teachers who demand a high degree of interaction with their learners, the role of digital technology will continue to develop and grow in this century (Oliver, 2003; Mura and Diamantini, 2014). It cannot be denied that such growth can be due to the fact that these “technologies extend into everyday life of people” (Kubiatko and Halakova, 2009 p. 743). Therefore, “the integration of technology in the classroom is viewed as an important strategy to increase the effectiveness of the teaching-learning process.” (Mirzajani, Mahmud, Ayub and Wong, 2014, p. 26)

Recent studies have shown that the use of ICT has produced positive results in the educational process. There have been reports that use of interactive CD-ROM, graphing software, and Power Point presentations was able to foster conceptual understanding among students (Kubiatko and Halakova, 2009). Peat and Taylor (2005) state that “ICT provides greater educational flexibility by creating learning environments that are accessible to individuals with a variety of learning styles at anytime and anyplace.” (p. 21). Based on the studies done by Pernaa and Aksela (2009), the use of ICT does not only arouse student interest but also improves research skills.

While positive reviews from the use of ICT are valid reasons for its integration in the educational landscape a lot of challenges have to be addressed in order to fully appreciate the benefits of its use in the teaching-learning process. A study on teachers’ perception on the use of ICT has shown that teachers felt a need to be trained on the didactic use of ICT (Mura and Diamantini, 2014; Mirzajani, Mahmud, Ayub and Wong, 2014). Among the impediments cited are “educator stress, limited teachers experience with ICT and opportunities for continuing teacher education and professional development, lack of technological tools in schools, lack of knowledge about the actual benefits of ICT in educational situations, limited opportunity for a regular use of technology and teachers’ limited skills and lack of confidence regarding the use of ICT” (Mirzajani, Mahmud, Ayub and Wong, 2014, p. 27)

On the other hand, Mishra and Koehler (2005), stated that “introducing technology to the educational process is not enough to ensure technology integration since technology alone does not lead to change.” (p. 132) and that “good teaching is not simply adding technology to the existing teaching and content domain.” (p. 134). Historical accounts of technology integration were about development of “product technologies” like computers and educational television or films that support the transmissive models of teaching---students as receptacles of knowledge to be filled up. Furthermore, studies showed that teachers’ use of technology in teaching is aligned to their own personal theories about their pedagogy (Salleh, 2015). When a science teacher thinks that scientific knowledge is just a body of information that needs to be transmitted to her pupils without any regard to their preconceived ideas about the natural world, she could possibly use technology that will support her pedagogical approach and therefore runs counter to the inquiry-based, constructivist strategy that fosters deeper understanding of science concepts.

Hence technology, when used in science education, can only be effective if it is aligned to the appropriate pedagogical underpinnings of inquiry and constructivism. Mishra and Koehler therefore extended Shulman’s Pedagogical Content Knowledge to acknowledge the relevance of technological knowledge with pedagogy and content and came up with a new framework called Technological Pedagogical and Content Knowledge or TPACK. Incorporating knowledge of content, pedagogy with technological knowledge, TPACK is “the basis of effective teaching with technology, requiring an understanding of the representation of concepts using technologies; pedagogical techniques that use technologies in constructive ways to teach content; knowledge of what makes concepts difficult or easy to learn and how technology can help redress some of the problems that students face; knowledge of students’ prior knowledge and theories of epistemology; and knowledge of how technologies can be used to build on existing knowledge to develop new epistemologies or strengthen old ones.” (Koehler and Mishra, 2009, p. 66). In other words, what matters is not just the use of technology, but rather the effective use of technology in teaching the content.

The importance on the effective use of technology became an important issue in this lesson study that involved the use of ICT facilities in teaching an elementary school science concept for Grade 3. A group of Grade 3 teachers intended to plan a research lesson on how the human ear works. Prior to the planning stage, they first attended a seminar-workshop on inquiry-based teaching where features of inquiry were modeled instead of lecturing its conceptual framework. Seminar workshop concluded with a research lesson as the final output of the workshop. The lesson implementation of the program formed part of the second phase as the research lesson they planned during the workshop will be tested through an actual lesson implementation in their respective schools. Staff from NISMED observed the lesson implementation of the drafted research lesson plan.

The research lesson focused on the sense of hearing as part of the first quarter lessons on the senses. The aim of their research lesson was to make the pupils describe the function of the different parts of the ear. An animated video showing how the different parts of the ear work when a person is listening to an object producing a sound was shown as the first part of the activity.

Figure 1
Pupils watched the animated video about how the ear works. The questions pupils answered were listed below as part of the activity sheet:

What can loud sound do to our ear? _______________________ 
How is the pinna shaped? ______________________________ 
How do we call the hole in the outer ear? ___________________ 
How does the eardrum look like? _________________________ 
What happened as soon as sound waves hit the eardrum? __________ 
How do the three tiny bones react when eardrum vibrates? __________
On which part does the mechanical movement of the ear occur? ________
Name the three main parts of the ear __________________________ 

Post training report showed teacher’s reflection as well as the inputs of NISMED staff (DOST-SEI & UPNISMED, 2013) regarding the first implementation of the research lesson:
  • One of the teachers who observed the class felt that the video should have been in the latter part of the discussion and that the second activity using the ear model should be tackled first. She reasoned that the ear model provides a more concrete way of understanding of how the ear works as she believes that teaching should begin first from concrete to abstract. NISMED staff as well as school officials also agreed on the suggestion of this teacher.
  • One of the NISMED staff observed that the use of the model generated a response different from what the model intended to generate. It was explained to the teachers that when the box was hit the air was expelled from the hole and exerted a force on the plastic sheet making the table tennis ball move. Hence, when asked about what made the table tennis ball move, the students, in being honest to what they observed, answered “air”. It was made clear to the teachers that the hole should not have been there to avoid creating movement by air pressure.
  • NISMED staff also pointed out that the use of video defeats the purpose of discovery because the video already presented everything and the children would just have to listen to everything the video shows. It was pointed out that the activity should be personally experienced by the students to make it more inquiry-based. Regarding the unruly behavior of students in an activity, it was suggested that the ear model activity can be videotaped instead and the students could be asked to observe it carefully or the teacher herself can conduct a demonstration to make all the students get a more or less uniform observation. It was also suggested that the video can only be used in the latter part where sound travels already through the three tiny bones to the cochlea and transmit the message to the brain via the auditory nerve. 
The changes agreed upon for the second implementation of the research lesson plan were incorporated in the revised research lesson plan. The sequence of the activity was changed: it started with an examination of the classmates’ ear to describe the anatomy of the external ear. The hands-on activity on how the eardrum receives the sound waves using a manipulative model was carried out so that the pupils will be able to see how the eardrum functions when it receives the sound. The video was then finally shown so that the inner ear and their function can be understood by the pupils after the sound reached the eardrum and the ossicles represented in the model.

Post lesson discussion taken from the post training reports revealed interesting feedback from the lesson study group (DOST-SEI & UPNISMED, 2013).
  • NISMED staff saw an improvement in the second implementation of the lesson as there was a change in the sequence of the activity agreed upon during the first post lesson conference two weeks before. The questions possess inquiry features. Responses from the students became more authentic especially when the student candidly remarked “nanginginig” to describe the movement of the table tennis ball in the ear model. Furthermore the students were now able to infer that it is the sound that causes the movement of the plastic sheet and the table tennis ball because of the modifications the teachers did in the box in order to prevent air from gushing out that could make the plastic sheet and table tennis ball move instead of by sound waves.  
  • During the PLD, the teacher who first implemented the lesson said she preferred the version she implemented because the revised research lesson is too difficult; teachers would not be able to elicit the students’ responses that will lead to the science idea intended for the students to learn. When she was asked why she thought the showing of the video should come first, she stated that children do not have the needed information in their minds. In her own words she said in the vernacular, “Mas mabuti kung may video kasi kahit papaano may alam na agad sila” (It would be better that there is a video so that somehow they will have some knowledge right away). 
  • The guest principal from Maharlika Elementary School expressed her disagreement with the opinion of the first implementing teacher since these children have actively thinking minds and the activity elicits what goes in the minds of the students. According to her, this is important because thinking skills or science process skills are supposed to be assessed on the inquiry-based approach to teaching science. 
  • NISMED staff also affirmed the guest principal’s epistemological point of view when it comes to inquiry-based instruction. The teacher who implemented the research lesson first was told that there can be two views on how a teacher sees her students: either as empty vessels that need to be filled with information or as actively thinking minds capable of constructing their own ideas and schema. She was told that a teacher who thinks that children are just empty vessels to be filled with information will resort to that kind of approach where information is directly given to them with no need of processing while a teacher who believes that children actively construct their ideas would resort to an inquiry type of approach. 
Despite the positive reviews, the teacher in the first implementation still preferred the first version of the research lesson, citing the difficulty of making the pupils elicit the correct response during the second implementation. When she was asked why she still preferred the use of the video first instead of the eardrum model, she stressed that pupils would already have a ready answer when the teacher asks them the questions. This is commonly observed on teachers who perceive children’s minds as “tabula rasa”(empty slate) instead of considering children’s minds as having non-traditional ideas regarding the natural world (Wenning, 2008). In relation to this, Yero (2012) explained teachers’ view pervading pedagogical practice and beliefs:

“One of the most pervasive beliefs in mainstream education is that knowledge is objective (it exists in some pure form outside the mind) and that the task of education is to transmit the "essential" portions of that knowledge to students. These bits of meat picked from the rich stew of human thought are found in curriculum and standards documents. They have become separated from the thought processes that generated them and from the contexts in which they were shaped. In essence, they are now perceived as "collectibles", rare antiques that must not be altered in any way lest they become less valuable. “Until educators confront that belief, the wealth of scientific evidence that knowledge is internally-generated and that "transmission" of knowledge objects is ineffective will receive no more than lip-service. Teachers may cognitively accept the research, but it will not significantly affect their practice. Piaget's theory of internally-generated knowledge was received with great enthusiasm by many educators. What they failed to recognize was that the belief underlying the theory was diametrically opposed to the belief that knowledge exists "out there." Attempting to apply Piaget's ideas without also adopting his belief system, teachers would first "give" students the "facts" and then assign a prespecified activity in which the students were supposed to "mess about" with those facts. Where was the student given the opportunity to "internally generate" anything?” (para. 7-8)

Mishra and Koehler (2005) point out that mere addition of technology in the instructional practice cannot induce change and pedagogical reforms. The post lesson discussions in this particular lesson study affirm their stand. This lesson study, further reveals how important teachers’ pervasive beliefs about children’s minds are when technology is integrated in science education. While studies have shown that the use of ICT in education helps promote student interest (Passey, Rogers, Machell & McHugh, 2004), student interest is not a guarantee that inquiry-based instruction is promoted inside the classroom (BSCS, 2005). It is therefore a challenging role for the Knowledgeable Other (KO) to explain to the lesson study group that features of inquiry must be promoted when using technology instead of technology becoming a tool for transmissive approaches to learning.

References:

Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. (2005). Doing Science: The Process of Scientific Inquiry. Colorado: BSCS.

Department of Science and Technology – Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) & University of the Philippines National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development (UP NISMED) (2013), “Report of follow-through phase 2 of the DOST-SEI project hands on teaching and learning of science through inquiry (HOTS)”, unpublished manuscript, Department of Science and Technology – Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) & University of the Philippines National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development (UP NISMED), Quezon City. 

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol9/iss1/general/ article1.cfm.

Kubiatko, M. & Halakova, Z. ( 2009). Slovak high school students’ attitudes to ICT using in biology lesson. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 743-748. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2009.02.002

Mirzajani, H., Mahmud, R., Ayub, A.F.M., & Wong S.L. (2014). Teacher’s acceptance of ICT and its integration in the classroom. Quality Assurance in Education, 24 (1), 26-40, doi: 10.1108/QAE-06-2014-0025

Mishra P. & Koehler M.J. (2005). What happens when teachers design Educational technology? The development of Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32(2), 131-152.

Mura, G. & Diamantini D. (2014). The use and perception of ICT among educators: The Italian case. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 141, 1228-1233. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2014.05.211

Myers, C.B. (2011, May 14). How the internet has revolutionized education. TNW News. Retrieved from http://thenextweb.com/insider/2011/05/14/ how-the-internet-is- revolutionizing-education/ 

Oliver, R. (2003). The role of ICT in higher education in the 21st century: ICT as a change agent for education. Paper presented at the Higher education for the 21st century conference, Curtin. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228920282_The_role_of_ICT_in_higher_education_for_the_21st_century_ICT_as_a_change_agent_for_education

Passey, D., Rogers, C., Machell, J., & McHugh, G.(2004). The Motivational Effect of ICT on Students. DfES Publications: Nottingham.

Peat, M. & Taylor, C. (2005, June). Virtual biology: how well can it replace Authentic activities? International Journal of Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education, 13 (1), 21-24. Retrieved from: http://openjournals.library.usyd.edu.au/index.php/CAL/article/view/ 6044/6695

Pernaa, J. & Aksela, M. (2009). Chemistry teachers’ and students’ perceptions of practical work through different ICT learning envirionments. Problems of Education in the 21ist century, 16, 80-88. Retrieved from http://www.scientiasocialis.lt/pec/files/pdf/vol16/80-88.Pernaa_ Vol.16.pdf

Salleh, S. (2015). Examining the influence of teachers’ beliefs towards technology integration in classroom. The international journal of information and learning technology, 33 (1), 17-35. doi: 10.1108/IJILT-10-2015-0032.

Wenning, C. J. (2008). Dealing more effectively with alternative conceptions in science. Journal of Physics Teacher Education Online, 5(1), 11-19. Retrieved from: http://www2.phy.ilstu.edu/pte/publications/dealing_alt _con.pdf

Yero, J. L. (2012). How teacher thinking shapes education. Retrieved from http://education.jhu.edu/PD/newhorizons/Transforming%20Education/Articles/How%20Teacher%20Thinking%20Shapes%20Education/index.html
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