If anyone was comfortable with integrating information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the science classroom, it would be Emily. She had a physics degree and was very confident in her content knowledge, she was very comfortable with the various technologies and used them appropriately in her teaching, and she had even been involved in summer work developing new web-based physics animations as part of the Modular Approach to Physics project (MAP - http://www.kingsu.ab.ca/~brian/meltp/edit_content/explainit/map_menu.html).
She really was quite confident about her ability to teach using technology, and had a strong sense of the importance of using the technologies, not as add-ons or frills, but in the basic conceptual work of helping students understand. Her consistent use of ‘student conceptual understanding’ as the key metaphor for teaching, rather than (as was common for both other students in the class and some of the mentor teachers) ‘covering the content’ was further evidence of the sophistication of her understanding of teaching and learning.
Emily’s answer when asked about the role of ICTs in science education was: “ICT technologies play an important
role in the classroom because they can help to solidify concepts in students’ minds. It’s one thing to understand how something works on paper, and how to plug numbers into a formula. It’s totally different to see the concept at work through the use of technology. At the same time you need to be certain that students don’t become reliant on
ICTs to understand the concept.”
I observed Emily teaching a lesson in the computer lab. It was based around an online PowerPoint activity that her mentor teacher had developed, that required students to independently complete a worksheet while working through a fairly linear activity on the web with associated links and animations. Nicole had also set up a complementary activity in the classroom with a force sensor connected to a graphing calculator (calculator-based lab – CBL), and was having students ‘weigh’ themselves in newtons, then guess which force corresponded to
each student’s name (basically an activity about computing pounds or kilograms of mass from newtons of force).
Here are the feedback notes that I sent Nicole after observing her lesson:
I really like the force plate CBL activity that required the students to think about mass and weight, and it served as a great complement to the web-based stuff they were working on. I wondered whether you would still have used the weight-guessing activity in a class that contained one or more very obese students. Probably not, but there are always alternatives. As it was they were pretty much all tiny people!
I thought that another possible complement to the web-based PowerPoint would be to pull the class back together, maybe show them a demo, and get them to use the new knowledge gained to explain it. Just a way of having them process it more deeply and fully, and to get their various understandings to challenge and extend one another in discussion.
You did a great job on all the 'teacherly'/organisational stuff: intro, moving around the class and connecting with the students, managing the unruly ones and closing by getting the students to repeat back the homework assignment.
One comment I had (and this relates to your cooperating teacher's strategy of using this online PowerPoint more than it does to your teaching, but I'm interested in technology integration): 'How do we ensure that the activity (in this instance finding answers in the PPT for questions in the booklet) becomes for the students a means toward
the end of learning science, rather than an end in itself?'
I made a few other notes, but mostly just compliments on the great job you did!
Here are Emily’s own comments, from the second focus group interview, about the PowerPoint activity:
It is, very very linear. It follows… actually a lot of it… see one thing – probably that I noticed was you could essentially do it without the PowerPoint, you could do it out of the textbook. So I think it might have been better if
they could have maybe diverged a little bit from that, and a little opportunity to do some other stuff. It was… like
they were looking at web sites but they were picked specifically for those reasons, so I mean, I – when I did my
key for it I was even… I didn’t even use the PowerPoint. So for stuff like that it was probably redundant. But… It
would have been nice maybe to see a little bit more where they could do a web search or, you know, get into the
library, do a research project.
Emily was one of the students who used the 2Learn.ca site most, and she used technology in her teaching to a
significant extent. She also felt that she had grown as a teacher, although she had been confident right from the
first that she was well equipped with knowledge and skills.