Learning to see scientifically

Wolff-Michael Roth shows how computer simulations can be used to help students see science demonstrations in ways that support their learning

FOR NEARLY 40 YEARS, computers and associated technologies have been touted as the panacea for all educational problems. In the 1970s, they were thought to be able to replace teachers; in the 1980s, intelligent tutors and computer-aided data collection were to allow students to learn math and science; and the advent of the internet in the 1990s was to provide students with all the “information” that they need to learn. But in the teaching and learning of science, research does not bear out all the hype.

What we know
● Computing technology is a context in which students and teachers can talk – and, more importantly, listen – to each other.
● For science students, learning does not mean taking in information, because they are not yet tuned in a way to decode what experiments, simulations, teachers, or textbooks are sending.
● Research on language in science classrooms shows that interactions with the teacher are crucial in tuning students so that they can receive the information from textbooks, internet, and lectures.

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June 2010