Use of ict in science

According to DfEE (1998: 3) cited in Abbott (2001):

The government is fully committed to ensuring that all schools and teachers are in a position to deploy new information and communication technologies (ICT) to raise educational standards to enhance learning and to prepare young people with the ICT skills they will need in society and at work in the twenty-first century. p32

There is no doubt that information and communication technology (from here on will be ICT) plays and important part in children’s primary education and is high on the governments agenda. This due to the fact that ICT is fast changing the way subjects are being taught across the primary curriculum. One subject in focus is science.

science is mostly concerned with asking questions and doing things to find the answers. ICT on the other hand involve a way of learning that accommodates old knowledge as well as learning new skills. Both combined together can make a significant difference to children’s scientific learning as well as learning new ICT skills. In addition it also allows children to experience phenomena in science that would have deemed impossible otherwise, such as the metamorphous of a caterpillars, or close-up scenes of the planets and their surface texture. In order to learn and understand the concepts behind using ICT in primary science, this assignment will look in detail at the ICT used in primary schools and whether it has the potential to enhance a science activity on habitats.

(DfEE, 1999, p78) cited in Ward et al (2005) states:

Science is an integral part of modern culture. It stretches the imagination and creativity of young people. Its challenges are quite enormous.

Science in some extent is still being taught using old methods, such as the teacher doing most of the talking and the children in return working from science books. The only ICT used is the computer, interactive whiteboards and the occasional artefacts. An interactive whiteboard is the latest addition in the primary classroom, it provide an effective way of presenting information to the whole class rather having to gather the whole class around a computer screen. Johnston (2005, P146)

But in a recent study by Cleaves and Toplis (2008) findings indicate:

Interactive whiteboards are frequently employed, although predominantly as projection screens for presentations, whilst data logging and spreadsheets are used infrequently. p11

This type of teaching allows the teacher will allow the teacher to fulfill the required objective of science teaching, but it will not have the desired effective on the children, this is to say that children will not be actively involved in the scientific enquiry, they are being told the facts, this type of learning often restricts children from moving forward in their thinking of scientific concepts, thus resulting in children often disliking science. Pollard and Triggs(2000) cited in Judith et al(2007, p28) found that children disliked science as a subject because of the need to write preferring art as a favourite subject not only because there was no writing, but there was also more choice.

The most commonly used ICT in primary schools is Computers or laptops. they are equipped with programs such as; word processor, spreadsheets, database programmes and many more. Word processor allows work to be typed, saved or modified at a later time. Spreadsheets allow numerical data to be store, calculated and graphs to be produced far more quickly than pencil and paper. Drawing graphs by hand can take a whole lesson, but by taking a computer the time saved can be spent by the children engaging in higher order skills such as the analysis and interpretation of the information that is displayed in front of them. William and Easingwood (2003, p19) Databases allow children to search for information and look for patterns within. They also allow children to observe closely, to raise questions and to group according to observable features. Johnston (2005, p139 . However, the thing to remember is that children need to have experience of databases before using computer databases.

computers are seen as the heart of teaching, and most teachers would be lost without a computer (nowadays laptop). Laptops can be used for one-to-one demonstrations or connected to an interactive white board for whole class sessions. Most primary schools have a range of computers, which are linked together using cables, this enables the sharing of information and resources between teachers far more quickly than running around school and looking in cupboards. Most computers are often connected to the National Grid for learning, which delivers materials and services to teachers. Walker (1998, p14) this system allow teacher who are not confident in integrating ICT into science and are afraid to approach their colleagues, can talk to someone who is and get some help. According to a finding by Deaney and Hennessy (2007):

Evolution of practice depends on adequate access to reliable resources, and development of ICT as a school priority in turn leads to soliciting further resources and expanding practice. Individual teachers’ confidence, skills and motivation towards using ICT to promote learning develop in response to other contextual factors; most prominently a supportive organizational culture and a collegial environment, and they play a critical role in the processes of developing and disseminating new practice. P30

Digital camera allow photos taken to be quickly loaded onto the computer to be saved for later use or be manipulated or even enhanced before being printed out , all this can be done efficiently inside the school or even the classroom.

Television and video together are another useful motivating force for creative science activities. However, in today’s society these forms of technology are being replaced by DVDs, which can be inserted into the laptop and projected on the interactive whiteboard. They can provide a stimulating introduction to a theme or concept, encourage and develop ideas during science work and suggest further explorations and investigations.

Digital microscopes can provide a photographic record of close observations that would have been hand drawn in the past. The image can be used in a number of flexible ways; it can be saved and then inserted into a presentation, or it can be projected onto a screen, so that direct whole class teaching can take place. Williams and Easingwood (2003, p145)

Data-loggers can be very effective in moving children from descriptive qualitative to quantative data collection. Data -loggers with hand held recording devices allow data to be recorded and stored remotely for later use. This means that children can take readings anywhere without the need to be close to a computer. Harlen (2006, p111)the main advantage of using data-logging as an integral part of primary science is that it provides a visual representation of environmental aspects that otherwise might be too difficult to see, hear or accurately record, such as light, temperature and sound. William and Easingwood(2003, p81) in addition, data-loggers ensure that all children are taught important science facts , because previously some would miss out important science learning, as they would be appointed by the teacher to take readings every few minutes, now data-loggers can do that instead.

The rapid change of ICT is not just the talk of teacher and trainees but the talks of many others, as Byrne and Sharp (2002) highlight:

In a world of expanding technology there is undoubtedly pressure to ‘keep up’ and there is an expectation from many of the stake holders in education – for example, parents, governors, LEAs and children – that ICT should be incorporated into all lessons including science(p2)

Although there is much demand placed upon ICT, it should be noted that when looking at the ways in which ICT can be used to enhance a science teaching, it is wise to consider ICT in not just about computer skills, but how it can be implemented into a science activity to further enhance, what must be good science in the first place. The ICT programmes of study cited in Williams and Easingwood(2003, p6)Williams and Easingwood(2007, p18)Roden et al(2007, p26) Elston(2007, p19) clearly states that the use of ICT must provide a value added component – it must add something to the lesson that would simply be impossible otherwise. Therefore, it is up to the educators to think of valuable activities involving both ICT and Science, which would not only be engaging but also effective.

The science activity discussed in this essay is, to look at different habitats that might be living on the school grounds; one in a shady spot and the other in a sunny area. This was an ideal science activity to undertake, as previously the class had been looking at different types of houses in which they lived. It is important that children understand animals have the same needs, such as; food, warmth same as humans. This reflects what the National Curriculum cited in Harlen (2006):

Identifies the need for ‘pupils to observe, explore and ask questions about living things’ and to be taught ‘that animals, including humans, move, feed, grow; use their senses to reproduce’ (DfEE/QCA, 1999, pp. 16-17). P121

Regarding children and ICT in science, it is highlighted by Bentley and Watts (1994) that children learn in a constructive way.

To learn science and technology from a constructivist philosophy implies using concepts and experience we already possess, and which we then change and elaborate on the basis of fresh meaning. These fresh ideas are commonly negotiated through everyday interaction with peers and teachers.

Children bring to the class their own ideas regarding science, which they construct unaided. Each child is an individual with individual ideas and needs, we can say that all children have their own unique intellectual fingerprint. Johnston (2005, p67) therefore, it often a good idea to find out what they already know about the chosen topic. According to Loveless and Ellis (2001):

Maintaining a purposeful working atmosphere, effective questioning, careful listening and providing pupils with opportunities to consolidate knowledge-do not change substantially with the integration of ICT

Once the initial ideas are in place and children are aware of what they are looking for, it is ultimately up to the teacher how she wants to proceed; one important factor to keep in mind is that good teaching and learning can only occur when a good teacher is present – and that a good teacher is not a computer. The key to successful teaching and learning with ICT lies in how the technology is used and employed, not in the teaching of the technology itself. Williams and Easingwood (2003, P11)

The ICT used in the first part of activity is a DVD player. A film of on habitats will be shown to ensure what the children are

In the next phase a digital camera will be used. Children are taken outside to the place of study. Johnston (2005) points out that children make sense of the world around them through observation and exploration, environments should be one that encourages cognitive p82. The children will be divided into two groups of 4 or 5, each child will look in different parts of the playground, two groups will be assigned to the two tree, one in shaded area and the other in light. The children will be asked to collect 4 different species of small animals they might find, they children will also be advised to note down where they found the animal before collecting, as they will later return it to its original place. Children need to be shown how to respect even some of the smallest living things. This links to the National Curriculum requirements 5a) about ways in which living things and the environment need protection and 5b) about the different plants and animals found in different habitats.

Once back in the classroom, instead of using a magnifying glass, they will be able to look closely at the animals with the help of a digital microscope connected to laptop and the interactive whiteboard. Loveless and Ellis (2001, p153) found that children were more willing and able to test out their ideas with ICT than pencil and paper or with a teacher. What’s more, the microscope enables children to see parts of the animal they would not have been able to see with the naked eye, or a magnifying glass.

As well as the above, children will also be able to look at the photographs taken of them during the activity. These photos can be saved and later when some more work is done on habitats, they can be incorporated into an electronic scrapbook, children keep an ICT class based record of the science that occurs during the year, this can also provide a resource for learners to remind them of their previous learning. Roden et al (2007, p29)

Once the children are motivated and captured by the topic, it is ultimately up to the teacher how she want o take this activity further, good teaching and learning can only occur when a good teacher is present – and that a good teacher is not a computer. The key to successful teaching and learning with ICT lies in how the technology is used and employed, not in the teaching of the technology itself. Williams and Easingwood (2003, P11)

To conclude, it is obvious that ICT is always changing and what was the ‘new’ gadget today, will old tomorrow. With this forever changing technology and teaching methods, it is up to the trainees or teachers to employ new strategies to enhance science lessons with the integration of ICT. This is to say that if the science activity can be delivered effectively and the learning objective achieved without the need for ICT then ICT should never replace the opportunity for children to investigate for themselves. Byrne and Sharp (2002, p5)


Cleaves, A. and Toplis, R. (2008) [online] Pre-service science teachers and ICT Communities of Practice? Research in science &Technological Education, volume 26, number 2, July 2008, pp. 203-213

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