Technological and digital literacy are two of the most important subjects for students in today’s schools. Students are already bombarded with digital information from the internet, social media and countless apps on “smart” devices. And they are constantly using different forms of technology, whether making a Skype video call, getting money out of an ATM or playing the latest video game. Although this leads many educators to believe their students are already “digital natives,” true technological and digital literacy encompasses far more.
The abilities to adequately use and do research through digital platforms, judge the validity (and appropriateness) of the information encountered, and communicate and collaborate via digital mediums are necessary for student success in school and in their future careers. They will constantly encounter new technologies because innovation is rapid and exponential. In addition, many technologies can help adapt the content in science classrooms for students with disabilities. If all students understand how to use today’s technologies, both software and hardware, they will be better prepared for success in the present as well as adapt more quickly to new technologies in the future.
For these reasons, modern graduate programs like the University of Texas at Arlington’s online Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction in Science Education incorporate appropriate technologies and digital platforms into coursework in science instruction. Gaining fluency both using and instructing in these technologies can assist educators and curriculum designers in ensuring that students are well-prepared for an increasingly technology-saturated world.
What Is Technology?
Simply put, technology is the science of making things. The word is literally derived from the systematic study and treatment of an art or craft. As we think of it, technology is a modern concept. But every invention or development of tools or devices is a technological advancement, from the wheel to the blackboard to the automated oil rig to the automobile.
What Exactly Does Technology Have to Do With Science Education?
Beyond the fact that technology is both a process and a result of science, technological developments provide the tools used in many forms of scientific study and experimentation, from centrifuges used for the separation of fluids to computer programs used in the study of quantum physics. In teaching students the scientific process of inquiry and problem-solving, it is necessary to utilize current technologies. Students will need to use field-appropriate technologies to research questions, construct and execute experiments, and analyze results.
Science teachers can use many modern technologies to great effect in the classroom. Computer software and tablet apps have obvious applications in classroom activities, but the technologies inherent in automated cameras, LCDs and experiment monitoring systems can also aid in science education.
How Do Technological and Digital Literacy Help Students in School and Beyond?
The science classroom provides a perfect environment to help students develop the technological knowledge and skills they will need for the rest of their lives. Learning how to operate machines used for science experiments will help future mechanical engineers in their pursuits. A communications major will rely on computer skills learned in the science classroom. An architect will employ modeling software similar to modeling programs used to design scientific experiments. And beyond future employment opportunities, these forms of literacy will help students make informed decisions as both consumers and global citizens.
How Can Assistive Technologies Be Used in Science Education?
Many assistive technologies have been invented and are now used to help students with disabilities in the inclusive classroom. A perfect example is the equipment students with physical disabilities use to participate in activities that their disability would otherwise make difficult or impossible. The most obvious example might be a student with paraplegia using a wheelchair to move around the classroom. Or a student with visual impairment might use a text-to-speech program or text enlargement screen readers to read materials.
Teachers can also use technology to engage and instruct students with learning or cognitive disabilities. Tactile and visual learners can benefit from interactive computer- or tablet-based lessons. Auditory learners can benefit from recorded materials or text-to-speech programs, and inversely, voice dictation software.
Besides being essential to the science classroom, using current technologies can help all students engage in learning, leading to motivation to study the sciences more in depth. Instilling this love and deep knowledge of science and a fluency with technology is one of the most important things today’s teachers can accomplish. Being competent, or better yet, excelling in these areas will help students perform and succeed throughout school, their careers and their personal lives.
Learn about the UTA M.Ed. in Science Education online program.
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