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Science for Kids: The Promise of Technology

Abstract

"Technology offers new options for participatory education. Some of these options
can improve the learning environment, many others can harm it. To select among technologies and apply them intelligently to science education, one must have an accurate fix on why science education is in trouble and what strategies are needed to improve it. Because many of the problems of science education can be traced to inappropriate educational goals and learning models, more appropriate goals based on a better understanding of how students learn are needed. The better approaches are significantly aided by technologies that offer flexible, economical tools and communications.

The unspoken goal of most science education is to stock students' intellectual storehouse with miscellaneous fragments of knowledge stored away for future contingencies. The unspoken model of learning used when filling this storehouse is to train students in facts and operations hoping this will lead to an understand the underlying science. Both this goal and method of achieving it are ineffective and need to be replaced by approaches that are of more immediate concern to students and closer to real science.

Using technology to simply increase the stock of intellectual fragments or to train students in more facts and operations is counter-productive. But microcomputers and computer-based telecommunications offer flexible tools for communication, data acquisition, instrumentation, computation, analysis, and visualization. These tools empower students to do science, to undertake investigations of immediate interest and to build a durable understanding of the underlying science. This argues for a project-based approach to science and for the development of technological tools to support student project work."

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