There is much more to information and communications technology in science than data logging. Temperature probes, light gates and various other sensors are used in practical science lessons to allow computers to help students record readings that would be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain with ordinary school laboratory equipment. But ICT has much greater potential to enhance and expand the way we teach science and the way our students learn.
We live in a three-dimensional world full of movement, light, sound and colour, yet the vast proportion of teaching and learning is based on static texts and images. By using ICT it is possible to create an alternative dynamic visual and aural-based teaching and learning style.
Instead of drawing on the board or overhead projector, use a computer connected to a large screen television (24-inch or bigger) via an SVGA converter, or use a multimedia projector. An SVGA convertor takes the signal that would go into a normal monitor and changes it into one that can work on a TV. Many new machines have graphics cards that do this already.
Then use Microsoft Power Point to introduce moving coloured text, animated diagrams, video clips, sound files, Internet images, scanned pictures, audio tracks, digital photographs and so on.
I prepare my materials at home. I have my own scanner and Internet access and digital video equipment, but most schools will have access to CD-Roms and a scanner of some description.
In the first lesson the students take rough notes on the topic they are learning about. The resources form the basis for an interactive worksheet which they will complete on the computer network in the following lesson. The worksheet is prepared using MS Word so text and diagrams created in Power Point can be easily copied and pasted into the student resource.
The interactive worksheet removes the need for students to hand-copy diagrams and aims and methods during the science lesson, allowing more time to do real science in the labs, designing, trialling and generally experimenting. The tasks on the worksheet all involve thought processes such as word sequencing, table sorting, diagram manipulation and sentence correction, rather than simple word-processing of a practical report or data entry into a spreadsheet.
The simple diagrams that teachers draw every day on the board are easily transferred to Power Point.
Example 1: Structure and function of a leaf, GCSE science double award. Music, as pictures of leaves appear on the TV together with the title. The next screens show animated text of the key ideas stated in the syllabus. These are used as discussion points for the class, who make rough notes on ideas covered. Using simple animation effects, a three-dimensional colour-coded leaf structure appears on the screen. The same colours are used for the text that describes the function of each part of the leaf. A hyperlink to Encarta provides additional information and shows what to look for under the microscope when students study leaf cross-sections in the practical part of the lesson.
Next lesson, at their computers, the students complete the interactive worksheet and construct a leaf from cross-section using the drawing tools in MS Word. They label and annotate their work to describe the structure and function of each part of the leaf.
Example 2: Static Electricity, GCSE science double award. Music and animated title appear, with a flash of lightning and a rumble of thunder. Animated text of the key ideas in the exam syllabus are again used as discussion points. Simple animations of smoke precipitators and electrostatic painting are combined with the usual electrostatic experiments. The effects of charge redistribution are described and modelled by animated diagrams.
Next lesson, in the computer lab, the students complete the interactive worksheet and build their own "paint shops" and smoke precipitators using the drawing tools in MS Word.
What has worked at my school is not the only way of using ICT but my students and I have found it enjoyable and rewarding.
Mark Hitch is head of physics at De Lisle RC School, Loughborough. He contributes to the work of the Association for Science Education and the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTa)