Science – There’s an app for that!

Zydney and Warner (2016) conduct a comprehensive literature review of the use of mobile apps for science learning.  With increasing stress by district administrations on technology integration, BYOD programs, and school programs promoted by both Apple and Google, it is not surprising that innovations in the mobile and app industry “…have prompted educators and researchers to utilize these devices to promote teaching and learning” (p. 1).  I have also experienced the excitement with mobile apps through peers in the MET program as well as through PD sessions hosted by the Manitoba Teacher’s Society.

Zydney and Warner (2016) explain the advantages of mobile apps as being, “…interactive and engaging…” (p. 1).  Further, that apps “[allow] educators to teach without being restricted by time and place…” (p. 1).  Other posts this week stressed the drawback of time spent in class learning new technologies for both teachers and students, especially in lieu of discussing curriculum during that time.  Perhaps the use of mobile apps is a possible solution that in fact once adequately mastered by teacher and students, benefits from being used unrestricted of time and place.  A great example of this is the use of twitter I read about in a previous MET course.  A math teacher essentially tweeted interesting and complex math problems to students outside class and received responses from students thus facilitating learning beyond the scheduled math class during the day.

Zydney and Warner (2016) discovered 6 main features in their review that included, “technology-based scaffolding, location-aware functionality, visual/audio representation, digital knowledge-construction tools, digital knowledge-sharing mechanisms and differentiated roles” (p. 6).  It appears all these features follow very closely support the T-GEM and LfU models we have explored in module B.

Technology-based scaffolding and visual/audio representation plays a role in the initial stages of helping students develop their ideas.

Digital knowledge-construction tools and sharing mechanisms help in creating meaning, recording observed data, and making thinking visible for students; especially in a cooperative manner.

With the plethora of apps available today for learning science in conjunction with the omnipresence of mobile technology both in and out of the classroom, it appears mobile apps provide a great asset to teaching science content and conduct science inquiry both in and out of the classroom.

Question for peers:

Is there a mobile app that you have some experience with that in your opinion is excellent in teaching content and leading science inquiry?

Reference

Zydney, J. M., & Warner, Z. (2016). Mobile apps for science learning: Review of research. Computer & Education, 94, 1-17.

4 comments

  1. I am glad to see this review of mobile apps. It is a topic that will undoubtedly come up again in the course. The authors of the study reviewed mobile apps and found that they shared several features, including: digital knowledge-construction tools, digital knowledge-sharing mechanisms, and differentiated roles. Were there any apps that stood out for you in terms of these features?

    Thank you for your contribution Vibhu,
    Samia

  2. Hi Vibhu,

    Thanks for the great post on mobile apps in the classroom. One of the better apps I’ve come across is a solar system app (available at http://www.solarsystemscope.com/) that a student found out about and shared with the class. It allows visualization and ‘exploration’ of the solar system. It was subsequently utilized in a Science 9 class to introduce the space unit and help with a research project on space exploration and the various planets.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. I am a huge believer in mobile apps and mobile learning but this is still something that is not allowed at many schools here in the Middle East. I have been trying for FOUR years to convince my principal that mobile technology in the classroom would be a huge benefit to our students but my cries have gone in vain. Students have their phones anyways, we might as well put them to use. Thank you for sharing this Vibhu.

  4. As I don’t teach science, I don’t have any exceptional science apps at this point to recommend, but I wanted to comment on the point you make about the drawback of time in class spent learning new apps rather than focusing on curriculum. For non-discipline specific apps and programs, my colleagues and I try to coordinate as much as possible to use the same or similar apps in different courses throughout the year, helping students build more familiarity and reducing this downtime spent learning the technology. While this doesn’t always work, I have found it beneficial as then when I have a discipline-specific app that I want them to work with, I don’t feel like we have already spent too much time fiddling with programs. I also try to give students opportunities to use apps that I know they have used in previous semesters or years that they have liked working with.

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