The lack of a definition of the T in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) acronym is pervasive, and it is often the teachers of STEM disciplines who inherit the task of defining the role of technology within their K-12 classrooms. These definitions often vary significantly, and they have profound implications for curricular and instructional goals within science and STEM classrooms. This theoretical paper summarizes of technology initiatives across science and STEM education from the past 30 years to present perspectives on the role of technology in science-focused STEM education. The most prominent perspectives describe technology as the following: (a) vocational education, industrial arts, or the product of engineering, (b) educational or instructional technology, (c) computing or computational thinking, and (d) the tools and practices used by practitioners of science, mathematics, and engineering. We have identified the fourth perspective as the most salient with respect to K-12 science and STEM education. This particular perspective is in many ways compatible with the other three perspectives, but this depends heavily on the beliefs, prior experiences, and instructional goals of teachers who use technology in their science or STEM classroom.
This paper shares findings from the first of its kind quasi-experimental mixed methods study exploring the potential impacts on teacher instruction through engagement with making and e-textiles. Because engagement in hands-on inquiry has demonstrated strong promise for increasing student interest and engagement in STEM careers, finding curricular approaches that engage students in project-based learning remains important. As such, the Maker Movement and making has gained traction as a possible effort to improve such outcomes. This study shares outcomes from analyses of one teacher’s first engagement with teaching eighth-grade science through e-textiles. Four of his classes were taught using his traditional science curriculum while four of his classes were taught with an equivalently designed e-textiles curriculum. Findings indicated that his instruction during e-textiles classes was different in terms of classroom discourse opportunities and engagement. Specifically, students taught in classes with e-textile were afforded more opportunities to engage their own questions with the teacher and engage on a more personal level with him.
The authors describe their study of a curricular module on computational thinking (CT) implemented within an elementary science methods course and reported insights on preservice science teachers’ (PSTs’) beliefs about CT integration. The research question was, “Following participation in a curricular module on CT, what is the nature of PSTs’ beliefs about CT integration in their elementary science classrooms?” The authors designed and implemented a three-class-session CT module within an undergraduate elementary science methods course. They observed and collected field notes on PSTs’ (N = 39) participation in the module, along with class artifacts. They examined the data to gain insight into PSTs’ perceptions of CT integration in elementary science education, its feasibility, and its value for their own teaching practice. They found that PSTs overwhelmingly supported the pedagogical innovation of integrating CT in their science teaching; they appreciated that CT modernized and made science education engaging for young learners; and, they generally believed that CT integration supported the implementation of what they understood as good science teaching practice. However, the PSTs believed they would face a variety of challenges in their efforts to integrate CT into their science teaching. Implications for CT teacher education are discussed.
Positioned in the context of experiential learning, this paper reports findings of a virtual reality field trip (VRFT) in conjunction with an in-person field trip involving preservice teachers in an elementary science methods course to a local natural history museum. Findings included that virtual reality (VR) is best used after a field trip to encourage student recall of the experience, but only when done for a limited time to avoid VR fatigue. The types of experiences that preservice teachers thought VR would be good for in their science classrooms included the ability to visit either inaccessible or unsafe locations, to explore scales of size that are either too big or too small, and to witness different eras or events at varying temporal scales. Furthermore, this study uncovered potential equity issues related to VRFTs being seen as a viable alternative if students could not afford to go on field trips. Further research needs to be conducted to better understand the impact of VRFTs on student learning outcomes and take advantage of recent improvements in VR technology.