Instructional Technology in Science

Educational technology can be used to support teaching and learning of science concepts and processes in ways not possible without technology. 


Why is the integration of educational technology into science important?

Educational technology can support both the teaching and learning of science concepts and science processes.  Technology allows teachers and students to model and explore concepts that are otherwise impossible or difficult to explore, to support student inquiry and to clarify and display student thinking.

As information and communication technology becomes prevalent in supporting the day to day world of work, reform documents such as 1996 National Science Education Standards and 1999 National Science Teacher's Association Position Statements have long called for uses of technology in ways that are authentic to how science is done. In addition, the National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NET-S) call for the use of technology to support student learning of core area concepts and processes and tools for 21st century collaboration and communication. It is the responsibility of all teachers to prepare students to thoughtfully integrate technology into science instruction and student work.

Video: Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century



What is thoughtful integration of technology?

Regardless of the rationale for why technology is used, understanding how it can used is much more important. Flick and Bell (2000) suggest that integration of technology into science should:
●       take advantage of the unique features of the technology
●       make scientific views more accessible
●       develop understandings of the relationship of science and technology

As teachers integrate technology into their teaching, it is often helpful to look at the knowledge required to help support thoughtful integration. Researchers (Mishra and Kohler, 2006) have began to look at the knowledge used to integrate technology by examining Technological and Pedagogical Content Knowledge or TPACK. 

Imagine that a teacher is using probeware, computer aided data collection devices, to help students explore the concept of Newton's 3rd law of motion in which each force receives an opposite but equal force. This teacher decides to use two force sensors connected by a rubber band. The sensors are connected to a computer that displays real-time graphs. She asks students to predict what the shape of the graph will be when a student pulls on the rubber band with one force probe (The other probe is stationary). This produces an result that is unexpected by students (a discrepant event). 

In making her decisions for designing the lesson, the teacher is considering
●     content knowledge (i.e. Physics concept such as Netwon's 3rd Law),
●     pedagogical knowledge (i.e. the discrepant event and knowledge of what makes this topic difficult for students), and
●     technological knowledge (i.e. force sensors used with probeware).

This example illustrates the intentional use of technology to achieve student learning. Technology is not a replacement for teaching, but a tool that can be used by students and their teachers to enhance learning.

The following questions may be helpful within professional development settings as you explore technologies that may be useful in helping student learn science.
●     What science practices does this support? (e.g. Asking Questions, Modeling, Devising testable hypothesis, Collecting, Analyzing, and Interpreting Data, Constructing and critiquing arguments, Communicating and interpreting scientific and technical texts, Applying and using scientific knowledge)
●     How can I use this technology to support whole class, small group, and individual instruction?
●     Can this technology be used outside of class?
●     Where might I use this technology within the learning cycle?
●     How does this technology help my students understand the nature of science?
●     What NET-S standards or digital literacy goals can this technology support?
●     What connections can I make between this technology and the every day lives of students?
●     Can my students access this technology outside of class to either collaborate or extend their learning?  

In addition, as you consider integration of technology you may consider the RAT (Replace, Amplify, or Transform) Decision Making framework (Hughes, Thomas, & Scharber, 2006) to help you guide how you may integrate technology into instruction.
●     Replace  - Can I use this educational technology to replace what I've done before?
●     Amplify - Can I use this educational technology to help amplify or enhance what I am currently doing?
●     Transform - Does this educational technology allow for the transformation of how teaching and learning is currently done?



Planning & Instruction

What are the different kinds of technology that can I use both within planning and instruction?

The links below provide descriptions of several technology tools. They have the potential for use in all classrooms. Models of online learning are beyond the scope of this best practice section, please see the NSTA position statement on The Role of E-Learning in Science Education for more information.

You may use this chart within professional development settings to think about how these tools can be used.




TALK:  Reflection & Discussion 

■    What activities do you already do that could be enhanced with technology?

■    What technologies do your students already use in daily life?

■    Think about the technologies that you currently use to teach. Are there ways you could improve how your students use these technologies?

■    What concepts are difficult for students to understand? How might technology be used to help student understanding of these difficult concepts?

■    What technologies would you like to integrate but would like more help with?

■    How could you use technologies, like cloud computing applications, to support collaborative student learning?

■    What challenges do you face as you incorporate technology into your teaching? What strategies do you follow to overcome those challenges?

DO:  Action Steps

■    Begin thinking about content that is difficult for students to learn or perhaps hard for them to engage with the learning.

■    Consider technologies that may be helpful to address the needs of individual students.

■    Consider technologies that allow teachers to collaborate together and other uses of technology for professional development.

■    Seek out professional development conferences, such as the annual TIES and MnSTA conferences, that feature sessions on the use of technology in science education.

■    Consider Higher Education certificate programs and M.Ed. Programs that focus on the integration of technology in K12 Settings.

■    To learn more about the tools themselves, consider online tutorial programs such as Atomic Learning.

■    To decrease the time to create innovative classroom activities that include technology, consider collaborating with other science teachers who already integrate technology into their teaching.

References & Resources

 (* items are resources that may be especially worthwhile for teachers)


Bell, R. L., Gess-Newsome, J., & Luft, J. (2008). Technology in the Secondary Science

Classroom (p. 112). NSTA Press.

Deal, A. (2007). Classroom response systems: A teaching with technology white paper.

Retrieved October 14, 2009 from


Horton, P., McConney, A., Gallo, M., Woods, A., Senn, G., & Hamelin, D. (1993). An

investigation of the effectiveness of concept mapping as an instructional tool. Science Education, 77(1), 95-111.

Klopfer, E., Scheintaub, H., Huang, W, Wendel, D., Roque, R. (2009) The Simulation

Cycle - Combining Games, Simulations, Engineering and Science Using

StarLogo TNG. Journal of E-Learning and Digital Media 6(1) 71-96

Klopfer, E. and Sheldon, J.  (2002).  Augmenting Your Own Reality: Student

Authoring of Science-Based Augmented Reality Games. New Directions in Youth

Development, 210, 85-94.

Klopfer,  E. and Squire, K.  (2008).  Environmental Detectives-the development

of an augmented reality platform for environmental simulations. Educational Technology Research and Development, 56, 203-228.

National Science Teachers Association. Position statement The Use of Computers in Science Education,, retrieved July 28, 2011.

Park, J. C. (2008). Probeware tools for science investigations. In Technology in the

Secondary Science ClassroomR. L. Bell, J. Gess-Newsome, & J. Luft (Eds.), (p. 112). NSTA Press.



A simulation is a computer-generated model that represents a real or hypothetical phenomenon, process or system.  Simulations include animations and virtual laboratories. 

Probeware, sometime known as computer aided data collection devices, refers to technology that can both capture and analyze data with the use of a computer or other digital interface such as a calculator or hand held device. 

Concept maps are learning and assessment tools. They are meaningful learning tools since they help students to connect their existing knowledge to new knowledge. Concept maps are also effective formative assessment tools for science teachers.  

Instructional games are software developed to motivate students' learning through competition and student developed games. 

Cloud computing allows student to collaboratively construct documents to support scientific inquiries.

Modeling software programs allow students to design and create models of complex systems such as epidemics, Newtonian motion, and climate change.

Many science teachers use clickers to get instant information about student understanding and learning