The Impact of Technology on Teaching and Learning in an Elementary Science Classroom
This dissertation documents a case study o f a 4th-5th grade science classroom, equipped with eight desktop computers, in which the classroom teacher and her students used technology tools to enhance instruction and learning; specifically in the areas of astronomy and space exploration. My research questions were:
1. How can the imaginative integration of technology tools extend the practices of a teacher and her students in an elementary science classroom? How do these teacher and student practices interact?
2. What conditions/structures were present in this case to nurture the development of technology as an imaginative extension of the complex learning environment? How may these conditions be considered as ‘enabling constraints’?
I employed case study methodology and used complexity theory as an interpretive
lens for better understanding the dynamic features of technology use in the classroom. The research environment exhibited many of the characteristics of a complex entity; thriving in the fertile space at the edge of chaos. To capture the complex nature of the interactions in a collective classroom setting, I became a member of the community, and employed the methods of participant research.
Easily accessible computers enabled a series of student science projects of an expanded and open nature; within the context of an adaptive learning environment. The teacher and her students made significant modifications to their existing teaching and learning practices - with changes occurring in the teacher’s instructional role and assigned tasks, and the students becoming much more engaged with the subject matter through extensive research projects. In this open learning system, complex adaptation and change were continually occurring in all members; teacher, students, curriculum materials, and technology tools. The computers, with their continuing flow of information and experience, provided for a great deal of the open nature of the emergent classroom community. In summary, the way in which this classroom was structured allowed for new and unique ideas, practices, and learning to emerge, thus providing a rich, diverse and adaptive experience for all participants.