New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Using Apps as Digital Scaffolds for Science Learning in the Primary School

Garry Falloon, The University of Waikato (New Zealand)


Recent technological developments have seen increasing numbers of mobile digital devices being used in schools for a variety of teaching and learning purposes. These include building literacy and numeracy skills, developing computational competencies, supporting special needs students, and assisting with data gathering and processing in science learning. The large number of affordable apps for these devices, coupled with provisioning systems such as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and mobile device ‘pods’, have supported teachers’ efforts to integrate digital devices seamlessly into curriculum, enabling greater flexibility and choice as to how and when they are used. Historical use of technology in science education has focused on using desktop or notebook computers for data collection and analysis. However, the advent of mobile devices such as the iPad and its array of apps, has opened new possibilities for supporting science learning.

This paper reports outcomes from primary (9 & 10 year old) students’ use of apps from the OKiwibook science series as digital scaffolds for self-regulated learning, in a ‘Forms of Energy’ science inquiry. The study used an innovative display, audio and video data recording system to capture students’ use of different app scaffolds during a series of ‘hands on’ practical workshops, to learn how their use might support development of science conceptual and procedural knowledge. Results identified particular design features of the scaffolds that were effective in supporting students’ procedural knowledge, but also found limitations to how well they could independently support development of conceptual understanding. Outcomes highlight the importance of human factors in optimising learning benefits from technology-embedded scaffolds, and underpin the importance of teachers’ science concept knowledge to leveraging full advantage from them.

Keywords: apps, iPads, self-regulated learning, science, digital, scaffold.


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