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2002 Challenges in Implementing Technology-rich Curricular High School Biology Materials: First Year Findings from the Exploring Life Project

Date: 2002
Author: Betsy Price, M. Cates and Alec M. Bodzin
Affiliation: Westminster College Ward, Lehigh University
Keywords: high school, curriculum, technology, biology


Eighteen high school biology teachers from a stratified sample of thirteen distinct geographical United States regions participated in evaluation of the first-year prototypes of Biology: Exploring Life, a biology program that includes a textbook with an accompanying Internet component and wet-lab investigations. Web activities explain and reinforce the text and promote active, hands-on learning.


1. How ready are biology teachers who are early adopters of technology to employ a curriculum that requires students to use computers on a regular or even daily basis?

2. What motivation, additional education, hardware, or skills do teachers require in order to integrate almost-daily computer use into the curriculum?

3. Do high schools have the adequate technology facilities to implement a curricular program that incorporates students using computers on an almost-daily basis?

4. How might existing schools change to support a technology-based curricular program?

Key Findings:

* Observations indicated that wireless computers offered greater flexibility in classroom arrangements than using a computer lab, permitting more collaboration and small group work.

* Regardless of how much technical support teachers had in their school, all teachers became emergency technicians while pilot testing the prototype materials, troubleshooting problems as necessary during class.

* The amount of time and type of problem was usually a minor annoyance. However, for almost 43% of our pilot teachers (18 teachers out of the 42) it constituted enough of a hardship that pilot testing was aborted.

* Several students noted in their journals that their learning became more intrinsic and relied less on the teacher's direct instruction. Many students said they enjoyed the shift in emphasis to a more student-centered atmosphere.

* However, not all students preferred learning autonomously with computers. In two schools, higher level biology students reported that they preferred a more traditional textbook-centered curriculum over the prototype materials.

* One teacher noted that the academic performance of her students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for learning disabilities improved while implementing the program. The most dramatic observation was a student whose average mark improved from a D to a B. In an unfortunate confirmation of the learner's preference for the prototype approach, the student's mark slipped back to a D when the textbook-centered curriculum was reinstated at the end of the pilot test.

Source Article: http://www.usingexploringlife.com/downloads/necc2002.pdf