According to Papert, uses of ICT in education may be classified into two wings:
Constructional wing - This describes the processing of information in which ICT serves as a tool for constructing new information and understanding. Within the constructional wing following strands (relevant to science) can be distinguished:
- Data processing: computations, sorting, conversions, etc.
- Data Logging (Microcomputer Based Laboratory)
Informational wing - This describes the presentation of information in which ICT facilitates novel methods of examining ready accumulated information.
Within the informational wing following strands (relevant to science) can be distinguished:
- Visualisation - the use of graphics and display tools to provide insights into concepts which are difficult to represent with conventional textbook diagrams and presentation technologies.
The 'Constructional' wing is chosen as the main focus for this project. This is relevant to the constructivist view of learning which has the dominant influence on the design of contemporary science curricula. The essence of this view is the recognition that for children to learn, they have to be actively involved in the learning process; they construct meaning by the process of interaction and enquiry (Vygotsky, Engestrom). This is particularly relevant to science education with its traditional emphasis on experimental, hands-on activity in science laboratories. Successful pedagogy with laboratory work strives for understanding by making links between theory and practice.
The use of software can be used to encourage and support an enquiry-led approach to learning through tools for modelling, simulation, graphing and data-logging (Newton & Rogers). Although the design of these 'Contructional' tools has achieved maturity, in recent years their use has been overshadowed by the proliferation of developments in the Informational wing, especially with the Internet and multimedia products. This project is timely in attempting to redress the balance in favour of 'Contructional' tools. Furthermore, the project will attempt to demonstrate the integration of such tools in the context of a pedagogical discussion.