Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 15, Issue 1, Article 6 (Jun., 2014)
Ajitha NAYAR K and Miles BARKER
Computer labs as techno-pedagogical tools for learning biology – Exploring ICT practices in India

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Objectives and research questions

Almost all high schools in India have computer labs but most schools have only one computer lab. In most schools an IT coordinator is present who is in charge of computer lab. In large schools this is, of course, a severe constraint; typically, a class will be timetabled for only one 1-2 hour session in the computer lab per week. Most computer labs have seating capacity for 35-45 students with 30-40 computers in each lab. The scope of computer labs as technology-based learning environments has been explored. Computer labs in most cases are set up out of funds from the state and central governments and subsequently upgraded with school funds but in some schools, computer labs are used only for Imparting IT education. The role of computer labs in exploiting the techno-pedagaogical prospects has benefitted from the increasing willingness of some educational software companies to collaborate with the schools and charter an IT-based pedagogical solution for the school. These IT companies have teamed up with schools and assist schools in training teachers, preparing technology-based learning materials and upgrading IT infrastructure.

In India most teachers have been trained in ICT skills but at the time of the study, technology intervention in computer labs occurs mainly in only three subjects: science, social studies and mathematics. This may be due to the availability of numerous IT-based learning resources and educational software for these subjects. The higher value accorded to these subjects by school curriculum, teachers, parents and the greater career potential offered may be the reason for educational software companies focusing on these subjects. The nature of technology use by teachers varies in different contexts and is based on the degree of technology-enabling. Teachers have reported pedagogical difficulties and that extra time is required to design technology-based learning activities. Most teachers believe that lab sessions do not help students to succeed in the performance in exams (Siorenta and Jimoyiannis, 2008). Previous studies have reported that there were different levels of technology-enabled classroom environments which reflected different extents of technology-enabled teaching and technology-enabled learning (Nayar and Barker, 2008). The present study focused on computer labs and the nature of biology teachers' pedagogical use of computer labs. Technology in India is transforming learning environments with the result of new objectives and learning outcomes emerging.

Science education is one area in India where efficient ICT applications to promote student learning are available, viz., spreadsheets, databases, simulations and modeling tools, microcomputer-based laboratories (MBL) offering open learning environments that provide students with opportunities for learning. Computer tools such as simulations, web based conferencing systems, multimedia visualizations and modeling tools can be utilized to support inquiry in science teaching and learning (Bransford, Brown and Cocking, 1999; Penner, 2000).

The present study investigates the perspectives of teachers in the use of computer labs as techno-pedagogical tools. The study also explores the nature of ICT skills deployed by students while learning biology using computer labs. The research questions in this study are:

1. What perspectives do biology teachers have on techno-pedagogies?

2. What is the nature of ICT skills deployed by students in learning biology in computer labs?


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