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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Findings and discussion of results

Ratings of teachers on perspectives of computer labs

According to Table 1 teachers did not agree strongly about the suitability of the laboratory as a learning environment, nor about the teaching process dimensions. They agreed that computer labs are congenial towards learning resources and the process of learning. The results implied that the physical constraints with regard to use of laboratories as a learning places need to be eliminated. This could be effected by location of computer labs in a centrally localized area with equal accessibility to all students at all levels. The availability of technical support needs to be ensured throughout the working hours of the school. In most of the schools observed, the technical support staff work only part time and are not necessarily available when a technical snag occurs. Many technical support staff problems arise during the classroom sessions during actual working on computers. Teachers' perspective on suitability of learning resources revealed strong agreement. The fact that the learning resources were developed with the collaboration of researchers, educationalists, practitioners and software developers may be the reason for the positive observations. Details are presented in Table 1.

Table 1. Mean scores of ratings of teachers on perspectives of computer labs ( N= 30 )

1.  Learning Environment

Mean (M) 

    Standard Deviation (SD)

1.1 Technical support is more

readily available in computer labs



1.2  location of labs  ideal



1.3  learning becomes more focused in computer labs



1.4 Full justice to the instructional session



Total mean score  for  Learning Environment -





2. Learning Resource

Mean (M) 

    Standard Deviation (SD)

2.1 learning resources relevant



2.2 resources are interactive



2.3  resources offer enrichment



2.4  flexible and dynamic learning opportunities



Total mean score for Learning Resource -





3. Learning Process

Mean (M) 

    Standard Deviation (SD)

3.1 learning becomes interesting



3.2 students are engaged throughout  the instruction time



3.3 learning activity is independent



3.4 students look forward to lab sessions



Total mean score for Learning Process -





4.Teaching  process

Mean (M) 

    Standard Deviation (SD)

4.1 time constraint



4.2 requires a great deal of planning



4.3 problems of management



4.4 problems of indiscipline



Total mean score  for Teaching  process -



(Mean Rating scores of Teachers on a scale of 0-4 :Strongly agree-4 and Strongly disagree-0)

With regard to the teaching dimension the combined mean score for the themes identified revealed that teachers' perspectives on learning aspects were more favorable and in more agreement than with teaching and environment. This suggested that teachers faced certain constraints in teaching when technology was used in computer labs. Teachers would have preferred the familiarity of the classroom. It also implies that for teachers who are not so competent with technology, computer labs tends to be strange and unfamiliar places. It can be deduced that it takes a great deal of confidence to handle teaching outside the classroom. This also is true for undertaking field trips and activity oriented classrooms. Most teachers believed that students generally looked forward to lab sessions more than classroom sessions. The 45 minutes allocated was often not considered adequate as only a few ICT learning opportunities could be made use of. The number of lab sessions allotted for biology (one per week) was also considered inadequate. This may be because the number of biology teachers in a secondary school is limited to one or two, and the time allotted for biology is restricted to two instructional sessions per week for each class

The nature of the learning skills deployed by students

Results in Table 2 suggests that most of the potentialities of the computer were utilized in the laboratories for learning the biology topic Cell Structure. Indeed, the computer laboratory offered tremendous opportunities for deploying student technology skills. Computer graphic skills requiring them to identify and label parts, and making presentations required higher order ICT skills.

Table 2.  Learning skills deployed by students in computer labs.

Number Observed (out of 10  observations)

Learning Skills

Learning Task  Observed


Getting started and

keyboard skills

Basic knowledge of computer and electronic communication


Organizational skills

Process-oriented work and text processing


Information gathering skills

Information retrieval in database and data processing


Digital literacy skill

Basic internet use


Computer application skill

Use of spreadsheets


Computer graphic skills

Layouts and pictures communication


Communication skill and organizational skill

Screen presentation


Collaborative skills

Use of  community networks

However, use of the internet was observed on only two occasions and opportunities for collaborative skills were not observed. Collaborative e-learning activities enhance student motivation to learn about a topic and also have benefits in terms of improving written expression, developing technical skills and promoting international understanding and tolerance (Meleisea, 2007). Bransford, Brown and Cocking (1999) suggest that new technologies which are interactive make it easier to create environments in which students can learn by doing, receive feedback, continually renew their understanding and build new knowledge. Studies in technology-integrated environments have reported that students can become immersed in the learning activity which in turn individualizes the educational process to accommodate the needs, interest, current knowledge, learning styles of students (Schacter and Fagnano, 1999). It has been found that such Technology Enhanced Learning Environments (TELE) are effective vehicles for promulgating a host of new instructional practices as well. There are studies (Baltrus, 2002) that report that the effectiveness of technology integration into education is largely independent of its ability to engage students into learning; it is the teacher's creativity that drives their use into the curriculum.

Results revealed that though students were the ones using technology in computer labs, it also required ICT skills on the part of the teacher. Student queries often centered around the teacher's knowledge and expertise on ICT skills, ranging from basic ICT skills involving browsing and retrieving data to higher order skills like computer graphic skills, hyper linking, uploading files and downloading information. It was also observed that skills in website design and preparation were also required. Feedback collected from the teachers after the laboratory sessions revealed that most of them were optimistic about computer labs as offering excellent opportunities for ICT in the learning of biology


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