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Remote learning and experiencing science are not incompatible

By Kelly Hollis, Global Head of Science, Education Perfect

Whether students are in a permanent remote learning environment, or in a temporary one – such as the rolling school closures from COVID-19 taking place across the world – the science ‘experience’ doesn’t necessarily require co-location of students and teachers. As a result of students not necessarily being on site and able to do collaborative or hands-on engaging activities with teachers and their classmates, Science teachers need to engage with their students in different ways.  

Thankfully, there are ample opportunities online. 

For one, Australia’s annual celebration of science and technology, National Science Week, takes place each August, providing an opportunity for educators to shine a light on science. Schools use the week’s activities as an opportunity to boost student engagement with Science – many of which have been made available online. It’s the internet which has provided the opportunity to experience science in a different way, as well as in ways that were unavailable before now.

A different, yet familiar experience

When classrooms shift to an online forum, there doesn’t need to be a reduction in the hands-on approach to Science lessons. Without access to much of the ‘traditional’ equipment for Science lessons, students can access online learning platforms and their continually growing libraries of activities to undertake, using materials from around the house. In fact, Science Daily reported the findings of a study of 300 students in Russia, showing they learned just as much in online courses as they did in traditional classroom settings.

As the Global Head of Science for online learning platform Education Perfect (EP), I know that some students struggle to understand certain scientific concepts until there is a practical element. Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Earth & Environmental Science may be (for some students) specific disciplines reserved for a school science laboratory. 

The good news for those (temporarily) housebound students is that there are usually tools, equipment and general opportunities to find examples around the house which match all the different elements of Science. They can use items they can find in the kitchen or in their stationery cupboard to engage in hands-on activities at home.

Real world context 

If there’s a positive to be gained from our current circumstances, it’s that they have helped make parts of the Science curriculum easier to understand and more relatable for many students. Learning about the COVID-19 virus naturally fits within biology: how a virus works, how transmission of a disease works, and the role hygiene and social distancing play in reducing transmission. 

During the pandemic’s (first) peak, EP created some resources for students to break down viruses and understand how they spread, as well as some facts about the benefits of social distancing. With an increased interest in finding out why things were happening the way they are, these resources ended up being among our most used. 

The use of online technology has opened a lot of doors for many students, and is enabling them to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do in the lab; for example, online simulations now allow students to have a virtual experience of an electron microscope, which schools wouldn’t have access to. 

Even while the present methods of education have been significantly altered for many students, the experience of learning about Science does not need to change. With a real-life example of how science can impact the world, students have been given an opportunity to experience science in a relatable way. 

The advances in online technology allow access to scientific methods and technologies that were once just subjects of science fiction, and with enough ingenuity, using household items can bring laboratory tasks to life at home. The adaptation process can be difficult and time-consuming for many, but technology has allowed us to improve how well students engage with science.

Remote learning may not be the perfect way to teach science, but it does provide opportunities for innovative methods for learning, and represents how technology can be used to bridge students and teachers when circumstances keep them apart.

About the author:

Kelly Hollis is the Global Head of Science for Education Perfect.  She is an experienced Science teacher and an ambassador for flipped learning. Kelly wears many hats in her role as an Education Technology expert and has been instrumental in building a strong culture of resource sharing and thought leadership online.

Author: Kelly Hollis

Kelly Hollis

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