Science In The Palm Of Their Hands


Soloway, E., Grant, W., Tinker, R., Roschelle, J., Mills, M., Resnick, M., Berg, R., & Eisenberg, M. (1999). Science in the palm of their hands. Communications of the ACM, 42 (8), 21-26.


In the beginning, there are children and the learning experiences we want them to have. Now, let’s bring in technology as the means for enabling those learning experiences.

If we’re serious about having children use technology in K–12 classrooms, then we need to convince the gatekeepers of those classrooms as to the worth of the technology. Doing so requires that we speak in the language of the teachers’ profession: first identify the learning experiences and their outcomes, along with why those are desired, and then speak about how to enable those activities via technology. It’s a feature, not a bug, that teachers require this sort of argumentation. Teachers are protecting our children from gratuitous, trendy and ultimately empty, experiences.

Here’s what the National Research Council says: “Inquiry into authentic questions generated from student experiences is the central strategy for teaching science.”

By “authentic questions” the NRC does not mean questions at the end of a textbook chapter, but rather questions generated by students. The concern, the interest, and the motivation must come from the children; it is their questions. Now, teachers can surely help a child generate a question; an untutored 11-year-old’s question is something like “How many planets are there?” or “How big is the earth.” With help from a teacher, these students move beyond closed questions to more open-ended, content-rich questions such as “How do earth-quakes stop?” and “How did scientists discover sprites?”.

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