Laptop Use, Interactive Science Software, and Science Learning Among At-Risk Students
This year-long, quasi-experimental study investigated the impact of the use of netbook computers and interactive science software on fifth-grade students’ science learning processes, academic achievement, and interest in further science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) study within a linguistically diverse school district in California. Analysis of students’ state standardized science test scores indicated that the program helped close gaps in scientific achievement between at-risk learners (i.e., English learners, Hispanics, and free/reduced-lunch recipients) and their counterparts. Teacher and student interviews and classroom observations suggested that computer-supported visual representations and interactions supported diverse learners’ scientific understanding and inquiry and enabled more individualized and differentiated instruction. Finally, interviews revealed that the program had a positive impact on students’ motivation in science and on their interest in pursuing science-related careers. This study suggests that technology-facilitated science instruction is beneficial for improving at-risk students’ science achievement, scaffolding students’ scientific understanding, and strengthening students’ motivation to pursue STEM-related careers.