Each year, more students are dropping out of high school. Students are bored and feel that they are not learning anything that is useful in the real world. Teachers are finding an increasing number of students becoming less engaged in their academic studies. There are public schools willing to bribe students to pay attention and make better grades. Instead of bribery, educators need to make the curriculum more appealing to student interests, develop critical thinking skills to be able to adapt and/or solve real life problems. Today’s world is full of media and technology use that can be used in the classroom to spice things up. This paper focuses on the integration of WebQuests, virtual video games, and virtual dissections in the science curriculum.
Using Technology to Motivate Students in the Science Classroom Today, a majority of students are either bored, frustrated, or feel like school is a waste of time. Many educators find that these students will not complete assignments, participate in classroom activities, or try their best. There are a number of reasons for the lack of motivation in students including they may have learning disabilities, have bad experiences in school, fear ridicule from their peers, and or they are not learning about a subject they are interested in. Many educators find that these students will not try, will not complete assignments, or participate in classroom discussions or activities.
Some students who seem unmotivated may have learning disabilities, had bad experiences in school, fear ridicule, and or are not in a class or subject they are interested in. Some of these students just sit there and daydream. While others become discipline problems by disrupting class and hurting the learning chances of others. Educators are constantly assigning detention and in-school suspension to those with discipline issues. Students who misbehave or have given up tend to have this psychological perceptive that they are compensating for their belief that they are stupid (Mendler, 2000).
There are number of public schools that seem to be desperate enough for students to make better grades that they are willing to bribe students, not with candy or homework passes, but with money. There are public schools around the country that have used or are currently using programs that pay students to make better grades. Students who participate in these programs may make better grades, temporarily; however, when the cash incentives are removed the grades tend to return to their normal range. Most educators agree with Sullo (2009) statement that giving students bribes like this only “devalues education and learning.”
Rather than using these extrinsic rewards, educators need to use more intrinsic system that relies on students taking more interest in the topics or materials covered. Pederson’s & William’s (2004) study states that the usage of more problem based learning would work better as an intrinsic motivator. In problem based learning students have to set up their own objectives in how to solve a problem given to them by the teacher. This student centered method gives students more ownership of their goals and gives more meaning to their work. In addition, using students centered assessment, where students are involve with their own evaluation, helps students to examine what and how they have performed their tasks.
Using a WebQuest
Some researchers say that the way to motivate students is to cover topics that relate to real life. One way to make a topic relevant to real life is to use a WebQuest. A WebQuests are inquiry-based activities that were developed in 1995 by Bernie Dodge (March, 2003). This type of activity uses a layered process in which the learner uses the internet to facilitate the acquisition, synthesis and analysis of information. It requires the learner to take charge of their own learning, resulting in better understanding and retention of knowledge. A WebQuest is made up for six critical components: an introduction, task, resources, a step-by-step process, an evaluation, and conclusion (Yoder, 1999). When implemented correctly, WebQuests not only challenges the learner to collect and gather information, but to take the knowledge and apply it to real-life scenarios, relationships and processes. The task itself can be modified in length of time it takes to complete and groups, individual or collective.
One of the disadvantages of WebQuests is the time it takes a teacher to create or critique a pre-made task. But as with any other good teaching methods, planning and preparation is time-consuming. Most WebQuest are free to use online. Any teachers can create their own WebQuest or use an already made WebQuest. There are WebQuest wizards available online that can help a teacher through the creation process. When using a pre-made WebQuest the teacher must go through the activity and make sure the information if correct and that all the web links are working. A science teacher could create a WebQuest that would have students look at water pollution in an area. The student’s task would be to research ways to prevent water pollution and ways to clean it up. A few examples of pre-made WebQuest can be found on the sites listed in listed in Table 1. Place Table 1 about here
Current and past studies on student motivation have found that traditional instruction lacks researched strategies that could promote motivation in students (Dantonio & Beisenherz; 1990). Most educators tend to stick to traditional methods of teaching to the text and having students memorizing facts. Instead, teachers need to use a combination of text, activities, and projects to better engage students. Discovery learning allows students to pursue their own answers to explain an event of what happens during a laboratory experiment is an intrinsic motivational technique. What is today’s perceived mind-waster could be one of tomorrow’s educational solutions. According to an article written by Greenemeir (2009), several educators are advocating that schools use video games because it promotes discovery learning via development of critical thinking skills that students can apply to real-life situations and enhances their understanding in math and science.
Video games provide multiple modes and means that can be adapted to different learning styles. They often challenge the learner competitively in order to boost motivation and learning goals. Virtual games allow the learner to take small steps to accomplish complex tasks. Learners are often in charge of their own learning and are given feedback frequently. The Director of Future Learning Initiatives at Kauffman Foundation, Merrilea Mayo, cites studies that show a 7 to 40 percent improvement in learning when using virtual games versus the traditional lecture format (Greenemeier 2009). One of the drawbacks to using video games in an educational setting is finding quality games.
Many games tout being educational, but just use superficial elements that do not actually teach content (Dewar, 2010). Educators need to make sure that winning is based on thorough knowledge of material. When creating an educational virtual game the game needs to be relevant and meaningful to the student, show that what is learned can be used in other situations, such as in real life. In addition, games need to involve the student in each aspect, motivate students by piquing their interests. Some games may require a fee, but there are also some quality activities that are free. Whyville, for example, is a virtual world that engages and teaches the learner through various constructional games, role playing and activities. Other examples of virtual games are listed in Table 2. Place Table 2 about here
Another way to make the topic more interesting and students willing to do an activity would be to use virtual dissections instead of real, hands on dissections in the classroom. There are some students and/or parents that refuse to dissect a real animal for the sake of a science class. One way to get around this problem is to use a virtual dissection program. In a study (Lalley et al. 2010) performed on the virtual dissection software, V-Frog©, the researchers found that students using the software did not learn more than students who did the actual hands on dissection. However, the advantages to using a virtual dissection can out-weigh any of the possible disadvantages. In the science class, students are able to do an in-depth study of the anatomy of both an invertebrate and vertebrate animals through dissection.
Within a virtual dissection, students are able to repeat their dissection as a review; no one would have to deal with the smell, and of the decomposing specimens. In addition, by using a virtual dissection, students are not handling sharp objects or going to their next class like their specimen. There are multiple virtual dissections programs available via software and through different websites, from dissecting mammals, reptiles, owl pellets, to flowers. In addition, there are several free to use, online websites with pictures of the different dissected parts visible (see Table 3). By using online websites, a school can save money on not having to buy new specimens each year per class. In addition, students can review the material in places outside of school. Place Table 3 about here
It can be hard to motivate students, especially when educators have not been train in how to actually motivate students. Educators not only need to know how to motivate students but also in managing and coping with students who come to class with the plan to create as much disruption as possible in order to entertain themselves. More and more students are dropping out of high school because they are bored and feel that they are not learning anything that is useful in the real world. Educators need to make the curriculum more appealing to student interests, to real life events and problems. If students are interested in the topic and engaged in classroom activities there will be less discipline issues which might lead to less student dropouts.
Dantonio, M. & Beisenherg, P. (1990). Don’t just demonstrate – motivate! The science teacher, 57(2), 27-29.
Dewar, G. (2010). Educational video games. Retrieved from http://www.parenting science.com/educational-video-games.html
Greenemeier, L. (2009, January 1). Using virtual worlds and video games to teach the lessons of reality. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/blog/60- second-science/post.cfm?id=using-virtual-worlds-and-video-game-2009-01-01 Lalley, J.P., Piotrowski, P.S. Battaglia, B., Brophy, K. & Chugh, K. (2010). A comparison of V- Frog© to physical frog dissection. International Journal of Environmental & Science Education, 5(2), 189-200.
March, T. (2003). In What WebQuests Are (Really). Retrieved from http://bestwebquests.com/ what_webquests_are.asp
Mendler, A. N. (2000). Motivating students who do not care: Successful techniques for educators. Bloomington, Indiana: National Education Services, 7. Patrick, H., & Yoon, C. (2004). Early adolescents’ motivation during science investigation. The Journal of educational research, 97(6), 319-338.
Pedersen, S., & Williams, D. (2004). Comparison of assessment on effects of learning and motivation in student centered classroom. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 13(3), 283-306.
Sullo, B. (2009). The motivated student: Unlocking the enthusiasm for learning. Alexandria, Virginia: ASCD.
Yoder, M.B. (1999). The student WebQuest: A productive and thought – provoking use of the internet. Learning and Leading with Technology, 26(7), 6-9.
Table 1. WebQuest Web Resources
|Internet4Classrooms |http://www.internet4classrooms.com | |WebQuest.org |http://webquest.org | |teAchnology |http://www.teach-nology.com |
Table 2. Virtual Game Web Resources
|Whyville |http://www.whyville.net | |Kinetic City |http://www.kineticcity.com | |Planet Science |http://www.planet-science.com |
Table 3. Examples of Free Virtual Dissection Web Resources
|Cow Eye Dissection |http://www.exploratorium.edu/learning_studio/cow_eye/index.html | |Frog Dissection |http://www.cumberland.k12.il.us/schools/chs/starwalt%20projects/Frog%20Dissection/frog_dissection.htm | | |http://www.mhhe.com/biosci/genbio/virtual_labs/BL_16/BL_16.html | |Fetal Pig Dissection |http://www.whitman.edu/biology/vpd/main.html
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