Thursday, October 30, 2008

Simulations Teach the Concept But Not Science

At "The Principal's Blog," I read the following comment. "When I asked a conference participant, who happened to be an engineer, if he believed the simulation would be as good as the real experience, he felt like it would certainly teach them the concept."
You cannot disagree with this thought. Simulations, like books and videos and lectures and more, can "teach them the concept."

However, learning science is much more than learning concepts -- words, laws, formulas, relationships, and so on. Those are learning about science. Students must also learn science itself. Only by doing science do they learn science. Simulations do not allow students to do science.

This concept should be simple. Unfortunately, few people (other than scientists) really comprehend the essence of this matter. After all, most people took typical science courses in which they were not allowed to learn science but only learned about science.

Once you understand science, it becomes another way to view the world parallel to the ways you may be used to. Understanding science enriches your life and provides you with what Carl Sagan called a "baloney detection kit." You become more immune to predatory loans and other snake oil sales.

Understanding science will also help our country's students achieve better results on the international science exams we all read about in which we rank 27th or so.

So, how do students do science? By having science lab experiences that allow them to inquire, explore, and discover the real world. Simulations can help with concepts. They do not help with learning science. Only by applying the processes and methods of science to material world data, phenomena, and objects can they learn science. The National Research Council said as much in America's Lab Report.

Well-designed hands-on lab experiences work well if properly integrated into the curriculum. So do prerecorded real experiments with highly interactive software allowing students to collect their own personal data. The latter can be found, at low cost, in Smart Science® integrated instructional lab units. See for details.

© 2015 by Smart Science Education Inc., U.S.A.
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