1Patrick Oraduen Anikpa
1Department of Physics
2Department of Integrated Science
Federal College of Education,
Obudu, Cross River State
Science education is recognised as being central to the scientific and technological development of a society. As a result there have been deliberate attempts by governments globally to improve the quality of science teaching in schools and to support teachers’ motivation for enriching their teaching practices. One way of achieving this is the provision for open access to content and resources which are important factors in improving science education. This paper highlights the need of science teachers in terms of the OERs they need, how these can be used, and the challenges for using them. The paper concludes with suggestions for overcoming the obstacles for harnessing OERs for science teaching.
Key Words: Science, Science education, Open educational resources, Science and technology, Science teaching
Science Education is globally recognised to play a significant role in nation building as well as in the lives of individuals residing there in. Scientific literacy is thus considered as a viable tool for national development and this is realizable through science Science education (Rubini & Permanasari, 2014). To ensure the development of the scientific literacy skills by citizens the curriculum for each level of education in Nigeria comprises science subjects.
There are basically three levels of education in the Nigerian education system: the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The primary education and the first three years of secondary education are implemented as a Basic Education Programme, where all children of school age are expected to have compulsory access to schooling. The science curricula applicable to each of the level are:
- Basic Science and Technology curriculum for primary schools,
- Basic Science for junior secondary schools,
- Basic Technology for junior secondary schools
- Biology, Chemistry and Physics curricula for Senior Secondary School Science.
It can be observed that curriculum materials that are produced for the various subject areas describe how teachers should plan activities after learners’ pre- requisite ideas have been identified. How the learners’ ideas can be taken into consideration in planning suitable activities is actually a cause for concern. These curricula are aimed at providing for the acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes for living and thriving in the ever changing technological world.
How effective the students will acquire this knowledge, skills and the attitudes is dependent on the quality of effective science teaching. Effective teaching is one dispensed by teachers who have a broad understanding of curriculum aims and objectives, wide range of pedagogical strategies, high expectations of all students, know their students well; provide effective feedback, recognise feedback, recognise students success, have sound content knowledge, understand what the students need to make progress (Gipps, 1999; Wrags, Wrag, Hayas and Chambelain, 1998 cited in Aer, 2015).
From the above characteristics it is obvious that the students will tend to learn better when science teachers dedicate part of their time to focusing on the content with learning activities which are focused on students’ level of understanding. The performance of effective teachers is based not only on their rich knowledge about content but also how they harness available instructional resources and integrate same in their entire pedagogy. It has to be remembered that pedagogy is an act and discourse. It involves teachers’ ideas, beliefs, attitudes, knowledge, and understanding about curriculum, the teaching and learning process and their students, and which impact on their teaching practise (Alexander, 2007). The pedagogical skills demonstrated by teachers in the classroom are found to be independent of teacher’s teaching subject, the method as well as the knowledge about learner’s development and learning styles (Hill, Schilling Ball, 2003).The teacher’s content knowledge as well as the knowledge about methods are inseparably linked to the available educational resources.
Educational resources refer to resource materials that are used to facilitate the attainment of the learning objectives (Aer, 2015). It follows that the quality of science teaching in school can be assured with the provision of adequate, reliable and suitable educational resources. Apart from improving the quality of teaching, these resources also support teachers’ motivation for enriching their teaching practice. Ogunnaike (2000) asserted that resources function as stimuli and support for both teacher and learner during the teaching and learning process. The advent of Open Educational Resources provides for open access to both content and other institutional resources with the aim to improve science education.
What are Open Educational Resources?
The term Open Educational Resources (OERs) is new to the global lexicon having being coined in 2002 by UNESCO’s International Institute for Educational Planning (Larson & Mercy, 2008). Open Educational Resources refers to any type of educational material in the public domain, or released with an open license allowing the use, adaptation and distribution (UNESCO; 2014). D’Anthoni (2006) and Bissell (2009) explained OER as web – based material offered freely and openly for re-use in teaching, learning and research. The OER movement is noted to have been built around the premise that all educational content should be open and free, representing as it does a significant part of the global human heritage (Larson & Mercy, 2008), Indeed much of global OER initiative has been taking place in Europe but is rapidly spreading in other continents, including Africa.
Larson and Murray (2008) have categorised OERs specifically into: content (materials for learning or reference), tools (soft ware for development or delivery of resources), and standards (shared conventions for digital publishing of open resources). These OERs generally include full courses, course material, modules, textbooks, streaming, videos, software materials and techniques used to support access to knowledge. OERs can be embedded in customised science lessons for the students. The customized lessons are actually those that depend solely on the innovation of the teacher, the needs of his students and the national educational objectives (Charles and Rice, 2012). The use of OER requires investment of time and creative thinking so as to develop engaging technology-supported lessons for the students. This will help students in their learning and can enhance better performance.
Harnessing OERs for Science Teaching in Nigeria
Science is really required in our day to day life to provide human needs. The learning of science should give the students the opportunity to collect data and make decisions related to daily life. When developing or designing a science lesson, the key elements to address are the content, understanding, engagement and critical thinking (Ndirangu, n.d). If students should really understand the content in a lesson, such a lesson must challenge their previous views and beliefs. Such views and beliefs should be based on their prior knowledge and experiences that provide opportunity for their understanding of the lesson.
Deciding what science content to deliver to students, the type of assessment, the science process skills to be developed and the complex reasoning skills the students will engage in are dependent on the availability of resources. Science will be difficult to learn if there are no resources to facilitate science teachers’ classroom discourse and to meet students’ level of intellectual characteristics development (Suryamata, Osman & Meerah, 2010). Thus, harnessing OER adequately will go, a long way to guide science teachers’ classroom practices towards achieving science education goals in Nigeria.
To effectively use OER, the science teachers need to beware of the numerous lesson plans, lesson ideas and the lesson recommendations deposited on the Internet. For instance, science teachers who may google a lesson on “Human Reproduction” may find it possible to get over three million results in less than a second. Similarly, surfing for course materials for any science content may result to overwhelming results. The problem then lies in trying to know which of the lessons or materials that is reliable or in line with the set goals or standards. This is actually the primary short coming of surfing the Internet lessons or materials. To overcome this teachers have to be knowledgeable of intended teaching and learning concepts. Nevertheless teachers who would use OERs appropriately will have their instructional fluency improved (Charles & Rice, 2012).
One of the effective instructional strategies for teaching science is the provision of the opportunity for students to be exposed to an array of materials and equipment that would facilitate engagement in different learning activities. With OERs target models and simulations are the easiest resources to use. The models and animations surfed from the Internet allows the teacher to clarify scientific concepts and because some of these models rarely come with instructions, the teacher has the benefit to develop a menu of questions or investigations that require students to manipulate the online models in ways to agree with objectives of the lesson.
OERs can be used by teachers to revamp existing lessons which they have prepared by incorporating useful OER that would challenge students in exciting ways. The science teacher may use OERs to upgrade an existing lesson rather than starting from the scratch to develop an entirely new lesson for science teaching.
Despite the apparent advantages of OERs as articulated by many scholars (Daniel, 2011; Dichev& Dichev; Smith &Casserly, 2006) and international agencies such as UNESCO and the Common Wealth of Learning (COL), there are a number of challenges that hinder OER adoption and re-use especially in developing countries of the world, Nigeria inclusive (Hatakka, 2009; Larson & Muray, 2008).
Umar, Kodhandarman and Kanwar (2013) have explained some of these to include how to democratise access to education in the context of the dearth of good quality resources and inadequate resources. The dichotomy between the developed and the developing countries in terms of digital divide which has to do with the development and use of ICTs is a serious challenge. As a result developing countries in Africa account for only one percent of OER content produced globally (Hatakka, 2009; Johnstone, 2005; Willey, 2007). Apart from the inability to actually produce the content, utilization of these resources most of which are produced from the developed world is difficult as a result of low ICT facilities. There is inadequate infrastructure including hardware and software.
Since most of these OERs are developed outside Africa, the language used to develop them and its style is not appropriate to the cultural milieu of Nigeria. This is also a challenge to using them. Other challenges relate to the ability to actually find suitable resources from the Web and how to ascertain the quality of information and knowledge contained in the numerous unvented content and materials deposited on the Internet. Then availability and accessibility of ICT services to teachers and students in our institutions of learning is another major challenge to the use of OERs.
Overcoming the Challenges
First and foremost, there is a need to have OERs that are appropriate to the goals of education in Nigeria and other developing countries of Africa. Also, there is a need for these resources to be appropriate to the cultural milieu of the African nation. To achieve this, the academic community should build mutual exchange and collaborative development of these educational resources globally. Such a community would enable Africa to gradually improve on the processes leading to the production of open content and materials that would be useful and appropriate in their own setting. This will go a long way to help people not just to know how to do things for themselves but also to know who else is doing it and where.
Teachers and academics should be encouraged to develop a sharing attitude. The sharing culture is of course an invaluable experience to build on when utilizing OERs (Ng’ambi and Luo 2011). Although teachers and/or lecturers have been sharing informally, there is the need for them to share in a way anybody else would know. This can be achieved by increasing access to virtual educational facilities both in closed and open educational systems. Formation of virtual communities, virtual libraries and virtual classrooms can be good avenues for sharing knowledge and information on production and reuse of OERs.
Governments at all levels should endeavour to improve on the provision of technical resources in educational institutions. Teachers should be encouraged to acquire laptops, smart phones and other requirements necessary for surfing the Internet at subsidised costs. Above all, there should be provision for Internet services to all educational institutions. In places where Internet services may not be provided due to unavoidable obstacles efforts should be made to produce DVDs and other video resources that can easily be played on TV, laptops etc. in the form of model and animations.
To overcome the challenges of quality and relevance, science teachers should develop their science lessons based on the approved national curriculum. The application of OER should only be a way of revamping or updating the science teachers’ lessons. After all starting from the scratch will demand more time and skills from the teachers.
From the discussion so far, it is evidently clear that OERs are descendants of the digital age. In this age, there is a gradual shift from printed materials to the digital chase. In Nigeria, the preparation for digital revolution is rather slow. As a result few facilities are being utilized for educational services. Consequently OERs are not adequately harnessed for science teaching. This paper holds the view that for effective utilization of OERs, innovation towards digital revolution is invaluable. The paper suggests different ways by which science teachers could apply OERs. It also reveals the probable challenges associated with the application of OERs and the ways to overcome some of these challenges.
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