This short book focuses on how to incorporate various technologies into an individual teacher’s pedagogical practices in order to improve student learning. It seeks "to provide an overview of a range of computer technologies having the potential to help students better learn science content." However, the book is equally clear that "technology use can be seen as a means to an end (student learning), but never the end in itself… it's about how teachers use the technology," and the book's goal is to help middle and secondary science teachers do so effectively.
Readers get a "snapshot" of eight technologies, providing "a summary of current research regarding [their] effectiveness," "best practice guidelines for teaching with [them]," and "a few innovative ideas for teaching science content with [them]." The technologies range from digital images to virtual classrooms, and all the chapters provide names and publishers of various commercial and free software as well as resources such as online databases.
Two topics covered well are web-based inquiry projects and online assessments. The chapter on the former has a "Best Practices" section that demonstrates more effectively than anywhere else in the book how to use the internet to address genuine research questions, and the chapter on the latter shows how online assessment tools can empower a teacher "to listen in on your students thinking" rather than simply pursue "rote learning."
The book's one flaw is that too much of its material comes almost exclusively from the physical sciences. This tendency is particularly evident in the chapters on simulations and probeware tools for the classroom. A life science teacher will have a hard time finding applicable material here.
The book could make an effective tool for work on lesson design. Using a specific chapter, teachers could design an individual lesson plan for an inquiry in their own classes and share these designs for peer feedback. Limiting one class or workshop to only one chapter could allow teachers time to reflect more deeply and seriously about using a single technology effectively; for pre-service teachers, the book could make an ideal text for a course on this subject.
One caution the authors recognize is that "even with all of the promising new technologies…the teacher is still (and always well be) the most important part of the equation." Hence, before using a technology, the reader always needs to ask "will this actually help students learn the material better?" A further caution is that technology has so removed today's children from experiencing direct reality that its use may sometimes do them a disservice. Screen "blood" is not real, and children need to get dirty occasionally to learn this simple truth. Hence, while using "simulations of experiments that would otherwise be impossible in school classrooms" may be an excellent use of technology, the reader always needs to ask "could my kids actually do this for themselves?"