Computer-Assisted Instruction and Science
What Is Computer-Assisted Instruction?
“Computer-assisted instruction” (CAI) refers to instruction or remediation presented on a computer. Many educational computer programs are available online and from computer stores and textbook companies. They enhance teacher instruction in several ways.
Computer programs are interactive and can illustrate a concept through attractive animation, sound, and demonstration. They allow students to progress at their own pace and work individually or problem solve in a group. Computers provide immediate feedback, letting students know whether their answer is correct. If the answer is not correct, the program shows students how to correctly answer the question. Computers offer a different type of activity and a change of pace from teacher-led or group instruction.
Computer-assisted instruction improves instruction for students with disabilities because students receive immediate feedback and do not continue to practice the wrong skills. Many computer programs can move through instruction at the student’s pace and keep track of the student’s errors and progress. Computers capture the students’ attention because the programs are interactive and engage the students’ spirit of competitiveness to increase their scores. Also, computer-assisted instruction moves at the students’ pace and usually does not move ahead until they have mastered the skill. Programs provide differentiated lessons to challenge students who are at risk, average, or gifted.
A Web site developed by the University of Vermont, http://www.uvm.edu/~jmorris/Sci.html contains links to many science programs. There are virtual field trips and experiences, science museums, lesson and unit plans, science information and ideas, and videos and software. Not all of the sites are free, but there are a variety of programs described, and this site is a good place to start. One site, for example,