Concerns about the state of science education, falling numbers of students choosing to study science and the need for a scientifically informed public equipped to participate in current debates in science (e.g. climate change, GM foods, stem cell research) have led to new initiatives in science education. The emphasis is now often on the need for learners to understand the relevance of the science they study to their lives and the well being of the world at large. Alongside these changes, the nature of science itself is changing and is open to wider debate and less certainty.
New technologies are playing a significant role in enabling these changes, for example, providing the tools to support easy and open access publishing and peer review, mobile research live from the field (see EpiCollect for examples), ubiquitous data collection, large scale data sharing, remote sensing and collaboration and academic social networking. Such activities can employ both purpose built infrastructures (e.g. Grid computing) and/or Web 2.0 tools to provide Virtual Research Environments (e.g. myExperiment). This coming together of e-Science and Web 2.0 is resulting in the democratization of science (De Roure, 2008) by empowering everyday scientists to participate globally and pervasively in new kinds of research and collaboration, sharing results, data, tools and methods with ease and on hitherto unprecedented scales. The skills required by scientists are therefore also changing, with a greater emphasis upon collaboration, debate, large-scale analysis and above all the appropriate application of technology.
Simultaneously, advances in ubiquitous, mobile and personal technologies coupled with falling prices are changing expectations of how, when and with whom and what the general public expect to be able to interact. Coupled with community engagement there is unprecedented potential for the public to be involved directly in science (see Urban Sensing - UCLA for some examples). Many projects have begun to show the ways in which the public may contribute to science and access scientific tools (e.g. Encyclopedia of Life, Faulkes Telescope, Climate Prediction Net, People's Arboretum, galaxyzoo.org , etc).
In summary, we face a future in which we need more people to be enthused and knowledgeable about science, and we need learners to engage in ”real science” at a time when the nature of science is itself changing. Technology is altering the way science is done and there is real potential for science to be more participatory. However, there are many challenges in delivering this kind of science activity both in the classroom (Underwood et al, 2008) and elsewhere. This workshop aims to explore the ways technology can and should be used both to change the way science is learnt and to enable broader participation and collaboration in science both within and beyond formal learning contexts. In realizing this vision the AIED community has much to contribute, from its experience in developing software to support collaborative learning, its understanding of the implications of working with multiple external representations, its experience and expertise in the development of systems that adapt to and scaffold learners’ needs, and more recent work on educational data mining.
De Roure, D. (2008). The New e-Science Edinburgh Late Edition. Presentation, from http://www.slideshare.net/dder/new-escience-edinburgh-late-edition-presentation retrieved 15 Jan, 2009.
J. Underwood, H. Smith, R. Luckin, & G. Fitzpatrick, (2008). e-Science in the Classroom - Towards Viability. Computers and Education, 50(2), 535-546.