Teaching Science, Technology and Society Using the Internet

Introduction

STS provides an opportunity for students to gain an appreciation of the wider world of science and its applications. This can allow students to make career choices from a broader field. STS also seeks to inform the student of the societal implications of science, and to develop an appreciation of the limitations of science.

This unit is proposed as a module for Transition Year. As such it can be used for just one class period, or it can be allowed to expand to fill all the space available to it. STS is suitable for TY because of its cross-curricular nature. It lends itself to unusual teaching methods. Here you will find an outline of the unit, useful resources and suggested strategies. Elsewhere on this site you will find specific exemplars of suitable activities.

STS is an integral part of the new Leaving Certificate Physics draft syllabus, and will be significant in its assessment. This TY unit may therefore be useful to a student who goes on to study Physics, or one of the other science subjects, at senior level. It can, of course, be adapted and presented directly to Leaving Certificate students, having regard to time constraints.

Aims
1. To introduce students to the study of Science, Technology and Society.
2. To enhance the studentís understanding of the Internet as a source of information.
3. To develop skills in discriminating between useful and worthless information, sifting valued knowledge from dross.
4. To improve the studentís facility with search engines.

Course Outline
There does not exist a discrete body of knowledge universally agreed to constitute STS. The subject covers a broad and ill-defined field of study. In order to make the subject compact enough to be doable, this unit concentrates on:
Physics and health
Irish science and technology
The physics of household appliances
Women in science
The effects of science on lifestyle.
Dangers of Physics

Search Engines
Teachers are advised of the dangers inherent in the use of search engines; entering the most innocuous words can bring up surprisingly inappropriate sites. Blocking-programs such as Cyber Patrol can help. As the precise combination of words used in a search can effect the results, teachers are advised to try out any specific instructions themselves shortly before issuing them to a class. The school will probably have a policy or a code of practice in place regarding use if the Internet.
What are here referred to generally as search engines in fact fall into a number of different categories, with different operating characteristics. Users develop a feel for them with practice. For further information on this, visit http://www.lboro.ac.uk/info/training/finding/sink.htm
How to access the various search engines differs from one computer to the next. Sometimes they can be accessed with one click on the home page. On other computers this may not possible, or the selection of engines available may be limited. But a search engine can always be accessed by typing its URL (its http address) in the address box near the top of the screen and hitting the ENTER key. Here are the URLs of some of the more popular engines:

Alta Vista http://altavista.digital.com
Excite http://www.excite.com
HotBot http://www.hotbot.com
Infoseek http://www.infoseek.com
Northern Light http://www.northernlight.com
Dogpile http://www.dogpile.com
Inference Find http://www.infind.com
Metacrawler http://www.metacrawler.com
ProFusion http://www.profusion.com
Ask Jeeves http://www.askjeeves.com/
Galaxy http://www.einet.net
LookSmart http://www.looksmart.com
Magellan http://www.mckinley.com
Yahoo http://www.yahoo.com
Argus Clearinghouse http://www.clearinghouse.net
The Mining Company http://www.miningco.com
WWW Virtual Library http://www.vlib.org

Websites
Here are some websites which may be useful. This is not a comprehensive or exhaustive list, just some personal favourites. It is not suggested that these sites cover all STS topics. The sites are not presented in rank order; but the first three are definitely five star sites, well worth a visit.

How Stuff Works
http://howstuffworks.com
The name says it all! A very attractive site.

Useless Information
http://home.nycap.rr.com/useless/contents.html.
Anything but useless, this is great for gadgets, inventions, biographies.

Physics 2000
http://www.colorado.edu/physics/2000/
Excellent. Interactive Applets are great to develop a feel for how systems behave, e.g. laser, interference patterns, Doppler effect, microwaves.

Irish Research Scientists Association
http://www.irsa.ie
Good for biographies of Irish scientists.

Simmons College
http://earth.simmons.edu/ozone/ozone.html
Classroom activities, an unusual approach.

Scientific American Magazine
http://www.sciam.com
Good for health, space, lifescience.

Forum on Physics and Society
http://www.physics.wm.edu/~sher/newsletter.html
Wide range of articles. Often too heavyweight for second level students.

Association for Science Education
http://www.ase.org.uk/
This UK-based site has a good booklist.

Internet for Girls: World Wide Resources List
http://www.sdsc.edu/~woodka/resources.html
As well as many sites for or about women in science, this contains much of general interest. Refreshing.

Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics
http://www.physics.ucla.edu/~cwp/
Shows the breadth and scope of physics, and careers in unusual areas.

CERN
http://cern.ch
Particles, high-energy physics and good links.

Health Physics Society
http://www.hps.org
Mostly the health effects of radiation.

US Dept of Energy
http://www.eren.doe.gov
Alternative energy activities and resources.

Methodology
The Internet is an attractive place for a student to be. It is well known that people of all ages can happily spend huge amounts of time surfing and browsing. This unit is presented in a structured format. It is felt that this approach will concentrate the mind, minimise distractions and lead to efficient use of time. After each activity the student will have completed an activity sheet which can be inspected and assessed.

Activity sheets for the unit can be found on this website as "Teaching STS Using the Internet: Activities."
They are presented as exemplars; feel free to modify them.
The exact procedure for this unit depends on local circumstances. The main requirement is that the student must have access to the Internet. Here are some ideas: