Project-based learning (PBL) via the integration of technology in science teaching is one of the contextual learning approaches that has gained much popularity and increased attention in the recent years. Project-based activities become the precursor for the advancement of Science and Technology Education (STE) in developing countries. Research findings indicate that the use of technology allows students to present their projects in an interesting and comprehensive manner. Science projects are usually triggered from simple questions or problems in various contexts. With a close guidance by the mentors, students’ project work could provide the motivating and effective contexts for the acquisition of research skills, scientific understanding, problem solving and critical/creative thinking skills. Technology, in a variety of sophisticated forms, in turn challenges the student to create many tasks in line with each individual’s knowledge and proficiency. The easy access to numerous sources of information from the virtual library allows breadth in the projects concerned, besides offering many possibilities for innovative designs.
The availability of the Internet and the global advanced networking has enabled sophisticated e-learning systems to flourish at a tremendously fast pace. People can access multiple sources of information in cyberspace from the many e-learning platforms, which have mushroomed over the past few decades. “Science Across the World” (henceforth being referred to as SAW) is an exemplary international web-based programme, which promotes project-based learning; initiated in 1990 by the Association for Science Education (ASE) of the United Kingdom (UK) under the sponsorship of British Petroleum (BP). Since the year 2000, the SAW programme was developed and managed by the ASE in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and healthcare companies committed to improving the quality of human life. SAW invites the participation of teachers and students all over the world. Together with ASE and others, GSK aims to stimulate interest and confidence in science among young people, as well as to promote awareness and discussion of scientific issues that affect mankind around the world (SAW, 2000). Being an international flagship programme, SAW is a global alliance for five regional initiatives i.e. Science Across Africa, Science Across America, Science Across Asia Pacific, Science Across Europe and Science Across Latin America. A regional coordinator is appointed to coordinate the project in each region. RECSAM is privileged to be entrusted to coordinate this project in the Asia Pacific region since 1991. “Science Across Asia Pacific” (SAAP) was initiated in 1991 in consultation with ASE and funded by BP Malaysia, the company currently named Boustead Petroleum Marketing Sdn.Bhd.
The SAW international programme aims to introduce into science education an increased awareness of the different perspectives, ways of life and national traditions of students in various countries. It raises the awareness of the ways in which science and technology interact with society, industry and the environment. The programme with its suggested topics can be viewed and downloaded from the official website http://www.scienceacross.org. SAW also provides the opportunity for schoolteachers and students in different countries to develop communication skills among themselves; collaborating over a range of exciting and important projects. The programme provides a virtual platform to host a forum where students get to exchange opinions and findings with their peers in other countries by filling the information exchange form, which is stored in the SAW database, or via e-mails.
The SAW programme focuses on project work upholding the following three main processes of learning, i.e. (a) Individual student’s exploratory work where the student carries out investigations to explore science locally; (b) Compilation of the “This is the best time to introduce project-based learning to reach out to as many students as possible. I wish to tap their potential in doing Maths/Science projects using the e-learning platform provided by SAW
scientific investigations; as well as (2) Interdisciplinary and cross-curricular studies incorporating the use of the ICT platform for communication to explore issues related to Science/ Mathematics/Social Science, Health/ Environmental Education and Sustainable Development. With the launching of two new topics to the SAW programme, “Talking about Genetics Around the World” and “Climate Change” in the year 006, many relevant science teaching and learning activities very much in line with addressing the current global issues and concerns have been incorporated. For instance, an educational website on “ClimateChange” (http:// kmi4scho ls.e2bn.net/mtn_satw/) which is hyperlinked to the main SAW official website (http:// www.scienceacross.org), has been developed to promote interactive teaching and learning. In fact, the SAW programme is gaining an increased interest and participation in the SEAMEO region. To date (as of 21 December 06), the number of schools and teachers participating in the programme in the region is estimated to be as follows, i.e. Brunei Darussalam (15 schools and 36 teachers), Cambodia (8 schools and 14 teachers), Indonesia (43 schools and 64 teachers), Laos (6 schools and 8 teachers), Malaysia (137 schools and 251 teachers), Myanmar (12 schools and 14 teachers), Philippines (41 schools and 84 teachers), Singapore (33 schools and 68 teachers), Thailand (172 schools and 305 teachers) and Vietnam (15 schools and 15 teachers). In Malaysia, a study was conducted by the RECSAM regular course participants in the year 2004 (Bernadas, et al., 2004) using action Research paradigm to explore whether project-based learning with ICT integration would foster a positiveattitude among students towards science using the SAW web-based learning curriculum on the topic of “Renewable Energy”. The general concern among the researchers and the science teachers was the indifferent attitude towards science manifested due to the change of the language of instruction of Science from the national language to English. It had been identified as the research problem to be addressed. The results ad paved a step towards the gradual transition and acceptance of the use of English for science teaching in the nation. Furthermore, this web-based activity with a necessity to use English for information exchange actually aids both the teachers as well as the students’ mastery of science learning besides allowing enjoyment and involvement in meaningful contextual projects. The school administrators and science teachers as well as the researchers, upon reflection, came to a conclusion that further action research cycles can be carried out to affirm that project-based contextual active learning can improve teaching and learning as well as foster friendship globally via ICT web platforms. The future of increasing globalised, technology-rich societies withknowledgeable citizens would rely fully on ICT for information, business and other transactions. The use of elearning systems to promote ICT and project-based learning will alleviate he digital divide among children of various nations. Educators should be at the forefront in web-based ICT advancement in order to be able to introduce the necessary learning opportunities for students to realise their highest potential and become the leaders and workforce of tomorrow.