INK-12: Teaching and Learning Using Interactive Ink Inscriptions in K-12 (Collaborative Research: Koile)

This is a continuing research project that supports (1) creation of what are termed "ink inscriptions"--handwritten sketches, graphs, maps, notes, etc. made on a computer using a pen-based interface, and (2) in-class communication of ink inscriptions via a set of connected wireless tablet computers. The primary products are substantiated research findings on the use of tablet computers and inscriptions in 4th and 5th grade math and science, as well as models for teacher education and use.
Award Number: 
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
David Reider, Education Design Inc.
Full Description: 

The research project continues a collaboration between MIT's Center for Educational Computing Initiatives and TERC focusing on the enhancement of K-12 STEM math and science education by means of technology that supports (1) creation of what are termed "ink inscriptions"--handwritten sketches, graphs, maps, notes, etc. made on a computer using a pen-based interface, and (2) in-class communication of ink inscriptions via a set of connected wireless tablet computers. The project builds on the PIs' prior work, which demonstrated that both teachers and students benefit from such technology because they can easily draw and write on a tablet screens, thus using representations not possible with only a typical keyboard and mouse; and they can easily send such ink inscriptions to one another via wireless connectivity. This communication provides teachers the opportunity to view all the students' work and make decisions about which to share anonymously on a public classroom screen or on every student's screen in order to support discussion in a "conversation-based" classroom. Artificial intelligence methods are used to analyze ink inscriptions in order to facilitate selection and discussion of student work.

The project is a series of design experiments beginning with the software that emerged from earlier exploratory work. The PIs conduct two cycles of experiments to examine how tablets affect students learning in 4th and 5th grade mathematics and science. The project research questions and methods focus on systematic monitoring of teachers' and students' responses to the innovation in order to inform the development process. The PIs collect data on teachers' and students' use of the technology and on student learning outcomes and use those data as empirical evidence about the promise of the technology for improving STEM education in K-12 schools. An external evaluator uses parallel data collection, conducting many of the same research activities as the core team and independently providing analysis to be correlated with other data. His involvement is continuous and provides formative evaluation reports to the project through conferences, site visits, and conference calls.

The primary products are substantiated research findings on the use of tablet computers, inscriptions, and networks in 4th and 5 grade classrooms. In addition the PIs develop models for teacher education and use, and demonstrate the utility of artificial intelligence techniques in facilitating use of the technology. With the addition of Malden Public Schools to the list of participating districts, which includes Cambridge Public Schools and Waltham Public Schools from earlier work, the project expands the field test sites to up 20 schools' classrooms.

NanoTeach: Professional Development in Nanoscale Science

This project is exploring the introduction of a nanoscience curriculum into high schools. It is creating and studying a professional development model based on two products, the NanoTeach Teacher's Guide and the NanoTeach Facilitator's Guide. The NanoTeach Teacher's guide is being designed for self study by teachers (low treatment group) and for use in a facilitated development model (high treatment group). The NanoTeach Facilitator's Guide outlines the professional development experiences and provides guidance for facilitators.

Award Number: 
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/15/2008 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Aspen Associates and Dr. Doug Huffman
Full Description: 

NanoTeach: Professional Development in Nanoscale Science 

NanoTeach is a full research and development project that addresses two challenges:

1.      Contextual Challenge: How can the learning of significant STEM content be achieved to ensure public literacy and workforce readiness? by moving nanoscale science and technology (NS&T) into high school science courses; and

2.      Frontier Challenge: What will support STEM teachers’ practice and development in an era of cyber-enabled learning? by testing an innovative, synchronous online video technology (Versatile Classroom) for use in professional development with cutting edge NS&T content.


Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning along with ASPEN Associates, Stanford Nanofabrication Facility, and the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN) propose to develop NanoTeach. The project will develop and test professional development that combines an instructional design framework with nanoscale science content using multiple delivery methods for high school science teachers. The project has two research questions:


RQ #1    Does the NanoTeach facilitated professional development improve teachers’ ability to integrate NS&T content into their classes in a way that promotes effective science teaching?

RQ #2    To what extent is the approach utilized in the NanoTeach project a viable approach to the development of professional development materials and experiences that support integration of nanoscale science in high school science?


Methods: The research design includes a formal pilot test and field test with random assignment treatment and control groups. The NanoTeach Teacher’s Guide will be designed for self-study (control group) and for use in a facilitated (80 hours plus significant follow-up) professional development model (treatment group). The results of the pilot test will inform revisions to NanoTeach prior to the field test. The research design and evaluation include ongoing structured data collection and reporting to support the development team in formal reflection about the viability of the design process and the quality of the resulting products.


Intellectual Merit: NanoTeach builds on the significant investments that the NSF has made in NS&T and on the existing findings and resources generated from these projects, including NanoLeap, NanoSense, and the NanoEd Resource Portal at the National Center for Teaching and Learning in Nanoscale Science and Engineering (NCLT). NanoTeach will test both self-guided and facilitated professional development and advance the field by studying how a carefully designed framework can help teachers learn NS&T content and integrate this content into existing curricula in a way that is essential to meeting their local curricular goals. While bringing current, cutting edge science into K-12 classrooms, NanoTeach also tests a cyber enabled learning tool (Versatile Classroom) to deliver high quality video in real time as part of distance-learning professional development for teachers.


Broader Impact: NanoTeach will significantly contribute to the pool of teachers trained in NS&T, reaching over 200 teachers directly and preparing them not only to teach NS&T but also to become ambassadors and mentors for teaching NS&T in high school classrooms. The project targets teachers from in and around large urban centers who teach traditionally under-represented groups and helps them form a learning community that includes NS&T scientists, researchers, and educators, as well as K-12 teachers. Following the study, the NanoTeach professional development model will be widely disseminated through the cadre of participating teachers and the project partners’ national networks, including NSTA, NCLT, and NNIN. The successful demonstration of the Versatile Classroom as a vehicle for professional development will engage teachers in lifelong learning and improve their practice in a timely and inexpensive manner.

Engaging Youth in Engineering Module Study

This project is revising and field testing six existing modules and developing, pilot testing, and field testing two engineering modules for required middle school science and mathematics classes: Catch Me if You Can! with a focus on seventh grade life science; and Creating Bioplastics targeting eighth grade physical science. Each module addresses an engineering design challenge of relevance to industries in the region and fosters the development of engineering habits of mind.

Award Number: 
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/15/2009 to Sun, 08/31/2014
Project Evaluator: 
James Van Haneghan

CLUSTER: Investigating a New Model Partnership for Teacher Preparation (Collaborative Research: Gupta)

This project integrates the informal and formal science education sectors, bringing their combined resources to bear on the critical need for well-prepared and diverse urban science teachers. The study is designed to examine and document the effect of this integrated program on the production of urban science teachers. This study will also research the impact of internships in science centers on improving classroom science teaching in urban high schools.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
Funding Period: 
Sat, 04/01/2006 to Thu, 03/31/2011

The Scientific Thinker Project: A Study of Teaching and Learning Concepts of Evidence and Nature of Scientific Evidence in Elementary School

Current curriculum materials for elementary science students and teachers fail to provoke the following essential questions during science instruction: What is evidence? Why do you need evidence? The goal of this project is to identify whether and how elementary school students formulate answers to these questions and develop concepts of evidence and understandings of the nature of scientific evidence.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2009 to Sat, 07/31/2010

Chemistry Facets: Formative Assessment to Improve Student Understanding in Chemistry

This project implemented a facets-of-thinking perspective to design tools and practices to improve high school chemistry teachers' formative assessment practices. Goals are to identify and develop clusters of facets related to key chemistry concepts; develop assessment items; enhance the assessment system for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resource materials; develop teacher professional development and resource materials; and examine whether student learning in chemistry improves in classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment system.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2007 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Heller Research Associates
Full Description: 

Supported by research on students' preconceptions, particularly in chemistry, and the need to build on the knowledge and skills that students bring to the classroom, this project implements a facets-of-thinking perspective for the improvement of formative assessment, learning, and instruction in high school chemistry. Its goals are: to identify and develop clusters of facets (students' ideas and understandings) related to key high school chemistry concepts; to develop assessment items that diagnose facets within each cluster; to enhance the existing web-based Diagnoser assessment system for administering items, reporting results, and providing teacher resource materials for interpreting and using the assessment data; to develop teacher professional development and resource materials to support their use of facet-based approaches in chemistry; and to examine whether student learning in chemistry improves in classes that incorporate a facet-based assessment system.

The proposed work builds on two previously NSF-funded projects focused on designing Diagnoser (ESI-0435727) in the area of physics and on assessment development to support the transition to complex science learning (REC-0129406). The work plan is organized in three strands: (1) Assessment Development, consisting of the development and validation of facet clusters related to the Atomic Structure of Matter and Changes in Matter and the development and validation of question sets related to each facet cluster, including their administration to chemistry classes; (2) Professional Development, through which materials will be produced for a teacher workshop focused on the assessment-for-learning cycle; and (3) Technology Development, to upgrade the Diagnoser authoring system and to include chemistry facets and assessments.

Anticipated products include: (1) 8-10 validated facet clusters related to the Atomic Structure of Matter and Changes in Matter; (2) 12-20 items per facet cluster that provide diagnostic information about student understanding in relation to the facet clusters; (3) additional instructional materials related to each facet cluster, including 1-3 questions to elicit inital student ideas, a developmental lesson to encourage students' exploration of new concepts, and 3-5 prescriptive lessons to address persistent problematic ideas; and (4) a publically-available web-based Diagnoser for chemistry (www.Diagnoser.com), including student assessments and instructional materials.

SAVE Science: Situated Assessment Using Virtual Environments for Science Content and Inquiry

The SAVE Science project is creating an innovative system using immersive virtual environments for evaluating learning in science, consistent with research- and policy-based recommendations for science learning focused around the big ideas of science content and inquiry for middle school years. Motivation for this comes not only from best practices as outlined in the National Science Education Standards and AAAS' Project 2061, but also from the declining interest and confidence of today's student in science.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2008 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Anthony Lutkus

Integrating Computing Across the Curriculum (ICAC): Incorporating Technology into STEM Education Using XO Laptops

This project builds and tests applications tied to the school curriculum that integrate the sciences with mathematics, computational thinking, reading and writing in elementary schools. The investigative core of the project is to determine how to best integrate computing across the curriculum in such a way as to support STEM learning and lead more urban children to STEM career paths.

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/01/2009 to Sun, 07/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Leslie Cooksy - Univ. of Delaware
Full Description: 

Computer access has opened an exciting new dimension for STEM education; however, if computers in the classroom are to realize their full potential as a tool for advancing STEM education, methods must be developed to allow them to serve as a bridge across the STEM disciplines. The goal of this 60-month multi-method, multi-disciplinary ICAC project is to develop and test a program to increase the number of students in the STEM pipeline by providing teachers and students with curricular training and skills to enhance STEM education in elementary schools. ICAC will be implemented in an urban and predominantly African American school system, since these schools traditionally lag behind in filling the STEM pipeline. Specifically, ICAC will increase computer proficiency (e.g., general usage and programming), science, and mathematics skills of teachers and 4th and 5th grade students, and inform parents about the opportunities available in STEM-centered careers for their children.

The Specific Aims of ICAC are to:

SA1. Conduct a formative assessment with teachers to determine the optimal intervention to ensure productive school, principal, teacher, and student participation.

SA2. Implement a structured intervention aimed at (1) teachers, (2) students, and (3) families that will enhance the students’ understanding of STEM fundamentals by incorporating laptops into an inquiry-based educational process.

SA3. Assess the effects of ICAC on:

a. Student STEM  engagement and performance.

b. Teacher and student computing specific confidence and utilization.

c. Student interest in technology and STEM careers.

d. Parents’ attitudes toward STEM careers and use of computers.

To enable us to complete the specific aims noted above, we have conducted a variety of project activities in Years 1-3. These include:

  1. Classroom observations at the two Year 1 pilot schools
  2. Project scaling to 6 schools in Year 2 and 10 schools in Year 3
  3. Semi-structured school administrator interviews in schools
  4. Professional development sessions for teachers
  5. Drafting of curriculum modules to be used in summer teacher institutes and for dissemination
  6. In-class demonstration of curriculum modules
  7. Scratch festivals each May
  8. Summer teacher institutes
  9. Student summer camps
  10. Surveying of teachers in summer institutes
  11. Surveying of teachers and students at the beginning and end of the school year
  12. Showcase event at end of student workshops

The specific ICAC activities for Years 2-5 include:

  • Professional development sessions (twice monthly for teachers), to integrate the ‘best practices’ from the program.
  • Working groups led by a grade-specific lead teacher. The lead teacher for each grade in each school will identify areas where assistance is needed and will gather the grade-specific cohort of teachers at their school once every two weeks for a meeting to discuss the progress made in addition to challenges to or successes in curricula development.  
  • ICAC staff and prior trained teachers will visit each class monthly during the year to assist the teachers and to evaluate specific challenges and opportunities for the use of XOs in that classroom.  
  • In class sessions at least once per month (most likely more often given feedback from Teacher Summer Institutes) to demonstrate lesson plans and assist teachers as they implement lesson plans.
  • ICAC staff will also hold a joint meeting of administrators of all target schools each year to assess program progress and challenges. 
  • Teacher Summer Institutes – scaled-up to teachers from the new schools each summer to provide training in how to incorporate computing into their curriculum.
  • Administrator sessions during the Teacher Summer Institutes; designed to provide insight into how the laptops can facilitate the education and comprehension of their students in all areas of the curriculum, discuss flexible models for physical classroom organization to facilitate student learning, and discussions related to how to optimize the use of computing to enhance STEM curricula in their schools.  Student Summer Computing Camps – designed to teach students computing concepts, make computing fun, and enhance their interest in STEM careers.  
  • ICAC will sponsor a yearly showcase event in Years 2-5 that provides opportunities for parents to learn more about technology skills their children are learning (e.g., career options in STEM areas, overview of ICAC, and summary of student projects). At this event, a yearly citywide competition among students also will be held that is an expanded version of the weeklong showcase event during the student summer camps.
  • Surveying of students twice a year in intervention schools.
  • Surveying of teachers at Summer Institutes and then at the end of the academic year.
  • Coding and entry of survey data; coding of interview and observational data.
  • Data analysis to examine the specific aims (SA) noted above:
    • The impact of ICAC on teacher computing confidence and utilization (SA 3.b).
    • Assess the effects of (1) teacher XO training on student computing confidence and utilization (SA 3.b), (2) training on changes in interest in STEM careers (SA 3.c), and (3) XO training on student engagement (SA 3.a).
    • A quasi-experimental comparison of intervention and non-intervention schools to assess intervention effects on student achievement (SA 3.a).
    • Survey of parents attending the yearly ICAC showcase to assess effects on parental attitudes toward STEM careers and computing (SA 3.d).

The proposed research has the potential for broad impact by leveraging technology in BCS to influence over 8,000 students in the Birmingham area. By targeting 4th and 5th grade students, we expect to impact STEM engagement and preparedness of students before they move into a critical educational and career decision-making process. Further, by bolstering student computer and STEM knowledge, ICAC will impart highly marketable skills that prepare them for the 81% of new jobs that are projected to be in computing and engineering in coming years (as predicted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics).3 Through its formative and summative assessment, ICAC will offer intellectual merit by providing teachers throughout the US with insights into how computers can be used to integrate the elementary STEM curriculum. ICAC will develop a model for using computers to enhance STEM education across the curriculum while instilling a culture among BCS schools where computing is viewed as a tool for learning.

(Previously listed under Award # 0918216)

Community Oriented Science Education

This project contributes to the emerging knowledge base for reform-minded middle school STEM instructional materials development through the development, field-testing, and evaluation of a prototype instructional materials module specifically designed to stimulate and sustain urban-based students’ interest in STEM. The module includes guided inquiry-oriented activities thematically linked by the standards-aligned concept of energy transfer, which highlight the fundamental processes and integrative nature of 21st century scientific investigation.

Award Number: 
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2009 to Fri, 08/31/2012

Toward a Scalable Model of Mathematics Professional Development: A Field Study of Preparing Facilitators to Implement the Problem-solving Cycle

The study includes two and a half years of preparation and support for all the mathematics instructional leaders (ILs) within a large urban school district with a substantial minority student enrollment. These ILs will implement the Problem-Solving Cycle model with the mathematics teachers in their schools. Researchers will analyze the preparation and support that ILs need, the quality of their implementation, and the impact of the PD process on ILs, teachers, and students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2007 to Thu, 09/30/2010
Full Description: 

The primary goal of the project is to investigate the scalability of the Problem-Solving Cycle (PSC) model of mathematics professional development (PD) and accompanying facilitation materials—that is, whether the PSC can be implemented with integrity by multiple facilitators in multiple settings. In the proposed study we will provide ongoing support to a group of middle school mathematics instructional leaders (ILs) so that they can develop the skills to successfully implement the PSC with the mathematics teachers in their schools. The specific nature of this support is expected to change over the duration of the project, and to gradually decrease as the ILs develop the ability to implement the PSC on their own. Our research will address the following questions:

  1. What preparation is provided to ILs prior to their implementation of the PSC? What support is provided during implementation? How does this support change with successive iterations of the PSC?
  2. How do ILs implement the PSC? How does implementation vary across ILs and over time? What factors account for the variation?
  3. What is the impact of preparation for, and implementation of, the PSC on ILs?
  4. What is the impact of participation in the PSC on middle school mathematics teachers?
  5. What is the impact on the mathematics achievement of students whose teachers participate in the PSC?


[1] In this proposal we refer to all school or district personnel who will be trained to facilitate the PSC as “instructional leaders” (ILs) although we recognize that they may have other titles.


Subscribe to Urban