Cyber-Enabled Learning: Digital Natives in Integrated Scientific Inquiry Classrooms (Collaborative Research: Campbell)

This project explores the potential of information and communications technologies (ICT) as cognitive tools for engaging students in scientific inquiry and for enhancing teacher learning. A comprehensive professional development program of over 240 hours, along with follow-up is used to determine how teachers can be supported to use ICT tools effectively in classroom instruction to create meaningful learning experiences for students, reduce the gap between formal and informal learning, and improve student learning outcomes.

Full Description: 

There is an increasing gap between the use of cyber-enabled resources in schools and the realities of their use by students in out of school settings. This project explores the potential of information and communications technologies (ICT) as cognitive tools for engaging students in scientific inquiry and for enhancing teacher learning. A comprehensive professional development program of over 240 hours, along with follow-up is used to determine how teachers can be supported to use ICT tools effectively in classroom instruction to create meaningful learning experiences for students, reduce the gap between formal and informal learning, and improve student learning outcomes. In the first year, six teachers from school districts in Utah and New York are prepared to become teacher leaders and advisors. Then three cohorts of 30 teachers matched by characteristics are provided professional development and field test units over two years in a delayed-treatment design. Biologists from Utah State University and New York College of Technology develop four modules that meet the science standards for both states -- the first being changes in the environment. Teachers are then guided to develop additional modules. The key technological resource to be used in the project is the Opensimulator 3D application Server (OpenSim), an open source, modular, expandable platform used to create simulated 3D spaces with customizable terrain, weather and physics.

The effects of the professional development program are measured by classroom observations using RTOP and Technology Use in Science Instruction (TUSI), selected interviews of teachers and students, and validated assessments of student learning. An external evaluator assesses the quality of the professional development activity and the quality of the cyber-enabled learning resources and reviews the research design and implementation. An advisory board will monitor the project.

The principal outcome of this project will be insight into the professional development needed to make teachers comfortable teaching with the kinds of multi-user simulations and communication technologies that students use everyday. The enactment with OpenSim also provides an opportunity to demonstrate the level of planning and preparation that go into fashioning modules with selected cyber-enabled cognitive tools such as GoogleEarth and Biologica.

This project was associated with the NSF award number 1258854 with the same title.

(Note: This project was originally awarded to the Lead Organization, Utah State University under the Award #1020086 and for the Funding Period:  Wed, 09/01/2010 - Mon, 08/31/2015. Due to a change in institution by the PI of the project, a new award was issued: Award # 1258854)