Posts tagged ‘education research and development’

July 29, 2013

Pt. II: Using Data Goes International with New Pilot from Kuwait’s Ministry of Education & MESPA

Kacy Karlen for TERCtalks

In continuation from Part I of “Using Data Goes International with New Pilot from Kuwait’s Ministry of Education & MESPA“, TERC’s Diana Nunnaley shared her experiences after her first trip to Kuwait as a data PD provider for the Kuwaiti Ministry of Education’s Improvement of Educational Management and Professional Development (IEMPD) project.  Under the direction of the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA), Diana and the Using Data team are ushering in this new school management and leadership pilot in Kuwaiti public schools. She chatted with me about the first phase of data work, her perspectives on education reform, and the value of data-driven decision-making across oceans and continents.

Diana Nunnaley, Project Director for Using Data

Diana Nunnaley, Project Director for Using Data

TT: So were these Kuwaiti educators and administrators already using data in their schools?

DN: In the majority of schools, using school, district, and national data to improve student learning was a brand new concept. Even when we talked about what kinds of classroom assessments teachers were using, it had been—for the most part—a very linear process. Teachers gave a test; it was graded; it went into the grade book. They got national results, and principals and districts looked at those—a process which led administrators to the conclusion that they needed to reform the whole Kuwaiti education system. But in the schools and at the teacher level—it was altogether rare that teachers had unpacked those national results at all.

TT: Can you tell me a bit more about Kuwait’s public education system? Is it similar to the public education system in the United States, or are there some significant differences?

DN: Like most places, there is a broad range of educator and administrator knowledge and experience. I met some administrators and educators that were very knowledgeable and doing things based on research, similar to educators here. What I noted as the main challenge for educators and administrators was conveying the Kuwaiti national curriculum. It offers up extensive content and syllabus depth, but only allows for the ‘memorize and regurgitate’ model in schools. Kuwaiti educators and administrators want to move toward ways to engage students in more authentic learning.

The sense I get from the educators and administrators is that historically, the Kuwaiti public school system has been very top-down. Directives came from the Ministry of Education, and went through the district with very explicit instructions to teachers as to how to carry out learning standards. But there has been a cultural shift with their reform movement, and now the Ministry of Education is looking to principals to become instructional leaders in their schools, and work collaboratively with faculty to shape what teaching should look like, accompanied by new standards. With this new plan, faculty are being given more trust and more agency in the classroom.

TT: You mentioned national testing, but are there any nationwide standards movements like the Common Core, or the NGSS? What is the reaction/feeling around implementing national standards?

DN: That’s exactly where Kuwait is going. The Ministry of Education’s international team of experts coming from the Curriculum, Research and Quality Assurance education departments of Romania, Estonia, and Uzbekistan is rewriting the curriculum. The new content areas are Arabic, English, mathematics and sciences.  Their vision is to educate internationally-competitive students, supported by an engaged and efficient leadership and including a sustainable, long-term assessment system.

TT: What are your thoughts on the currency and relevance of data-driven PD programming and decision-making internationally?

DN: Data is a tremendous catalyst for helping people to examine long-held assumptions and raise important questions around learning goals, shared understanding of teaching practices, and student outcomes. What we’ve seen as Using Data facilitators is when you start examining learning objectives by getting educators to analyze student and classroom data collaboratively, teachers have those ‘aha’ moments around what standards really look like in practice and what the best pedagogical strategies for impacting learning are.

Importantly, delving into data helps pave the way to vertical articulation conversations —where you have, say, 7th grade teachers noticing student issues around ratio and proportion from their data, and beginning a conversation amongst themselves that leads them to conclude that students are getting hung up on fractions. From there, they have the fodder to chat with their early elementary teachers about what is being introduced around fractions in terms of language, manipulatives, et cetera. So then you have your primary teachers entering the conversation—the result is  that you get a more coherent version of what learning is like, K-12, and how elementary educators can help build formative understanding from grade-to-grade.

Using Data gets teachers away from being alone in their classrooms, trying to figure it all out on their own. Engagement with student and school (and even district and national) data promotes a significant change in school cultures—where there are more open lines of communication, better pedagogical decisions made, and better student outcomes.

TT: Thanks so much, Diana!

For more information on Using Data, please visit: usingdata.terc.edu and join in the data-driven conversation on Twitter  @TERCUsingData.

July 22, 2013

Pt. I: Using Data Goes International with New Pilot from Kuwait’s Ministry of Education & MESPA

Kacy Karlen for TERCtalks

 I joined Diana Nunnaley, Project Director for Using Data, on one of her first days back from a whirlwind trip to Kuwait. As part of  Kuwait’s Ministry of Education’s Improvement of Educational Management and Professional Development (IEMPD) project, Diana and the Using Data team have been selected as one of four PD providers by the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA) ushering in this new school management and leadership pilot in Kuwaiti public schools. Diana chatted with me about the first phase of data work, her perspectives on education reform, and the value of data-driven decision-making across oceans and continents.

Diana Nunnaley, Project Director for Using Data

Diana Nunnaley, Project Director for Using Data

 TT: Hi Diana. Thanks for joining me. So tell me a bit about how you got involved with IEMPD pilot…

 DN: It all started with the work we’ve been doing for the last 3 years with the Massachusetts Elementary School Principal’s Association (MESPA) in Marlborough under Executive Director Nadya Higgins. We’ve offered two different Using Data leadership seminars there, and have had subsequent opportunities to work with schools and districts across Massachusetts.

Nadya herself is very much personally invested in education reform supporting administrators. She has been working with the Middle East Initiative at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University to bring educators and administrators from Kuwait to the U.S. to study education reform—Massachusetts is seen as a leader internationally in education reform!

Through her work with the Middle East Initiative—and after working with the Ministry of Education in Kuwait to create and deliver Study Tours—Nadya was invited to submit a proposal in response to an RFP for this pilot. As she has experienced our work and our reputation in the field of data-driven professional development, Nadya wrote us into the proposal to provide PD around collaborative inquiry and the effective use of data—we are one of four consultants, and the only data PD provider contracted through MESPA.

 TT: Tell me about your first time in Kuwait, and any surprising moments you had.

DN: I think my greatest surprise was that—despite having a vastly different culture­—Kuwait educators and administrators share the same kinds of goals we have for education here in the United States. On the surface, the Kuwaiti culture looks and sounds very different from those of the U.S. cities and towns where we typically work. But once we began talking to the Ministry of Education staff, school administrators, section leaders, and support staff about teaching and learning, we were all speaking the same language. Their passion for helping their students reach international standards of learning mirrors what educators here are also working to achieve.

This is an extremely ambitious project —the Ministry of Education is planning to implement new leadership roles and responsibilities, new teaching standards, new learning standards and eventually—new assessments. And these huge systemic overhauls will be happening simultaneously! We’ve been working at it for years here in the U.S. The teachers and school staff who volunteered to participate in this pilot have an enormous undertaking before them. But their willingness to be the first to implement totally new paradigms for teachers and students alike is more than commendable—it’s like they are the first astronauts to go into space!

TT: Would you mind elaborating on the kind of programming you implemented?

DN: The visit to Kuwait kicked off the first phase of our work. It was the first time we met our Kuwaiti educators at the district and school levels. Some of them have already been part of developing the new leadership standards for principals as part of this initiative; some of them have been part of the team developing new teaching standards for teachers and new curriculum in 6 content areas. But we got to introduce them to the key aspects of a new vision for school leadership. Our part of this first session was to begin to help them understand what effective data use looks like in schools and to engage them in talking about their challenges and views around data use.

We introduced our group to research supporting key factors and conditions in place to introduce, initiate, and support deep engagement with school data. I gave the group an opportunity to use a scale to predict their current data use and share their ratings with their colleagues. From there, we got into questions about who has access to data—whether it’s a lot of educators or just a few; whether decisions are made broad-base on use of data from teachers, administrators and specialists across schools, or whether decisions are made top-down; whether professional development is an event that happens when someone else somewhere else decides on it, or whether pd is ongoing, formative, job-embedded, and growing from regular teacher engagement with data.  And we discussed whether or not there are supports in place for professional learning communities for teachers to regularly meet, talk about data, and enact solutions around their data analyses.

 TT: Did you use any other models of successful data use?

DN: We shared a video that shows a principal and her staff analyzing their data and sharing their results with students to help them see what using data can look like in the classroom. Our pilot group noted what they observed from the principals; teachers; and the students in the video. Actually, one of the big aspects of the UD process is getting students to engage with their own data—helping them to begin to track their progress, set their goals, and monitor their processes on the path to achieving mastery.

Ultimately, from this visit, I  needed to gather as much information as possible about their local context – what their current practice looks like and of course, more about the expectations for participants in the pilot project from the Ministry’s perspective. [...]

For more information about Using Data, please visit: http://usingdata.terc.edu.

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And tune in next week for Part II of “Using Data Goes International with New Pilot from Kuwait’s Ministry of Education & MESPA”!

 

July 10, 2013

Post-ISTE Musings: Small Fish, Huge Pond, But Lots of Bites…

Kacy Karlen for TERCtalks

Our recent trip to sunny San Antonio to exhibit at the ISTE 2013 Annual Conference and Exposition was somewhat of a ‘wild card’ venture—and not in the least bit because the mercurial summer weather. We hadn’t exhibited at the conference in several years. We had very little sense as to whether the tech-hungry ISTE audience—teethed on the numerous big name hardware, software, publishing, and product exhibitors—would react favorably to our research endeavors, thought leadership, and prototypes, many of which are available for free or at very nominal costs (we are a not-for-profit org, after all). At the cavernous Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, it wasn’t so hard for our team of two to start feeling like the smallest fish in the biggest pond…

A small fry culled from a big pond. By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A small fry culled from a big pond. By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We shouldn’t have worried. We quickly lost count of the number of attendees who stopped by our humble in-line booth to say, “hey, I’m so glad TERC is here! What are you guys up to?” And excitingly, we had lots to share—because in the interim between our last ISTE appearance, we’ve engaged in robust assistive technology development; extensive online community building and designing for digital delivery models; and game research, design and development. We may have been the little guys in the big pond—but we still got lots of bites.

TERC's booth at ISTE 2013

TERC’s booth at ISTE 2013

Here’s what was luring ‘em in:

EdGE games1:  The EdGE team was demoing their addictive particle physics game, Impulse!, in tandem with their captivating laser light game, Quantum Spectre. Both games are in beta versions and currently being pilot tested among high school audiences for efficacy in developing students’ implicit understanding of Newtonian laws of motion and optics. We invited booth visitors to try the games on our laptops and iPad, but versions are also for the Kindle and Android.  On Tuesday of the conference, Impulse!  went live on Apple’s App Store (for free), and by Friday, was one of AppAdvice’s “Best Apps”.

Signing Math and Science2: Judy Vesel’s signing math and science apps for deaf and hard of hearing students were eye-catchers for booth visitors interested in assistive technologies, and for good reason—the portable dictionaries and pictionaries are uniquely interactive learning supports. The flagship Signing Science Dictionary (SSD) is an avatar-based dictionary of science terms and definitions in American Sign Language (ASL) or Signed English (SE) for deaf or hard-of-hearing students in grades 4-8.  A full selection of K-12 Signing Math and Science dictionaries and pictionaries is available for tablets, iPods, and iPhones from www.signingapp.com.

TERC’s Online Communities & Digital Delivery Models: From the successful third year of the IGERT Online Video and Poster Competition3 facilitated for NSF’s flagship Integrative Graduate Engineering and Research Traineeship to the expansion of the CLEAN Network4 of climate science and literacy stakeholders and resources, TERC’s reputation as a thought leader in online community development and facilitation precedes us—it even did at ISTE. Visitors to the booth also picked our brains about new digital delivery models for curricula and professional development—with The Inquiry Project ‘s grades 3-5 physical science curriculum5 and Talk Science PD available entirely online; new online coursework being served up from Investigations Workshops; and even more digital deliverables on deck; we felt—if not entirely MOOC-conversant—in-line with the times.

So here’s to taking the plunge and heading downstream to ISTE 2013. It was well worth the visit, and we should be seeing you as we come up for air next year!

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Quantum Spectre and Impulse are part of EdGE’s Leveling Up project, funded by the National Science Foundation (DRK-1119144).

The Signing Science Dictionary (SSD) is funded in part by grants from NEC Foundation of America, the National Science Foundation (HRD-0533057), and the Department of Education (H327A060026)). The Signing Science Pictionary (SSP) was funded in part by  grants from the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, Disability Inclusion Initiative and the Department of Education (H327A080040). The Signing Math Dictionary (SMD is being funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (HRD-0833969). The Signing Math Pictionary (SMP)  is being funded in part by a grant from the Department of Education (H327A100074). The Signing Earth Science Dictionary (SESD)  is being funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (GEO-0913675).The Signing Life Science Dictionary (SLSD) and Signing Physical Science Dictionary (SPSD) are being funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (DRL-1019542).

3   The IGERT Resource Center and the NSF IGERT Online Video and Poster Competition are funded by the National Science Foundation (DGE-0834992).

CLEAN is funded by grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NA12OAR4310143, NA12OAR4310142), the National Science Foundation (DUE-0938051, DUE-0938020, DUE-0937941) and the Department of Energy.

The Inquiry Project and Talk Science are funded by the National Science Foundation (DRL-0918435A).

July 1, 2013

Citizen Science, Engagement & the Changing Fells: A Chat with Brian Drayton (Pt. 2)

Kacy Karlen for TERCtalks

In continuation from Part I of “Citizen Science, Engagement, & the Changing Fells”, TERC’s Brian Drayton shared his thoughts in response to Carolyn Johnson’s recent special interest piece for The Boston Globe (in which he was quoted). We talked about the changing local landscape of the Middlesex Fells, Drayton’s field-altering Master’s thesis, “Plant species lost in an isolated conservation area in Metropolitan Boston from 1894 to 1993”; the role of citizen science; the vanishing boundary between ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ science; and bringing back the joy to science engagement.

Eupatorium perfoliatum, Asteraceae, Common Boneset, inflorescences. Boneset was a rediscovered plant in the Middlesex Fells. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Eupatorium perfoliatum, Asteraceae, Common Boneset, inflorescences. Boneset was a rediscovered plant in the Middlesex Fells. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

TT: It sounds as though your reward is really in the evolution of the kind of research questions being asked—because that advances the field as a whole.

BD:  I certainly felt like “Oh darn, I got something wrong.” But I didn’t take it personally. And Bryan Hamlin didn’t take it personally either. He said, “Hey Brian, I think your data is off.”

An important thing to note in comparing the two studies is this—the respective questions we were trying to answer. My question was this: What’s the best way to preserve biological diversity? If the given method is setting aside land, how good is that in conservation and protecting biodiversity? It was an interesting question for me, as I was already starting to understand that there were no natural spaces immune to human influence—Bill McKibben’s book “The End of Nature” came around about the same time, and so the idea was proliferating. I had realized there were no pristine systems; we’re a species too; and human agency was becoming more and more important in preservation. In my study, I concluded that we had to become more intentional in preserving the flora and fauna of the Fells.

In terms of limitations—I had to determine how different the Fells was from 1893 to 1993, and I couldn’t do the whole thing. It was too big. I had to restrict. I ruled out certain species I couldn’t hope to identify—like grasses and sedges—knowing they were really important, as they are not highly mobile. The MDC didn’t allow me to take vouchers (a single sample of each plant I came across), so that was another limitation, as I didn’t have a catalogue. But truth be told, I never set out to do a comprehensive flora. I was really interested in trends. I knew my own limitations and the limitations of the study.

Hamlin and team—and he had a big team—set out to do a comprehensive flora. They spent 5 years on the study, got vouchers, deployed Boston expertise (one of the world’s experts on sedges lives in Boston), and made really great use of all their resources and collective knowledge, drawing on Harvard’s Gray Herbarium in addition to the New England Botanical Club’s herbarium. You can do a lot of research and homework before you head out. My study was conducted over 2 ½ field seasons—about 300 hours—and I was working full time.

TT: Your scopes of work were very different, topically—different in scale—but similar in that they shared an environment. Are there any other similarities between your respective studies?

BD: The findings that Hamlin and his team found were not irrelevant at all to mine as a commentary. In fact, they allowed us to refine our understanding. The trends we found in my paper are supported by Hamlin’s study—but what Hamlin’s study allows us to say is that the rate of change is different from what I found. His information is more accurate. We are submitting a piece to Rhodora discussing this commentary.

Another thing of interest is that in 1993-1996, the Fells seemed to be drying out. Species that occurred in moister areas seemed to be on decline. Even granting the weaknesses in my catalogue, that still seemed to be a trend of interest. Hamlin and his team reported that the Fells was getting wetter, which seems like an obvious contradiction. When I first read their paper, I figured they had just gotten it right and I had gotten it wrong, because they had put in so much more time. But after that study, I started a bunch of studies in the Fells creating plants and plant populations. This past year, I went out and tried to find some of my field sites. I had gone out informally over the years, but last year marked 15 years after the study had started. It seemed significant somehow. I had a sense that many of the populations I had started had died—and indeed, many of my field sites had been washed away, as we’ve had a lot of rain and flooding in the past few years. But what I saw last year was a change in precipitation that is happening due to climate change. Places like New England are having more varied precipitation tents. My sense is that the trend of the Fells becoming wetter is the result of an actual change happening over the past 25 years. So it was entirely possible that I was right in the 90s, and what Hamlin observed is right now, but the world has changed in between.

TT: How is citizen science crucial to your work at TERC, both past and present?

BD: People have said that the 21st century is the century of biology. The 20th century was the century of physics, and this century is the century of biology.  Whenever someone like Thomas Friedman says it—what they mean is biotechnology, molecular biology, nanobiology. And I think that this is wrong. My perception around this has very much shaped my work in evolving the life sciences programming at TERC. For the majority of the people around the globe, the biology that will be most important in the 21st century is ecology and evolutionary biology. Those are the sciences where understanding matters the most. I don’t want to take anything away from cures for malaria or science around the relief of misery, but more people could be affected positively by policy that’s based on a good understanding of ecology and evolution. Because of climate change, but also ocean acidification and habitat destruction and species loss.

People often forget that the loss of biodiversity—which would be happening without major climate change all by itself—is a dangerous trend, coupled with climate change. With the population rising and 40% of the world’s productivity being consumed by humans—the remaining 60% is divided among the biosphere with a net loss.  We’re just not 40% of the world.

And there is so much more to learn about critical interactions in biosystems and biology. Of the 1.7 million named species, the vast majority have only been named. We don’t know about their ecology or their biology in any great detail—even when it comes to really familiar organisms around here, like Monarch butterflies. This is where we need citizen science.

There are some kinds of science that couldn’t possibly be done without the citizen component. Universities simply can’t do it, as there isn’t enough money, freedom, and humanpower. We need more people becoming informed about the science and issues confronting us today, and offer them opportunities to get involved and do something about it. At TERC, we’re looking for ways to make active use of scientific learning. One is to participate in the creation of more knowledge. That’s where citizen science can be very powerful. You can contribute to a program dedicated to a better understanding of the world. There’s a real sense of being part of a movement, and you can keep continuously learning. And at a certain point, becoming an involved citizen scientist will shape the way you engage with the world. John Dewey’s definition of democracy is a collaborative, informed, intentional enterprise to make our society better for everybody. Citizen science fundamentally reinforces this notion of democracy in a deep way.

But more than that, participating in citizen science (and math) gives one a voice and a volition. You can take part in the process of authority in our society to some degree. But the best part is that if you find some science that matters to you, it increases your ability to live with joy. And that is the purpose of science education, I believe. We should encourage all of our students to participate in citizen science because they love something about the world; and that something inspires joy and wonder.

TT: Thank you, Brian. What a beautiful observation!

Stay tuned for more interviews with TERC staff, observations post-ISTE, and some feature articles on TERC project work.

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May 6, 2013

COMING SOON TO THE INTERNET NEAR YOU: The IGERT 2013 Video and Poster Competition!

Now in its third year, the IGERT.org 2013 Video and Poster Competition offers up a great case study in grad school scientists and engineers using social media to communicate science research to their colleagues and the public.

Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and designed and facilitated by TERC, the IGERT 2013 Video and Poster Competition re-imagines the academic poster conference as an integrated, multimedia experience to introduce faculty, students, and members of the public to the latest interdisciplinary research changing our world—and the awesome young scientists and engineers behind that work. Last year’s presenters from over 125 IGERT programs nationwide submitted 113 videos (each tallying 3 minutes or less), highlighting research across topics including biologically-inspired robotic engineering; smart textile design; nano-plasmonic engineering for energy efficiency, and more.

On May 21-24, 2013, this year’s competition will open for voting online—attracting thousands of IGERT faculty, trainees, alumni, past participants, and members of the public to view, vote, share, and ‘like’ favorite videos and posters across social networks. 50 volunteer faculty judges will choose 20 winners; 4 will be chosen by IGERT Community members; and 1 by ‘public choice’—determined by ‘Likes’ on Facebook.

META BONUS: In a classic example of students-becoming-teachers—this year’s competitors have the social media/communicating science tips of 2012 Competition Awardees to draw from, summarized in a series of 9 videos. Be sure to check them out for insight into last year’s Awardees’ best social media practices, and be sure to head to http://posterhall.org/igert2013 on May 21st to ‘Like’ and share your favorite presentation. For more information on IGERT.org or the Video and Poster Competition, visit: http://posterhall.org/igert2013/pages/about.

April 9, 2013

Thoughts from the Field: A Non-Gamer in a Gaming World

What is it like being a non-gamer at the largest gaming event on the east coast? Particularly, what’s it like being a non-gaming, STEM education writer whose idea of a ‘good game’ started and ended with Myst at the largest gaming event on the east coast?

Three words: complete sensory overload.  Energy stores depleted. Game over!

Suffice it to say that PAX East was like nothing I had ever experienced before. The typical education conference trajectory of an orderly check-in followed by easy session scheduling did not apply…at all. Instead, taking in the PAX exhibit hall, play areas, and panels at the Boston Convention Center was like being thrust into Times Square on New Year’s Eve—if Times Square was overrun with fast-moving, fast-talking youngsters wearing backpacks and whizzing into lines amidst booming sound effects, flashing camera bulbs, and the smells of stale pizza and sugary carnival fare.

Games, gamers, and more gamers at PAX East...

Games, gamers, and more gamers at PAX East…

If I had been attending PAX for user research purposes, I would have been far too intimidated to even begin the process of conducting interviews. In actuality, I was attending PAX in the company of the EdGE team—TERC’s in-house group researching and designing robust science games that gamers like to play. This year, EdGE was checking PAX East out to examine the gaming landscape —and search out any  points of intersection between the education and gaming spheres.

As we learned from the not one; not two; but THREE packed panels that examined gaming and learning, there is widespread colloquial agreement among developers and gamers alike that games should be vehicles for meaningful learning, alternative assessment, and augmenting self-efficacy in underserved populations (including those with physical and cognitive disabilities ). However, we also learned that the development pathways, empirical research, and salient examples of educational, accessible, and fun-to-play games are few and far between…

…so what does that mean for TERC, and EdGE? Well—three panels about education-driven design at a trendy gamer-focused conference just served to solidify the value and prescient orientation of EdGE’s research and game development.

In fact, EdGE is about to release a couple of wireless games to engage high school students in physics and evolutionary biology while they play games like the ones they download from the App Store. EdGE collects data from these games to research learning, and recently joined an international team of U.S. and Finnish researchers investigating engagement in game-based learning (Project FUN).  They also attended and presented at GDC  a week or so ago.  It’s clear that their playable body of work truly is at the cutting-edge cusp of gaming and education. And now, excitingly, the hippest-of-hip gamers and developers are catching on!

For news, new games to test, and more goings-on from the EdGE team, be sure to check out: edge.terc.edu.

 

March 28, 2013

“Join” EarthLabs Teacher Alison Mote on a Summer Scientific Research Expedition

This summer a team of scientists will embark on Expedition #341 aboard the JOIDES Resolution, an ocean drilling research vessel, to collect sediment samples from deep beneath the ocean floor off the south coast of Alaska. These sediments are expected to reveal valuable information about Earth’s geologic and climactic past, and to inform current scientific knowledge about the relationship between global climate change, tectonics, glacial advance and retreat cycles, paleo-ocean circulation, and Earth’s changing magnetic field.

The JOIDES (Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling)  seagoing research vessel that drills core samples and collects measurements from under the ocean floor, giving scientists a glimpse into Earth’s development...

The JOIDES (Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling) seagoing research vessel that drills core samples and collects measurements from under the ocean floor, giving scientists a glimpse into Earth’s development. Image © JOIDES Resolution

Periodically, between May 29th and July 29th, Expedition #341 will be LIVE-broadcasted from ship-to-shore through real-time events and interactive Skype chats with on-board scientists, technicians, and crew. Since 2009, these live broadcasts have reached tens of thousands of students, teachers, and museum visitors nationwide, offering exposure to cutting-edge research and STEM careers. Students and teachers can get involved by signing up now for the live broadcast at  or by requesting a Skype chat with the team here. Sign up now, since these Skype chats are reserved on a first-come, first-served basis.

Notably, this year, Alison Mote, a teacher at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in Austin, TX, will join Expedition #341 as one of two Onboard Education Officers. An Environmental Science and engineering teacher, Alison has worked closely with TERC researchers in developing, field testing, and refining curriculum units for TERC’s EarthLabs   project. With Alison’s support, TERC will be developing a new EarthLabs unit that tells the story of the JOIDES Resolution research expedition #341 and addresses how scientists learn about long-term climate change through sediment sampling and analysis. To learn more about the EarthLabs project and modules, be sure to visit: http://serc.carleton.edu/earthlabs/index.html.

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March 13, 2013

New Tumblehome Learning/’Mixing in Math’ Partnership Broadcasted in Times Square!

New Tumblehome Learning/TERC partnership broadcasted over Times Square!

New Tumblehome Learning/TERC partnership broadcasted over Times Square!

This past week, the question circulating around TERC’s physical and digital hallways was this: “Is that photo I saw on Facebook real?”

It is indeed! Our news release on the new Tumblehome Learning/’Mixing in Math’ partnership, announced by PR Newswire, was transmitted to the Reuters Sign in Times Square multiple times Tuesday through Friday of last week. Perhaps if you spent afternoons last week in Times Square, you may have caught a glimpse of the Food Fights, Puzzles, and Hideouts book cover!

So what’s this all about? Tumblehome Learning (THL), a non-traditional transmedia publishing company, has partnered with TERC to publish a ‘Mixing in Math’ suite of games and activities. Developed at TERC and based on work funded in part by the National Science Foundation*, these additions to the THL product line of science books and games include the book Food Fights, Puzzles, and Hideouts and the sets of games Jump Ship and Blockade. Spanning the key topics in the elementary grades’ Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, the products help parents, homeschooling families, librarians, and afterschool providers engage children ages 4-12 in the math of everyday activities.

In fact, Food Fights, Puzzles and Hideouts presents hundreds of full-color interdisciplinary math games, projects, and activities that can be done at home, at after-school programs, at school, or ‘mixed in’ to car rides, snack times, and parties. With the card deck Jump Ship players get nine fast-paced games and 22 different levels of play, and  Blockade packages eight dry-erase board games for 2-4 players and offers 28 game options.

Want to learn more or order any of these products? Please visit the official press release, or Tumblehome Learning’s site to order any of these resources for math learning at prices of $10.95 and under.

* ‘Mixing in Math’ has been funded in part by the National Science Foundation, (ESI-0406675, ESI-0714537, ESI-9901289), and has been extensively piloted with children, parents, and informal educators, including after-school providers, librarians, and family numeracy providers. Independent evaluation shows that the materials improve attitudes about math and build math skills and engagement among adults and children.

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February 25, 2013

“In the PD Realm, One Size Does Not Fit All”

Metrics for what qualifies as the ‘best’ curriculum-based professional development program often differ slightly from district to district; school to school; even teacher to teacher. Generally speaking, adherence to content or subject; PD leaders’ levels of experience; and opportunities for participant discussions and networking are favorable—if not completely necessary—components for any curriculum-aligned PD program.

These days, there’s also a surplus of choice in terms of delivery models for professional development. Too often, administrators are left asking, “Which of these many program models is ‘best’ to meet the collective needs of our teachers?” or “Which program structure can be adapted in content and duration to meet the implementation challenges facing our new teachers OR scaled up for our more experienced teachers?” Conversely, districts looking for targeted PD are forced to decide whether the ‘best’ program for them is an online course; a single-day drill-down; or a week of summer coursework. Paradoxically, a wealth of options in the PD realm doesn’t seem to make the decision-making process any easier—especially as very few PD programs come with a lovely ‘all inclusive’ label…

The Investigations Workshops umbrella of PD offerings...

The Investigations Workshops umbrella of PD offerings…

But with Investigations Workshops, no superintendent, principal, or teacher has to worry about exclusionary PD programming. Since 1996, the Workshops team has been offering a varied selection of expert-led PD programs to complement the Investigations in Number, Data, and Space curriculum. From face-to-face workshops to customized professional development models to online courses catering to groups or individuals and ranging in duration from one day to one year, Workshops offers the most comprehensive Investigations PD programming out there AND the most customizable programming for any need; for a single participant; for all participants.

In one large, urban Maryland district, administrators have adopted a ‘custom package’ of Workshops PD to great effect. By offering face-to-face workshops for new teachers, topical workshops throughout the year for teachers and instructional specialists, and the new online course, an Instructional Specialist of Elementary Math for the district says, “With Investigations Workshops’ varied offerings, we can meet the needs of all our teachers and, therefore, the needs of our system.”

In many ways, recognizing that we have a varied population of educators with different respective needs has helped us approach our customized Workshops programming,” she elaborates. “We have teachers who are very thirsty for face-to-face summer professional development and they seek out the opportunities that we can provide. We also have teachers who don’t want the intensive summer PD model, but get something out of customized Workshops institutes throughout the school year. And then we have a lot of teachers with packed schedules who prefer the new online course model, as they can fit it in to their busy schedules whenever they want. We know this custom approach is working because of word-of-mouth—teachers talk about their positive Workshops experiences, and we continue to get more and more interest in these opportunities.

She adds,

In the PD realm, one size does not fit all. Investigations Workshops offers the best variety of Investigations in Number, Data, and Space-specific professional development. We’ve been happily using the Workshops program for 5 years now, and plan on continuing to offer Workshops to all our teachers, new and experienced.

For more information about Investigations Workshops professional development offerings, custom packages, testimonials, or to contact the Workshops team, please visit: http://investigations-workshops.terc.edu.

February 14, 2013

Beat the Winter Doldrums With…the ‘EdGE’ of Science!

This week, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is convening in Boston for the 2013 Annual Meeting—bringing together scientists, educators, and research luminaries to share the latest innovations in (and applications of) scientific research.

And speaking of the applications of science—AAAS has organized a fun, free, family-centric event called the Family Science Days, happening this Saturday and Sunday (2/16 and 2/17) from 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at the Hynes Convention Center. The AAAS Family Science Days showcase interactive tabletop exhibits, hands-on demonstrations, kid-friendly activities, and stage shows from experts in the fields of biology, chemistry, nanoscience, earth and space science and more. This event open to all, but organized especially for students in grades 6 to 12. And TERC will be there!

Play Impulse, a new particle propelling challenge from EdGE@TERC!

Play Impulse, a new particle propelling challenge from EdGE@TERC!

Have a son or daughter who loves gaming, science, or solving puzzles? Be sure to check out the Educational Gaming Environments (EdGE )@TERC’s exhibit booth on Saturday or Sunday at the Family Science Days. The EdGE team of scientist-game designers and developers will be showing their newest ‘Leveling Up’ learning games, Impulse and Quantum Spectre. Stop by, play the games, ask questions, share your ideas, and learn more about how EdGE is creating compelling science-rich game experiences that gamers like to play.

Play Quantum Spectre, EdGE's new laser puzzle game!

Play with lasers in EdGE’s new Quantum Spectre at AAAS’ Family Science Days, but watch out for the spectres!

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For more information about where the EdGE team and other TERC staff will be presenting this spring and summer, be sure to visit: TERC’s newsroom.

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