Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

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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March 5, 2013

Girls Are the Newest Game Designers at TERC!

How many developers does it take to roll out six versions of engaging online games in 3 days?

It takes six…11-12 year old girls.

The researchers behind the girls’ energy conservation badge program for Girl Scouts and the EdGE transmedia games are now investigating how girls think about energy conservation through interactive game design for their peers.  In this exploratory endeavor, project researchers are evaluating how SCRATCH-familiar girls apply their engagement around computer programming to promote understanding of energy saving and the connection of energy use to climate change.

From the desk of a game design guru...

From the desk of a game design guru…

Over the course of a three-day on-site pilot, TERC researchers mentored the six 6th grade game designers as they brainstormed, storyboarded, animated, and pushed live their six respective games. The girls were already active members of the SCRATCH community, having learned about the programming technology either through school or tech-savvy parents and friends (several had been designing games in SCRATCH since first or second grade).

While the girls had varying degrees of familiarity with energy issues coming into this pilot, their on-site exposure to some of the complexities of this topic led them to produce demo games uniting interactive story lines with issues of climate change, energy tradeoffs, and sustainability. Their demos included challenges ranging from rescuing fish from environmental hazards against the clock to answering energy tradeoff questions to save a penguin from a melting iceberg—and featured imaginative characters spanning a recycling and composting cat and an energy-tradeoff-wise talking flower.

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Hard at work…

Said one of the designers after showing her game, “This project at TERC was really great. I got to learn more about climate change and think about making a game that would appeal to other people my age—and also younger kids too—so they could learn about global warming at younger ages.”

Said another, “designing with SCRATCH means that kids anywhere around the world can learn about climate change and play our games.”

All six gaming gurus agreed that designing a game that was both fun AND educational was the hardest part of the equation—those categories still have the stigma of being mutually exclusive—and that there was inherent difficulty in addressing lots of ‘tweaks’ and ‘bugs’ in the game design process while not diluting the educational content in their games. But judging from the responsive and compelling games demoed by these girls, their game designing efforts paralleled how one participant described a ‘good’ game experience—“challenging, but definitely not impossible”.

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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January 28, 2013

Q&A: Investigations Workshops Talks Online Courses & Taking Elementary Math PD to the Web

In response to the need for quality math professional development that is available anytime and anywhere, TERC’s Investigations Workshops team has gone to the web. In 2012, they launched their online program to great success, with a full-house first group of participants completing a 6-week online course. On January 23rd, they debuted their second online course offering. I had the opportunity to sit down with Myriam Steinback, Project Director of the Workshops, and Cynthia Garland Dore, Sr. Research Associate on the project and a veteran Investigations Workshops leader, to chat about the history of the Workshops, their current ruminations on online models for delivering targeted PD, and their hopes for the future of elementary math professional development.

TERCTalks: Myriam, can you tell me how you got started with the Investigations Workshops?

Myriam: When I first began leading elementary math PD workshops back in 1996, the typical programs available to teachers were one-time, less-than-half-a-day sessions. Many teachers wanted more from their professional development, but for a variety of reasons, districts were not as focused on providing in-depth PD offerings. We established the Investigations Workshops with the goal of providing intensive programs focused on augmenting mathematical content knowledge. We really wanted to develop a resource for continuous improvement in math teaching and teacher learning.

Our first offerings were summer institutes in Massachusetts and Michigan but that soon expanded. We have provided support to schools and districts in 48 states and we run our programs throughout the year. We offer several content-specific workshops; targeted PD Institutes for district leaders and school administrators; and an institute for stakeholders who are designing Investigations-focused PD sessions themselves. Recently, we’ve started offering a blended Common Core Institute (including face-to-face work and follow-up webinars) to help leaders with the implementation of the CCSS. We also create customized programs for districts.

TERCTalks: It has been a busy year for you with the launch of the online course. Could you tell me about the first class of teachers, and any observations and findings you have from the first iteration of the course?

Myriam: I have to say we hesitated going online for a while, mainly because we wanted to do it right. A real strength of our face-to-face program is the collaborative inquiry into the math. You just can’t deny the incredible collective impact of a group of math educators fully engaged and excited about solving math problems together! We wanted to make sure we didn’t lose the kinds of meaningful interactions we saw in our face-to-face workshops.

Fortunately,  we had the right development team that included the curriculum authors and ETLO (EdTech Leaders Online). In the fall of 2012, we offered our first course—we ran five full sections—and the feedback was very gratifying. One participant told us that this course was the 8th online course she had taken and she had never had one that was so interactive and well set-up. She specifically mentioned loving the way she could view and interact with student work. Others mentioned how they appreciated being able to take the course with other teachers from their schools and how the time to reflect allowed them to get a better understanding of Common Core standards.

Q: What have you been able to incorporate from what you learned in this course about Investigations and about the Common Core, into your classroom? Wordled responses from course participants...

Q: What have you been able to incorporate from what you learned in this course about Investigations and about the Common Core, into your classroom? Wordled responses from course participants…

TERCTalks: You have now both led face-to-face workshops and the online course. Can you talk about how they compare?

Myriam: For those of us facilitating the course, comparisons with our face-to-face experiences were inevitable. Surprisingly, we realized that interactions among participants were not only possible, but also very reflective, engaging, and, in some cases—eloquently articulated. The asynchronous nature of the course prompted some participants to say, “I love that I can do this in my PJs whenever I want!” We even had a participant in one of our sections say—upon introducing herself—that she was due to give birth “any time now”, and would continue the course to completion, which is exactly what she did.

Cynthia: While some participants ‘came’ to the course alone, some administrators registered groups of teachers from their schools and had them meet weekly to go through the week’s session together and discuss and debrief. We realize that this situation is not one that all schools can do, and we are in fact happy to have people from schools across the country in attendance.—however, the model of registering multiple teachers from the same school is a nice way to add a blended, face-to-face aspect to the programming. So we definitely can say it was a big success—the interactions among participating educators across grade levels, backgrounds, and differing geographic regions were powerful.

TERCTalks: Can you elaborate on some of the cool tools and features of the online course?

Myriam: The online course has ‘Voice Threads’, video, a sorting feature that allows participants to search and sort student work, and also ‘Key Learnings’ e-guides for each session. And the Discussion Forum includes prompts so that participants can address and respond to issues pertinent to each course session.

Cynthia: I think the way we can archive the course experience is a wonderful feature. The course sections will be available for participants to return to for up to a year after they complete the course. The first course finished up in December, and already,  I am impressed with the number of participants who have returned to the resources and conversations.

TERCTalks: What’s next on the horizon for Investigations Workshops?

 Myriam: We are committed to offering a full suite of online programs to complement our face-to-face programs. New courses will be rolled out this spring. Our online course offerings allow us to strengthen a professional learning community of math educators that—in many ways—grew out of our institutes throughout the years. We’re able to continue the mission we established when we began—to provide resources that support continuous learning in mathematics education—and we couldn’t be happier that the response to our online program has been so enthusiastic.

 Thanks Myriam and Cynthia!

For more information about the Investigations Workshops PD offerings or to register, please visit: http://investigations-workshops.terc.edu/.

 

January 4, 2013

Qs: What Should People Know about Energy? What are the Challenges Teachers Face in Teaching Students about Energy? What Can Be Done to Meet these Challenges?

A: The Energy Summit is on answering these questions.

Courtesy of the Energy Summit

Courtesy of the Energy Summit

Energy is everywhere—its ubiquity in our everyday lives and across scientific disciplines is unquestionable, and it is commonly considered the ‘single most important crosscutting concept in science.’ But according to the CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University, STEM faculty members themselves are often challenged by the notion of applying the concept of energy to their own research and communicating its importance to non-scientists. And with the advent of the NGSS and an increased need for secondary teachers and students to acquire an understanding about energy, the informational trickledown from the energy research community to K-12 audiences is muddy, and K-12 pedagogical strategies for teaching energy are duly inconsistent…

But the Energy Summit (an NSF-funded project by CREATE for STEM) is trying to change all that. Expert researchers from all over the world were invited to a first forum this past weekend in East Lansing, Michigan to share innovations in energy education research and proposed strategies for teaching energy in the K-12 classroom. And our own Sara Lacy was there, presenting a ‘TED-style’ 10-minute talk on her paper describing the development of a learning progression to teach 3rd-5th graders about energy.

Sara, a Senior Scientist at TERC, was one of the Summit 19 experts (of 50 participants) invited to submit a paper describing her research, opinions, and questions on the teaching and learning of energy. “Looking Through the Energy Lens: A Proposed Learning Progression for Energy in Grades 3-5”—coauthored with Roger Tobin, Marianne Wiser, and Sally Crissman (also of TERC)— details elementary student ideas about energy; four foundational concepts necessary to a scientific understanding of energy; a new framework for pre-college energy education; and instructional sequences for grades 3-5. Sara is currently the Principal Investigator for an affiliated project at TERC called  Rethinking How to Teach Energy: Laying the Foundations in Elementary School.

A second forum for the Energy Summit will focus on how educators are incorporating energy concepts into secondary science content and classrooms nationally and globally.

With this great news, welcome to 2013!

TERC_web

December 13, 2012

‘Mixing in Math’ Goes to Mom’s Homeroom!

We want to show (parents and kids) that there’s a lot of math in the things you already find fun!—Marlene Kliman, Mixing in Math

By most accounts, we consider modern, involved parents very lucky. Today’s parents have access to a vast array of products, resources and technologies to facilitate math learning for their children. But excess of choice comes with a high cost.  Research shows that too many choices often leads people to be less—not more—satisfied once they actually make a decision on a product or methodology. And ready access via the world wide web to research studies indicating the importance of informal math learning in fortifying everything from students’ conceptual understanding in the classroom to future STEM career pathways often makes parents feel MORE pressure to make the right decisions on math teaching products and techniques. Thus many parents in our LeapFrog®-inundated era encounter the following conundrums:

“What are the best tools and products to be using to help my kids become comfortable with math?”

“How can I help my kids become comfortable with math at home if I am not comfortable with my own math skills or if I didn’t like math as a kid?”

The answer is much more simple than many parents think. You can ‘mix in’ math— from measurement to estimation to algebra—into activities that you’re already doing with your kids using supplies you already have around the house. Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Creating these tips, techniques, methodologies and activity adaptations is exactly what TERC’s Mixing in Math(MiM) project team has been doing for years. MiM Senior Scientist Marlene Kliman says it best, “we want to show (parents and kids) that there’s a lot of math in the things they already find fun!”

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Click the above image of Marlene to visit Mom’s Homeroom and view the video!

In fact, Marlene—along with a local family—was just featured in a new video for Mom’s Homeroom— an online resource hosted by MSN and Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats—showcasing some of her favorite MiM activities for parents to easily implement into their kids’ everyday routines. Marlene shared 3 (of the roughly 200) MiM activities including Penny Jar, Soaring Towers, and Fair Shares that could be scaffolded up or down for varying age ranges (preK to 5th grade) and math comfort levels.

Even better? All MiM activities are free, offered in English and Spanish, equally adaptable for classroom or informal settings, and available at: mixinginmath.terc.edu. Be sure to check them out and download your favorites—they’re kid-tested and mom/dad-approved!

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