STEM Digital Images in Geoscience Investigations: Teaching Analysis with Light (STEM DIGITAL)
This project will enable high school and middle school STEM teachers and students to conduct environmental research aided by the analysis of images from digital cameras, scanners, and the Internet. The project explores how digital image analysis can be applied to environmental quality issues that can readily be introduced into STEM courses, engaging students and encouraging them to think about related careers. The project will develop research agendas that will employ a variety of image analysis tools. The air quality theme will focus on the three components of the atmosphere that primarily affect visible, infrared and ultraviolet light, respectively: particulates and aerosols, carbon dioxide, and ozone. The water quality theme will look at the role of plant biomass on drinking water quality and on global carbon cycling. Arsenic is listed as number one in the US in terms of environmental contaminants that pose a potential threat to human health; research topics will include the identification and mapping of local arsenic contaminated sites and bioremediation possibilities. The project staff includes UMass and school faculty with extensive experience in teacher professional development and curriculum design. STEM DIGITAL will use the AnalyzingDigitalImages software which provides free, easy-to-use tools for spatial, temporal, spectral, and intensity measurements. There will be three cohorts of 30 teachers. More students and teachers will be reached later by the dissemination effort. The first two groups will attend one week summer institutes in 2011 and 2012. During each of the following school years, the staff will continue working online with the teachers on approximately six more projects spread over the fall and spring semesters. The 2013 institute will be entirely online, with a 6 week summer course which will become part of an online M.Ed. program. Curriculum materials will reflect Pellegrino's "Construct-Centered Design" (CCD) model in which assessment is an integral part of their design and use. All the curriculum materials and software developed for STEM DIGITAL will be made freely available via the web. Additional dissemination will include journal articles and conference presentations. The evaluation will include a study of the effects on student career interests. It will also compare the efficacy of the face-to-face and online models. STEM DIGITAL will enable teachers and their students to use digital images and image analysis software for qualitative and quantitative analysis, engaging students, improving their in-depth understanding of fundamental science and technology, and ultimately increasing their interest in STEM and information technology careers. It will add to our knowledge of important environmental processes related to the movement of arsenic compounds in the environment and the dissolution of natural organic matter. It will also allow the comparison of the efficacy of the in-person and online professional development programs. The project will demonstrate to the educational community that already available computers and digital cameras, along with online data, can easily and effectively serve as hands-on scientific instruments, adding a new dimension to the way STEM subjects are taught.