Innovative Technology in Science Inquiry Scale-Up Project (ITSI-SU)
The goal of this ITEST scale-up project (ITSI-SU) is to address the need for research-based science materials and teaching techniques that generate demonstrable improvements in student science achievement in grades 3-12. The project will reach 264 teachers directly and 10,000 students in four states and has the capacity to reach another 1,500 teachers and 50,000 students nationwide in a dissemination phase, and still more if teachers and trainers adopt project-generated resources. ITSI-SU is designed to improve standards-based science instruction through a focus on guided student inquiry using probeware, computational models, and other interactive materials. ITSI-SU represents a national scale-up of the Information Technology in Science Instruction (ITSI) project at the Concord Consortium that serves 90 teachers in Massachusetts, Kansas, Pennsylvania, and California. ITSI-SU will offer 77 hours of research-based professional development over two summers and the intervening year. Participants will have access to a large online collection of sophisticated free materials based on open source software that includes hundreds of activities that use models and tools. Teachers will learn the content, technology use, and pedagogy by customizing the activities, developing standards-based units from the activities, and testing in their classrooms. Participants then report on their customizations, observations, and their students' learning gains. The customized materials and reports are contributed in turn to a growing online materials library. Workforce issues are addressed throughout by exploiting the many connections between careers in STEM fields and the technologies that students use in the ITSI-SU units. The ITSI project that is being scaled up has already created one of the largest collections of high-quality, online, technology-enabled science learning materials in existence. Its approach to collaborative materials development represents a new way of developing, sharing, and supporting STEM educational materials. ITSI-SU could spearhead a redefinition of STEM curriculum, how teaching is done, and what educational research can measure. The materials are fluid and easy to adapt to new developments, resources, and needs. Exploiting this fluidity to customize the materials is a key strategy ITSI uses for professional development. ITSI-SU will expand this approach by engaging the expertise of a virtual community to evaluate continually and improve the materials based on inputs from scientists, teachers, and researchers. The materials include automatic logging that records and analyzes student interactions with the software, providing detailed data that has the potential to increase teacher efficacy and to answer important research questions. The project research addresses how the ITSI-SU program impacts student learning, inquiry skills, and attitudes toward STEM content and careers.