Design Project - Initial Concept
Shannan Muskopf

The problem to be addressed in the Design Project is the lack of use of the computer lab by the science department staff. Based on an interview assessment, it is confirmed that the faculty does not have the skills to effectively integrate technology into their class curriculum. The target population for instruction is, therefore, the science department staff, which consists of 12 teachers in various science disciplines, including health, biology, chemistry and physics. The age and experience level of the staff varies, though all of the teachers have at least three years of classroom teaching experience. Based on the original assessment, the majority of the staff has basic computer skills and can check email, perform web based searches, and operate word processing programs.

At least part of the problem can be solved by instruction, the staff can be shown the value of the web as a tool for improving science learning, and specific strategies for using the world wide web can be transferred to the faculty. The changing of attitudes regarding the use of technology may not be so easily solved by instruction.

Due to my coursework in Educational Technology, I have developed specific strategies for using the world wide web in my own curriculum, strategies that incorporate web quests and mini web quests that can expose students to concepts and images that do not lend themselves well to classroom instruction. I have also had experience with using these strategies in my own classes and have a fair idea of the pitfalls that one can encounter when using technology. To date, I am the only science teacher in the department that has taken my classes to the computer lab, and know the procedures for signing students onto computers and accessing Internet Explorer. (Though this seems like a simple task, initial assessment revealed that teachers are concerned about this process and do not know where to start once the students are in the lab.) Furthermore, I have also had training in using search engines to locate and evaluate quality sites that can be useful for science educators.

The final instructional goal to be achieved is that science teachers will incorporate authentic technology based learning tasks into existing curriculum. Related to this final goal are several subgoals that are necessary for achieving the end result. Instruction will enable the staff to:

There are several ways in which the goal can be achieved. First of all, direct instruction will enable the staff to learn the basic procedures for signing into the lab and performing searches. Exposure to existing web sites that are designed for science teachers may help change attitudes about the usefulness of the world wide web. Possibly, this exposure can be accomplished outside a group workshop. I can use email to send links to teachers that they might find useful. I’ve tried this before, and one of the problems I’ve run into is that teachers don’t check their email or don’t click on the sites. It may be an easy task to just “check In” with them to ask if they’ve looked at it, or show them the site one-on-on from their class computers during their free period. The intent here to get them hooked. I think of this in terms of the way I was “hooked” on technology a couple of years ago when I discovered some amazing resources for science on the world wide web. Once I found these sites, I started thinking about how they can be use. I wanted to use them in my class, but I wasn’t sure at the time how to go about it, which brings us to the next goal. Once the attitude has changed, and the teachers are genuinely interested in using some of these sites in their classes, a workshop can be scheduled to develop some strategies for creating lesson plans that use the internet.

A workshop could then cover basics of signing into the computer lab, trouble shooting computers and using the printers. This aspect probably won’t take very long, but should alleviate some of the fears teachers have about using the lab. It is not however, intended to be the main goal of instruction. It is only necessary in the sense that without this knowledge, teachers will be reluctant to bring classes in. Also a necessary component would be a brief overview of how to perform searches so that once on their own, teachers will be able to find resources for themselves.

The main goal of the workshop would be to develop strategies for using sites that teachers find interesting to them, sites that are specific to their discipline and can be incorporated into their existing curriculum. I think it’s important for teachers to understand that the workshop is not designed to replace anything they already do in their class, but to add to what they already do. A chemistry teacher that already uses wooden models of molecules may be surprised to learn that these models can now be created on the web, using shockwave programs and java script (there are sites out there that do this). This teacher may also be willing to try and electronic version of a lesson they have already used in their own classes.

At this point, allowing teachers to explore and work together on a project that uses a web site would probably be the best course. Since all of the faculty have different classes they teach, the chemistry teachers could work together to create a web quest or lesson plan that uses chemistry sites. The biology and health teachers would be developing different plans related to their own subjects. If the teachers have an investment and a hand in creating the project, they will probably be more likely to use it in their own classes. I’ve found that showing them webquests that have already been created has not inspired any use of those webquests, but I’m hoping that teachers that create a lesson plan for themselves, one that they know would be useful in their classes, will be inspiring enough to get them to use the computer labs.