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    EDUCATION, OUTREACH, AND TRAINING | Contents | Next

    "Learning on Demand" Spotlights Best Practices
    for Education Research

    PROJECT LEADER
    Greg Moses, Professor, Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Programs, University of Wisconsin, Madison ; Education, Outreach, and Training thrust area leader, NPACI ; Co-chair, EOT-PACI

    Social scientists in the field of education research use a variety of methods to discover teaching practices that generate the best outcomes in terms of student comprehension and retention. At the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER), directed by Andy Porter, one such method has been to videotape teachers in the classroom, capturing the student-teacher interaction on film. A single day of filming creates volumes of footage, and navigating that material with fast-forward and rewind buttons takes time and effort. The "Learning on Demand" project, led by Greg Moses at the University of Wisconsin, is taking NPACI's experience with digital libraries and creating video archives on the Internet that can be viewed and searched quickly.

    "Our charter from the NSF is to identify programs whose outcomes are in accordance with the agency's national goals for science, math, engineering, and technology (SMET) education at all levels," Porter said. Porter is also co-director of the NSF-funded National Institute for Science Education (NISE)--a center within WCER that is participating in NPACI's evaluation of Education, Outreach, and Training (EOT) activities. "One way we're doing this is by analyzing digitized video taken in the classroom and discerning what the contributing principles to these outcomes are. These principles are then broadly promulgated by incorporating them into the educational research literature, including them as guiding tenets of grants, and through spreading the word as we work with practitioners."

    Moses came into contact with the researchers at WCER and NISE as the Associate Dean of Engineering at Wisconsin. The College of Engineering operates the Learning through Evaluation, Adaptation, and Dissemination (LEAD) Center, which is heading NPACI's evaluation of EOT activities. In certain instances--as in the case of NPACI--LEAD and NISE partner on an evaluation. "LEAD plays the role of evaluation foot soldier and completes the empirical evaluation," said Susan Millar, director of the LEAD Center. "Upon completion, we review their report and determine if the program's outcomes are consistent with NSF's education goals."

    Moses and Porter teamed up last year when the NPACI partnership was created and Moses was named the EOT thrust area leader. "I knew from my interactions with NISE that educational researchers were increasingly using digitized video to study classroom interactions," Moses said. "Digital library technology can help these researchers use their data more expediently." To do so, the Learning on Demand project is collaborating with NPACI's Data-Intensive Computing thrust area to build a digital library for serving digitized video.

    THE GEOMETRY OF QUILTING

    An example from research by Richard Lehrer, a researcher at WCER, illustrates how video analysis helps identify and promulgate best practices in K-12 teaching. Carman Curtis is a 2nd-grade teacher at Country View Elementary School in Verona, Wisconsin. Five years ago she began teaching her young pupils the concepts of symmetry using shapes the students would arrange into quilting patterns.

    Curtis' "geometry of quilting" curriculum was deemed a best practice in K-12 math education, and Lehrer's team spent many days in her classroom filming her and her students. The film shows a typical classroom with 7- and 8-year-olds sprawled out over the floor, cutting pieces of colorful construction paper into squares, rectangles, and triangles. Curtis shows them a finished quilt, and they talk about how it's composed of matched sets of patterns arranged in squares. As the students put together their own sets, Curtis moves among them, asking them questions about how many shapes it will take to create a matched pattern.

    She quizzes them--"Does anyone have a core-square that isn't symmetric? Could a core-square that isn't symmetric be used to make a two-by-two design?" The students' responses--often preceded by arranging the patterns in front of them to determine the correct answer--demonstrate that they're grasping the concept of symmetry. "They discover the transformations required to create symmetric patterns on their own," Curtis said.

    In composing the individual patterns, her students are also learning about replication in 2-D space. "It's quite remarkable to watch them understand how a shape must be repositioned as it moves through the four quadrants of x-y defined geometric space," Curtis said. "To make a matched quilting pattern, for example, a triangle has to be flipped on its axis as it moves from quadrant to quadrant. It can't be just simply placed in the same orientation in each quilt square. The students absorb this principle in second grade, and when it resurfaces in high school math, it isn't so difficult to grasp."


    We're working to create virtual distributed communities for teacher preparation. Traditionally, it has been difficult to get scientists, teacher education faculty, and teachers in the field all involved in the production of new teachers, because it's difficult to get all these people physically together in the same room."

    Greg Moses, University of Wisconsin


    LEARNING ON DEMAND

    The goal of the Learning on Demand project is to make it easier to use the film footage. When education researchers load the film footage, they are given a set of keywords they can use to navigate to other parts of the data. "For example, in the quilting video, they can choose to skip ahead to where Curtis is talking about symmetry by clicking on that available keyword," Moses said. "The shift forward in the film is practically unnoticeable." Eventually, the Learning on Demand project will serve data over the Internet. The current prototype runs locally from disk or CD-ROM.

    To assist in the researchers' analysis, each segment of film is accompanied by PowerPoint-like slides that appear in the corner of the screen while the video is playing. On these slides appear notations by the researchers that describe the effective principles being viewed concurrently on the accompanying film.

    "This reinforces the message to the education researcher or educator on the viewing end," Moses said. "At the same time as they're seeing the teacher do or say something that we've determined is an integral part of the lesson, they can also read a description of what was said or done and the reasoning behind why it seems to produce a good outcome in the student. It's like creating a road map for others to follow so that not everyone has to start from scratch."

    The digital library effort--and interaction between it, NISE, and LEAD--is an important component of NPACI's goal of scaling best practice EOT programs to meet the needs of a national audience. For example, the LEAD Center has recently completed an evaluation of Richard Tapia's "Spend a Summer with a Scientist (SaS)" program at Rice University. Porter and NISE are reviewing the LEAD report, and early results show that the program increases minority student retention rates in computer science degree programs, which is consistent with NSF objectives.

    The success of SaS has suggested a target for the next Learning on Demand subject. "Next summer we'll likely attend and film the SaS program," Moses said. "The film and data from LEAD's evaluation will then be incorporated into our growing digital library."


    We're doing this by analyzing digitized video taken in the classroom and discerning what the contributing principles to these outcomes are. These principles are then broadly promulgated by incorporating them into the educational research literature, including them as guiding tenets of grants, and through spreading the word as we work with practitioners.

    Andy Porter, NISE, University of Wisconsin


    TRAINING TEACHERS IN VIRTUAL SPACE

    The ability to view the digitized film over the Internet has implications for K-12 teacher-training. "We're working to create virtual distributed communities for teacher preparation," Moses said. "Traditionally, it has been difficult to get scientists, teacher education faculty, and teachers in the field all involved in the production of new teachers, because it's difficult to get all these people physically together in the same room."

    Information technology, however, can help create a virtual space in which these populations can collaborate during teachers' pre-service training. "In this model, as new teachers develop their pedagogy and curriculum, they have access to the latest education research on methods that generate excellent student outcomes," he said.

    Moses anticipates that the Learning on Demand prototype can be adapted to support not only education research and training, but also tutorials, on-site computational science courses, and distance learning over high-speed networks. Having trained on the technology, graduates of education programs at Wisconsin will be likely candidates to test prototypes of these systems in their classrooms.

    "Another benefit to using the digital libraries in teacher training is that new educators get exposure and training using technology in an educational setting," Moses said. "This creates a community of educators who are familiar with various types of computing, and therefore probably more willing to use it in their classrooms." --AFEND