STARBORD Workshops

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Why should we teach a course about marine biology when we don’t live in a coastal area?” asked one school administrator in reference to a marine biology course that his school had discontinued. Because the oceans cover over 70% of the earth’s surface, it is important that everyone learn about them, and the K-12 curriculum is the place to start. In 1997, the Consortium for Oceanographic Activities for Students and Teachers (COAST), a working collaborative designed to deliver oceanographic and coastal processes education to pre-service and in-service teachers of grades K-12, received a grant from the Navy to develop materials and conduct workshops that would aid teachers in teaching oceanography and coastal processes education. Teacher training for technology integration was considered to be an important component of that delivery process by everyone involved in the project.


Background

COAST was a recipient of a two-year grant involving the teaching of oceanography and coastal processes in the K-12 curriculum. COAST is comprised of three entities: Operation Pathfinder (University of Southern Mississippi), Ocean Voyagers (St. Norbert College), and Stimulating Teachers about Resources for Broad Oceanographic Research and Discovery (STARBORD) (Mississippi State University). These entities offer a broad spectrum of means, methods, and materials for ocean science education, as well as a nationwide telecommunications infrastructure. Under the direction of Dr. Sharon Walker of the J. L. Scott Marine Center, University of Southern Mississippi, the nationally recognized Operation Pathfinder summer workshops have been conducted since 1993 as three-hour, graduate-level courses in six coastal areas of the United States (including the Great Lakes). Their goal is to teach elementary and middle school teachers how to infuse the teaching of oceanography and coastal processes into the existing curriculum. The National Sea Grant Office, one of the partners that provided this national course in marine science education, recognized the importance of technology in providing educational reform.

     “Pre-college education is changing. The need to achieve national and international excellence in the future workforce requires a concerted, multi-agency effort focused on education. Sea Grant is responding to that challenge by providing leadership through partnerships. What happens in today’s classrooms is not what happened 20 years ago. Textbooks are no longer the only curriculum guide, cookbook-type directions are no longer the prototype for science experiments, and teachers are no longer the ultimate source of knowledge. Partnerships, cooperative learning, electronic communication, interdisciplinary courses, contextual learning and scientific literacy are additions to an educator’s vocabulary. To respond to needs for educational reform, Sea Grant programs are providing leadership in training teachers and producing relevant curriculum materials, and they are also participating in partnerships to reach out to a much larger audience in the education community” (National Sea Grant 1994).

St. Norbert College’s Ocean Voyagers’ Program was developed for middle school pre-service and in-service teachers and students, and involves integrating lesson plans on literature, oceanographic science, maritime life and lore, technology, and communications into the middle school curriculum. As part of Ocean Voyagers, St. Norbert’s Sea Scholars program connects the Navy’s fleet to the classroom by taking classroom teachers on actual ocean voyages aboard Navy research ships. This is done in order to improve teachers’ knowledge of science and to help them apply that knowledge to all areas of the curriculum.

The Center for Educational and Training Technology and the Digital Research and Imaging Laboratory of the School of Architecture at Mississippi State University worked jointly to develop Web-based resources for use in the classroom, including the ability to take real-world data and manipulate it through the use of visualization tools. These visualization tools are located on the COAST Web site (http://coast-nopp.org) and include the Bathymetry Modeler, a tool that allows the user to model the ocean floor by inputting longitude and latitude coordinates, three-dimensional dolphin models, and map projection systems models.

STARBORD’s efforts extended the teaching grade levels of the targeted teachers for the Operation Pathfinder workshops through high school. As part of STARBORD, hands-on, two-day mini-workshops within the Pathfinder program were developed. In planning for these workshops, the STARBORD team had to consider the following questions:

1. What would be the focus of our on-site activities at each Pathfinder workshop?

 

2. How could we best benefit the majority of the participants?

 

3. What preliminary preparations could we make to facilitate the in-class experience?

 

4. What logistical problems did we have to overcome?

 

Technology Integration in the Schools

Nationwide, the efforts for integrating technology into the K-12 curriculum focused initially on hardware and software acquisitions, networking buildings, and technical matters that had little relevance to what actually went on in the classroom. The educational community, however, recognized that simply putting computers into classrooms or computer labs did not bring about technology integration. Teachers are the keys to success, and training the teachers was essential. “A commitment to technology integration also includes a commitment to teacher training” (Freiberger 1996). This is best expressed by one of the STARBORD participants’ favorite quotations, a simple equation by Robert Stolz:

“Technology - Training = Junk” (Massachusetts Software Council 1994).

 

In his State of the Union message in January 1996, President Clinton began his administration’s campaign to make the schoolchildren of our country technologically literate by the beginning of the 21st century. The “four pillars” that are emphasized in that campaign are:

1.         Modern computers and learning devices will be accessible to every student
2.         Classrooms will be connected to one another and to the outside world
3.         Educational software will be an integral part of the curriculum — and as engaging as the best video game
4.         Teachers will be ready to use and teach with technology

STARBORD’s goals, developed independently, fit very well with the administration’s goals. Our overriding goal was to demonstrate ways to integrate the use of technology in the curriculum through hands-on training and online resources, and in the process:

• Motivate students to love learning

• Provide access to resources and information

• Connect the classroom with the world



The STARBORD team recognized that the Web-based tools they developed would only be as successful as the teachers who implemented them in the classroom. “Educational technologies include everything from blackboards and desks to books and computers, none of which guarantees learning will take place. However, in the hands of skillful teachers, [their] use can enhance instruction in significant ways” (Noblitt 1995). The team also felt strongly that the training had to come from peers: from those who could actually understand and identify with the problems and successes that teachers have in their classrooms. For that reason, members of the STARBORD team, who have actual classroom experience at both K-12 and university levels, went onsite at each of the Pathfinder workshops during the two years of the grant.

In its workshops, the STARBORD team specifically wanted to demonstrate that technology itself is not something to fear. We hoped to give the Pathfinder participants a sampling of the many opportunities there are for technology integration in any classroom, using tools that the participants would be able to master during the brief time spent with the STARBORD team. Holmes and Duffey point out that teachers are more likely to be open to new ideas and have a positive attitude when the purpose of technology training is seen as skill enhancement, rather than remediation (1993).

 

 

 

Figure 1

 

Hardware
17 Sager laptop computers — one used as a server
17 U. S. Robotics Ethernet cards for networking these laptops
2 Boxlight data projectors
1 Ricoh CD re-writeable devices (CD-RW)
3 networking hubs and cables
2 Olympus slide scanners
2 Micro Tek flatbed scanners
4 Sony digital cameras
2 VideoSphinx capture devices
2 tripods
10 power strips
Assorted cables, connectors, adapters, turntables, extension cords, etc.

 

 

Software
10-user site license for HyperStudio
5-user site license for Spin Object / Spin Panorama
10-user site license for PhotoDeluxe
17-user site license for Microsoft Office 97

 

 

Equipment

In order to ensure that the necessary equipment, both hardware and software, was available at each site, the STARBORD team put together a traveling technology infrastructure that consisted of the items listed in Figure 1.

A great deal of thought went into the preparation of the equipment for the workshops. Each laptop computer was numbered, and an attached label indicated what software was loaded on an individual machine. All items that went with each computer received the same number as the computer — cases, power cords, Ethernet connectors, mouse devices, etc. This was done to ensure that there would be no mix-ups or lost equipment when trying to break down the lab at the end of each two-day workshop. It also helped to guarantee that no pieces were overlooked and left behind. One of the most popular innovations of the STARBORD team was the use of twin-bead ponytail holders to secure all cords and cables. This is a new high-tech function for a low-tech object, but a quick and easy way to bind cables or cords of almost any size.

Logistics was one of the primary problems considered by the STARBORD team. Except for the workshops in Mississippi, the team flew to each area workshop. The first summer we traveled with the scanners and cameras, as well as three laptops. Computers were shipped five to a box from point to point by FedEx and UPS. The first summer, packing boxes were used, and the computers suffered some minor damage. The second summer, fiberglass cases with wheels and foam padding were ordered and there was no damage to the computers. We were required, however, to pay extra for shipping because of the weight of the containers. Scanners, cameras, and other items were shipped in a metal case with foam padding, and everything survived the shipments intact. The reader should be aware that shipping items is not an incidental expense, but it did assure us that we would have the necessary equipment and software to carry out our training. And, if schedules are tight as ours were, it is imperative that arrangements be made in advance to have forms and proper documentation available before the end of the workshop. It is also good to know where the various drop-off and pick-up points for the shipments are located.


Teacher Workshops

The STARBORD team also put a great deal of thought into the format of the workshops. We knew that in two days’ time we could only introduce the participants to possibilities, not turn them into instant computer “gurus.” We decided to divide the time into two- or three-hour components, each covering a different topic. Because of the time constraints, a notebook was created to allow the participants to work through the lessons step-by-step again at a later date. These notebooks were designed to be self-explanatory. Among the things that were included in the notebooks was a price list for the equipment and software used in the STARBORD workshops. This was not intended as a recommendation for those products, but as a reference point from which the participants could gauge the relative cost of acquiring technology tools for their classrooms or schools. We looked for products that were reasonably priced and comparatively affordable. For example, we used PhotoDeluxe instead of the more powerful, but more expensive, PhotoShop.

In addition to the time constraints, there were other things that provided challenges to the STARBORD team. We arrived at different stages in the two-week Pathfinder workshops. On two occasions we were the last segment of the participants’ two-week stay, and they were taking their final exam as soon as we left; at others we were the first two days of the Pathfinder program, and the participants had just met. The group dynamics varied. Some groups were more cohesive than others were. The skill levels of the participants covered a wide range of abilities. The facilities provided were vastly different, and we had to adapt our lab to what was available. We could not always present our workshops in the same order because of scheduling. We had to learn to be flexible. The original plan had been to divide the maximum of 30 participants into three groups of 10 to rotate through the workshops. This would have meant a maximum of two people per computer. We initially tried forced divisions, but that did not work well. When we allowed participants to group themselves, some groups were naturally larger than others were, but the participants were more satisfied with their technology experiences.

We offered three components that involved software or equipment that must be purchased: Digital Imaging, Virtual Objects and Video Capture, and Electronic Presentations. We found that by showing projects created by groups in previous workshops, we increased the quality of succeeding group projects. Once the participants saw what was possible and how someone else had used the technology, they were able to capitalize on clever ideas and create projects of their own. They also enjoyed a “show and tell” session at the end of the workshops that gave them even more ideas of what can be done with the technology. Two high school chemistry teachers created one of the most useful presentations. They turned the routine lab rules lecture into a PowerPoint presentation with humorous use of clip art that was sure to make their students more cognizant of the rules than they normally would have been.

At the initial STARBORD workshop during the 1998 sessions, we decided to incorporate a Web-page building component using Netscape Composer. Because it was more of an afterthought than the other workshops, we did not spend as much time preparing the instructions that were placed in the participants’ notebooks. We also did not divide the participants into equal-sized groups. In one workshop we ended up with nine separate Web pages. By the second summer, we had learned that prior planning is essential for every component of the workshops.

We created a folder on each laptop into which the participants saved their Netscape Composer files. This ensured that when the participants created their page files and saved them, all of their images would go into the same folder. We then moved each folder to a shared folder we had created on the laptop server. In this way, all the Web page files were on one machine and could be transferred to the COAST site without problems, and with no missing images (a problem we had the first summer).

 

Changes in Year Two

Based on the feedback obtained from the first year’s participants, the STARBORD team revamped their workshops in as many respects as possible. First we cut down on the time involved in the opening session. One consistent request was for each participant to have access to his or her own computer. That was not financially feasible for STARBORD, any more than it is feasible for the average K-12 school. What we were able to do was to restructure the workshops so that the participants had more time on task. Originally we offered three simultaneous workshops with participants choosing two of the three. The second summer, we changed the format and rotated all participants through Virtual Objects and Video Capture, and Digital Imaging. A separate Electronic Presentations component was also offered. We also provided each participant with a CD containing the COAST Web site, an electronic version of lessons from previous Pathfinder workshops. This allowed them to look at the Web site and critique it on their own, even without Internet access. These scheduling changes allowed for a more relaxed atmosphere in most cases, although there were still times that, for one reason or another, there was not really sufficient time for the participants to complete what they wanted to accomplish.

Prior to the onset of each Pathfinder workshop during the second summer, the STARBORD team sent each participant a letter telling them what would be done as the STARBORD part of the overall Pathfinder workshops. Participants were asked to bring any object they wanted to “digitize” and to consider what they might want to put on a Web page. We also sent a survey that asked participants to rate their computer skills. Among other things, STARBORD used these self-ratings to select people to serve as “captains” of the Web-page building activities. This was done to make certain that at least one person on a Web-page building team felt comfortable doing such an activity, and could guide the others through the exercise. The technique worked well for the most part.

Because the laptop computers could not remain at any one site, we purchased copies of Microsoft Office, PhotoDeluxe and SpinPanorama/SpinObject. These were left at each site so the participants could use them during the remainder of their Pathfinder workshops. Teachers wanted more hands-on time with the equipment and software.


Conclusions

As with any endeavor, there were conflicting opinions on the part of the participants as to what would have been the “best” way to handle the workshops. We did not have the luxury of dividing our groups by ability levels, as several participants suggested. Others, however, suggested that being paired with those with greater skill levels would enable them to learn from their peers. Some participants wanted to be guided through the exercises; others wanted to explore on their own. If there was one overriding area in which all participants agreed, it was that what they learned in the Digital Imaging component of the workshop was something they would be able to use in their classrooms.

After working with over 125 teachers and receiving many positive comments, the STARBORD team believes the message and the methods we took to these teachers had a positive impact on most involved. Our role was to introduce them to ways to use the technology tools we are developing for their classrooms. We wanted to do this in such a way that would make them realize that it is not the tools that are important to the process, rather it is the teachers who will make the difference.

“It is important to realize that shifting from teacher-centered to learner-centered education d'es not suggest the teacher is suddenly playing a less important role. A teacher is equally critical and valued in the learner-centered context, and is essential for creating and structuring the learning experience. Much of this depends on the subject. No one would suggest, for example, that the best way to learn the piano is the discovery mode” (Tapscott 1998).

One teacher wrote us later during the year and said that we had “transformed her life” by introducing her to the technology and making her feel she could be successful in implementing it in her classroom. For that one case alone, given the impact she can have on the many students who will come into her class over the years, we feel that STARBORD accomplished a great deal. Through the visualization materials available on the COAST Web site, we can reach many, many more.

 

 

 

Cheryl M. Whitfield is an instructional technologist with the Center for Educational and Training Technology at Mississippi State University. She has a Master’s degree in Education from Middle Tennessee State University and has over 20 years experience as a secondary classroom teacher, substitute teacher and school librarian. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Instructional Technology. Whitfield was the team leader in the development of several Web projects that were sponsored by the BellSouth Foundation and carried out in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

E-mail: cmwhit@ra.msstate.edu

 

Connie C. Templeton is an instructional technologist with the Center for Educational and Training Technology. She has a Master’s degree in Instructional Technology from Mississippi State University, and served as a team leader for the Splendors of Versailles curriculum Web site. As part of the STARBORD team, Templeton specializes in training in emerging technologies, including visualization, video capture and 3-D modeling.

E-mail: cct1@ra.msstate.edu

 

 


 

 

References

 

Consortium for Oceanographic Activities for Students and Teachers (COAST), 1999, http://coast-nopp.org/.

 

Freiberger, J., “Implementing Your Technology Plan,” Enhance: Bringing Teachers and Technology Together, E17-18, Spring 1996.

 

Holmes, K. M. and D. Duffey, Technology Staff Development: Designing an Effective Process, Denton, TX: Texas Center for Educational Technology, University of North Texas, 1993.

 

Massachusetts Software Council, The Switched-On Classroom Technology Planning Guide, Boston, MA, 1994.

 

National Sea Grant, “Partnerships Formed to Meet Educational Challenges,” Sea Grant Challenges, 2(12), December1994, http://www.nsgo.seagrant.org/SeaGrantFuture/V2N12.html.

 

Noblitt, J. A., “Enhancing Instruction with Multimedia.” Syllabus, 8(9), 28, June1995.

 

Tapscott, D., Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, New York: McGraw Hill, 1998.

 

U. S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Technology, “The Technology Literacy Challenge,” 1999, http://www.ed.gov/Technology/potuscommit.html.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.

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