Teaching inservice teachers with authentic data in an online environment

Tuesday 4:30pm-5:30pm Red Gym
Poster Session


Eliza Richardson, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
An overarching goal of the Master of Education in Earth Sciences program at Penn State University is to expose excellent and enthusiastic teachers to primary scientific research in Earth science so they can master educational objectives and translate their own discoveries directly back to their classrooms.

The Next Generation Science Standards emphasize a learning process that is much more closely aligned with the way scientists actually conduct research, but mid-career secondary teachers were often not given the opportunity in their preservice training to learn content knowledge or analysis techniques in an authentic way. Here I present the challenges and successes in using lab-type activities in an online asynchronous environment. Challenges include the upfront time it takes to create a lab including writing clear and concise directions, using photos or short videos to demonstrate the methods and making sure the activity does not require dangerous or expensive materials. Student feedback collected even several semesters later demonstrates that these activities are memorable and that teachers were quite often able to repurpose them for use in their own classrooms. Because many of the activities involve the collection, analyzation and interpretation of digital datasets made freely available by university scientists, teachers are exposed to authentic data and required to practice useful skills such as plotting and grappling with large data sets. In fact, in some regards the online asynchronous environment actually increased learning and retention because teachers participated in our courses during their own school year and many of them were able to use the lab-type activities immediately in their own classrooms, which is an advantage over a summer workshop.