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New Technology Advances Research and Teaching
In the areas of mathematics, science, special education, and teacher education, investigators at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) are using new digital media, hypertext, and computer networks to analyze and disseminate research data and to develop training tools. For example, CD-ROMs disseminate data sets and curriculum resource materials. Online, interactive Web environments are used to share data among institutions.
Improving student mathematics skills
The 7-minute lesson provides contextualized mathematics instruction. In the story, three middle school students plan to build a large skateboard ramp. The problem posed in the video asks how the students can build the ramp with the money and building materials available to them. To solve the problem, students have to use their math skills to convert feet to inches, calculate percentages, read schematic plans, and compute mixed fractions. The CD contains several instructional models intended to help students strengthen and extend their computational and problem-solving skills.
After students solve the Fraction of the Cost problem in the math classroom, they apply what they have learned in building projects in the technology education classroom. For example, students at one school figured out the most economical ways to build three benches, which are now used at a new high school. At another school, students used plastic pipes to design and build “rollover cages” for model hovercrafts (see illustration). This project was especially motivating for the students because they raced the hovercrafts after they attached the cages to their base.
Bottge’s research tests a theoretical model of learning mathematics for adolescents with learning disabilities in inclusive classrooms. The project intends to demonstrate how the theory can guide instruction to uncover mathematics skills that middle school students with disabilities already have, and to enhance those skills through contextualized problems. Another goal of the research is to document changes in how teachers and students perceive and act on their beliefs in these contexts.
Disseminating science assessment materials
Other materials include scoring rubrics, teacher instructions, field test data, and “anchor papers” showing exemplars of student work.
The science portfolio materials include teacher and student guides for elementary, middle, and high school grade levels, and an implementation guide and appendices for trainers. The portfolio allows teachers to devise and refine instruction based on student development and individual need.
The surveys of the enacted curriculum are survey-based indicators of classroom practice that schools, districts, and states can use to gather information about instructional content and practice. The surveys provide educators and policy makers with data for analyzing student performance on assessments, measuring classroom curriculum changes in relation to state or local content standards, and evaluating the specific programs’ effectiveness.
Finally, the CD offers a collection of reference materials, including a glossary of terms found in the SCASS science resource materials, information on the history of the SCASS science project, reference tables and release dates for the assessment pool, and links to related Web
Smithson says the goal is to increase the use of high-quality, multimethod assessments in science education. This project is funded by CCSSO and participating states. For more information, contact Smithson at email@example.com.
Analyzing digital video data
WCER researcher Christopher Thorn and colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the San Diego Supercomputer Center are integrating their data management systems through a project called Digital Insight. Digital Insight is a prototype for acquiring, managing, analyzing, and disseminating digital video data in education research.
This project, funded by the National Science Foundation, addresses challenges in video management technology, research methodology, human subject protection, data management, mixed-methods analysis, and the use of archived multimedia data for secondary analysis and teaching.
Thorn says, “We’re developing tools for education researchers for extracting event-based data from video and correlating these data with other kinds of data, such as field notes, images of student work, lesson plans, and assessment data.” Researchers will be able to build histories of student learning and development. They will be able to separate video-based research into its constituent parts of acquisition, management, analysis, and dissemination. Then they can describe and encourage a set of best practices at each stage of the process. Applying these technologies will enable researchers to study many more cases in the same time it took to analyze a handful of cases with analog video. Digital Insight will
Digital Insight’s effect should be felt across a wide range of funded research, as well as in the classrooms and professional development activities of its partners. For more information, see www.wcer.wisc.edu/digitalinsight
Improving assessment literacy and accommodations
WCER researchers Jeff Braden and Stephen Elliott are evaluating a hypermedia distance education initiative designed to enhance educators’ decisions regarding the participation of children with disabilities in assessments and to help educators apply their enhanced decision making to children’s individualized education plans (IEPs). Developed in partnership with the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), the initiative promotes situated, social, and distributed knowledge via Web-based hypermedia modules, virtual and physical discourse communities, case-based learning, and traditional media. This online professional development project provides links to current research, policy and practice, and other sources to enhance general and specialized assessment literacy. The project is funded by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, U.S. Department of Education.
The initiative will proceed in three phases: validation of module content and process, pilot dissemination to three intact educational communities, and national dissemination to more than 500 educators, parents, and administrators across the U.S.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.