In the Rhode Island Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (RI-ITEST) project, we're preparing diverse students for careers in information technologies. We're engaging students in exciting, inquiry-based learning activities that use sophisticated computational models, and supplying an extensive professional development program to help teachers infuse their curriculum with dynamic and interactive computational models across all fields of science.
RI-ITEST teachers will incorporate interactive computer models developed under the Science of Atoms and Molecules (SAM) project at the Concord Consortium. These materials were specifically designed to support a deeper understanding of science made possible through interactive computer simulations. The SAM activities were designed to help support a "physics first" curriculum in which the typical order of science courses has been reordered to be physics->chemistry->biology. After the first year of RI-ITEST many teachers from non-physics first schools showed interested in the program and our materials, so the RI-ITEST project was expanded to involve teachers across varying curricular sequences. Currently half of the high schools in Rhode Island and one Massachusetts school are involved.
As part of their participation, teachers engage in 120 hours of professional development (PD), including summer workshops, face-to-face meetings during the school year, and online courses. During these varied PD experiences teachers learn new technologies for managing classwork and collecting student work electronically, new science concepts now made possible for student exploration through models, how to collaborate with each other around the use of the RI-ITEST/SAM materials, how to connect the computer modeling students do in classes with potential careers that utilize modeling, and teaching techniques for using model-based activities with classes.
Research in the RI-ITEST project has been centered around two overarching goals:
- To what extent has the project advanced science education – and the Physics First Rhode Island initiative specifically – through implementation of Science of Atoms and Molecules (SAM) activities and related IT-related curriculum materials?
- How effectively has the RI-ITEST project supported participants in the use of SAM and IT-related materials as a means of advancing science education?
Several data sources are being used to measure project success in reaching these goals:
- Feedback from external evaluators regarding quality of professional development experiences, including observations of PD activities and classes, focus groups, and online surveys.
- Teachers' work in online courses.
- Students' work as shown in embedded assessments within the model-based activities.
- A pre- and post-survey to assess interest in and awareness of STEM careers
- A pre- and post-Molecular Concepts Inventory (MCI) to gauge student and teacher gains in content knowledge.
Preliminary results show that greater numbers of activities used by students is correlated with greater increases in the pre-post MCI test, and that students are better aware of STEM career choices after one year of participating in the classroom of a RI-ITEST teacher. Almost 30% of students in an exit poll said they were "more interested in science" because of their use of the SAM materials. Teachers report significant gains in pedagogical content knowledge related to using computer modeling with classes, and also show significant gains on a teacher version of the MCI designed to measure changes in teacher science content knowledge.
The activities used in the RI-ITEST project stem from the Science of Atoms and Molecules (SAM) project, which was funded separately by the NSF. Twenty four activities have been created across the three disciplines of physics, chemistry, and biology. Below is an activity map of how these activities interrelate with each other. Roll over an activity with your mouse to clarify the activities which support concepts in the selected activity and the activities which are supported by the selected activity. Click the activity, to lock this selection.
Career Connections Pamphlet
This pamphlet gets students excited and informed about the varied potential careers that utilize computer modeling. It can be used to help students make connections between their classroom experiences, what they are learning in science, and their future.
Some hardcopies are still available, or it can be downloaded in either three-fold or single-page format. Also, available are suggestions for associated lesson plans from teachers who have used it with their classes.
SAM Activity Map
hold mouse over box to isolate concepts - click mouse button to lock activity highlight
First face-to-face workshop is scheduled for Sept 28 and 29, 4:00 - 7:30 pm, at EBEC. Please plan to attend one of those dates.
Links for Teachers
- Run activities at the Project Portal
- Post-activity Survey (please complete after doing each activity)
- Online professional development course
- Portal User's Guide
- Career Connections Pamphlet (three-fold or single-page version)
- Lesson plan suggestions from teachers using the Career Connections Pamphlet
- CC Consent Form
Full access to all of the RI-ITEST/SAM materials requires computers running Windows, OS X, or Linux, with the following software installed: Java 1.4+, Flash 9+, and a PDF reader. If you experience technical difficulties running the activities, contact Dan Damelin - firstname.lastname@example.org.