The five-year Rhode Island Technology Enhanced Science (RITES) project is a major initiative funded by a grant from the NSF to the University of Rhode Island to improve secondary science learning throughout Rhode Island through the use of highly interactive technologies. In RITES, we're a partner providing technical, curriculum, and management support. The project began in October 2008 and runs through September 2013. By then, all RI secondary science teachers will have had a chance to participate in the project and will have access to its online curricular materials.

The RITES partners

The RITES program is funded by a $12.5M grant from the NSF’s Math Science Partnership. It is designed to improve secondary science learning statewide over five years, starting in October 2008. In addition to the University of Rhode Island, the core partners are Rhode Island College, Johnston (RI) Public Schools, and the Rhode Island Department of Education. Supporting Partners include Brown University, the Community College of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, and the Concord Consortium. Project evaluation is provided by the Educational Alliance at Brown University.

RITES and Rhode Island schools

RITES will reach all 686 middle school and high school teachers and all 84K secondary students in Rhode Island with excellent, challenging, computer-based, standards-aligned science materials. Pairs of high schools and middle schools can join the program by application. Teachers in accepted districts can attend a two-year professional development program that introduces RITES materials, as well as related content and teaching strategies. The first cohort of 120 teachers from six districts started their professional development in the summer of 2009.

RITES at the Concord Consortium (CC)

Concord's role has been to provide software, help develop standards-based investigations, support the research effort, and provide initial assistance in project management. By design, CC was most engaged during the first year of the project, drawing upon our interdisciplinary team, extensive software, and experience in STEM education to help launch RITES. Our primary role has shifted from being deeply involved in all aspects of the project to consultation and technology support.

New Software

RITES can be viewed as a scale-up of prior NSF-funded research on technology-enhanced science teaching and learning that has been ongoing for sixteen years at CC in collaboration with colleagues at Berkeley, SRI, Stanford, Northwestern and elsewhere. This work is based on the idea that the most important innovations technology brings to science education are a set of powerful, highly interactive applications: computational models, probeware, and productivity tools. To realize the promise of these applications, they must be embedded in a curriculum providing context, instructions, analytical tools, scaffolding, and assessment. Teachers need formative feedback and researchers need detailed information on student progress. All these functions are provided by a software platform that supports authoring new materials, editing existing materials, and delivering the materials. In RITES, these complete curriculum packages are called Investigations, and they are accessed through the RITES portal.

Design and Resource Team Participation

A central strategy of the RITES project is to create new standards-based materials coupled with professional development for teachers based on the pedagogical content knowledge needed for implementation in the classroom. Both the materials production and PD leadership is the responsibility of the Design Team and three resource teams (for life science, physical science, and earth and space science) under its umbrella. CC contributes both to the Design Team and the resource teams.

As a member of the Design Team, CC created a template for Investigation authors based on a careful reading of current research as well as suggestions from the RI Department of Education on the structure of instructional materials. The Design Team has further adapted the template based on the experience of authors in the first two years of the project. These templates greatly simplify the process of developing Investigations. CC also generated an Investigation evaluation rubric designed to help ensure uniformity of quality and style.

CC initially provided extensive staff support for the three resource teams that were responsible for authoring Investigations. A CC staff member was assigned to lead each group. This provided invaluable connections between the technology and curriculum efforts. These staffers were able to forward software design requirements to the programmers, and to show the resource teams how to use the software as soon as it was created. They also took major responsibility for authoring the initial Investigations and helped create uniformity across the resource teams. In the second and third years, CC staff are serving as consultants for the resource teams, involved as the groups are starting up and then by request.

Principal Investigator

Robert Tinker

Project Inquiries


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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DUE-0831974. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

The RITES project will transform the quality of science teaching and learning at all Rhode Island secondary schools with the goal of increasing the number and diversity of students who are proficient in science and pursue careers in science, engineering, technology, and mathematics (STEM). The project integrates all segments of the Rhode Island educational community—from teachers to higher education science departments, and from schools of education to state offices that monitor and support STEM education, plus the private sector.


Because RITES Investigations are computer-based, they can integrate probes and models (computer simulations) into the learning experience in a powerful way. The RITES investigations are created by Resource Teams consisting of middle and high school teachers teachers, university faculty, and education researchers. In the first two years of the RITES project, the Resource Teams published 24 Investigations. Late July of 2011 will see a new crop of Investigations published and a round of revision to some of the previously published Investigations.


Computer models or simulations offer a way for students to experiment with situations that are too small, large, slow, fast, expensive, or unsafe for actual experimentation. They can visualize and think about processes that would otherwise be invisible, hopelessly abstract, or confusing.

Two kinds of models are embedded in RITES investigations:

  • The Molecular Workbench is an environment for creating models of atoms, molecules, photons, and their interactions. Based on physically accurate computation, these models can simulate phase change, diffusion, black body radiation, chemical explosions, and much, much more.
  • NetLogo is an easy-entry agent-based programming language for modeling complex systems of all kinds, from ecosystems to global warming. 

Other web-based simulations, such as PhET physics models, are used in RITES activities by linking to outside webpages.


Various Vernier and PASCO probes are used in RITES Investigations. The FAQ tab includes a list of probes that can be used within RITES Investigations. See below for the probe interfaces that can be used in RITES.

The ability to take real-time data with sensors and save it in a graph offers many advantages over a traditional pencil-and-paper lab, especially with regard to inquiry.

  • A student can take and save data quickly and easily. The immediacy of data collection provides frequent chances to talk about the experiment and offer explanations.
  • Multiple runs are also easy, making it possible to repeat an experiment many times and explore alternative ideas about what's going on.
  • A student can be asked to make a prediction and then compare it to the results of the experiment.
  • The data are automatically saved as part of the student's work, along with any annotations made by the student.
  • Currently the supported probe interfaces are Vernier across all platforms, and the newer Pasco PasPort USBLinks (2100A), as well as the SPARK, Xplorer GLX, and PowerLink on Windows. For other vendors, such as Data Harvest and TI, please consult with RITES Teacher Help.

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Getting started at school

Four steps to use RITES in your classroom:

1. Log in at the RITES Portal. The portal lets you access your classes and rosters, assign specific Investigations to a class, and access reporting functions.

2. Assign Investigations to classes. This makes specific Investigations available to your students when they log in to the Portal. Assign them by dragging the Investigation up into the Assignments area.

3.Test the Investigations you will use — on the computer(s) you will use — in the classroom you will use.

  • This is a critical step, because varying internet connection bandwidth and different computers at each school or even in each room can make or break a computer-based activity.
  • Before the first time you teach with RITES, run an Investigation on each computer that you or the students will use to verify that it is properly configured. 
  • If you have difficulty in running a RITES Investigation, contact RITES Teacher Help.

4. Tell your students to visit the Portal and set up their security questions. Students choose three security questions to answer in case they forget their password.

Browsers: RITES Investigations are currently best run in Firefox
Firefox Web BrowserSafari, which comes built-in on Macs, is also a good choice for RITES. If you are using Internet Explorer, upgrade to version 8 or above in order to run Investigations.


Tips for getting up and running

Three modes - how to create the appropriate accounts for the mode you are using

There are three modes of teaching with RITES Investigations in the classroom, depending on the number of computers available. All three modes require teachers to be active in leading discussions and in judging the points during the lesson where they should stop the class and make sure that certain aspects are clearly understood or attended to. Using a projector is highly recommended for all modes.

  1. Whole-class: a single, teacher-run computer and a projector enable the teacher to project the Investigation to the entire class. 
    How it works: Use a generic student account for for your class to log into the portal so the data you enter and collect in class will be saved. Note that in each Activity of an Investigation, the assessment section is available for download as a PDF. Handing this material out to the students on paper enables them to complete the assessment following your lesson.
  2. Small group: computers for every two or three students; multiple students log in to the Investigation. Watch this video to learn about group log-ins. 
    How it works: Note for yourself which students are working in each group. One student launches the activity and selects the other students to be in their group. Then, the added students fill in their passwords (otherwise the Investigation will not run). Remember to have the student with the most recent or most complete work be the one to log in first and click the run link. The assessment section can be completed by the group by entering the answers directly into the activity, or you can print the included assessments PDF to assess individual progress rather than group progress. You can access, customize, and print class-wide or individual reports in the portal.
  3. Individual: a computer for each student. 
    How it works: Every student in the class has a student account. The data that students enter or collect are saved between uses. The assessment section can be completed by students entering the answers directly into the activity. You can access, customize, and print class-wide or individual student reports in the portal.


  • Using probes to collect data? Various Vernier and PASCO probes are supported by RITES; a list of supported probes is on the FAQ tab. The default interface for probes is the Vernier Go!Link. Click to see how to change to a different probe interface.

Saving data

  • To check that RITES is saving your student's data, have a student log in through the portal, run an investigation, answer one question, close the Investigation and relaunch it. You should then see that the student's answer is still present.

Using a computer outside your school

The first time you run an Investigation on a non-school computer, the software downloads in the background, and this can take several minutes. Be patient and wait for the software to start up. After this initial download, other Investigations will run very quickly.

If you experience problems running an Investigation, the most likely cause is that the Java software on the computer needs a quick update. In that case, download the free Java software and follow the directions provided to install it. It is quick and easy to install on any computer. If you still experience difficulties, please see the FAQ tab or contact RITES teacher help.

You can manage your classes, assign Investigations, and access reports on any computer with a modern browser (Firefox 4 and higher, or Internet Explorer 8 and higher, for example) and an Internet connection. Simply log in and proceed as you would at school.

The RITES Resource Teams create the Investigations and teach the RITES professional development content courses each summer. There is one Resource Team for each of three disciplines: Biology, Earth and Space Science, and Physical Science. Each team consists of RI teachers and faculty from RI colleges and/or universities; pairs of teachers and faculty work together to design each Investigation so that it guides inquiry-based learning.

Getting started

  1. Visit the RITES portal preview page and run a few different Investigations. Note that each Investigation is built around experimentation using a simulation or sensor. Inquiry is a key element.
  2. View the RITES TEST Investigation, which gives examples of all the different available features of an Investigation.

Requirements. Investigations require Java and a modern browser. We recommend Firefox. If you have trouble running Investigations on your computer, see "How can I make sure my Java is up to date?" If you still have trouble, contact RITES tech support.

Preparing for authoring

Adapting existing materials from Concord Consortium

Concord Consortium projects include hundreds of guided inquiry activities that can be harnessed to build RITES activities. Visit the web sites listed below to locate exisiting simulations and activities with models and sensors that can be used to address key aspects of a Rhode Island GSE.

 STEM Resource Finder: Search a selected subset of CC activities.

Projects: Explore the following Concord Consortium projects which use models and probes that can also be used in RITES.

 High Adventure Science
 Information Technology in Science Instruction-Scale Up (ITSI-SU)
 Science of Atoms and Molecules (SAM/RI-ITEST)
 Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

If you run into technical problems or bugs, email RITES at the Concord Consortium.

Adapting existing materials from other sources

In general, RITES Investigations are built around an embedded model or sensor so that all data are saved with the Investigation (including real-time data collection, graphs, drawings, annotations, etc.). With the exception of NetLogo models, external resources cannot be integrated directly into the RITES software at this time. Web-based materials from other sources can be included in an Investigation by providing a link that opens a web browser.

 PhET interactive simulations (cannot currently be embedded; a link must be provided, and the interactions take place outside of RITES).
 NetLogo interactive simulations (can easily be embedded; results of interactions are entirely within RITES software and are saved).

How teachers implement RITES Investigations

In authoring an Investigation it is critical to keep in mind how teachers are going to use the Investigation in their classrooms. There are three main modes for running the Investigations in class: whole class, small group, and individual; the choice is often dependent on the equipment available to the teacher. Understanding each mode is important in being able to provide support for each one as you create an Investigation, and in adddressing the needs of the teachers in a short course..

In the whole class mode, a teacher uses a single computer and a projector, engaging the class in discussions and inviting participation from students along the way. The teacher may create worksheets tailored to the Investigation so that student work is recorded. Since all Investigations provide a final assessment in PDF format as well as embedded in the Investigation, teachers using the whole class mode can assess student progress using the same questions that are embedded in the Investigation. An advantage of the whole class mode is that the teacher can more easily control the pace of the class and stay in touch in real time with the students' levels of understanding.

Small group mode is available to teachers who have access to enough computers to allow groups of 2-4 students to work directly on the Investigation together. There is good potential for learning through collaboration in this mode if groups are structured well; teachers may give each student in the group a specific role to fulfill, for example. The use of a projector is also strongly recommended so that the teacher can engage the class in discussions of the concepts, data, and their understanding periodically as they progress.

Individual mode is only possible when each student in the class has access to a computer. Just as in the other two modes, good use of a projector and whole class teaching methods enables the teacher to guide the students' exploration effectively. Investigations, while generally written to support individual use, are not designed to be completed in the absence of input from the teacher.

All three modes require teachers to be active in leading discussions and in judging the points during the lesson where they should stop the class and make sure that certain aspects are clearly understood or attended to. Investigation authors should include suggestions for discussion questions and indicate suitable stopping points during the Investigation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where do I start?
What RITES Investigations are available? 
How do I tell the system who my students are?
If a student forgets his/her sign-on or password, what do I do?
Why is RITES slow to load?
What types and brands of probes can be used with RITES?
What if the chosen probe or sensor doesn't work?
Where are the revised versions of the Investigations from the past summer courses?
Why is there a Class Word?
How can I adjust the width of a running Investigation's navigation pane?
How can I make sure my version of Java is up to date?
How can I use and customize reports?

Where do I start?

If you are a Rhode Island science teacher enrolled in the RITES project, a good way to get started is to view the For Participants tab. As explained there, you and your students sign up and/or log in at the RITES Portal to access RITES Investigations. If you or your students are having difficulty logging in, contact RITES Teacher Help.

What RITES Investigations are available?

Visit the RITES Portal preview page for a listing.

How do I tell the system who my students are?

Actually, you don't have to. Students accounts are automatically created and assigned to your class. Scroll to the bottom of your class page, and click the "plus" icon toggle on the right side to show the list:

Student Roster
If your students or classes are not listed in the RITES Portal, contact RITES Teacher Help.

If a student forgets his/her sign-on or password, or I forget mine, what do I do?

Students and teachers should both use the Forgot Password link on the login page. If you still need help, contact RITES Teacher Help.

Why is RITES slow to load?

If Investigations are slow to start running, it is likely that the internet connection in your school is being overloaded. Check to see if classrooms nearly are using the network, and ask for help from your technical director or RITES Teacher Help.


What types and brands of probes can be used with RITES?

All probes require an interface to attach to a computer. The following interface devices are supported on Windows and OS X:

  • Vernier Go!Link, GoMotion, GoTemp
  • Vernier LabQuest
  • Vernier LabPro (OS X requires Keyspan serial to usb adapter)
  • Pasco USBLink
  • Pasco PowerLink
  • Pasco Xplorer
  • Pasco Xplorer GLX
  • Pasco Spark

Note: The default setting in RITES is for the Vernier Go!Link interface. To learn how to change the setting for your Investigations, see the instructions under the "Curriculum" tab.

The following Vernier and Pasco sensors can be used:

  • CO2
  • Current
  • EKG
  • Force
  • Light
  • Magnetic Field
  • Motion
  • pH
  • Pressure, Absolute
  • Relative Humidity
  • Salinity
  • Sound
  • Surface temperature (fast)
  • Temperature (wand)
  • Voltage

Many of the common and less expensive probes are supported, but not all. If in doubt, and for questions about vendors other than Vernier and PASCO, email the RITES Teacher Help.


What if the chosen probe or sensor doesn't work?

  • Make sure you have selected the proper vendor in "Preferences". (For instructions, see the Probes section under the "Curriculum" tab.)
  • Make sure you are running only one Investigation at a time. If two are running, neither will find the sensor.
  • Make sure you aren't running some other program, such as LoggerLite, that also detects the sensor.

If you still have problems, email the RITES Teacher Help.

Where are the revised versions of the Investigations from the past summer courses?

Teacher participants' suggestions for modifying Investigations are incorporated into the published Investigations following the short courses each year. If you are looking for a particular aspect of a revision that does not appear in a current Investigation, speak to the RITES Resource Teams leader.

Why is there a Class Word?

The class word is currently only used to uniquely identify the class.

How can I adjust the width of a running Investigation's navigation pane?

It can be minimized, open, or fill the screen by using the left and right arrow buttons show in the pictures below. See the video to learn how to adjust the size of the window manually.



How can I make sure my personal computer has a version of Java that is up to date?

Follow these step-by-step instructions for checking the Java software on your computer:

1. Download Concord Consortium's Java Checker.

2. Opening the downloaded file (called a jnlp file) will run a test of your computer's Java Web Start software, which is required for RITES Investigations to run.

3. If the test is successful you will see the following result, and you can go on to the next test.

4. If the Java test is not successful, download the free Java software and follow the directions provided to install it. It is quick and easy to install on any computer.

How can I use and customize reports?

You can select Investigation or Individual reports in your assigned Investigations. Watch this video to learn more.

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