Demo: An Overview of the Learning Environment
All courses take place within Blackboard, an online learning software package that is available at many educational institutions. We chose this software because it is easy to use.
Courses can have any number of participants, but we break the class up into study groups of 6-7 people so that they can collaborate and discuss investigations in depth.
Before each course begins, participants receive kits in the mail that include investigation materials. In general, investigations can be done with simple household objects and the materials included in the kit.
Most of program participants are employed fulltime as teachers. They prefer to do their assignments in the evenings or over the weekend. For this reason, our sessions begin on Friday. Each week, teachers log in to see what we have in store for them. They are encouraged to print out the session so that they can conduct investigations offline and away from the computer.
Sessions have two components: Science and Learning. At the beginning of each course, most of the session time is devoted to science. But as the course progresses, an increasing amount of time is dedicated to learning strategies for bringing inquiry-based learning to the classroom.
For the science component, participants conduct investigations that include:
Each week involves lots of journaling and reflection. Many sessions make use of multimedia, such as online video and PowerPoint. Our use of multimedia is interactive as opposed to passive. For example, we ask participants to do a frame analysis of motion videos, gathering data that they discuss with their group. Or we ask them to translate their findings into graphs or diagrams that they share with each other as PowerPoint attachments.
For the learning component, participants are asked to tackle a range of challenges: they interview children; consider facilitation strategies, design inquiry-based learning experiences; and restructure the way they assess student work.
The course site is divided up into six sections: Announcements, Staff Information, Course Documents, Assignments, Communication, and User Tools. Announcements, which are essentially letters to the course participants, are posted each week on Fridays and Wednesdays. The Friday announcement orients participants to the new session. The Wednesday announcement, which is posted after participants have conducted the week's investigation, often include images, graphs, and videos of the data we gathered when we conducted the investigation.
At the beginning of each semester, participants receive a course map in the mail. Click on the image to see a sample map.
To see a sample session, login to "Investigating Acceleration," Session Three of our Physics Course. With the permission of course participants, we have posted some of the actual messages they wrote during their group dicussion of this material.
Open the demo in a new window. The window will be smaller than this page so that you can see the original page below it. Feel free to re-size or move it for better viewing. You can close the Blackboard Demo window at any time and you will not lose this page.
Note: the online demo is part of a site for prospective program participants. You may also want to peruse that presentation.
For more information about how to enroll in the program: