2061 Connections
An electronic newsletter for the science education community

July 2012

Online Science Literacy Maps Add Value to Digital Resources

Looking for just the right video clip to help students understand what causes the seasons? Or an interactive simulation of the phases of the moon that can engage science center or museum visitors? Or do you need high-quality classroom activities and assessment items that are well aligned to science standards? With more than 131,000 resources available at no cost, the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) has much to offer science educators whether they work in formal or informal science learning settings.

Developed with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the NSDL provides access to multiple collections of online resources for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and research. The NSDL resources are developed and contributed by universities, museums, libraries, research labs, federal agencies, professional societies, and reputable commercial content providers. To support contributors and users, the NSDL website provides a variety of tools and services, including the NSDL Strand Map Service which generates the Science Literacy Maps, a unique online tool based on the conceptual strand maps published in AAAS Project 2061’s Atlas of Science Literacy.

Over the past year, AAAS Project 2061 has been engaged in a major outreach effort supported by a grant from NSF to help foster more effective use of the Science Literacy Maps and the digital resources available through the NSDL collections. The work has focused in particular on helping existing and new NSDL users take full advantage of the rich information embedded in the maps to connect science concepts, standards, and NSDL educational resources.

Screenshot of the NSDL home page
(view a larger version)

Using the NSDL Science Literacy Maps
Like the maps in the print Atlas, each of the NSDL Science Literacy Maps displays the knowledge students need at each grade level to make progress toward understanding a “big idea” such as gravity, the interdependence of life, or plate tectonics. The maps also shed light on the misconceptions that students often have about many science ideas. Derived from Project 2061’s Benchmarks for Science Literacy, which recommends specific science, mathematics, and technology learning goals for students in grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12, the Science Literacy Maps allow users to click on a concept displayed on a map to find NSDL resources that are relevant to that concept, along with information about related benchmarks and standards.

To help users get the most out of the Science Literacy Maps and the NSDL resources linked to them, AAAS Project 2061 has been offering training workshops and webinars for science educators. Face-to-face workshops have been held at a number of general interest meetings and disciplinary conferences of groups such as the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the Florida Association of Science Supervisors (FASS), the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT), the National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA), and the UTeach program. The AAAS Project 2061 team has also conducted webinars, including one for current NSDL users and one for the Council of State Science Supervisors (CSSS).

[Picture] Workshop participants at the UTeach Institute
Workshop participants at the UTeach Institute 2012 in Austin, TX
May 30, 2012

“We’ve been very pleased with the welcome we’ve received from all of these organizations,” says Francis Molina, an Associate Program Director at AAAS Project 2061 and principal investigator for this effort. “It’s quite clear that there is a real demand out there—not just for digital resources but also for some guidance on how to select and use them effectively within the context of students' growth of understanding.” Across all of the workshops and webinars, the project has trained close to 200 educators who have a variety of responsibilities—from teaching in the K-12 classroom or in colleges of education to curriculum coordination and school district administration.

Both the workshops and the webinars have two primary goals: to introduce participants to the NSDL Science Literacy Maps and the digital resources that are linked to them and to provide some practical suggestions for using the maps to carry out important education tasks. In a typical half-day face-to-face workshop, participants engage in hands-on activities designed to help them explore the Science Literacy Maps and their features. Participants also have the chance to apply the maps to tasks such as pinpointing where students are likely to be in their learning of particular ideas and what earlier ideas they build on, identifying relevant misconceptions students might have, locating NSDL resources that are related to the targeted ideas, and judging the quality of those resources. To help participants become more informed users of the NSDL resources they find through the Science Literacy Maps, they also learn about criteria developed by Project 2061 that can be used to evaluate the content alignment and instructional quality of a resource—that is, the extent to which a resource addresses the idea that will be the target for student learning and the likelihood that the resource will actually promote that learning. These same topics are also covered in a 90-minute webinar.

Based on evaluation data collected for this project, workshop and webinar participants are finding these professional development experiences helpful. In post-workshop surveys, nearly 82% reported that as a result of the workshop they were more likely to use the NSDL to find resources, and 85% said they had a “deeper understanding of how to use the online NSDL Science Literacy Maps.” More specifically, participants said they would use what they learned to understand “student learning progressions and what concepts to review/reteach,” to “develop…lesson plans for next year,” and to “share NSDL with teachers across our state and encourage them to use it as a resource.”

Enhancing the NSDL Science Literacy Maps
As a result of this grant, several significant enhancements to the Science Literacy Maps have recently been put into place. Users can now access high-quality multiple-choice assessment items for middle school science that have been developed by AAAS Project 2061 to align precisely to the ideas shown on the maps. In addition to the items themselves, users can also see performance data collected during national field tests with a sample of about 2,000 students per item. Drawing on this same dataset, NSDL users can also access information on the prevalence of students’ misconceptions related to the ideas shown on the maps.

Screenshot showing the new Assessment tab in the info bubble for a node in the Strand Map Service
(view a larger version)

New tabs labeled Assessments and Misconceptions have been added to the “information bubble” that appears when users click on an idea box on a map.

To provide ongoing support to NSDL users after the grant has ended, a set of just-in-time learning resources have been developed and made accessible from every map. The “How do I…?” video tutorials show users how to find a particular map, how to navigate and understand the maps, how to find and use the various resources that are linked to the maps, and how to judge the quality of those resources.

Screenshot showing the new Assessment tab in the info bubble for a node in the Strand Map Service
The “How do I….?” video tutorials provide users of the NSDL Science Literacy Maps with quick, just-in-time support.

What’s Next
To further increase the reach and usage of the NSDL Science Literacy Maps, the AAAS Project 2061 team has been working closely with the NSDL Pathways, which provide access to specialized collections organized by discipline, grade level, educational setting, and more. For example, the DELESE Pathway provides access to resources focused on teaching and learning earth sciences, the ComPadre Pathway focuses on physics, and the Teachers' Domain Pathway offers resources designed to provide both professional development materials as well as classroom resources. As a result of this work with the Pathways, several now offer the Science Literacy Maps as a browsing interface, and other Pathways are planning to do the same. This will help increase the reach of the maps while also providing educators with a more coherent approach to searching and using the NSDL collections.

Finding additional ways to use the Science Literacy Maps is also on the minds of others in the science education community. According to Tammy Summner at the University of Colorado Boulder and a leader in the development of digital resources for science education, “These latest additions to the NSDL Science Literacy Maps, both the assessments and the corresponding research on related student misconceptions, are adding significant value for educators.” Sumner is particularly interested in the role that the Science Literacy Maps might play as a bridge between the AAAS benchmarks on the maps and the Next Generation Science Standards now under development. “There is so much research and knowledge about how students learn science tied to the benchmarks. It is imperative that this rich body of knowledge does not get lost in the move to NGSS,” Sumner says.

For more information about this project, contact Dr. Francis Molina, 202 326 7002, fmolina@aaas.org.

To register for an August 14 webinar, go to https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/545754657.

To view an archived webinar, go to video.p2061.org.

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