Explorations Through Time

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For the past four years, UCMP has been working with a group of teachers to develop a series of interactive web-based modules designed to involve middle and high school students in the process of science. Each module focuses on science concepts—the “big ideas” that we want students to go away with, and each contains extensive teacher resource and support materials. But Explorations has been much more—it has been a successful experiment into sharing our research with a targeted audience in a new way. We have learned a lot. We gained expertise in web design, flexible navigation, effective use of animation, formatting of text to facilitate learning, and (somewhat amazingly) how to make it all work in the majority of classroom settings.
Much of the success of these modules is the result of the team effort involved in their development. The combination of science teachers working directly with the scientific community strengthened the quality of the product—both in pedagogy and in scientific content. Having a talented, creative, and patient web team knowledgeable in the content guaranteed positive results.

During field-testing, student understanding was assessed using pre- and post-tests as well as by articulation of concepts by the students. All modules have shown significant improvement in understanding. For example:
Getting Into the Fossil Record: Overall, among all classes, students’ average scores increased to 75% correct on the post-test from 46% on the pre-test.

  Adventures at Dry Creek: In comparing pre-test to post-test results, scores improved by 22­34%.
Stories From the Fossil Record: Over 80% of the students articulated the main ideas of the module.

Comments from teachers
On What did T. rex Taste Like: “On the first day we navigated the module, some of my students were boredŠsaying ’we know this already.’ However, on the second day, as they were going through the 4th and 5th folders, discussion among the partners and between groups was wonderful. Everyone was engaged and debating, questioning, arguing. I saw some real student-to-student learning going on as they interacted both with the module and each other to reach an understanding of the concepts.”
On Understanding Geologic Time: “I thought it flowed well from concept to concept. I had them go cold turkey without any background at all, and they were able to learn from the very beginning, so I thought the flow was very good.”
On Stories from the Fossil Record: “It was a great slam dunk for fossils, it was interactive, and held students accountable. Anytime I can use a different way of teaching to get the information across, I love it.”

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