Developing a Web Application for the Integration of Real-World, Scientific, Problem-Solving into the Secondary Classroom

Developing a Web Application for the Integration of Real-World, Scientific, Problem-Solving into the Secondary Classroom

Susan E. Gill, Nanette I. Marcum-Dietrich, John Fraser
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4502-8.ch025
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In the 21st century, digital natives, born into a world of omnipresent technology, spend much of their lives online. However, many teachers still see the use of educational technologies as a challenge (e.g., Ertmer, 2005; Li, 2007). The authors propose that the familiarity and ubiquity of these media offer a valuable way to engage students in meaningful learning. In the last decade, the National Science Foundation has invested heavily in bringing technology into the K-12 classroom by funding an array of cyberlearning applications to investigate how they can transform student learning. Model My Watershed is one of those experimental platforms that integrates online learning with an understanding of the physical world within an interdisciplinary framework. This case study documents the development of this application from concept through implementation and beyond. It provides insights into the challenges of application design and deployment for those entering the world of cyberlearning design.
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Case Description

Shortly after she arrived at the Center, the new Director and a Research Scientist at the Center, developed a cyberlearning concept called WikiWatershed® in response to an NSF solicitation for cyberinfrastructure projects. The application was conceived as a suite of web-based applications that would provide the necessary tools to support an online community committed to watershed stewardship and education. When the Director presented the concept to the Education staff, they asked, “Why would we want to do that? That is not who we are.” Although not hostile to the idea, the Education staff continued to be skeptical of the direction throughout the early development of the concept. The Director knew that getting the staff engaged in this new direction would be critical to her success.

Although the initial proposal did not receive grant support, the Director and the Research Scientists continued to pursue funding for the concept by breaking WikiWatershed® into separate modules to be created in a step-wise effort, thus making funding more feasible. The first module developed was Model My Watershed. The Director wanted this application not only to illustrate human impacts to local hydrology, but also to show how scientists use models and simulations to understand complex processes or make predictions (e.g., Smith et al., 2007). She also knew that many students, unknowingly, experience simulations in the games such as World of Warcraft and SimGirls. Although she wanted to maintain the authentic nature of the simulation, the Director believed that, if this module was designed with game-like features, it had the potential to harness the wide-spread interest in gaming and direct it toward academic and professional development (Gee, 2003; Barab and Dede, 2007). Therefore, she wanted the online application to use a professional-grade hydrologic model and real environmental data to allow users to model the impacts of land-use change and climate change on the hydrology in their neighborhoods. However, she also wanted to include a game-like feel to engage students in STEM learning.

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