Collaborative Research: CI-TEAM Demo: Adventure Learning through Water and MOSS
The project "CI-TEAM Demo: Adventure Learning through Water and MOSS" is engaging K-12 students throughout Idaho with meaningful inquiries into water resource issues through outdoor data-collection expeditions supported via a novel online learning environment. Students collect authentic data related to an inquiry-based curriculum and this data is shared within the online environment. Students, teachers, and content experts from throughout Idaho then communicate and collaborate in meaningful ways around data using the latest in low cost, high tech instrumentation. The McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS) is serving as an informal science education provider and cornerstone to the project mission by serving as the base camp for water expeditions. Water expeditions are inquiry-driven and focus on various aspects of water resources inherent in the four seasons. MOSS also serves as the cyberlearning host for which online environment development is taking place. Seed funding through EPSCoR has provided the means to design initial web interface components (http://mossi.tfhsbruins.com/index/index/).
The current online learning environment is being redesigned, in part, using the Adventure Learning (AL) framework as defined by the work of the collaborating PI at the University of Texas, Austin. AL is an approach to hybrid and online education that provides students with opportunities to investigate real-world issues through authentic learning experiences within collaborative learning environments. The AL framework consists of nine carefully integrated components, which, taken together, enable the development of an inquiry-based online learning environment. The online learning environment complements the curriculum, and together the two foster an organic learning experience that capitalizes on both the affordances of social technologies as well as on the opportunities provided by the outdoors for authentic learning.
The curriculum supporting these endeavors will be made available for free online. Additionally, access to the online learning environment will be provided free of charge to interested teachers throughout Idaho. Furthermore, the AL water expeditions will be designed to enable teachers from throughout Idaho the ability to conduct their own AL water expeditions in conjunction with the AL water expeditions being conducted at MOSS. While teachers and learners in other locations study the same topic, the online learning environment provides opportunities for collaboration and interaction between geographically dispersed participants. These locations are then enabled to conduct their own local exploration of the issue, share data and use the data from MOSS and other classes to support localized inquiries.
Intellectual Merit. Participating students in this project are developing and exercising key 21st century workforce skills. Authentic scientific inquiry leading to scientific literacy, as well as scientific skills will be developed in students. These skills include data collection, posing questions, making observations, inferring, and classifying. Students are also securing invaluable skills through their participation in the online learning environment, such as the ability to manage digital information and data, collaborate with others, and participate in virtual networks of practice.
Broader Impact. Many of the student groups participating in MOSS activities are underrepresented (e.g. American Indian, female, and rural). In addition, through the online environment many of the barriers to participation are eliminated for underrepresented students. Interest in this project has also been expressed by funded and potential projects. These expressions highlight the ripe potential for synergy around an online learning environment replete with social affordances that provide users with the opportunity to upload/input data and interact in meaningful ways around the data.