Today’s post comer from Phil Brookhouse, a participant in last summer’s Zooniverse Teacher Ambassadors Workshop. Phil is a Professional Development specialist with the Maine Learning Technology Initiative where all middle schools have 1;1 and half the high schools do. He taught middle school science for 30 years and is adjunct faculty for University of Southern Maine. He is the proud grandparent of 6 month old twins, Jaxon and Annabella.
I’ve been lucky to deliver workshops about Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Zooniverse all over the state of Maine to teachers of many grade levels and specific disciplines. Invariably, they have recognized the value and authenticity of citizen science, and the Zooniverse projects in particular. In addition, they see the links between the 8 Practices of Science and Engineering from Appendix F of NGSS, and participation in the projects.
Of course, teachers are interested in the practicality of including these projects in their curriculum. With that in mind, folks in my workshops had a number of questions and suggestions. With all the competition for time in class, teachers are concerned with the return on time investment directly related to student accountability. Understandably, this is due to the pressures of evaluation and assessments. In other words, what lesson time do I trade away to include taking part in Zooniverse projects? This concern with use of time was expressed in every one of the 8 workshops I conducted.
For a number of teachers, the Galaxy Zoo Navigator provided a good example of where learning could go with a project. Sure, taking part in any of the projects would help students to practice analysis of data, but how could they interact with those data collected? How accessible is the data set? As it stands now, Galaxy Zoo Navigator is the model that allows any group to “play” with data collected. The other entries to interacting with data in the projects are the blogs and discussions, but some teachers are wary of students out on the wild, wild web. So, teachers wanted a Navigator type activity to be developed for other projects.
Teachers felt that Zooteach was a good beginning to collecting lessons and units related to Zooniverse projects, but more lessons are needed, and some of the lessons needed more quality control. In today’s classroom, lessons need to have learning targets identified, as well as standards addressed. With that said, there are several high quality lessons that serve as good examples. Here’s hoping that ZooTeach continues to grow, and contributors include goals and objectives as part of their units. Teachers in the workshops have been encouraged to contribute their own lessons to ZooTeach.
Finally, teachers liked the idea that there were measurement scales included in Seafloor Explorer, but thought it would be good if the measurement tools included a readout of the values for each “specimen.” With this, students could keep a log of their measurements and do some comparisons and analysis of their own, in addition to contributing to the database. Again, this relates to the model that Galaxy Zoo Navigator exemplifies of working with your own data to do some inquiry.
Almost all of the teachers were positive in their evaluations of the workshops, and were either going to take more time to explore Zooniverse projects, or share the site with other teachers and their students within a month. They were impressed with the engagement factor, and the authenticity of participating in citizen science. One teacher even brought her 10 year old son to the workshop , and he was all smiles as he took part in a few projects – therefore showing the group how powerful Zooniverse is as a learning tool.