Author Archives: The Concord Consortium

STEM Resource Finder: Part IV – Student Reports

When your students begin to work through models and activities you have assigned to them, you can track their progress.

  1. Log in to the STEM Resource Finder and click the Home button.
  2. In the left-hand column, click the name of your class, then Assignments.
  3. Click on the drop-down list from all of the activities you’ve assigned to access the one you’re interested in.
  4. Each student’s progress in that activity is displayed in the orange progress bars.
  5. Click the Report button for a detailed summary report. (Reports are not available for some activities.)

Providing Electronic Feedback to Your Students

How do you give feedback to your students on their answers? Many teachers have printed out reports to provide feedback and grades. While you can still print reports, you now have the option to provide scores and feedback electronically.

Next to every question is a Provide Feedback button. Clicking this button will enable you to give either written feedback or a score to your students on questions of your choosing.

Your students will see your comments the next time they log in to their accounts. They can then use your feedback to improve their responses.

Comparing Student Responses

The report allows you to compare and project student responses. Scroll down to a question that you’d like to share with your class. After clicking Show responses, the question report will expand, displaying student responses below the question. Select the answers that you would like to compare and/or project. Click the Compare/project button.

This feature can be useful to show a range of answers to spur class discussion. Share model snapshots, multiple-choice selections, and open-response answers. Lead students in a discussion to try to figure out how the variables were tweaked in the model to result in the outcomes shared by snapshots. Help students to critique responses to learn about what makes a great scientific explanation.

And best of all, you can hide the students’ names from the projected view! Keeping it anonymous helps to keep the discussion about the content, not about the individual/group.

Additional information is available in the User Guide.

How will you use these features in your classroom? What other features would you want? Questions? Please share.

STEM Resource Finder: Part III – How to Use Models in Your Classroom

There are over 100 standalone models available in our STEM Resource Finder, which you can assign to your students.

Consider the following ways you might use them in your classroom.

  • Project a model for the whole class to see. Explore data and phenomena. For instance:
    • Look at the patterns of earthquakes and volcano locations in the Seismic Explorer model. Why do you think earthquakes happen where they do?
    • Look at the difference in heat transfer between well and poorly insulated buildings in the Well and Poorly Insulated Houses model. What makes for a well-insulated building?
    • Have the students make predictions of what will happen when a variable changes.
      • What will happen to the level of water vapor in the atmosphere when you reduce the level of human emissions in the Climate Change model?
      • How do you expect tillage to affect the amount of topsoil in the Land Management model?
      • How does molecular mass affect diffusion speed? Use the Diffusion and Molecular Mass model to find out!

Screenshot of Diffusion and Molecular Mass model.

  • Challenge your students to create an outcome in small group work. For example, have your students simulate a balloon’s flight from ground level to high altitude with our What is Pressure? model. Where should they remove atoms to simulate the balloon’s ascent?
  • Embed the link to a model (use the model’s Share feature!) in a shared Google Doc along with a question or two for review, enrichment, or homework.

These are just a few examples of what you can do with our scores of models. How do you use our models in your classroom? Share your ideas here. And let us know if you have any questions.

STEM Resource Finder: Part II – Find and Assign Resources for Your Students

Once you’ve registered as a teacher and created a class, you can assign resources to your students.

Go to the STEM Resource Finder, and use the filters to search by subject area, resource type, or grade level. You can also search our Collections for sets of resources created by our various research projects. Each collection has specific learning goals within the context of a larger subject area.

Tip: If you find a resource that you’re interested in, but aren’t yet ready to fully explore it on your own or assign it to your class, click the star icon on the resource card to save it to your Favorites. You can go back to your Favorites on your home page at any time.

Assign Resources to Your Class

When you find a sequence, activity, or model to assign to your class, click the resource card to open the resource detail view, then click the Assign to a Class button. If you’ve created more than one class, select the class(es) to which you want to assign the resource.

Note: You must be logged in as a teacher to see the Assign to a Class button.

Student Registration

Students can register themselves or you can manually register them. Follow these instructions to have students register themselves.

Note: If you or your students have a Google or Schoology account, you can register or sign in with either of those accounts.

  1. Ask students to Register at the STEM Resource Finder.
  2. Have students complete the form and choose a password. On the next screen, they should select the Student radio button.
  3. Provide students with the unique Class Word for your class.
  4. Have them click Sign Up!
  5. The STEM Resource Finder will assign the student a username consisting of their first initial followed by their last name. (Note: A number is appended if there is more than one student with the same first initial and last name in the system.)
  6. Students will receive a success message once they have completed all of the required fields. Have your students write down their username and password. If they forget their username and/or password, you can use the class roster to see their username and reset their password, if necessary.
  7. Students can then log in to the STEM Resource Finder by clicking Log In! in the pop-up window or using the Log In button on the STEM Resource Finder homepage.

Note: You and your students can use our free resources from the STEM Resource Finder without logging in. Find a resource you love and share the preview URL!

Additional information is available in the User Guide.

Questions? Let us know.

Part II: Students Learn about Water . . .  and Take Action

In Part I you learned what a watershed is and its role in protecting a community from flooding. Carolyn Staudt has led NSF-funded projects that teach middle and high school students how to gather data about their water resources. She feels strongly that the science and engineering skills students learn in the process are essential.

“Elementary through secondary students need to be able to evaluate questions such as: How serious is the water challenge? In what ways do human actions affect water systems? How do we measure water quality?” Staudt wrote in the Spring 2016 @Concord newsletter. Studying water resources is also a good vehicle for learning to visualize and analyze data, make hypotheses, use both hands-on and digital instrumentation, and solve problems.

Staudt recognized water as a critical issue in 1998 after a trip to Sierra Leone, where access to clean water was a problem. “I was at UNESCO in Paris and they asked what I thought the most important resource was.” While everyone else was talking about oil and gas, she said water. “Water is shared—there are people upstream and downstream. What you do with your local watershed impacts everyone,” she says. “But nobody knows about their own watershed.”

She has developed NSF-funded projects for middle and high school students that address water issues using hands-on, real-world water quality science and engineering activities. In one project, students from California, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts learned to collect data about their own watershed using a simple water testing kit developed by the Global Rivers Environmental Education Network (GREEN). They shared their data using iSENSE, a web platform designed for students to visualize and exchange scientific data.  

Model My Watershed models human impacts on a watershed.

On another project, she worked with the Stroud Water Research Center in Pennsylvania, and schools in Pennsylvania, Iowa, California, Kansas, and Virginia, to develop a Watershed Tracker app for collecting data and a Model My Watershed app that uses real land use and soil data to analyze the environmental impact of various conservation and development scenarios, such as increasing the number of trees or replacing soil with black top, on a local watershed. Model My Watershed won a Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, and became part of a larger WikiWatershed developed by Stroud.

Staudt and her project partners also developed a dozen video interviews with science and engineering professionals discussing their professions, so students could learn about careers in environmental conservation and engineering. A three-minute video about the project won an NSF Video Showcase Award.

 

The first time Staudt viewed how a large land cover database could be used to digitally visualize a watershed, “It was like SimCity on steroids,” she says. “You could see the result of conservation practices. With 100% forest cover there was almost no runoff. We wanted to let kids see what would happen if they made changes.”

Kids took notice and took action. “Fifth grade students started turning up at local zoning commissions and school board meetings,” says Staudt. With real data in hand, they demonstrated why a parking lot shouldn’t be built on a field.

“Often what you teach in school stays in school,” Staudt says. “We need more environmentally prepared citizens.”

If you have students who are using environmental data to influence their school or town, or they have higher aspirations to statewide or national impact, share your experiences. What data did students collect and how did they use it? Leave a comment here, or tweet @concorddotorg

For more information:

Water SCIENCE
Teaching Environmental Sustainability: Model My Watershed
USGS: Water

Part I: What is a watershed?

Houston’s downtown flooded after Hurricane Harvey. Florida neighborhoods have struggled with murky standing water after Hurricane Irma. Catastrophe can overwhelm any system, but why doesn’t the ground just absorb the extra water?

In some cases, the answer is a damaged watershed, a concept most people don’t understand, even though we all live in one.

A watershed is the land area where all rain runs downhill to a certain point.

Simply put, a watershed is “all the land area where the rain runs downhill to a certain point,” explains Carolyn Staudt, who leads NSF-funded science projects at the Concord Consortium on land use and its effects on water resources.

Credit: Tony Webster original. CC BY-NC 2.0

A watershed could be described as a naturally occurring traffic cop, efficiently directing water that’s converging from all around to a common location, maybe a lake or the ocean. The water might also be funneled into a deep underground aquifer or be soaked up by trees.

But when the watershed is damaged, gridlock results, water backs up, and flooding occurs.

A wetland or a forest is a good traffic cop. A parking lot or a housing development is not. Once rain hits a paved surface, it has nowhere to go because it can’t be absorbed. Standing water on a sidewalk or a highway is trapped.

Credit: Addison Berry original. CC BY-NC 2.0

Explains Staudt, “Cities have been paving their wetlands,” the very places that naturally absorb water in a flood—or a hurricane. Even a small amount of rain can become a drainage problem where there’s widespread development of wetlands and prairies, which has been the case in Houston,  for example.  

Why is the connection between land use and water resources important to education?

Read “Part II: Students Learn about Water” to answer that question and find out how some students used the information they learned.  

New website design offers view into our focus areas and free resources for teaching and learning STEM

We’re thrilled to announce our new website, designed in collaboration with the team at Blenderbox. They understood us from the very beginning, describing in their first creative abstract a vision for a “forward-looking, accessible, and good weird” website.

We think they did a great job creating a website that reflects our quirky and creative nature, and we’re pleased to be able to invite you to explore our work and use our free STEM digital resources. Read on to see some of the highlights!

The new home page now clearly highlights main focus areas of our work. As the world of educational technology changes, we’re extending our pioneering work in the field of probeware and other tools for inquiry and continuing to develop award-winning STEM models and simulations. We’re also taking the lead in new areas, including data science education, analytics and feedback, and engineering and science connections. Peek into our innovation lab to see the cutting-edge new tools and technologies we’re exploring and creating for tomorrow’s learners.

You can find the many research and development projects we’re involved in through featured links on the home page. Or find all current projects under Research Projects (under Our Work in the main navigation), where you can search by grade, subject, or focus area.

And, of course, these projects have developed hundreds of resources for STEM learning over the years, all of which we invite you to use for free and share widely. Now you’ll find them all in our updated STEM Resource Finder (previously called the Learn Portal) at learn.concord.org! There, you can search for resources, create classes, assign activities, and track student progress with reports. All in one place. All for free.

To access the STEM Resource Finder, simply follow the link to “explore our free STEM resources” in the gray umbrella bar at the top of any concord.org page, or find the STEM Resource Finder link under Resources in the main navigation menu.

Take a look today—we invite you to explore our website, learn about our work, and use our free STEM resources.

If you have any questions or are looking for particular information on our site, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Leave a comment here or email hello@concord.org. We look forward to hearing from you.

STEM Resource Finder: Part I – Register for a Teacher Account and Add a Class

Our updated STEM Resource Finder (previously called the Learn Portal) at learn.concord.org now allows you to search for resources, create classes, assign activities, and track student progress with reports. All in one place. All for free.

Register for a Teacher Account

Follow these easy steps to create an account in the STEM Resource Finder.

  1. Click the Register button in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Complete the registration form with your name and create a password.
  3. Select the radio button for “Teacher,” create a username, and provide an email address you can access easily.
    • Complete the fields about your location and school.
    • If you don’t find your school listed, or you are a homeschool, click “I can’t find my school in the list” to enter the name of your school.
  4. After registering, you’ll receive an email from help@concord.org. Click the “Confirm Account” button in the body of the email to activate your account.
    • If you do not receive the activation email in your inbox, please check your junk or spam mailboxes, or any quarantine set up by your email provider.
    • If you cannot access the email in your junk or spam mailboxes or quarantined email, please contact help@concord.org for assistance.
  5. By clicking the link in the activation email, you’ll be directed to the STEM Resource Finder. 
  6. Click the Home icon in the upper right — that’s your own home page, where you can create and manage your classes, and track student progress.

Add a New Class

  1. To get started, Add a New Class by clicking the link on the left and enter Class Setup Information. Provide a class name, description, and applicable grade level(s). (Note: Please disregard the Term field as it’s currently not working. We’re working to update this soon.)
  2. Create a unique Class Word, which students will use to enroll in this class. Class words can be more than one word, but cannot include any special characters (such as *, @, and %). The Class Word is not case sensitive.
  3. You’re now ready to assign resources to this class. Click the Concord Consortium logo in the upper left to search all resources or view curated collections of resources by clicking the Collections link in the top navigation bar.

Additional information is available in the User Guide.

Let us know if you have any questions!

Mechanical design and paper crafting combine in Paper Mechatronics

How can you make a cardboard owl that flaps its wings? Or a paper flower that blooms? With funding from the National Science Foundation, we are working with the University of Colorado’s Craft Technology Lab and the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco to study and enhance the engineering education potential of Paper Mechatronics, an innovative educational technology genre that mixes creative papercrafts, mechanical design, and computational thinking. Soon, young learners will be designing real and fantastical paper inventions of their own imagination and animate them with mechanical motions.

The new two-year project builds off an earlier project by Principal Investigators Sherry Hsi and Michael Eisenberg, which prototyped several Paper Mechatronics design projects, organized activity formats, and piloted the various design elements with children and adults to determine which worked best to inspire learning and teach design. These included a custom software design tool, simple hardware modules, cardboard electronics, sample workshop formats, and project ideas. Early Paper Mechatronics activities—from a percussion workshop to a cereal hackathon and a Robot Petting Zoo—showed encouraging results with after school youth (ages 12-18) and museum visitors.

Mechanical duck designed with Paper Mechatronics.

Robot Petting Zoo.

Paper Mechatronics engaged participants in key engineering design practices (design, build, test), though learners were challenged by translating their visions into mechanical actions. So, to support designers who had no electronics or computer-aided design background and limited computer programming experience, Ph.D. student HyunJoo Oh designed FoldMecha, which generates paper-based templates for a number of design parameters such as shape, size, and type of motor movements that can be cut out with a paper or laser cutter.

 The new project will expand and improve this early Paper Mechatronics design software for modeling mechanical components and movements and create a new Paper Mechatronics kit with instructional resources, electronically enhanced crafting materials, low-cost microcontrollers and accessories, and custom design software.

Our research goal is to explore how to support novice designers in learning from the Paper Mechatronics kit and study how youth develop adaptive expertise, including knowledge-seeking, resourcefulness, confidence, and persistence. We’ll research how on-ramps to engineering design activities like engaging in paper mechatronic design activities help youth develop adaptive expertise and what types of instructional resources and scaffolding are most useful in supporting learners to be creative in engineering design.

My Daughter Heard About an Earthquake. How Do I Explain It?

Earthquakes occur worldwide daily, and their aftereffects vary widely, from minimal to devastating. From California to the Mediterranean, some communities live with the threat and consequences of earthquakes and their aftershocks on a regular basis. Understanding what causes an earthquake is not easy. How is it possible to visualize monumental slabs of Earth moving? And why do we need to?

On June 12, 2017, newspapers worldwide reported on a 6.3 magnitude earthquake south of the island of Lesbos, Greece (off the western coast of Turkey). The quake caused widespread structural damage as well as loss of life, and it drew considerable attention, in part, because of the large number of migrants on Lesbos. How to house and care for the affected migrants and residents became a major international challenge.

But according to the USGS, the earthquake was “the result of normal faulting in the shallow crust.” The Lesbos quake was traumatic, but not unexpected. Greece and Turkey are particularly earthquake prone because they are on active fault lines. The Mediterranean region is seismically active due to the convergence of the African plate to the south with the Eurasian plate to the north. The African plate is subducting beneath the Eurasian plate at a place called the Hellenic Trench.

That’s a lot to understand, let alone visualize. When a seismic event occurs, how can a teacher explain such monumental movements of the Earth to middle school students? Typically, it’s been done with drawings and detailed descriptions, such as the excellent resources available from the USGS. But earthquakes and other geologic events are about movement, happening far out of sight. The Concord Consortium’s GEODE project is creating a way to visualize the Earth’s movements using an interactive, dynamic computer model of tectonic plates.

Another GEODE model — the Seismic Explorer — allows users to see the pattern of earthquakes worldwide, including their magnitude and depth. The Lesbos quake and many others, as well as towns and cities, are visible.

The GEODE project is still researching and developing the best ways for kids to learn about Earth’s big movements. But why is it important? Because the consequences of these movements can crumble buildings and cause loss of life. Understanding patterns of Earth’s movement may help lead to better forecasting, preparedness, and response.

Remembering Robert F. Tinker

Concord Consortium Senior Research Scientist Sherry Hsi remembers our founder Bob Tinker who passed away on June 21st. For more personal stories about Bob and his impact, and to share your own, visit rememberingbob.concord.org

Barbara, Bob, and Sherry

The Concord Consortium East Coast Office – Me, Bob Tinker, and Barbara Tinker, August 2016

There are few times in the world when you can say you met a person who has changed your life. I’ve had the benefit of many wonderful mentors in my life, but Bob Tinker was the mentor who was my academic non-academia father. In 1996, I was in graduate school at UC Berkeley when I first met Bob. Marcia Linn brought me to SRI International where Roy Pea was convening different stakeholders to share the possible formation of a center for innovative learning technologies. Bob was so enthusiastic and energetic about ideas. Unlike others in the room, Bob wasn’t wearing a suit or tie. He was wearing a vest adorned with buttons, one of which read “Go VHS!” (for Virtual High School). He looked more like an activist. He was fighting for social justice, equal opportunity, and science education.

Bob invited me to visit the Concord Consortium shortly after the nonprofit opened on 37 Thoreau Street in Concord, Massachusetts. This is where I first met Ray Rose, Sarah Haavind, Bruce Droste, Carolyn Staudt, George Collison, and other education technology thought leaders. Netscape Navigator was two years old, yet the team was already implementing a model international online STEM professional development program for teachers and architecting the first virtual high school.

That was just the beginning of a wonderful adventure and mentorship. Bob and I would chat about crazy ideas like putting wireless cameras on birds and nestboxes, using mobile devices for citizen science, or designing smart museum exhibits that would be aware and responsive to visitor interactions. He would share with me drafts of how an idea – always in his signature blue Palatino font – would be iteratively shaped into a winning proposal. He showed how the most daunting and intimidating problems could be made accessible if you were willing to go back to core ideas, build models, and tinker a while without the fear of failure.

During my postdoc with the Concord Consortium and the Center for Innovative Learning Technologies, we explored ways to design and scaffold science inquiry using probes and handhelds in creeks and watersheds. We also sparked and seeded projects to grow the capacity of educational mobile STEM designers by hosting a design competition at the Exploratorium. (The winning app simulated the results of cross-breeding different fish on Palm Pilots.) Bob joined remotely to the live webcast by telephone. I remember how his super amplified voice boomed over the audience like a television voice from God, enthusiastic about the potential that collaborative learning and mobile devices could have on education.

Bob was the reason I left K-12 classroom research to work at the Exploratorium. He spent a few weeks of of the year in 1998 as an Osher Fellow when the museum was led by Goery Delacote, fellow physicist. He contributed to ideas during the formation of the Center for Media and Communication where I subsequently accepted a research position. He and Rob Semper asked what-if questions around the possibility of supporting deeper visitor engagement within the museum and extended science learning beyond. What if the whole museum had ubiquitous wireless access and fast networks for media sharing? Imagine that when 802.11b was new! This led to the Electronic Guidebook Project and a strand of early experiments to test inquiry using handhelds, RFID, cameras, and beacons with exhibits. Today, this pioneering work continues to re-emerge in different forms across many museums.

Bob was more than an academic mentor. He and his wife Barbara invited me into their home, lifted my spirits when life got tough, and pushed me back out into the world. Our most recent collaboration was working together on an NSF-funded project to bring Internet-of-Thing sensors and actuators into laboratories for high school biology to support science and engineering practices together with computational thinking. This brought me back to the Concord Consortium, but this time, in the West Coast office. Unlike when we first met, high-speed multi-site web video conferencing was now possible with a single click. The Maker movement now gave us so many low-cost DIY options to play with. We spent the last year connecting and chatting by Zoom from his workshop in Amherst.

I will miss his chortling, his outbursts about Reagan, his spreadsheet genius, his photography of nature, and his genuine care in all people. I enjoyed chasing ideas and money together, but my favorite memories are seeing him race down Pier 15 with my youngest son Lucas to see fog appear, hearing him hum and wash the dishes while Barbara and I played Schubert after dinner in Carlisle, and sneaking out of a PI meeting for a moment to watch a rainbow form right after a rain shower. He was always willing to share the last piece of toffee or ask for two spoons when he ordered dessert.

Bob – wherever you are, I hope you are flying high. Thanks for helping me grow. You gave me so many gifts and words of encouragement along the way. I feel lucky that our paths crossed in this large chaotic universe. You are one of a kind. I miss you terribly.

VHS Faculty

VHS online faculty: Bob McLean, Ray Rose, Bruce Droste, Me, Sarah Haavind and others waiting to meet Senator John Kerry October 1997.

Exploratorium Palace

Bob Tinker with Bernard Osher and Sally Duensing at the Exploratorium Palace of Fine Arts in 1998. Photo credit: Ron Hipschmann

Center for Innovative Learning Technologies

Center for Innovative Learning Technologies created in 1997. Slide credit: Roy Pea

Center for Innovative Learning Technologies

Center for Innovative Learning Technologies created in 1997.

Barbara and Bob Tinker

My academic non-academia parents Barbara and Bob Tinker at Aaron’s wedding in 2006.

Handheld Design Awards for Education

Live webcast of the Handheld Design Awards for Education at the Exploratorium, San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts, 1999.

Judging and handheld demonstrations at the Exploratorium in 1999

Judging and handheld demonstrations at the Exploratorium in 1999. Left: Phil Vahey, Justin Manus, Jeff Hawkins, Me; Right: Stephen Bannasch and Carolyn Staudt demoing probeware from the Concord Consortium

Marcia Linn and Bob Tinker

Marcia Linn and Bob Tinker at a Technology-Enhanced Learning in Science (TELS) event, Washington, D.C.

A typical web video conference

A typical web video conference when collaboratively working through hard problems together – Robert Tinker, Me, Hee-Sun Lee, and Chad Dorsey – October, 2016.

Bob Tinker at the March for Science

Bob Tinker at the March for Science in Amherst, MA – April 22, 2017. Photo credit: Barbara Tinker