Author Archives: Cynthia McIntyre

National Teacher Appreciation Day & Teaching System Modeling with SageModeler

We are delighted to highlight the work of Erin Cothran from Hudson (Massachusetts) High School, for National Teacher Appreciation Day! Erin is teaching a 10th grade chemistry unit she developed based on the driving question, “How can something that can’t be seen crush a 67,000 lb. oil tanker made of half-inch steel?” The unit includes four activities:

  • Why do my ears hurt when I dive in the deep end of the pool?
  • Why do I have to let air out of my car tires in the summer but add more air to my tires in the winter?
  • Why does a soda can explode if it is left unopened and in a hot car?
  • How can a big metal drum be crushed using air pressure?

Each activity includes opportunities for students to build, test, and revise systems models using our free, web-based SageModeler dynamic modeling software.

Erin said, “Using SageModeler has changed how I teach about systems modeling. With the the Next Generation Science Standards being adopted by many schools, modeling has become a main focus of lessons. Working with SageModeler over the past year has allowed me insight into how computer models can be used to help answer questions.”

“I am able to facilitate my students’ learning about the components that make good models effective,” she noted. “Even more importantly, students are discovering that models need to be adjusted as science evolves, that it is okay to not get it correct on the first attempt. Through learning how to build models they are able to define relationships between variables and test their ideas. They love picking custom images, making links, and running the simulation to see the outcomes.”

Dan Damelin, a Principal Investigator of our Building Models project, which is developing SageModeler, reports, “Erin is a very thoughtful teacher who engages students by using the models they generate to drive class discussion.”

The Building Models project is a collaboration between the Concord Consortium and the CREATE for STEM Institute at Michigan State University. The project is researching how the use of a semi-quantitative systems dynamics tool to construct external models helps students build mental models as well as how teachers and curriculum materials can support and scaffold student learning with respect to the interplay between external and internal models. We look forward to learning more from Erin and all the Building Models research teachers.

Evo-Ed Integrative Cases will be enriched to address NGSS

A new collaborative research project at the Concord Consortium and Michigan State University will develop and research learning materials on the molecular and cellular basis for genetics and the process of evolution by natural selection. These two areas are both difficult to teach and learn, and although they have been historically taught separately, they are interlinked and span multiple levels of organization. The goal of Connected Biology: Three-dimensional learning from molecules to populations is to design, develop, and examine the learning outcomes of a new connected curriculum unit for biology that embodies the conceptual framework of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Peter White, science education researcher and entomologist at Michigan State University (MSU); Louise Mead, Education Director at the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action at MSU; and postdoctoral fellow Alexa Warwick at the BEACON Center visited the Concord Consortium recently to plan our joint work together. Frieda Reichsman and Paul Horwitz will serve as the Principal Investigator and Co-PI at the Concord Consortium.

The new units will leverage the contextually rich Evo-Ed Integrative Cases, which build directly on the interlinked nature of evolution and genetics and connect the science ideas with meaningful real-world examples. The Evo-Ed case studies track the evolution of traits from their origination in DNA mutation, to the production of different proteins, to the fixation of alternate macroscopic phenotypes in reproductively isolated populations. For example, the Evolution of Lactase Persistence case study examines the genetics, cell biology, anthropology, and biogeography of this system.

The human lactase gene (LCT) is a 55 kilo-base pair segment of the second chromosome.

The curriculum will integrate the three dimensions of science—the core ideas of biology, the science and engineering practices, and the crosscutting concepts—to support all students in building toward deep understandings of biological phenomena. The project will be guided by two main research questions:

  1. How does learning progress when students experience a set of coherent biology learning materials that employ the principles of three-dimensional learning?
  2. How do students’ abilities to transfer understanding about the relationships between molecules, cells, organisms, and evolution change over time and from one biological phenomenon to another?

Note: If you’ve used the Evo-Ed cases in your classroom, we’d love to get your feedback! Please respond to this short survey to be entered into a drawing to receive a $50 Amazon gift card.

Welcome to our three Google Summer of Code students

Google Summer of Code 2013Three international students will spend the summer coding for our open source projects. Through Google Summer of Code (GSoC), they’ll earn stipends from Google, plus get a coveted GSoC t-shirt and certificate.

Expansion of SPARKS HTML5 circuit simulator

Our HTML5 breadboard simulator allows students to experiment with basic DC and AC circuits using linear components (resistors, capacitors, inductors) and to perform measurements with a function generator, a digital multimeter and an oscilloscope.

Sabareesh Nikhil C, from Hyderabad, India, will extend our existing circuit-solving code to handle non-linear components such as diodes, op amps and transistors. Instead of treating each circuit as a lumped impedance and computing its response to a single frequency, the new code will perform a more realistic time-based computation, which will enable it to model the behavior of more complex circuits. Sabareesh also plans to implement a communication protocol that will enable circuits on different computers to communicate with each other.

Sabareesh will work with Concord Consortium mentors Paul Horwitz, Sam Fentress and Richard Klancer.

Probe your browser!

Science classrooms use probes and sensors to enable real-time data collection by students. Currently we use Java applets to support communication between sensors and web-based applications in the browser. Increasingly limited support for Java is making it difficult to integrate probes and sensors that use Java software for use in the classroom.

Lingliang Zhang from New York, NY, and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, will design a native application for desktops, which will make the data from probes and sensor hardware available to our browser-based JavaScript applications. The native application will use an embedded webserver to connect to our existing sensor library. This approach will enable browsers on desktops and laptops to use our currently supported Pasco and Vernier sensor devices without a Java applet.

He will work under the mentorship of our Senior Software Engineer Scott Cytacki.

Port HTML5 interactives to phones and tablets

Our HTML5 interactives are rendered using a semantic layout system. With a modified UI, they could work on phones, allowing students to interact with them on multiple devices. Additionally, with an iOS and Android application created using Cordova, users could install the interactives and use them offline. This app could also allow parts of the engine behind the interactives to run natively in order to get better performance on these devices.

Apoorv Narang from New Delhi, India, will measure performance on various devices to determine which of our HTML5 interactives can be run on these devices. He will improve our lab framework, which is the system that displays and runs interactives, with the goal of making our interactives look—and run!—better on phones.

Director of Technology Stephen Bannasch will mentor Apoorv.

***

During summer 2012, we were fortunate to have two fabulous GSoC students, including Piotr Janik, who continues coding for us as a consultant. Watch Piotr describe his experience with Google Summer of Code.

We can’t wait to see the code that our three new GSoC students will develop this summer!

 

Share and embed—easily!

One of the key features of our Next-Generation Molecular Workbench is the ability to easily share and embed interactives in blog posts, learning management systems, emails and more—wherever you can paste a weblink or HTML code. Just two simple steps will have you sharing your favorite interactives with all your friends and colleagues in no time flat!

  1. Click the Share link at the top of an interactive.
  2. Copy and paste the link into Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest or wherever you want to share the interactive.

Want to embed the interactive in your own blog or web page instead?

  1. Click the Share link at the top of an interactive.
  2. Copy the HTML and paste the iframe code where you want the interactive to appear.

Sharing and embedding Next-Generation Molecular Workbench interactives

Learn more about how easy it is to share interactives.

We want to make it easy for you to learn and teach with accurate scientific models.  We’ve gotten it down to two steps. Now it’s up to you to share your favorite interactives far and wide. 🙂

Explore currently available interactives.

Share with us: which are your favorite interactives and why? What interactives do you want to see?

 

9 Highlights of 2012

It was a great year for the Concord Consortium!

  1. We won a Smaller Business Association of New England (SBANE) Innovation Award!
  2. Next-Generation Molecular Workbench interactives starred in the MIT MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) “Introduction to Solid State Chemistry” through a new collaboration with edX.
  3. Chad Dorsey described our vision of deeply digital education at the national Cyberlearning Research Summit.
  4. Six new projects were funded by the National Science Foundation: InquirySpace, Understanding Sub-Microscopic Interactions, High-Adventure Science: Earth’s Systems and Sustainability, GeniVille, Graph Literacy, and Sensing Science.
  5. The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), a federally funded organization that scans educational research for high-quality studies, recognized our Technology Enhanced Elementary and Middle School Science (TEEMSS) software and materials.
  6. The Concord Consortium Collection was accessioned into the National Science Digital Library (NSDL).
  7. Our debut webcast featured Chad Dorsey, speaking about the scientific and engineering practices of the Next Generation Science Standards and our free, technology-based activities.
  8. We had two fabulous Google Summer of Code students.
  9. Our staff population increased by 10%, thanks to our new Software Portfolio and Project Manager Jen Goree, Web Developer Parker Morse, and Software Developer Tom Dyer, who just started (technically in 2013, but we’re so excited, we’ve included him on this 2012 list)!

2013 promises to be another great year! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and subscribe to our mailing list to receive print or email news updates.

Video: Molecular Workbench Brings Science to Life in the Browser

As we make our award-winning Molecular Workbench software more accessible and widely available, we’re documenting our story at the same time. Google’s grant to the Concord Consortium funds the conversion of MW from Java to HTML5 so it will run in modern Web browsers. This will reduce barriers for using the next generation MW in schools. Students will be able to access the software from a Web page on a school computer, iPad, or smartphone, giving them anywhere, anytime access to powerful science learning opportunities.

We’re creating videos to share our conversion story. We’ll describe Molecular Workbench, our technical development process, and the benefits of HTML5. We’ve teamed up with the excellent staff of Good Life Productions to produce these videos.

In the first video, Concord Consortium’s Director of Technology Stephen Bannasch describes the power of the modern Web browser to bring science to life. Enjoy.