App for Students Designing their Own Experiments
This research-based app that helps students design their own experiments in science class is ready for the next level!
follow me on Twitter @KMorgan_Sci_Ed!
Why do we need a software application to help students design their own labs?
I believe that science is a verb (something students should do) rather than a noun (a set of facts that students learn about). The National Science Education Standards (and every set of state standards) includes standards about students doing science. And not simply hands-on activities, but minds-on activities that model the way real scientists work on a daily basis.
There's a lot of education jargon that is used (like the word "inquiry") and that jargon changes from time to time (the new Next Generation Science Standards is using the term "processes of science and engineering") but it all means the same thing. Students should be asking questions, coming up with their own ways to investigate them, interpreting their data and communicating/explaining/discussing/defending their results.
That's a fine and fabulous goal to have, but the reality is that it's hard...really hard! It's hard for a student that is just learning a science concept to be able to efficiently design an experiment about it and be able to step back and learn from that experience while they're in the midst of trying to just figure out what to do next. (For an research-based explanation of why that's so hard, you can take a look at this presentation I gave on it a while back) And it's hard for a teacher to guide students through this process in a room with many, many students!
What have I already created?
During my 9th year of teaching high school science, I created a software application that guided students through the process of designing an experiment. The creation of the software and the study of it was the basis of my PhD dissertation (short version of the study and my findings is here, but you can go ahead and read the whole dissertation here if you'd like!) The process of leading them through the stages of design in a reverse-design manner and the principles upon which the user-interface was built are all founded in research on cognition and instruction design. And it works!
The original software was an extremely primitive php-programmed webpage. It quickly outgrew that (within a few weeks!) and I developed a stand-along application that is deployed on Mac and Windows. The software is currently in version 4 and has been used for the past 4 and a half years by almost 3000 students to design and report on over 6500 experiments with a dozen teachers from across the country. The teacher and student data is securely stored on a hosted database - teachers and students can access their information from any computer connected to the internet (so students can work on a lab report at home!)
Feel free to check it out yourself at www.studentdesignedlabs.com. You can download the version you need (Mac or Windows) - it is an application/.exe file but it doesn't require installation. There is a school named "test" with a teacher and student each named "test" both of whom have the password "test" if you'd like to play with it.
Why do I want to upgrade it?
There's a long list of user-interface and functionality upgrades and updates that I want to do - all based on teacher and student user input and requests. You can see the list here.
But the biggest reason I want to upgrade is to deploy the app for mobile devices (specifically tablets). Classrooms have a variety of technology configurations - some have a few classroom computers, others have shared mobile carts with laptops while an increasing number have tablets (either shared on a mobile cart, as a classroom set or checked out to individual students). It's time get this app available for tablets!
Why do I need support to do this?
The original software was developed while I was supported by the University of Nebraska - Lincoln and my PhD adviser David W. Brooks on his research funding. After I graduated, I supported the development (including programming platform upgrades and server hosting) out of my own pocket. This next level of upgrade goes beyond what I can do with my personal funds - so it's time to seek backers and supporters!
Why not just charge the users?
I firmly believe in this software being free for all teachers and their students. Teachers simply don't have the budgets for all the things they need and they shouldn't have to pay for this. People may ask how they have money for the computers and tablets to run the software on but not money for the app itself. That happens because the money spent on the technology hardware often comes out of different pots - like from district bond issues or grant money - that have to be spent in certain ways. Or they may have had that money in previous years and purchased the hardware and now that money is gone. That means the money for these types of applications must come out of the already too small classroom or department budgets.
Is it worth it for a dozen teachers and their students?
Um, yes, I think so. But even if you don't think so...it's time to take this application to more classrooms. I have "proof of concept" with the dozen teachers and thousands of students that have used the software and now it's time to use online communities, networking, science teacher conferences and publications to get the word out and educate teachers on how to use this tool in their classrooms. But before I do that I want to make these upgrades! :)
What is the support to be used for?
1. Programming platform upgrade. I use LiveCode (formally called RunRev) as a programming platform. It allows deployment on many systems with only one code. I currently am able to deploy on Mac and Windows only. In order to deploy on iOS and Android platforms I need to upgrade. $799
2. Programming extensions. It takes a long time to re-invent the wheel! For example, my current version of the software has a “homemade” spell-check functionality that is not nearly as fast or well-done as what I can get with adding one line of code and having a third-party extension. By being able to purchase extensions I’ll free up my time to program things that aren't available as extensions...things I have to create myself. Some of the extensions I'd like include Spell Check, MobileGUI, Word Report, Graphing capabilities, etc. Total $525
3. App author accounts. iTunes and Google Play require author accounts to submit apps - even if those apps will be free. $125
4. Android tablet. I have an iPad but would like an Android tablet to experience the app in the same way as teachers and students (yes, I know there are emulators, but it's not the same!) $200
5. Kickstarter rewards. Gotta pay for those rewards for backers somehow! :) $450
6. Kickstarter fees. The 5% fee for using this awesome service! $105
7. Amazon payment fees. The 5% fee for accessing backer payments through this service. $105
Goal - $2310
Project Completion Date
If funded, this project can be completed for testing/use by current teacher users by April 2013. It will then be ready for release to any teacher for the 2013-2014 school year.
Who am I?
A little about me, the person behind the project that you will hopefully support.
I have the following degrees: BS in Chemistry, MA in Science Curriculum & Instruction, PhD in Education (focusing on cognition, instructional design, design of technology for use in science education).
I have the following publications: A nationally published high school chemistry textbook (under my former name), a book published by NSTA press about using mastery learning in the science classroom, 9 articles published in peer-reviewed science education journals.
I have the following credentials and awards: National Board Certified Teacher in secondary science (chemistry), 2006 National Science Teacher's Association's Excellence in Inquiry-Based Teaching Award winner, Awardee of the Kansas State University's ACS Patrick Award for Excellence in High School Teaching in Kansas.
I have presented workshop on inquiry-based teaching, misconceptions in science, mastery learning, thematic teaching and many other topics in local, state and national settings.
Risks and challenges
I have already created up through version 4 of this software - I know the programming platform I'm using and am well-versed in figuring out how to solve a programming challenge when I hit a road block. The programming platform deploys to Mac, Windows, iOS and Android after the application is programmed once (code once - deploy many), so there won't be problems creating versions for multiple platforms.
The infrastructure for testing the new version with a dozen teachers is already in place.
The only challenge I can see would be time - If it takes me more time to program the proposed implementations. Other than that, the foundation for the new version is already there.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (20 days)