UTRAC: Using Technology to Research After Class

September 1st, 2014 - August 31st, 2016 | PROJECT

This Advancing Informal Science Learning Pathways project, Using Technology to Research After Class (UTRAC), explores whether a combination of technology (e.g., iPad-enabled sensors, web-based inquiry-focused portal) and facilitated visits improves learning outcomes for rural and Native American elementary-age youth in after school programs. Expected outcomes include improved engagement, knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Project goals include promoting STEM learning through science inquiry activities keyed to specific Next Generation Science Standards as well as improving how technology can be used to enhance learning outcomes in afterschool programs. The experimental design of this project - testing the effects of physical or virtual facilitation visits on learning outcomes - will lead to improvements in STEM learning outcomes among rural and underrepresented students. This project will employ several innovations in utilizing technology to teach STEM topics including: (i) hands-on, real-time, crowd sourced data collected by participants in their schoolyards; (ii) a pedagogic emphasis on communication of schoolyard data among and between participants; (iii) testing of motivational incentives; and (iv) partnerships between after school providers, preservice teachers, and university researchers as facilitators. The entire process will be modularized so that it can be modified in terms of place, STEM topic or student cohort. The topic focus of the project -- Life Under Snow -- is relevant to participating students, as Montana school playgrounds lie blanketed under snow for the majority of the school year; it includes elements of snow science, carbon cycle science, and a combination at the intersection of three recent literacy initiatives (e.g., Earth Science, Climate, or Energy). UTRAC will pilot and evaluate facilitated snow science/carbon cycle science activities that couple real-time schoolyard data with tools patterned after those available through WISE (Web-based Inquiry Science Environment; wise.berkeley.edu). Participants will collect and compare data with other youth participants, and researchers will use formative assessments to define interventions with potential to maximize student engagement and learning improvements among underserved youth. The project will advance understanding of informal education's potential to improve STEM engagement, knowledge, skills and attitudes by quantifying how - and to what extent - youth engage with emerging technologies iPad-enabled sensors, and crowdsourcing and visualization tools. The deliverables include a quantifying metric for learning outcomes, a training model for the iPad sensors and web application, an orientation kit, a social media portal, and database for the measurements.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Project Products

Reflecting on the Challenges of Informal Contexts: Early Field Experiences with Technology in Teacher Education

Team Members

Tony Hartshorn, Principal Investigator, Montana State University
Nick Lux, Co-Principal Investigator, Montana State University
Kimberly Obbink, Co-Principal Investigator, Montana State University
Paul Stoy, Co-Principal Investigator, Montana State University


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1423561
Funding Amount: 249933


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Climate | Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Education and learning science | General STEM | Geoscience and geography | Physics
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Afterschool Programs | Citizen Science Programs | Media and Technology | Public Programs | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media