Interdisciplinary Research and Educational Technology Courses

We have discussed the power of research-based general education courses in which undergraduates have the experience of being research scientists, and the need to create new interdisciplinary research courses. STEMTEC will develop interdisciplinary research courses which will be team-taught by science, math and engineering faculty who will help students plan and carry out short research projects of their own design. The level will be suited to general education students so that minimal background in science or math will be necessary. Students often have a false sense of how science originated because of the artificial boundaries between scientific disciplines in our academic structure. Providing interdisciplinary research courses will ameliorate this problem. An additional advantage of making them interdisciplinary is that students who are typically less fearful of biological subjects than the physical sciences and mathematics will get some introduction to the latter.

The importance of research experiences for teachers was demonstrated to us in the NSF/5C5E project (ESI-9150262) for middle-school science teachers (Wilson and Sternheim, 1996). Teachers were introduced to scientific research in areas related to the Earth's environment and received minimal content-based preparation. The focus was on research strategies, methodologies and data interpretation, and the participants applied these to their own projects which they carried out with their classes during the school year. We were impressed with the results and the enthusiasm with which the school-year projects were conducted as well as with the continuing research projects being conducted in those classrooms. STEMTEC will assure that all future elementary teachers on all the campuses have this opportunity.

Educational technology will be an integral part of the courses in order to enhance student learning and to model its pedagogic uses. Also, a course in educational technology will be developed for future elementary teachers. It will draw on the expertise of faculty in science and math as well as education and computer science. Multimedia authoring and Internet applications will be emphasized.

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Created June 2000
Author: STEMTEC Webmaster