With an eye to the changing nature of learning, the Museum continues to develop offerings that use emerging technologies to engage learners as never before and to connect them to Museum research and collections in novel ways.
|Massive Open Online Courses|
|Digital Learning Week|
A New Partnership Builds on Success with Seminars on Science
Professional development for educators at the Museum began its move to the digital realm in 1998 with the development of the Museum’s Seminars on Science, a set of online courses for teachers.
Since it was launched in 2000 with three courses, this pioneering program has offered high-quality science education and professional development to teachers, exploring new online educational pedagogies, tools, and learning environments and providing teachers with powerful classroom resources. Teachers earn graduate credit for each of the six-week courses through partnership with eight colleges and universities. Four of these universities—Bank Street College of Education, City University of New York School of Professional Studies, Brooklyn College, and Western Governors University—include Seminars on Science courses as part of teacher preparation and certification programs. In fiscal year 2013, Seminars on Science served 1,200 teachers with 12 courses.
The success of Seminars on Science as a leader in online science education has paved the way for a partnership with Coursera, a leading global Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider, which announced its first foray into professional development for teachers at the K–12 level in spring 2013.
Beginning September 2013, the Museum offered three four-week courses for educators at the 7th- through 12th-grade level through Coursera’s professional development channel: Genetics and Society, Evolution, and Dynamic Earth. The courses featured resources developed by Museum scientists and educators, including three-dimensional virtual specimens and videos that take educators behind the scenes to the Museum’s world-class collections, to field sites, and to research facilities.
The landmark partnership with Coursera offered opportunities for new learning about how Museum content can be extended via a global platform, including best practices and the efficacy of online assessment.
Digital Media Drives Youth Engagement, Motivation in Science Learning
Youth learning offers tremendous opportunities to use digital media and digital tools to support engagement with science, forge connections between new generations and Museum research and collections, and support lifelong learning skills.
The Museum has a strong legacy of engaging youth in science learning with digital tools, including its award-winning website for children, OLogy, and more recent successes with middle-school institutes such as Virtual Worlds and Digital Flight School, which teach students to use specialized digital software to complete investigations using fossil, genetic, and astronomical evidence.
More recently, Museum educators have begun experimenting with a variety of additional digital tools and approaches to design new programs. During the January 2013 Digital Learning Week, students took part in Morpholution, a program designed around the cloud-based tool Morphobank, the same tool that facilitates large-scale scientific studies such as the one that led to the reconstruction of the early mammal ancestor by an international team that included Museum scientists (see story here).
Students learned how scientists document and communicate data, gathered their own data in the Museum halls using iPads, compared traits to understand evolutionary relationships, and generated evolutionary trees to determine how humans fit into the mammal evolutionary tree. As part of the program, educators used digital badges to motivate and engage learners, with promising results that will continue to inform future efforts.