Thursday, October 27, 2011

Clear Learning Outcomes

[Author's note:  These subjects have been taken from the goals in America's Lab Report, a groundbreaking report from the National Research Council.  The text and images explain how authentic online science lab experiences meet those goals.]

Design of lab includes clearly stated learning outcomes.
sample goals and objectives
sample activity plan header
Every one of these virtual labs has a full activity plan to support teacher and curriculum writers. The first image above is the header for the plan and includes the purpose and goals of the lab for use by the teacher. The second image is taken from an introduction to one of the lab units and will be seen by both students and teachers.

© 2012 by Smart Science Education Inc., U.S.A.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mastery of Subject Matter

[Author's note:  These subjects have been taken from the goals in America's Lab Report, a groundbreaking report from the National Research Council.  The text and images explain how authentic online science lab experiences meet those goals.]

Enhance student understanding of specific scientific facts and concepts and the way in which these facts and concepts are organized in the scientific disciplines.

example experiment showing mastery of subject matter, wqrm up example experiment showing mastery of subject matter, quiz
example experiment showing mastery of subject matter, vocabulary
In order to use science lab experiences to aid subject matter mastery, labs must have supporting material that helps students. At the upper left, you can see a reduced image of a warm up page. This page includes a brief description, goals and objectives, and a series of questions designed so that students begin to think about the topic and, possibly, to challenge their preconceptions. At the upper right is the beginning of a post-lab quiz that helps students to consider the science investigated with the experiments. Students can review their experimental work and support materials during this quiz.
The lower image shows the vocabulary and scientist mini-biography taken from the same Cell Respiration lab. The vocabulary list links to a hyperlinked list of all words related to this lab.
Not shown above is the Procedure page, which has additional background material on this lab, a procedure discussion when warranted, and information on errors, graphs, apparatus, units, and more. Also not shown are the fully worked out solutions for all quiz questions and the Solution Strategy page that explains principles in more detail and provides some sample worked-out problems.
All of this material creates a greater mastery of the science illustrated by the experiments being performed by the students.

© 2012 by Smart Science Education Inc., U.S.A.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Definition of "Laboratory Experience"

Definition of a Laboratory Experience

"Laboratory experiences provide opportunities for students to interact directly with the material world (or with data drawn from the material world), using the tools, data collection techniques, models, and theories of science."

This definition forms the critical basis for all of the goals specified in America's Lab Report according to Prof. Susan Singer, the lead author of the report. All data from science labs must originate in the material world. That definition does not provide for data that originates from a programmer's pencil: simulations.

Simulations can have pedagogical value, but this value does not include substituting for true laboratory experience no matter how well designed or well integrated the simiulation is.

I will be providing examples of online activities meeting the goals of America's Lab Report that all use data that originates in the material world. In some instances, the online activities have been augmented by hands-on experiments that provide another dimension of experience to students.

© 2015 by Smart Science Education Inc., U.S.A.
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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Books about Marketing

If you've created something you'd like to sell or are even considering creating some such thing, you'll immediately run into the issue of marketing.  Few software developers know anything about marketing.

If you find yourself in this predicament, don't despair.  There's a great resource, the ESC Marketing Book Club.  For just $35 per year, you can join the Educational Software Cooperative at and participate in this excellent online activity.

Al Harberg runs the online club and summarizes each new book he selects.  People then enter into a discussion of the topic, sharing their own experiences with software and marketing.

Why try to figure out all of those marketing books yourself?  Get the Harberg Digest online plus other members' insights.  Go to the website now and join.

While you're at it, check out the ESC blog at

For a summary of books already reviewed, see

See you there!

© 2012 by Smart Science Education Inc., U.S.A.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pay Teachers More

Today, I ran across a column by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times that surprised me. Mr. Kristof usually writes about things happening around the world. I think that the situation in Wisconsin motivated him to devote a column to this important topic. You can find it here:

What I found fascinating about his column is how well he makes his point, marshaling evidence from many sources. He points out that one excellent teacher can raise the lifetime earnings of each student, on average, by $20,000. For class sizes of 20 (small these days) and a lifetime career of 30 years, the impact on our economy of a single excellent teacher over that teacher's career is an amazing $12 million. For the superb master teachers, it's even more: nearly $20 million.

Each year such a teacher works adds future value to our economy at a rate that's eight times greater than a teacher salary of $50,000 for the excellent teacher, and that ratio assumes only 20 students in a class. In New York City, typical classes exceed 30 students and so increase the ratio by 1/2 to 12 times greater.

Doubling teachers' salaries would still provide us with a great deal if we only had great teachers. But, we don't. Mr. Kristof then turns to teachers' unions and nails it. He says that they have misused their clout to ensure job security for teachers instead of better pay. The former rewards poor teachers. The latter attracts good teachers.

He goes on to explain more about our underpaid teachers. Starting teacher pay today averages $39,000 according to Kristof. Increasing it to $65,000 would allow us to fill our teacher vacancies from the top third of college graduates instead of getting nearly half from the bottom third. He suggests that it would be enough to turn our education system around as long as politicians and others stop using our teachers as verbal punching bags.

© 2011 by Paracomp, Inc., U.S.A.
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