January 1, 2004
WGBH's Teachers' Domain (www.teachersdomain.org) is a free online collection of multimedia resources for K-12 teachers and students. According to the Boston-based station's own description, this repository contains 50 years of archival assets organized and contextualized for efficient use in schools, and features excerpts from WGBH's broadcast, video, and interactive programming. The first phase of the site's development focused on the Life Sciences with subsequent phases turning to the creation of additional resource areas, both in the sciences as well as other disciplines. The attached report details findings from our study; below is a brief description of the report's contents.
Before proceeding with the development of the collection, WGBH's education staff was interested in learning more about teachers' potential use of the digital resources as well as barriers to effective dissemination of the site. With support from the Ford Foundation, WGBH sought to commission additional research to supplement a Summer 2003 summative evaluation of the Life Sciences library, which involved students and teachers in two high schools. Based on the results of a formative research project the Center for Children and Technology (CCT) conducted around PBS's Digital Classroom, WGBH invited CCT to study its online service.
This report is the result of a five-month study; it is comprised of two components:
- An overview of the current knowledge base regarding how rich media resources, like Teachers' Domain, can support teaching and learning in K-12 schools.
- Case studies of teachers, technology coordinators and administrators' perceptions and potential use of Teachers' Domain.
Effective technology use is more often than not dependent on a complex number of factors that delineate the culture of a school and determine the degree to which technologies can be leveraged to support students' learning. The overview provides a description of these and other factors as they relate to the state of rich media use in K-12 classrooms throughout the United States. Researchers focusing on educational technology have conducted many studies in recent years, several of them involving large populations of teachers and students. By mining the data contained in these large-scale research studies as well as smaller examinations of rich media integration, this section of the report offers a description of the current knowledge base. We look across these studies, pulling out lessons learned, highlighting evidence of potential benefits and listing persistent challenges that schools encounter when introducing rich-media resources into classroom practice.
We have organized this section around the following questions:
- How prevalent are rich media in K-12 classrooms?
- How do educators become familiar with rich media?
- What do we know about learning from rich media?
- What conditions are necessary to support the use of rich media in classroom contexts?
- How have teachers used rich media to support learning in K-12 classrooms?
In addition to reviewing existing research studies related to the use of rich media in K-12 schools throughout the United States, we conducted a set of case studies specific to Teachers' Domain. Taking advantage of the Life Sciences prototype that already existed, we sought to gather data that would compliment the broad picture described in Overview Section.
Using our network of school districts, we selected five schools to serve as case study participants, none of which had prior experience with Teachers' Domain. We selected schools that represented a wide range of demographics, e.g. urban, suburban, rural, resource-rich, resource-challenged, established technology use, etc. We also chose teachers who tended toward one of two approaches to classroom practice: 1) a traditional approach to teaching, i.e. they viewed themselves as the holder of information, organizing much of their students' class time around listening to presentations and completing teacher-directed tasks and projects; or 2) an inquiry-based approach to learning, arranging their classroom as a place where students acquired knowledge in collaboration with the teacher. Although teachers were not exclusively traditional or solely inquiry-based, but had a variation in their actual practices, this emphasis on teaching philosophy was useful. It provided us with the opportunity to learn more about how teachers, professional development specialists and technology coordinators perceived the online resource and the ways in which they would consider integrating it into their existing practice.
While these case studies did not yield quantitative data that could be used to generalize over the entire population of K-12 schools or even a cross section of it - by its very nature a case study is an examination of one specific context - we were able to extrapolate some overlapping aspects of the collective experiences of the case study participants, which we relate in the report's conclusion.