Electroninc Journal of Science Education - V4 N1 - September 1999 - Klein et al.

Editor's Note: Many thanks to the authors for submitting this manuscript in HTML format.

Initiation of a Collaborative Approach for Elementary Science Methods Courses:
Teaching Across Collaborative Highways (TEACH) 

Beth Shiner Klein, Ed.D.
State University of New York - Cortland,

Juanita Jo Matkins, Ed.D.
University of Virginia


Starlin Weaver, Ph.D.
Salisbury State University

According to Tyack and Cuban (1995), "Reforms should be designed to be hybridized, adapted by educators working together to take advantage of their knowledge of their own diverse students and communities and supporting each other in new ways of teaching" p. 135-136. It was with this spirit, that Beth Klein, Juanita Jo Matkins, and Starlin Weaver designed and implemented the TEACH project.



Excellence in elementary science teaching requires teachers that have a strong self-confidence in their ability to learn and teach science processes and content in an inquiry-based manner (Penick 1983). In order to educate teachers to provide exemplary science teaching, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers Association and the National Research Council have suggested that quality elementary science methods instruction should include a number of characteristics. These include the integration of science learning with other content areas such as mathematics, language arts, and social studies; emphasis on hands-on/minds-on instruction; application of instruction over a broad range of science content and science process areas; applications of pedagogical issues such as cognitive theory research and equity concerns; and implementation of aspects of educational reform such as alternative assessment and inquiry-based/constructivist learning (NRC 1996). The role of elementary science methods course instructors in providing expert guidance in all these areas is a daunting task. Prior to the availability of collaborative technologies such as video linkages, meeting software and Internet program sharing, educators were often isolated in their own colleges and universities. The three elementary science methods course instructors who participated in the first year of this collaborative project have explored strategies for sharing instruction and resources while adapting the available technologies to the specific needs of elementary science methods course instruction.

The application of modern digital educational technologies in instruction in college and university education programs has been the focus of research during the past decade. The potential for enhancement of collaborations among students and among in-service teachers has been explored in a variety of venues, with applications of telecommunication technologies such as listservs, newsgroups, e-mail, and the World Wide Web (Caggiano-Hatton & Abegg, 1998, Khan & Clement, 1999). Such studies have concluded that professional development programs can overcome communication difficulties presented by geographic distance through the use of telecommunication technologies. The use of telecommunication networks in professional development projects has resulted in teachers sharing expertise and curriculum materials (Honey & Henriquez, 1993; Broholm, 1993). A recent study (Hatton & Abegg, 1999) on the effect of use of a telecommunications network on secondary science teachers concluded that teachers in the project shared technology resources and classroom experiences with colleagues. The teachers also reflected upon their teaching practices, such as how they managed technology in their classroom, and how the technology worked for their students. In one case, a shift was seen in teacher viewpoint about relationships with students. The teacher began to think of students as computer experts and he as facilitator.

Collaboration in education classes has been explored and elaborated upon at the University of Virginia and Iowa State University (Heinecke, et al., 1999) by way of emerging "groupware" technologies such as Microsoft NetMeeting software, whiteboards, and full-duplex telephone systems. Initial models involved seminar-sized groups (a dozen students or less at a site), two-way collaboration, and a course content focused upon technology issues. These collaborations were themselves a transition from the "one-to-many" model common in distance learning; and the new model was characterized as a "several-to-several" model, or "Collaborative Education" (Bull, et al., 1999). The Collaborative Education model developed between the University of Virginia and the Iowa State University involved small classes with enrollments of no more than a dozen students at a site.

The project described in this paper, Teaching Across Collaborative Highways (TEACH), examines a semester-long collaboration across three institutions of higher education. Three assistant professors of science education developed a plan to use telecommunication technologies embedded within their elementary science methods courses. Students and faculty at a Wisconsin private 4-year college, St. Norbert College (SNC), worked with students and faculty at a large research university in Virginia, the University of Virginia (UVa), and with students and faculty at a public Eastern Shore university in Maryland, Salisbury State University (SSU). Course enrollments at the three institutions ranged from 15 students in Maryland to 30 students in Wisconsin. The instructors viewed the collaboration as an opportunity to exhibit the different skills and background of the three faculty members to the advantage of students at all three schools.

The idea of a methodology course collaboration among the three TEACH faculty members came out of conversations about the institutional isolation of faculty and students. Each faculty member was always aware of being the only science educator, or the only elementary science educator; and they looked forward to the opportunity for active collaboration with other faculty with similar teaching assignments. Also, the three faculty members wanted to expose their students to other perspectives about teaching science in elementary school. A significant vehicle for the conversations that initiated this collaboration was the Women In Science Education (WISE) group that met regularly at meetings of the Association for the Education of Teachers of Science (AETS). The first meeting of the three women who were to become the TEACH faculty occurred at a WISE meeting in 1996. At the time, all three were doctoral candidates in their final year or two of graduate studies.

The Technology

Planning for the TEACH project began in the summer of 1998, and plans were implemented in the spring of 1999. Technology recommendations were obtained from persons involved with the UVa/Iowa State projects. The chart below (Bull, et al., 1999) describes various options tested by other faculty and recommended for our consideration in the TEACH project.

Table 1

Designing a Collaborative Education Laboratory (Three Examples)




Low Cost


Moderate Cost




NetMeeting Software
Whiteboard (free)


Graphics Tablet ($200)


Electronic Whiteboard($2,000)


Real-time Audio


Internet Audio (free)


Full-duplex Conference Phone ($300)


Conference Phone with Wireless Mike ($1,000)




Scan Converter ($300)


LCD Tablet ($1,000)


Projector ($3,000)


Real-time Video


NetMeeting + Video Digitizer ($70) and Video Camera ($150)


NetMeeting + Video Digitizer ($70) and Camera & Tripod


Document Camera


Adapted Video Camera (no additional expense)


Video Digitizer + Video Switch ($20) + Document Camera


Streaming Audio


SoundBlaster ($60) + Sound Recorder Software (free) + NetShow


SoundBlaster ($60) + Sound Editing Software ($50) + NetShow


Discussion Group


Internet Discussion Group (Collabra);(free)


Internet Discussion
Group (Collabra);(free)




> $500


> $2,000


> $10,000

Note: From " Mining the Internet: Collaborative education," by G. Bull, G. Bull, W. Heinecke, R. Walker, L. Blasi, and J. Willis, Learning and Leading with Technology 26, p. 52. Copyright 1999 by International Society for Technology in Education. Reprinted with permission of the lead author.

During the initial stages of planning it was hoped that collaboration technologies enabling full three-way audio and video interaction, the "Moderate Cost" example detailed in Table 1, would be available to all three classes. It soon became apparent that each institution would have its own answer for the technology requirements of this collaboration. Each instructor had to work through the process of designing the collaboration procedures while considering the technological capabilities of the other institutions. The University of Virginia was the only institution that used a system recognizable within the examples proposed in Table 1; and that was due to the residual effect of development of those ideas as part of the collaboration between the University of Virginia and the Iowa State University.

It soon became apparent that the faculty at St. Norbert College and Salisbury State University were going to have to overcome resource barriers in order to participate in the collaboration. St. Norbert College, although outfitted with an interactive satellite video-classroom, did not have a collaborative classroom. With the assistance of technology specialists from Virginia and St. Norbert College's faculty support specialist, Jay Cook, a solution was created. The Wisconsin elementary education classroom was already equipped with a network and phone connection. A Macintosh PowerBook, a digital video camera, a portable projector, and a standard speakerphone were placed in the classroom during the collaborative sessions. Because the meeting software in use by the UVa collaborative education classroom, Microsoft NetMeeting, was not developed for the Macintosh, SNC used a beta version of Netopia's Timbuktu which allowed a level of interaction with the sharing of applications such as Netscape and PowerPoint. This adjustment complicated the collaboration and the ability to use the whiteboard and live chatting tools was lost.

Dr. Weaver, at Salisbury State University, was not able to marshal the necessary resources to participate fully in the live collaborative sessions. SSU was in the middle of developing a school of education technology plan for the NCATE accreditation process. As a result of this project, Dr. Weaver became a major player in the development of her school's technology priorities. This has insured future participation in the live collaborative sessions as SSU is designing a collaborative classroom. Dr. Weaver and her students collaborated primarily by way of e-mail and listserv with the Virginia and Wisconsin partners.

How the Collaboration Worked in TEACH

Though the three instructors discussed a possible collaboration as early as the 1998 AETS meeting, actual implementation did not begin until a year later. A planning session with the three instructors was held in January of1999 at the Annual Meeting for the Association for the Education of Teachers of Science (AETS). When Drs Klein, Weaver, and Matkins initially began talking about the collaboration it was envisioned as a vehicle to share content knowledge. It was thought that Dr. Klein would contribute from her expertise in environmental science, Dr. Weaver would contribute biology and chemistry background, and Dr. Matkins would contribute meteorology content. However, it was soon apparent that concentrating on science content in the collaboration would involve more class time and technological expertise than was available for a first try at the collaboration. Therefore, we decided to collaborate from our educational research perspectives: Dr. Matkins would contribute her research on women scientists, Dr. Klein would contribute her work on alternative assessment, and Dr. Weaver would focus on her work which incorporates science problem solving with children's literature.

Also, while at AETS, the three instructors decided on the six research topics that would be assigned to each cross-state group. The six topics were: elementary science curriculum resource materials, methods of teaching elementary science, teaching science in a diverse society, state elementary science standards, integration of other elementary curricular areas with science, and alternative assessment in elementary science.

The spring semester began shortly after the AETS meeting with Virginia and Wisconsin beginning classes at the same time and Maryland starting 2 weeks later. Three individual collaborative sessions between Virginia and Wisconsin were later followed by state team presentations at the individual sites. During the timeline of the project, differences in the semester schedule for each institution, as indicated on the timeline below, complicated the student e-mail collaborations across the institutions.

Table 2

TEACH Collaborative Timeline for January-May 1999












13-17 Planning meeting at AETS conference


1 SSU class begins


5 Individual team papers due for each institution


1-14 No UVa science methods classes


14 SSU class ends


20 UVa and SNC classes begin


1-9 Project introduction and teams assigned


12-26 Collaborative papers due


1-26 SSU team presentations


10 First UVa/SNC Internet collaboration


12-31 No UVa science methods classes


6-9 SNC team presentations


10-17 E-mail introductions for 3 schools


14-31 SSU team presentations


9 SNC class ends


17 Second UVa/SNC Internet collaboration


16-30 UVa team presentations


24 Third UVa/SNC Internet collaboration


30 UVa class ends


Initially, the students were introduced to the project via their instructor. Each faculty gave a brief description of the six science education topic areas: standards, diversity issues, assessment, curriculum resources, teaching methods, and integration across content areas, for students to investigate; and the students selected the topic of most interest and created the state and cross-state teams. The students assigned themselves to one of six groups by placing their name on a sign-up sheet under the topic of interest. Each state team had a counterpart team at each of the other two locations. These three state teams formed the cross-state teams. For example, the Wisconsin group investigating state science standards would also work with the Virginia and Maryland groups that were also investigating state science standards. Each cross-team group was required to work together to develop a question (or questions) on their topic and then conduct an investigation at a local and state level. Teams accomplished this in a variety of ways including: classroom teacher interviews, principal interviews, education faculty interviews, reviewing state and local documents, and reviewing journal articles.

The Live Collaborative Sessions

Since the groups from Virginia and Wisconsin were able to arrange for the use of collaborative technology and a common time to conduct collaborative lessons in real-time over the Internet, they planned three live Internet-based collaborative class sessions. Each of the sessions contained a PowerPoint presentation for part of the presentation so that copies of the PowerPoint materials in either HTML or native PowerPoint format and any supporting materials could later be shared with the Maryland group.

The three collaborative sessions included an introductory session, a session that focused on gender issues in science education, and one that focused on alternative assessment in science education. The introductory session included an overview of the project and a review of team responsibilities. This session, which included a PowerPoint presentation, was facilitated by both instructors. The students from Virginia and Wisconsin introduced themselves by sharing their most memorable elementary science experience.

The second session focused on gender issues in science education. The Virginia faculty coordinator led this session, which focused on her research about the lives of six women scientists. It included a reader's theater-style presentation of case studies. Six students, three from each location, played the part of the six women scientists in this interactive session. Following the case study presentation, the instructor facilitated a discussion, using a PowerPoint discussion outline, about gender issues in science education.

The third session focused on alternative assessment issues in science education led by the Wisconsin faculty coordinator. Students were asked, via a listserv posting, to read a section of an online resource about alternative assessment. In this session college students reviewed samples of answers to an open-ended question created by fifth grade students. Students at each location created scoring criteria to evaluate the answers and shared their approach to the process and their results using the collaborative technology. This was followed by a discussion, using a PowerPoint discussion outline, on alternative assessment strategies for use in elementary science teaching. Interestingly, the students asked to extend this session so that more of the cross-state teams could discuss research strategies between the Wisconsin and Virginia teams.

Student Research Teams

Student teams in each state were required to develop two documents. One was a short paper on the selected issue and the ways in which that issue was addressed in their state. The second document was a summary paper developed by the cross-state teams on the same issue topic. All papers were intended for posting on the TEACH web site. Instructors established a series of due dates for each stage of the project. Variations in due dates were unavoidable because of differences in school schedules and in class duration. The Wisconsin class did not meet for the last third of the semester, the Virginia class met sporadically during the mid-point of the project due to prior arrangements with a social studies colleague, and the Maryland institution held spring break during the most intense document-sharing flurry of the project. These differences in institution and class schedules added to the potential for difficulties and frustration of the students as they were trying to collaborate on their cross-state summary papers.

The student cross-state teams communicated primarily via e-mail, listserv, and chat rooms. The listserv was created and set up by the faculty coordinators to initiate student communication and to allow the coordinators to monitor communication. Many of the students decided to communicate on their own directly via e-mail and also by setting up chat room communication. Students at all three locations experienced e-mail difficulties such as problems with sending attachments, and with sending messages to the whole group when a more narrow audience was intended. This worked itself out as faculty and students coached other students using a "just-in-time training" model.

Faculty Perspectives

Dr. Beth Shiner Klein's Perspective

St. Norbert College is a small, private Catholic liberal arts college near Green Bay, Wisconsin. Education is one of the largest majors on campus involving over 450 of the 2000 student body. I was the only science educator on campus and was also responsible for the math education and instructional technology education of all of the elementary education majors.

The course that was involved in the collaborative project was the integrated math/science methods course for elementary and middle school majors. The course, taken during the sophomore year, was part of a block of education courses taken together for ten weeks followed by a 5-week full-time field placement. The other block education courses included social studies methods, exceptional children, and children's literature. All of these courses were closely coordinated, with faculty sharing course goals, conducting joint assignments and trading class time to allow students to have a range of teaching experiences. When agreeing to participate in this project, I needed to gain the support of my colleagues since the collaboration would effect them and their teaching.

Most of the students in the course were in their sophomore year at St. Norbert and most had only limited exposure to teaching experiences. The majority of the students were white, middle class, and female. Twenty-six of the twenty-eight students were female. Some of the students in the science methods course had already taken the instructional technology course required of all education students. This course included introductory instruction in multimedia authoring with HyperStudio, web page authoring with WISIWIG editors, and use of the Microsoft Office suite of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Having not been trained in instructional technology, but having the realization that instructional technology courses would be part of my teaching load at St. Norbert, I had become a fast "sink-or-swim" learner of educational technology hardware and software. I had also developed positive working relationships with computer resource personnel and serving as co-chair of the college's Teaching, Learning, and Technology Roundtable, I knew where to find technology resources that I could, "beg, borrow, or steal". These roles had enabled me to grow in my self-confidence in using technology and I had become somewhat accustomed to the challenges that technology could present during class sessions.

Even with these expectations, I found myself growing frustrated with the Internet connection drop-offs that were common during the live collaborative sessions. This may have been caused by the memory limitations of the laptop computer I was using, or poor wiring in the aging building in which my classroom was located. We were usually able to facilitate reconnection after rebooting my laptop computer and notifying Virginia that we were back up and running via the speakerphone. Then we would re-establish the collaborative connection between the two computers.

The speakerphone used at my site was not made for use by a large group. Some students in the classroom had difficulty hearing the Virginia students. Additionally, my students were difficult to hear unless they spoke loudly near the speakerphone. Although this was a frustrating experience, the speakerphone at each site did kept the conversation by the two classes going even when we lost the Internet connection.

Interestingly, although the students had mentioned the excitement with using the technology for this collaboration in journal entries made on the day of the first synchronous collaboration, subsequent journal entries on collaboration dates made no mention of the technology. All of the later entries focused on the exchanges with their Virginia colleagues and what they had learned from the class sessions. This surprised me since I was afraid that the interruptions caused by the Internet connection drop-offs would have distracted the students from the actual course session discussions.

I had previously used Dr. Matkin's women scientist readers' theater in my course. During the second collaborative session, which was led by Dr. Matkins, she facilitated the reading of the script and the follow-up discourse. I noticed that my students took the discourse to a new level and appeared more interested in the follow-up discussion than my other sections of the course had been, when I had led a similar session. The effect of having the Dr. Matkins, the author of the reader's theater and a leading researcher on women scientists, discussing the topic with them seemed to make it more interesting and real to them. I also learned more about the topic as Dr. Matkins added insights and answered student questions.

I enjoyed leading the collaboration session on assessment. I had conducted a similar session with my students in earlier semesters, but this time, the students from Virginia added a new dimension for me. The Virginia students, who were nearing the end of their five-year education program, had taken a course that included alternative assessment strategies. These students were able to add to the discussion and broaden the questions. The St. Norbert College students, who were at the beginning of their teacher preparation program, did not have as much background in alternative assessment and seemed to gain much from the interaction. They commented on ideas that were presented by the Virginia students in later class sessions on using alternative assessment in elementary science teaching.


Dr. Starlin Weaver's Perspective

Salisbury State University (SSU) is a comprehensive state-supported institution offering a traditional liberal arts curriculum and a variety of preprofessional and professional programs on both the graduate and undergraduate levels. SSU is located on Maryland's Eastern Shore in Salisbury. The school is approximately ten miles from the Delaware state line and 30 miles from the Virginia state line. Elementary Education is the largest major on campus, involving over 600 of the approximately 6000 undergraduate students. I am the only tenure-track science educator on campus and my teaching and advising load includes both elementary and secondary science education majors.

The course involved in TEACH was one of my elementary science methods courses. This course is typically taken during the junior or senior year as a part of a methods block. The course includes a field component that runs concurrently. Students in this course spend approximately one half day per week in a local elementary school classroom. Most of the students are taking one or more additional methods courses. Most students in TEACH are completing four additional methods courses including math, social studies, communication arts and reading.

The students in this course were in the last semester of their junior year or the first semester of their senior year. Most students in this class will be student teaching in the fall of 1999. All of the students were Caucasian. Most of the students were middle class, students between the ages of 20 and 30. This class of 15 was comprised of 12 females and 3 males. Currently, there is no technology course requirement for students at SSU but there is an elective course available, and two of my students had taken or were currently enrolled in this elective course, Computers in Education.

As this project began to take shape in the summer and fall of 1998, my level of excitement increased. Being a relatively new science teacher educator, I was still learning the nuances of higher education. I was the only full-time tenure-track science teacher educator at Salisbury State. The sense of isolation I felt started to subside as the project began to take shape. I was looking forward to collaborating with two other science teacher educators in a systematic way on a regular basis. I was also excited about the collaboration across the different states and the opportunity for my students to learn from other students. My excitement soon turned to frustration as I began to discover that my students were not going to be able to connect with St. Norbert or UVa for the interactive sessions, because my university lacked the technology necessary for real-time video-supported collaboration. I decided, with the encouragement of Dr. Matkins and Dr. Klein, to continue the project even though SSU's association would be superficial at best. The students would collaborate via individual e-mail and a listserv but would be unable to connect to the other schools for the actual collaborative teaching sessions. When St. Norbert and UVa had joint classes I generally presented the same material to my students one to two days following the collaborative sessions. When Dr. Klein and Dr. Matkins used a PowerPoint presentation to enhance a lesson I used the same presentations.

My lesson on gender equity was greatly enhanced by Dr. Matkins' readers' theater script. Instead of talking about women scientists in the abstract, we were able to actually hear the voices of real contemporary female scientists. This script initiated some very thoughtful and informative discussion among my students.

Overall I believe I benefited in many ways. Some things I learned were not things I had anticipated. I learned that I can get support from my colleagues even if they are hundreds of miles away. I looked forward to the conference calls and used them to help maintain my sanity. I also learned that what I was trying to accomplish wasn't that different than other science educators. Working collaboratively with Dr. Klein and Dr. Matkins added credibility to my teaching of elementary school science. We learned to support and encourage one another.


Dr. Juanita Jo Matkins' Perspective

The University of Virginia is a Research I university in Charlottesville, Virginia, with an enrollment of about 18,000 degree-seeking students in its undergraduate and graduate programs. The Teacher Education division of the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia is nationally-ranked, and the Curry School was chosen as one of four exemplary schools of education in a study of technology in education. The technology leadership for the collaborative project described in this paper came from technology programs already in place in the Curry School of Education. Nonetheless, it was up to Dr. Weaver, Dr. Klein, and me to customize and adapt the models already in place to fit our students, our classes, and our own abilities.

My course was part of the three-credit, semester-long science and social studies education methods course for elementary education majors in the Masters of Teaching program. Two credits of course time and attention were relegated to science and one to social studies. The students were fourth-year students who had completed several education courses and at least two field projects in education prior to taking the course. Prior to the fourth year all education students had taken a technology course. During the time students took my course, they also took general elementary education courses such as Curriculum and Instruction, and Assessment. Both general courses involved semester-long field placements. During the fourth year, students also took two semesters of language arts and one semester of mathematics education. For these students, student teaching would take place in the fall of 1999. The majority of the students in the elementary science course were white females between the ages of 20 and 25. Of the 27 students, 25 were female; 22 were Caucasian, two were Asian-American, and three were African-American.

During the collaboration, Dr. Klein, Dr. Weaver, and I held regular conference calls to discuss items of business such as our plans for the next class, outcomes from previous classes, and how to structure the students' projects and our own assessment of the project. I was confident that I could have technology to collaborate, based upon my observations of the seminars already taught at Virginia via that technology. As the collaboration progressed through the second and third class meetings the technology support staff in the Curry School began to taper off their presence during class, probably intending to foster my independence. I felt more abandoned than enabled, though, since the technology with our collaborative project was much more complex than those of previous collaborative projects. The machinery we were using for collaboration was PC specific, and I am accustomed to Macintosh hardware. NetMeeting, the software most conducive to the model used at Virginia, was only available as a DOS-based program. There were times during the collaboration when Dr. Klein and I would completely lose video connection, and I would go out of the room and down the hall looking for someone to help! I might have quit if it hadn't been for Dr. Klein, who laughed at me, and with me, from her end in Wisconsin and who was able to persevere even though the technology available to her was far less sophisticated than at Virginia. I also benefited from an axiom of teacher-using-technology: When all else fails, ask a student for help! The immediate solution to our technology glitches was twofold: 1) turn much of the technology over to students in the class and 2) laugh - at ourselves, the machinery, and with the students. I began to call our efforts "Punctuated Collaboration."

The facility we used at Virginia was the collaborative laboratory, and it was suited for no more than 16 people. My class enrollment was 27. After considering various options such as splitting the class and setting up a video connection in a separate room, I decided to ask the class what to do. We decided that we were all going to meet in this room and we would be crowded, but it was the best way we could come up with to have them all involved in the collaborative class. We all squeezed into this small room three times for the one and one-half hour class. It was uncomfortable, but tolerable given the low number of class meetings in that room and the relatively short duration of the class meeting time. We were comforted by the promise that a large classroom was being outfitted for such a collaboration and would be available in the next academic year.

Even though I was excited to be taking on this new approach to instruction and interaction, I was also unsure about how well it would work. My trepidation not only encompassed technology issues, but also included uncertainty about whether the students would see the project as beneficial. The outcomes available to me by May 1999, served to allay my fears. Overall, students (preservice elementary teachers) gained confidence in their ability to understand the areas of science education in which they had collaborated. Preservice elementary teacher outcomes from the project will be examined in detail in future articles.


The TEACH project effected change in the faculty involved in the project. Faculty involved in the project, Drs. Matkins, Klein, and Weaver, developed more sophisticated problem-solving skills as the collaboration progressed. They worked with three variations of technology, and guided their students through the team collaborations. PowerPoint presentations lent themselves to NetMeeting sharing, so faculty developed PowerPoint presentations. A common site for references and class notes was needed, so a faculty member accessed her university's class web site and established a class web page for student and faculty access. As evidence of a small but utilitarian step toward technological fluency, conference phone calls which initially took two or three attempts before the three-way connection was achieved became routine.

The three faculty members became more confident and fluent in ways to use technology for instruction and collaboration. They learned to move smoothly from a question and answer portion of the class to a PowerPoint presentation and then on to use of a Netscape-accessed web site --all focusing upon the topic of the day. An aspect of the problem-solving strategies developed was the development of multiple "fall-back" technologies as the semester progressed. Faculty guided the students through a succession of telecommunication strategies, from listserv to e-mail, then fax to phone. When one option failed, another was found. Frustration due to technology glitches and the unfulfilled assurances of technology support staff was often coupled with the TEACH team's exhortations to each other for patience.

Even though the audio connection during the live sessions could have been better, the audio, such as it was, proved essential to the live collaboration. The speakerphone at Wisconsin and the full-duplex phone at Virginia could be depended upon if everything else failed. Faculty would maintain the class discussions through the use of the speakerphone until the connection was re-established. While other systems were being rebooted and brought back on screen, the class could continue to talk and listen to each other.

In taking on this project, faculty accepted a myriad of challenges with management of the project. Each of the faculty members was on a different semester schedule, and only one of the three faculty members had a three-credit full semester course. One faculty member taught science methods in an integrated course with mathematics, and the another taught science methods in an integrated course with social studies. It was necessary to negotiate not only with each other, but also with other faculty at the university. Table 2 illustrates the variations in start time, spring break, and last day of class. For the collaboration to occur, school must be in session at each collaborative site. Also to facilitate synchronous collaboration, classes must meet at the same time. Time zone changes must be accounted for, as these faculty discovered in their first (abortive) attempt at a conference call. One reality of video and audio collaboration is the need for real-time coordination; and variations in class schedules and class meeting times must be accounted for in planning for the semester's collaboration.

Though student collaboration was the intent of the project, purposeful faculty collaboration served to diminish the sense of isolation of the faculty involved. Each was either the only science educator or the only elementary science educator at their institution, and each had the responsibility of delivering a quality course that had the potential to effect change in a mostly traditional audience of mainly young, white females.

An important aspect of faculty outcomes must be seen in terms of its potential effect upon students; that is, the modeling throughout this project by female faculty of relevant problem-solving with technology. A recent AAUW study (Online) cited the differences between girls and boys in choice of computer classes. Girls are more likely to choose clerical-type classes (e.g., word processing), and boys are more likely to choose advanced classes (e.g., graphics design). By participating in TEACH, the females in the class not only developed technology strategies to meet their collaboration assignments, but they also observed their professors working through challenges with advanced technology. Students even helped faculty with the use and adaptation of the technologies employed.

Former President of the National Science Teachers Association, JoAnne Vasquez (1997), in a guest editorial for the Electronic Journal of Science Education, calls for the development of a national telecommunication network between teachers and teachers, teachers and scientists, and teachers and policy makers. She cites a 1996 NSTA teacher survey in which teachers reported time, isolation, and lack of materials as the main constraints upon instituting reform-based practices:

A new infrastructure is needed to reach more science teachers with opportunities - opportunities for coursework, for ongoing contacts with their peers, with university/national laboratory researchers, with science educators at teacher institutions and with policymakers in a cost-effective, steady-state fashion. (Online)

The TEACH project served as an initial step in training teachers to access and use technology for collaboration with colleagues across geographical and philosophical boundaries. Both elementary science education faculty and elementary education students reported a diminution of a sense of isolation from other educators. Faculty and student interactions revolved around science reform topics: diversity issues, standards-based education, assessment, teaching methods, integration of subjects, and curriculum resources. Authentic, purposeful assignments were the motivation and the vehicle for collaborative examination of science education reform topics. It is through such projects that teachers have the possibility of developing professional attitudes, practices, and habits that will enable them to be leaders in science education reform.

Future Plans

TEACH will continue for the 1999-2000 academic year. Dr. Klein has moved to SUNY-Cortland, and will be teaching several sections of elementary science methods. The University of Virginia's Curry School of Education is outfitting two regular-sized classrooms for collaboration, and larger rooms open up the possibility of exploring hands-on activities as part of the collaboration. Salisbury State University is equipping a classroom with collaboration hardware and software, for use by Dr. Weaver. Variations in course credit-hours and variations in team-teaching profiles will be eliminated in 1999-2000, since all three courses will be solely science methods, and all three will be three-credit courses. All three institutions are on a semester schedule, and all elementary science methods classes will meet the entire semester. The faculty involved in TEACH in 1998-1999 intend to continue and refine the collaboration, using at least one section of elementary science methods at each institution. With the promise of greater consistency of schedule, better resources, and the potential for more coherence within the project, TEACH will continue to provide the opportunity for the development of elementary teachers of science who have the collaborative tools for active involvement in science education reform.


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About the Authors...

Beth Shiner Klein is an Assistant Professor of Science Education at the State University of New York at Cortland. She has several years experience as an elementary and middle school teacher in Virginia and Pennsylvania and was formally the elementary science, math and instructional technology professor at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin. Beth's applied research interests include integrated methods instruction; applications of educational technology into oceanography education, environmental education, and elementary science education; and authentic and performance-based assessment in science education.

Juanita Jo Matkins is an Assistant Professor of Science Education at the University of Virginia with 20 years teaching experience in K-12 classrooms, mostly at the elementary and middle school levels. She is a Presidential Awardee for Excellence in Science Teaching. Juanita Jo's research interests include applications of educational technology in the elementary science classroom, and potential usefulness of various educational technologies in meeting the needs of a diverse student population.

Starlin Weaver is an Assistant Professor of Science Education at Salisbury State University in Maryland. A former high school biology teacher, she joined the faculty at SSU after completing her Ph.D. at Virginia Tech. Star's applied research interests include educational technology, integration of literature in science problem solving, and authentic assessment.

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