A Retrospective Review on a Decade of Building a National Science Digital Library to Transform STEM Education
In April 2012 a three-day writing workshop was convened to generate a retrospective report on the NSDL library-building process. Workshop participants addressed the following research questions in group meetings and writing sessions of small teams:
- How has the vision for the NSDL been realized?
- How has NSDL developed over time?
- What new knowledge has been generated as a result?
- Where are / were successes and challenges for NSDL?
- How could the NSDL inform cyber-learning programs?
The resulting workshop report is structured as a series of essays and highlights a number of the significant lessons learned and contributions made by the hundreds of individuals who worked to advance digital library research and STEM education.
The report can be found at: http://serc.carleton.edu/p2p_redux/index.html
You can also download the report to your iPad via the iBooks app (this works best with the latest iBooks App installed (v 3.0)). Note: Kindle Fire users can also download this file to their desktop computers and then go the extra step to move it to their Fire.
In 2011, NSF provided the Reflections project with supplemental funding to revisit the Pathways to Progress vision. To do so, Cathy Manduca, Dave Mogk, Sarah Holsted and I have invited many of the original group of visionaries who helped to frame that document in 2000, to meet together to consider how that vision has changed, morphed and grown since then.
We have invited 20 plus members of the original workgroup members as well as a number of more recent NSDL community members to meet over three days to explore questions such as:
- How has the original vision for the NSDL been realized?
- How has it developed over time?
- What new knowledge has been generated as a result of the project?
- In what areas has the NSDL succeeded? What are its future challenges?
- How does the NSDL relate to future cyberlearning programs?
After considering these questions, our aim is to produce an online document that reflects back on what we’ve learned about our community and how what we’ve learned can inform the next generation of collaborative projects such as the NSDL, digital libraries in general, and future projects that focus on e-learning, cyber-learning and dissemination of STEM innovations.
This November marks 10 years of the NSDL. Happy Birthday! Did we know or only hope that 10 years after embarking on this experiment that the NSDL would still be growing and thriving? In Pathways to Progress, we outlined a set of ten challenges in building this resource:
- developing a shared vision for the form and function of the NSDL;
- meeting the needs of diverse learners;
- meeting the needs of the many disciplines encompassed by the NSDL;
- acquiring input from the community of users to ensure that the NSDL is both used and useable;
- developing a governance structure and Core Integration System that balances community needs with technical applications;
- integrating technologies that already exist, and promoting the development and integration of new technologies;
- providing mechanisms for sharing knowledge and resources, and building cooperation among NSDL collaborators;
- evaluating NSDL and its impact on STEM education; and
- coordinating these many interests and functions to provide an integrated whole.
Take a moment to send your birthday wishes to the NSDL, make a comment and share your impressions about participating in this grand experiment.
Ten years later, how did we do? Did we overcome these barriers and achieve the vision? Or, has the NSDL, like so many other organizations, been experienced goal creep and become something different?
Share with others your thoughts about how we have (or have not) addressed the challenges the community envisioned ten years ago. What are the challenges as we move forward into the next decade?
Download PDF: Integrating Research and Education
Editors Note: Dave Mogk provides and extensive reflection on his experienes with NSDL. We have excerpted his essay to include the major lessons learned. Please read the PDF for the full richness of Dave’s story.
The National Science Digital Library (NSDL) has the potential to be the premier agent of dissemination for instructional purposes the exciting research results that are supported by the disciplinary directorates of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Integrating research and education has long been an important priority of NSF’s mission to support “People, Tools, and Ideas”, and translation of scientific results into instructional practice is increasingly used as evidence of NSF’s “Broader Impacts” review criterion. Digital libraries provide an ideal environment to support the processes of discovery and inquiry that can make Science come alive for learners at all levels and in formal (K-16) and informal (for the interested and inquiring public) instructional settings. The NSDL can play an essential role in NSF’s mission by providing collections and services that directly link scientific results, data and data products, background information on scientific principles and methods, pedagogic strategies, instructional materials, teaching tips, assessments, and human resource development opportunities for students and instructors. Through contributing projects to the NSDL, the DLESE Community Services (DCS) and Microbial Life Educational Resources (MLER) projects, we have experimented with numerous formats to demonstrate ways in which integrating research and education can be achieved in a digital library environment.
Recently, an article titled NSDL Rethinks It’s Digital Library was published in Science that discussed the state of the NSDL and described some of the ‘rethinking’ that has been going on regarding it. While this article has certainly opened up the discussion, it is limited.
As part of the NSDL Reflections project we are inviting you to help us extend and expand that discussion.
We invite you to respond to the question:
How do you see the history of the NSDL and its future differently from that described in the article?
There are a multitude of sub-questions branching out from the main one, and we invite you to examine any and all that you consider important.
Download PDF: Reflections on the NSDL
This essay is a reflection on my involvement in the NSDL, which I was lucky enough to be involved with from the beginning. My interests are in using online resources to improve chemical education at both the college and high school level, and this work has led to our current NSDL project, the ChemCollective (www.chemcollective.org).
The NSDL has provided an inspiring home for me as a developer. The structure, including especially in-person meetings and workshops, has created a community of like-minded individuals who have educated me and helped guide my work for the past eight years. In this sense, I believe the NSDL project is an unusually successful NSF research program. Working together on a grand challenge, that of creating a national library, provides a structure that encourages engagement among the participants that is far more substantive than the interactions arising in programs built only around a competitive funding model. These interactions have strongly benefited me as a developer. But this is not the only way to perceive the NSDL. At the NSDL kickoff meeting, an attendee who had spent time in the software industry commented “this is an Internet startup company without a CEO or CIO”. This comment highlights the nature of the NSDL as a coalition of projects. The benefits of the NSDL arise primarily from the value added to those projects, and for me, the added benefit has stemmed primarily from interactions with the NSDL community.
This retrospective essay covers the period from 2001-2008, during which the research group at Utah State University (USU) focused on designing, developing, and evaluating a National Science Digital Library (NSDL.org) web-based service, called the Instructional Architect (IA.usu.edu). Later in this period, the focus was on disseminating the IA service in school contexts by developing and implementing formal and informal teacher professional development opportunities. These efforts have been funded by a series of National Science Foundations grants.
This essay is presented as three sections. In the first section, we describe our efforts to build a simple software system, the Instructional Architect, deploy it with users, and integrate it with the NSDL core technical infrastructure. In the second section, we describe our efforts to better understand the target context of educators, and to develop sustainable and scalable teacher professional development models. The final section reflects on how the IA fit within the NSDL program. Each section also includes a subsection describing evaluation strategies.
This essay also reflects shifts in our thinking over this period. Early efforts reflected a kind of technological determinism (i.e., ‘if we build it, they will come’). This eventually shifted to a more socio-technical approach. An unspoken assumption of early work was that teachers and their students would access and use such technologies in unproblematic and seamless ways. Unfortunately, the history of educational technology suggests that this is seldom the case (Cuban, 2001). Instead, after spending time with ‘real’ people (teachers and their students) in ‘real’ contexts (classrooms), it became clear that we needed to better understand the complex ways in which systems cross institutional boundaries (Agre, 2003).