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).
I begin my personal reflection about NSDL with an analogy that I don’t mean to strain too much but it seems to me that Chicago-style pizza and “NSDL-style” networks share some key characteristics. Both are faithful to core elements of two staples which play a part of modern life in many areas of the world. However, like Chicago’s adaptation of pizza, NSDL-Style networking gains recognition in its own right because of its new and unique contributions to a standard fare in 21st century society (i.e., bringing together different “ingredients” to assemble a new style of networks). While multi-institutional, multidisciplinary networks are recognized as necessary components as we move into cyber-enabled STEM research and learning, NSDL introduced me to a new “flavor” (ok, I promise — I’ll cease…).
My views about “NSDL-style networks” are based upon my experiences and observations from participation in the Evaluation Committee and as a Pathway. In both arenas I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with people from a very wide range of expertise that I likely wouldn’t have met, had it not been for my involvement in the NSDL.
Download PDF: Collaboration, Alignment and Leadership
This essay compares and contrasts—from my personal perspective—four projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that have depended critically upon medium- to large-scale collaboration. This characteristic distinguishes them from most NSF-funded projects, as typified by the Program Officer for one of the four: “The NSDL program is an unusual program for NSF in that its projects are engaged in building an enterprise much larger than the object of any one grant. Indeed, the success of the program rests squarely on the extent to which the many projects can embrace this collective sense of identity and mission.” [Zia 2001] Though similarly reliant on collaboration, the four projects had significantly different outcomes, and the purpose of comparison is to consider why, with particular emphasis on matters of leadership.
Download PDF: Reflections on NSDL
The picture below is one that I’ve used in virtually every essay or presentation I’ve given about NSDL. As you can see, this essay is no exception.
This picture captures three things about our initial vision of NSDL – our aspirations, truly astronomical in scope, and our two goals – making a substantive improvement in the quality of learning in the STEM disciplines and a substantive difference in the extent to which the very best learning reaches all students. The two goals together are what give the vision its character – there are many pockets of very high quality STEM learning and the reach of STEM learning is huge but sadly the reach of the very best STEM learning has been too limited.