RAPID: Enabling Collaborative Science Learning Experiences on Mobile Devices

PI: Elliot Soloway
University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Award Details

This RAPID project focuses on porting existing collaborative software in support of project-based science — WeMap and WeKWL — to the iPad. Initial software design and development has been done for Android machines as part of a complementary research project, but iPads are available in so many schools that it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to make available for the 2012-2013 academic year software that could be immediately used in science classes. The work consists in moving the core collaboration support, concept mapping, and KWL facilities to the IPad during summer, 2012, along with development of sample lesson that model how the software can be integrated into classroom activities. The apps will be available in Fall, 2012. Additional capabilities (file management and message board) will be ported in fall and winter and made available to schools as they are available. Together the apps will form what is being called the WeLearn Collaboration Platform. The first apps to be made available form a core of apps that teachers are used to using and ask for when they have a new device available; more general-purpose apps (e.g., drawing and animating, collaborative reading and writing) and science-specific apps (e.g., data collection and analysis tools) will be added to the suite as more is learned from complementary research projects. The purpose of this RAPID is to establish the platform into which those apps can be added and attract significant teacher buy-in with those apps. That infrastructure and the credibility gained through its use will form the basis for a more complete app set and reason for teachers and school systems to see that tools developed through a research endeavor can have value.

This project is addressing a real, imminent need: Throughout the country, schools are buying iPads this summer for use in the fall. Teachers need to be able to use the iPads productively in science class immediately when school begins, yet there is little in the way of educational software available in support of science learning. Given that public=supported bonds are often used to support large-scale technology purchases, it will be devastating (long term) to K-12 school budgets if, like their desktop and laptop cousins before them, iPads are not having the kind of positive impact on student achievement that is expected. Yet, without available apps and models of how to use them effectively for science education, there is little possibility of the technology being used well. This project addresses real needs — making easy-to-use software for promoting science learning available to teachers and doing it in such a way that they have that software in time to use it on their new devices and have available models of its use to spur their imaginations.