Web-based science program designed by CU and UCAR now in six school districts

A web-based science instruction program designed by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research that provides teachers with cutting-edge digital content is being tested in six school districts, thanks to a new $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.

Known as the Curriculum Customization Service, or CCS, the specially designed integrated platform provides teachers with a web-based tool that enables them to customize their science instruction with educational, interactive resources to better meet the needs of diverse student learners. Designed to aid teachers in planning, accessing and sharing interactive learning resources, the tool was developed by researchers from Digital Learning Sciences, a joint effort of CU-Boulder’s Institute of Cognitive Science and UCAR, in collaboration with teachers from the Denver Public Schools.

The new NFS grant will allow researchers to examine the impact of “networked digital resources” on student learning in the Denver Public Schools, Mapleton, St. Vrain Valley and Douglas County school districts in Colorado, and the Davis County School District in Utah. Based on positive results from the initial field trial and analyzed test score data, the grant will provide further insight into the impact of CCS on student learning gains. The Clark County school district in Nevada, the fifth largest school district in the United States, also is using CCS.

“Through continued integration of CCS and research we hope to expand, replicate and better understand the potential of networked digital resources to improve science learning for all students,” said CU-Boulder Associate Professor Tamara Sumner, executive director of Digital Learning Sciences.

All of the school districts using the CCS tool are experiencing significant budgetary and administrative pressures, according to Sumner. To help address these challenges, CCS integrates resources from the Digital Library for Earth System Education (http://www.dlese.org) and the National Science Digital Library (http://nsdl.org) into the curriculum at each school at no cost to the schools. In addition, teachers can contribute and share their own materials with one another, thereby creating a district-wide collection of resources customized to meet the needs of the students in their classrooms.

Research indicates that CCS helps teachers integrate resources into their teaching more efficiently and effectively. Analysis of test score data from the Denver Public Schools field trial indicated higher student learning gains during the year CCS was made available than the prior school year. The researchers will investigate this further in the participating school districts.

Over the past decade, CU-Boulder has established itself as a national leader in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education. The university’s integrated, campus-wide STEM initiatives are transforming the way undergraduate students are taught and helping to boost the number of STEM majors pursuing teaching careers.

CU-Boulder professors also have a history of conducting leading research in STEM education. Distinguished Professor and Nobel laureate Carl Wieman launched the Science Education Initiative in 2006 to incorporate research findings on effective science instruction in classrooms at CU. In 2002 he also created the Physics Education Technology project, or PhET.  The globally renowned education tool uses interactive web-based simulations for physics instruction.

For more information about CU-Boulder’s STEM efforts visit http://www.colorado.edu/istem/. For more information about the Digital Learning Sciences center and the CCS program visit https://ccs.dls.ucar.edu/support/static_pages/why_ccs.html.

Tamara Sumner, 303-735-4469
Lorretta Melhado, 303-497-2660
Greg Swenson, CU media relations, 303-492-3113