The Integrated Teaching and Learning (ITL) Program recently won a $3.2 million award from the National Science Foundation to increase the impact of the TeachEngineering digital library. It is the largest award in the program’s 25-year history and will propel the K-12 engineering library’s growth well into the future.
The TeachEngineering library is a free, online collection of kindergarten through 12th grade curricular materials that focuses on integrating engineering into science and math learning. The library is run through the ITL Program and is made up of over 1,900 educational videos, lesson plans, hands-on engineering activities and maker challenges.
Much of the original funding to create TeachEngineering was provided by the NSF as well. This new funding will be used to increase the number of annual users on the site and to offer professional development opportunities for teachers across the high school and early grade levels. One specific goal in the award is re-aligning TeachEngineering’s curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for K-12 teachers and creating new hands-on engineering curricular for teachers in grades K-2. That is important, as K-12 teachers are trying to meet the first-ever NGSS requirement for engineering design to be taught within science curricula.
Other activities in the grant include creating new tools, practices and marketing strategies to cultivate an interactive community of practice among teachers, engaging them to help with wider adoption and ownership of the library.
“My co-PIs – Engineering Plus faculty Mike Soltys and Malinda Zarske – and I are supported by a tremendous ITL Program professional team, video-producing engineering students, a user research team at Oregon State University, and a search engine optimization consultant. It takes a multi-disciplinary village to create, support, curate and broadly share the TeachEngineering product with over 3.5 million users annually. And we have a darn good village,” said Jacquelyn Sullivan, the founding co-director of the ITL program and principle investigator on the TeachEngineering NSF award.
While Sullivan and CU’s College of Engineering and Applied Science led the original creation of the library, about 70 engineering colleges (mostly through NSF-funded grants) are partners in developing K-12 engineering curricular materials for the collection.
Sullivan said the overall goal of the collection and the new award is to democratize engineering education – getting it into the hands of K-12 educators and students no matter where they are, from rural communities to underserved schools.
“The digital library is full of hands-on, classroom-tested curriculum that is available for free to educators everywhere, with no fees or materials or kits to buy from us, ever. The materials required to teach most of the design-focused curriculum can be purchased at a hardware or grocery store,” Sullivan said.
This is the eighth round of NSF funding for TeachEngineering, in addition to other significant foundation and private gifts. The digital library has been growing and widely used for 17 years, experiencing 33% growth in users (mostly teachers) in the last year.