|A S S E S S M E N T I N F O R M A T I O N
What teachers use it?
The registrations, both in their on-line form and as postcards, were targeted to teachers or those working with students. Among classroom teachers, the spread across grade levels continues to be quite distributed for these two modules as found with the earlier modules. However, the largest set of users is middle school teachers.
The following tables provide background information on the teachers who responded to these registrations. We do not have an accurate way of telling just what percent those that chose to complete a registration form are to the complete universe of teachers who use PtK. The return rate for LFA2 postcards (41) represents less than ten percent of the print guides and kits shipped, all of which had postcards in them.
However, we know that many of the teachers who got the print guide completed the on-line version of the registration instead. Yet even the numbers of completed on-line registrations (348) is just a small percentage of the growing number of visitors to the site (weekly average by end of the spring semester exceeded 59,000 hits per week). The numbers for the LFM registrations are at a similar return rate. We know that the majority of people visiting a web site do not enter in personal information if given the choice. However, we think that the combined postcard and on-line responses for both of these modules are high enough (389 for LFA2 and 923 for LFM) to warrant the projection of the percentages to the entire population of teachers using PtK.
Incidentally, these numbers are cited through May of 1997. On-line registrations for both LFM and LFA2 continue to come in, averaging 60+ new teacher registrations per month for LFM and over 20 each month for LFA2.
Table One: Grade Level Taught by PtK Participants
Voluntary Registration Information
The differences between LFA2 and LFM show that, as expected, LFA2 could be adapted more readily to the curriculum found in younger grades and thus was used by a greater number of teachers at this level than LFM.
We combined the Postcard and the On-line data for the remaining questions.
Table Two: Subject Area Taught by PtK Participants
Table Three: Average Number of Classes
Table Four: Percent of Participating Schools by Community Population Density
While it appears that PtK might wish to specifically target urban areas in the future since it appears that participants from schools in these areas are under represented, this finding is also in line with the 1997 QED report that indicates lower income urban areas have less access to various types of technology.
Table Five: Average Years of Teaching
It is interesting to note that a subsequent survey for PtK Advocates found that they are veteran teachers with over 17 years experience on average.
Table Six: Teachers who have Used Other On-line Projects
This clearly indicates that PtK modules are serving as working in-service programs for teachers. Well over half of all teachers are gaining their initial experiences with using the Internet for classroom instruction via PtK.
Table Seven: Prior Experience with PtK Modules
These percentages indicate that PtK is successful at appealing to a new and growing audience it is not just the same group of early adopters although there is a core group of committed participants. The numbers also reflect the rapid growth in PtK participation. There is a significant difference between the two groups however. LFM definitely attracted and held on to the target group of middle and upper middle school teachers. It should also be noted that LFM started in the fall of 1996 and continued throughout the academic year thus completely overlapping LFA2. Some teachers may not have had the time to commit to an additional module while actively participating in LFM.
Taken together, tables six and seven indicate that PtK needs to provide a range of experiences for its different groups of teachers: the large group of teachers who are new to PtK and new to on-line require different amounts of support, modeling, and planning time well in advance of activities. Experienced users can dive in much faster and deal with the rich assortment of possible options. Passport has also addressed this differential by actively using the experienced teachers those who are advocates and those not formally designated as such to model for and in some cases even provide mentoring to newer participants.
With a few notable exceptions, LA Unified for instance, PtK is not centrally selected at the district level and its use mandated as might be the case with a comprehensive full year or multi-year science curriculum. The fact that some of this country's best science teachers, those who are recognized as exceptional both regionally and nationally, choose to utilize Passport to Knowledge and become regular, repeat users is one of the strongest indications of its success. Perhaps more impressive is that these sophisticated science teachers provide the backbone of a teaching community that welcomes less experienced teachers and non-science teachers.
For the experienced teacher, working with Passport to Knowledge has led to professional recognition. Several active PtK teachers have received state or national recognition for their classroom work with the modules see page 44 from PtKs Year Two NSF Progress Report.
We examined those teachers who worked as PtK Advocates this year in a separate survey that went beyond the data collected as part of the registration. As the table below shows, not only have these teachers supported PtK by giving workshops, critiquing activity plans, providing video footage for the broadcasts, and seeding the on-line discussions, they are, to a large degree, representative of the most experienced of PtK teachers.
Table Eight: PtK Advocates
These responses indicate that it will be worthwhile looking at the different groups within PtK teachers as separate and discrete groups. Some initial work on this is reported in the subsequent section on case studies but it needs to be enhanced in the Year Three overall report.
Going back to the registration information collected on PtK users as a whole, the final query on the registration forms focused on whether participating teachers planned to use the PtK module in a team teaching setting. This is one indicator that PtK modules appeal across disciplines and encourage practices that are associated with educational reform. As with our earlier reports, the number of teachers who are team teaching these modules is surprisingly high.
Table Nine: Teachers who Plan to Use PtK in a Team Teaching Situation
Note: in all of the previous tables where percentages in columns do not add up to 100%, the remaining percentages were respondents who either skipped the question or responded "not applicable."
As stated above, these registrations were both voluntary and were mostly limited to responses from teachers using the materials with students. For several of our other surveys, we sent them to all participants who were active subscribers to a relevant list serv for the PtK module. Responses to these surveys consistently indicated that PtK modules appeal to a far broader constituency then what we had defined for registration purposes.
For instance, the survey that examined utilization of the second LFM video "Cruising Between Planets." Of the 579 returned surveys in a few weeks after the original broadcast (an approximately 20% return rate) , the following percentages apply:
Table Ten: Respondents to Reaction Survey to LFMs Second Live Broadcast on April 24, 1997
These break outs as to who is participating are similar to what we found in our other feedback surveys. In each case, the majority of the educational respondents are indeed teachers in K-12 schools using it directly for student instruction.
However, there is always a large group of interested adults also participating to some degree (they have at least signed up for one of the listservs and have not unsubscribed). Judging from the responses posted in the other category, some of these are what might be best described as adult learners people who are interested in the topic and who are following along. The appeal of, and participation in, technology-based educational resources to those outside the formal schooling structure adds an interesting dimension to discussions of life-long learning and community involvement in education. Most of these people would not think of sitting in a fifth grade science class for a semester.
Other adults in this group are scientists, researchers and engineers who are interested observers.
The number of teachers who are "lurking" as part of their own professional development is also significant. It seems that many want to observe and get familiar with the module or how on-line curriculum projects work before bringing in students. This group, when combined with the information about the number of teachers who are using it with students but for their first on-line instructional experiences, makes a strong case for PtKs impact as an important professional development vehicle apart from its goals of impacting students directly. PtK is clearly playing a role in providing a comprehensive, successful technology integration experience for teachers who are working in schools that are beginning to get connected to the Internet.
Finally, there are more than 10% of the participants who are using PtK with students but in alternative educational settings the home or in after school clubs and programs.
In summary, PtK modules are being used by their intended audience middle school teachers. But unlike many curriculum efforts, they are also appealing to and having impact on a wide range of learners outside this target.
How are teachers finding out about PtK modules?
Several of the surveys tried to uncover how teachers found their way to PtK. Indications are that most teachers who use PtK are making an individual selection to add this to their classrooms. Some were directed here during a workshop or by a curriculum or technology coordinator who was familiar with the project.
Table Eleven: How did you find out about Live From Mars? (514 respondents)
While print mailings are a major way of getting attention, on-line publicity is also effective. Given the rapid change in on-line availability, the growth of links from other educational and non-educational web sites, and the indexing by commercial search engines, we should examine more closely how teachers are finding their way to PtK in year three to determine where best to put scarce marketing efforts for maximum gain.