Proposed Revisions/Clarifications for Proposal, 07-37326, Fostering Interest in Information Technology, submitted by the University of Michigan
Q1. The ITEST program mandates two consecutive years of participation in Youth-Based Projects. Although this is mentioned in the narrative, please confirm that students will participate for two years and provide an outline of activities for Years 1-2. Why do students not begin until 1 year after the program begins?
A1. We confirm that for the three-year duration, the proposed project will have two cohort groups, each participating in two consecutive years of project activities with an overlap in the second year so that all participating students will receive two years of enrichment activities.
The proposed project will be implemented from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2011. Participating students for the first cohort will begin the project in early fall of 2008. However, the project will implement a series of recruitment activities for the first cohort before the end of the previous school year in the winter and spring of 2008 and prepare over the summer for a fall start (before the 3-year “official” duration of the project begins in July 2008). Similar recruitment activities will be conducted for the second cohort in the winter and spring of 2009.
The outline of activities and events for the first cohort are as follows.
Year 1: Capacity Building (July 1, 2008 – August 30, 2009). The year starts with a preparation activity involving a summer course for K-12 STEM teachers, followed by a kickoff meeting as the school year begins, a set of IT intensive STEM area workshops for students during the year, and seminar meetings near the end of the fall and winter semesters. The year concludes with real-world field-based experiences during the following summer with opportunities for students to work directly with IT and STEM professionals and see examples of real-world workplace applications.
1. IT/STEM Summer Course
2. Kickoff Meeting
3. Level 1 Workshops
4. Seminar Meeting 1
5. Level 2 Workshops
6. Seminar Meeting 2
7. Summer Externship
By improving the IT/STEM readiness of participating students through capacity building activities and field-based experiences, all students will be prepared to undertake the work of designing IT-intensive authentic projects within the context of STEM, work that will start during the program explorations and continue into the second year.
Year 2: Design (September 1, 2009 – June 30, 2010). The design year consists of a series of site-based sessions for each individual design team and a whole-group seminar meeting near to the end of the school year. The overarching task of each design team in this year is to design inquiry-based authentic projects that are of at least science fair quality using one or more content-specific IT tools explored during the previous capacity building year and stimulating ideas/experiences gained during the field trips. The design year will end with a techno/career fair during the following summer of 2010.
8. Step 1: Ask (takes place during the summer externship)
9. Step 2: Investigation (takes place during the summer externship)
10. Step 3: Create
11. Step 4: Discuss
12. Step 5: Reflect
13. Seminar Meeting 3
14. Techno/Career Fair
The second cohort goes through the same set of activities in Year 1 (July 1, 2009 – August 30, 2010) and Year 2 (September 1, 2010 – June 30, 2011).
Q2. Funding is requested for materials development but the narrative does not adequately describe the curriculum materials to be produced. How many modules will be produced and by whom? Are there some existing materials that can be used?
A2. The proposed project will produce a total of four Curriculum Guides, one for each STEM subject matter area. They will be developed by the leadership of each design team (Drs. Zitzewitz, Medjahed, Orady, and Höft) in collaboration with the post-secondary STEM content expert and K-12 STEM teacher involved in each design team of the project. Each curriculum guide will include the following four modules:
- The first one will be related to the summer course for teachers,
- The second one will be related to the capacity building phase activities,
- The third one will be devoted to summer externship activities,
- The fourth one will deal with the design phase activities.
The project leadership will combine these four curriculum guides into a STEM guide book that will include a total of 4*4=16 modules.
We are not familiar with any existing curriculum guides for individual STEM subject matter areas that linked to the State content expectations and tested out with participating students.
Q3. How will the four student teams interact? How will student teams be organized if students self-select and the membership is not balanced?
A3. During Year Two: Design of each cohort, four student teams will interact through whole-group activities and events--Seminar Meeting 3 and Techno/Career Fair. Throughout the year, the project’s Web site, blog, and podcasting sites will also be utilized to extend student interaction outside the confines of the formal scheduled events.
Students’ interest in a specific STEM area is the main criteria for the organization of the design teams. At the end of the Level 1 Workshops, we will assist students to narrow down their interest to two specific STEM related fields. Level 2 Workshops will allow students to narrow down their interest to one specific STEM area. This multi-level structure is expected to provide a relatively balanced membership for four STEM area design teams. However, we will also ask students to provide an alternate team besides their main interest so that the project leadership could be more flexible with assigning students into four design teams in a balanced fashion. Possible multi-disciplinary projects from combined areas of STEM to be designed by students will help them find interest in more than one STEM area. This will also help the project leadership to balance the membership assignments for the design teams.
Q4. Please describe the student internship (what happens beside the field trips) and the teacher summer course in more detail.
A4. The student internship will consist of field-based experiences and preparation for Design activities.
During the two-week summer program, students will meet and observe the work of scientists and professionals in IT/STEM fields. The project will facilitate eight different day-long field trips (two for each STEM design team); each emphasizing IT related career and educational pathways within the context of STEM, and including debriefing activities after each one. Collaborating business, industry, government, and university sectors will host these sessions. This will help students to determine their real world projects and utilize the IT-STEM area professionals to research and develop meaningful projects that contribute to scientific advancement through collaboration and digital connectivity.
As part of the summer program, aligned with the Cyclic Inquiry Model’s 5 major steps (Ask, Investigate, Create, Discuss and Reflect), the project will also facilitate collaborative learning experiences where students learn how to design and conduct inquiry-based authentic projects; more specifically they learn how to Ask, Investigate, Create, Discuss, and Reflect. These theoretical discussions will then be linked to students’ authentic projects to provide practical applications. Step 1: Ask will take place during the summer program. Lead by one specialized member of the project leadership team, each STEM area will hold a series of meetings to discuss IT-intensive authentic project ideas aligned with appropriate federal and state standards within the focus area of each design team. At this stage, each student begins to focus on a question or problem, defining and describing it. Students will be assisted in the process by members of the leadership team, design team members, IT-STEM professionals from partnering business, industry, and government sectors, parents, and supporting partners. During this process, the project leadership team will closely survey the focus and interest of each participating student to facilitate individual, small-group, or multidisciplinary projects. Step 2: Investigate will also take place during the summer program and will be conducted in a similarly to Step 1. Students will begin to collect information about their questions. This process will include research using reading, observing, interviewing, or doing exploratory experiments.
The leading members of the STEM area design teams, Drs. Zitzewitz, Medjahed, Orady, and Höft will collaboratively design and teach an IT-intensive STEM area summer course for high-school STEM teachers. Ten to fifteen teachers from partnering school districts are expected to enroll in this three credit-hour summer course to learn, experience, and use information technologies within the context of STEM. The course will consist of presentations followed by hands-on activities to provide participating teachers the opportunity to learn advanced use of IT toolsets within the context of STEM. Four teachers (one from each STEM area) will be selected to participate in the proposed project based on their performance in this course. This will also allow the project leaderships to identify alternates for participating teachers those who would become unavailable to continue with the program.
Q5. What strategies will be used to identify parents with IT backgrounds to assist with the project? What evidence is there that a pool of parents with this expertise exists among the target population? How will parents access technology needed to participate electronically?
A5. Student recruitment information will identify parents’ work experience and parent/significant others’ willingness to assist in the program. In addition, the scheduled seminars and outreach opportunities will help us to survey parents and their professional background and expertise.
Participating school district, Detroit Public Schools is located in the Detroit Metropolitan area, where the “big three” automotive companies, their vendors and suppliers are located in Southeastern Michigan. Therefore, we have anecdotal information indicating that there is a considerable number of parents among the targeted population whose expertise are in IT-STEM fields.
The project will establish a parental Blog site to facilitate collaboration and exchange among parents, students, and other members of the project. Sponsored by the project’s participating school district, each student will have 24/7 access to a laptop and a Pocked PC throughout the program. This will allow parents to access these technologies at home for electronic communication as needed. Local libraries are also available for public access to Internet, WWW, and email.
Project Team, Management, and Audience
Q6. Who will serve on the project advisory board? Please provide letters of support to confirm commitment.
A6. The following individuals will serve on the project advisory board. Please see the appendix for the copy of the email confirmations of the commitment. We will provide official letters of support as we receive.
- Charlotte A. Otto, Associate Provost and Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan-Dearborn.
- Dr. Bill Cobern, Director of t he George G. Mallinson Institute for Science Education
- Patricia Pickett, Principal, Northwestern High School, Detroit Public Schools
- Jeff Bush, Consultant, Design and Technological Studies, Oakland Schools
- Michael Souden, Learning Services, Oakland Schools
In addition to the current members of the advisory board, we will continue our effort to include at least one representative from the region’s business, industry, and government sectors, and parents and volunteers.
Q7. What is the role of the industry collaborators?
A7. The primary role of the industry collaborators is to provide the "real world" applications. They will also have roles in other aspects of the projects. They will assist in providing the digital toolsets needed to do authentic research and development that contributes to the existing body of scientific knowledge. They will also provide technical tours and time of qualified personnel to mentor and guide student teams in the four areas of STEM. This would help provide real life problem solving techniques to the participating students. Industry collaborators have also a critical role to play in the development of what 21st century digital and academic toolsets are needed to facilitate a smooth transition from K-12 to college and then to the world of work. The cooperative relationship between business, industry and the education community is expected to result in the establishment of the following:
- Permanent internships with participating businesses,
- Greater sense of corporate responsibility
- The creation of mutual advisory boards,
- To inspire students to view the business world as part of their larger career path,
- For all participating groups to demonstrate their products, projects, business plans, goals, strengths and weaknesses,
- Businesses will help students to enhance their understanding of the general way in which participating businesses work, and
- For businesses to receive students at the work place to see skills and STEM transferred to the world of work.
Q8. Which members of the project team (PI and Co-PIs) that are leading the science, technology, mathematics, and engineering design team, have expertise working with the target audience of high school youth?
A8. All members of the project leadership team who will be leading the STEM area design teams have previous experiences in working with high-school students and/or have been involved in funded projects in this area.
Dr. Mesut Duran, Associate Professor of Technology in the School of Education, will be overseeing the design team activities. He is a former high school teacher with three-year teaching experience in 9-12 grades. His current research titled Michigan Teachers’ Technology Education Network (MITTEN) has also involved considerable number of high school teachers and their students from six different school districts in Southeastern Michigan.
Paul Zitzewitz, Professor of Physics and Science Education in the Natural Sciences Department, will lead the Science design team. He has authored a high school physics textbook.
Dr. Brahim Medjahed, Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer & Information Science, will lead the Technology design team. He has previously designed and taught computer science labs to high school students.
Dr. Elsayed Orady, Professor and the Coordinator of the Manufacturing Engineering Program in the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, will lead the Engineering design team. He worked with Detroit area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) students.
Dr. Margret Höft, Professor of Mathematics in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, will lead the Mathematics design. She worked with several K-12 teachers and their students in the MITTEN project.
Q9. One reviewer was concerned that objectives 2, 4, and 5 are overlay ambitious for a three-year project. How will they be accomplished?
A9. Working closely with higher education and industry experts, monitoring student activities and progress in two consecutive years will bring real-world experiences to K-12 STEM teachers. Their engagement in the development of STEM area Curriculum Guides will provide significant strategies for replication and expanded awareness of additional opportunities and possibilities for their future students. Similarly, post-secondary faculty members’ ability to design and deliver IT/STEM enrichment experiences and opportunities for K-12 STEM teachers will increase within this collaborative engagement.
The “Community of Designers” idea that the proposed project will implement promotes collaborative engagement among high-school students, K-12 STEM teachers, U/GSAs, and post-secondary STEM content experts. Utilizing new technologies such as videoconferencing, streaming video, Web-based enabled collaboration tools such as blogs and poscasting will accelerate traditional time consuming analog deliverables and methodologies allowing the formation of a self-sustaining professional development network.
Q10. What schools will be targeted for recruitment and what are the characteristics of the target audience?
A10. The incoming 9th Grade students will be recruited from a total of 6 high schools within the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) system for the first cohort. The students from Northwestern, Southeastern, Mumford, Cass Technical, Martin Luther King, and Renaissance high schools will be invited to participate. In addition to DPS, project leadership will invite the Oakland Schools and other surrounding school districts to participate in the project’s second cohort as part of its long term vision. Students will have to maintain Grade Point Levels above the minimum of 2.0 in addition to having acceptable attendance and behavior for the school year (9th Grade). Students will be required to proved evidence of their freshman year performance for completion of the application process.
For both cohorts, the target audience is minority students, students with special needs, and female students. These students will join the project at the beginning of their 10th grade and complete the two-year-long project activities at the end of their 11th grade, transitioning into their senior year as future college students.
The recruitment of students will be done via visits to invited schools and/or classrooms by representatives of the program. These visits will include STEM courses and activities ongoing in the targeted schools, coupled with letters of invitation to students as selected and/or nominated by the STEM instructors and school administrators. Students will be provided an application for active participation in the project. To support and maintain the levels of student participation, an alternate list of students will be created and provide replacements for any student moving from the targeted school or otherwise unavailable to continue with the program. Incentives will be provided for all involved students for the duration of the program.
Q11. Will student IT and STEM knowledge be considered as part of the admission process? What criteria will be used for high school and college student participation?
A11. Students’ interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math will be the most important focus areas for admission to the project. We will survey students for math, science, and computer courses taken and grades earned. However, high GPA is not required to enter the program.
We will recruit college students from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. Their STEM strengths, IT comfort levels, outstanding GPA with excellent communication and teaching skills will be considered as selection criteria. We will also take into account students’ prior experiences working with the target high-school youth (e.g., tutoring, volunteering activities, and community services).
Q12. What is the plan for student retention? The PI predicts that the project will have 100% retention which may be unrealistic.
A12. The retention plan includes combination of academic and financial support systems. The project will regularly emphasize the “goal oriented” nature of the program rather than a “degree/certificate” which is considered one of the working strategies for student retention. Student retention is also “high” when program activities highlight a competition. With their projects designed during the FI3T program, students will be encouraged, advised, and supported to participate in nationwide pre-college competitions such as the Intel Science Talent Search and the International Science and Engineering Fair. Provided by the project’s K-12 partner, Detroit Public Schools (DPS), and equipped with special software needed for their projects, students will have access to a laptop and a Pocket PC during their participation in the project. Providing such educational and motivational tools and resources will have a positive impact on student retention. The social environment surrounding students with supporting parents, teachers, content experts, project leaders, business partners, and community members will also positively impact student retention. We are also aware of that urban environments face great uncertainty every day and those factors, transportation, fractured families, economics, etc., pose the greatest threat to retention and most importantly are unpredictable.
Evaluation and Budget
Q13. What are the benchmarks for project success which are critical for the evaluation and sustainability plans?
A13. Each sub group involved with the proposed project will have group benchmark and self-imposed significant steps in their path toward success. The following benchmarks will help us identify student and project success.
- Increased use of computers, handhelds and other personal computing devices.
- Increased use of business technology: Display devices, Cameras, projection equipment, etc.
- Increased understanding and use of 3D software and the significant application of same.
- The growth of team work skills associated with working on a professional team.
- Increased understanding of project benchmarks, time lines and accountability to the larger picture.
- Develop better organizational skills relative to project management as it relates to all aspects of the larger picture.
- Students will report out regularly on their project components and predetermined evaluation benchmarks.
- Students will demonstrate enhance ability to self-evaluate based on their benchmarks and goals.
- Students will demonstrate competence with internet technologies, such as Blogs, podcasting, and other meaningful open-sourced technologies.
- Student Blogs and Web sites will spread the word to the “digital natives” about the program and this will help to benchmark the progress of each group.
- The 2nd year applications from students and teachers will increase.
- Additional districts will surface and request participation in the program.
- The program will see greater participation from business and industry.
- The legislature will increase their cooperative understanding and begin supporting the program in spirit and dollars.
- The tentacles of understanding will have penetrated other educational institutions and requests for replication will be made.
- Community groups will express interest in participating in the project in increased fashion.
- Corporations will realize the value of seeking out young unencumbered minds to focus on real world issues.
- Corporate student mentorship’s will develop as a result of this project and signify a small success.
- Industry continues their willingness to cooperate with higher education and K-12.
Q14. Reviewers noted that the some aspects of the evaluation plan are not clear including the number of lessons to be evaluated, and the assessment of teacher STEM knowledge, resources, and the website. The evaluation might also be strengthened by including student interviews. Please address these concerns.
A14. Assessment measures for all stakeholders will be developed in collaboration with project staff as specific goals and activities are finalized. Collaboration is strengthened by the evaluators’ inclusion on the project management team. Assessments include teachers’ growth in skill and use of IT, understanding of STEM content, and changes in instructional practice. Evaluation of project-related professional development, learning resources, and websites will be done from rubrics based on specific objectives and applicable professional standards, as described in the narrative.
Assessment and documentation of participating high school teachers’ ability to design and deliver IT/STEM enrichment experiences for their students consist of multiple measures. One will be an annual pre/post survey addressing frequency of use of IT hardware/software and various instructional practices to look for changes that might occur because of project-related learning. Other pre/post questionnaires will be aligned with project-specific teacher learning goals. Observations of professional development will be conducted as feasible. Teacher interviews will be conducted at least annually, following up on specific project activities and exploring teachers’ thoughts about applicability of new learning to their teaching. Finally, transfer of teachers’ changing practice will be documented by conducting annual observations in their home school classrooms. The first observations would be conducted early in Year 01 of each cohort and the last ones late in Year 02.
Similarly, student learning about information technology and the STEM disciplines as well as their growing understanding and sense of fit within STEM will be also measured in a variety of ways. Pre/post surveys and tests of content knowledge can assess gains in understanding and use of target technologies and STEM content. In addition, student growth can be assessed from work they produce, performance tasks developed by teachers and other project staff, self- and other-reports, and personal interviews. Conducted in the course of the two-year cohort programs, observations and student interviews can yield formative data about students’ responses to the many learning experiences as well as their attraction to study and work in STEM-related fields.
Q15. How many teachers will be involved in the project and trained to work in the youth program?
A15. Each design team will include a STEM area high school teacher. Four high school teachers (one from each STEM area) will participate in each cohort. With in two cohorts, a total of eight teachers will participate in the three-year duration of the project life.
Q16. How will the project be sustained beyond the period of NSF funding, especially with the high salary request including the design personnel?
A16. The proposed project will sustain its impact over and beyond the three-year duration of the project life through the following:
- Further use of IT learning resources and deliverables that the project will develop and disseminate—project Web site, blog, and podcasting site, student projects, teacher developed Curriculum Guide, STEM guide book, and faculty developed IT-STEM course syllabi and materials,
- Further use of its self-sustaining professional development network among high-school students, school teachers, U/GSAs, and IT-intensive STEM content experts,
- Further leadership roles of school teachers in their respective schools districts, and
- Further leadership roles of post-secondary faculty in their respective colleges and schools.