The research project continues a collaboration between MIT's Center for Educational Computing Initiatives and TERC focusing on the enhancement of K-12 STEM math and science education by means of technology that supports (1) creation of what are termed "ink inscriptions"--handwritten sketches, graphs, maps, notes, etc. made on a computer using a pen-based interface, and (2) in-class communication of ink inscriptions via a set of connected wireless tablet computers. The project builds on the PIs' prior work, which demonstrated that both teachers and students benefit from such technology because they can easily draw and write on a tablet screens, thus using representations not possible with only a typical keyboard and mouse; and they can easily send such ink inscriptions to one another via wireless connectivity. This communication provides teachers the opportunity to view all the students' work and make decisions about which to share anonymously on a public classroom screen or on every student's screen in order to support discussion in a "conversation-based" classroom. Artificial intelligence methods are used to analyze ink inscriptions in order to facilitate selection and discussion of student work.
The project is a series of design experiments beginning with the software that emerged from earlier exploratory work. The PIs conduct two cycles of experiments to examine how tablets affect students learning in 4th and 5th grade mathematics and science. The project research questions and methods focus on systematic monitoring of teachers' and students' responses to the innovation in order to inform the development process. The PIs collect data on teachers' and students' use of the technology and on student learning outcomes and use those data as empirical evidence about the promise of the technology for improving STEM education in K-12 schools. An external evaluator uses parallel data collection, conducting many of the same research activities as the core team and independently providing analysis to be correlated with other data. His involvement is continuous and provides formative evaluation reports to the project through conferences, site visits, and conference calls.
The primary products are substantiated research findings on the use of tablet computers, inscriptions, and networks in 4th and 5 grade classrooms. In addition the PIs develop models for teacher education and use, and demonstrate the utility of artificial intelligence techniques in facilitating use of the technology. With the addition of Malden Public Schools to the list of participating districts, which includes Cambridge Public Schools and Waltham Public Schools from earlier work, the project expands the field test sites to up 20 schools' classrooms.