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Center for Educational Technologies projects have ended (except Challenger Learning Center) and are no longer funded.

Research Featured in Special Issue

Wed Feb 25 2010

The effectiveness of a distance learning mission offered by the Challenger Learning Center is the subject of research recently published in a special issue of the Journal of Educational Technology and Society.

The article, "Effect of Live Simulation on Middle School Students' Attitudes and Learning Toward Science," examines middle school students who participated in the Operation Montserrat e-Mission™. The article was written by two former researchers at the Center for Educational Technologies, Dr. Bruce Howard and Dr. Ching-Huei "Karen" Chen. Their research is featured in the journal's special issue on intelligent tutoring systems.

e-Missions use distance learning to provide students and adults with problem-based simulations that emphasize teamwork, problem-solving, decision-making, and communication skills. They allow teachers to easily integrate the excitement of technology into the classroom. In Operation Montserrat middle school students must decide whether a volcano will erupt and whether a hurricane will make landfall and then whether to evacuate residents from a remote tropical island.

According to the article abstract, "This study examined the effect of live simulation on students' science learning and attitude. A total of 311 middle school students participated in the simulation, which allowed them to access and interpret satellite data and images and to design investigations. A pre/post design was employed to compare students' science learning and attitude before and after the simulation. The findings revealed positive changes in students' attitudes and perceptions toward scientists, while male students had more positive adoption toward scientific attitudes than females. The study also found that the change in student's science learning was significantly influenced by the teacher. Hence, teacher classroom preparation for the simulation experience proved vital to students' attitudes toward science as well as their scientific understanding. Implications for effective use of simulation to increase science-related career awareness and inform effective teaching practice are shared and discussed."

Chen is now with the Graduate Institute of e-Learning, National Changhua University of Education, Changhua City, Taiwan, while Howard is a consultant.

Operation Montserrat is one of several e-Missions™ offered through the Challenger Learning Center.

"More than 25,000 students each year take part in simulated missions either from a distance, such as Operation Montserrat, or on site at the Challenger Learning Center," said Jackie Shia, director of the center. The Wheeling facility is one of 47 worldwide established by the Challenger Center for Space Science in memory of the space shuttle Challenger. It provides students, teachers and adult learners with simulations that emphasize teamwork, problem-solving, decision-making and communication skills.