Lit Review: Bridging the Gap Between Formal and Informal Learning: Evaluating the Seatrek Distance Learning Project.

Lit Review: This is a post in a series focusing on the research studies on videoconferencing.

Ba, H., & Keisch, D. (2004). Bridging the Gap Between Formal and Informal Learning: Evaluating the Seatrek Distance Learning Project. Retrieved Febuary 11, 2008, from

Author: Harouna Ba and Deborah Keisch
Title of article: Bridging the gap between formal and informal learning: Evaluating the SeaTrek distance learning project.
Publication year: 2004
Source: Center for Children and Technology
My Codes:

Main Point: This article is an external evaluation of Mote Marine Laboratory’s SeaTrek program.

The evaluation study examined “the impact of SeaTrek on students’ perceptions of science as an engaging discipline and student reaction to inquiry-based learning approaches” as well as how the project is usable within school settings. p. 1.

Data was collected via interviews, focus groups, observations and surveys from two Florida schools that participate in the project. The schools have different profiles. Observations were collected on seven sessions at the schools, and three sessions from SeaTrek. Online surveys were send to all educators who had participated in SeaTrek programs.

The data was anaylzed for emergent themes to provide a detailed report of the experiences.

The qualitative study cannot be expected to be representative of the target population, nor can them be generalized to the entire population of SeaTrek teachers, not to mention teachers connecting to content providers in general.

The programs seemed to target teachers with a high level of technology access and literacy. Maybe not target, but those are the teachers most likely to use these programs and probably more likely to fill out a survey about it. In addition, there was generally a “school-based Instructional Technology Facilitator” who worked with the teachers and with Mote Marine. Sound familiar?! There’s the critical role of the coordinator again!

Teachers felt that the videoconferences motivated students to learn more about how scientists work, and increased their interest in science. The instructional materials helped them better understand the field of science (p. 5).

Some of the teachers found the materials really helpful for helping the students learn, and other didn’t. The reviews were mixed on this. Maybe because some teachers find time to use the materials as a preparation for the VC, and others don’t. p. 9 The teachers who used the materials to prepare were enthusiastic about the program as a whole. Interesting lesson on preparation isn’t it?!

The evaluation contains specifics on preferences for this program over that program, and teachers’ reactions to the materials.

Teachers reported scheduling as a critical factor. They need to schedule programs when they are studying the program not whenever the provider can offer it. The teachers wanted to pick their own time slots for the programs. It sounds like SeaTrek used to schedule their programs in sequence and schools participated in several in a row. Now you can mostly schedule them when you want if they aren’t booked up already.

The program offers students a chance to interact with real scientists which is highly motivating for students and encourages their interest in science. Sounds like a worthy result to me!

Issues to address included scheduling, age appropriateness of programs, identity of the content provider. That’s an interesting one. I see the evaluations come in from my teachers and they often forget which place is offering the program. Hmm. What are the implications for content providers? These results would be helpful to all content providers hoping to improve their programs.

It’s interesting that the study recommended the content provider provide more tech support to schools. This one is interesting too. Can content providers really do that?

Author/Audience: This report was written as an evaluation for Mote Marine and I’m sure they used it as a tool to continue improving their programs. It’s posted online so we can learn from it too.

Cross References: This is quoted in the new textbook on videoconferencing by Newman, Silverman, etc, but not in the Alberta Lit Review or any of the earlier ones, because it wasn’t published yet.

I wonder how many other content providers have commissioned this type of evaluation and if it’s posted online.

I like the title – the idea that content providers bring informal learning to the classroom formal learning.

Relevance: This article is right on target for my literature review of curriculum videoconferencing and the videoconferences described are targeted to a K-12 audience.

0 replies on “Lit Review: Bridging the Gap Between Formal and Informal Learning: Evaluating the Seatrek Distance Learning Project.”

  1. Ian says:

    Preparation work done before and after a session, is VC the motivation? what is the role of the ‘expert’? Could novelty motivate to learning. VC role focus and clarification only of facts already learned? More questions than answers.

  2. Michael Zellner says:

    I am absolutely amazed VC can bridge people from different areas of the world and even our own country. I realize that Ohio even has technology benchmarks from preK to 12 grade. I am pretty sure that other states have curriculum standards to meet in regards to technology. I am still in “culture shock” from participating in a VC workshop in which I was interacting with different states and meeting different people with diverse views. This learning experience(s) through video conferencing has been just awesome. I also must be aware of the preparation time and developing good VC manners and asking questions that “one can not find online.”

    Michael Zellner

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