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WhaleNet Evaluation Report

I. Introduction

Interest in WhaleNet exceeded expectations and continues to grow - not only in New England, but also across the United States and around the world. Web site traffic grew to an average of 30,000 hits per day during the 1998-1999 school year. Fifteen percent of the users were from over 130 countries outside the United States.

The development, expansion and refinement of the web site has been enthusiastically received by users.

"I just spent a wonderful 1 1/2 hours on your site. Just fantastic! I will come back often...and also pass it along to friends.

" WOW...I am absolutely floored by your web-site. As a veteran web surfer, I’m not easily impressed -- in fact I’ve nearly given up on finding mind-expanding content on 95% of the sites out there. Your site ranks as one of the most intriguing, well organized, informative, compelling sites I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying. You have a very special place amongst my bookmarks and I look forward to delving into your site on a regular basis... many thanks for sharing your passion with the rest of the world."

The site has grown to over 2,000 pages. Improvements have included additions of a site search engine; index (table of contents); bilingual pages (in Spanish; Portuguese, German and French); added movies and slide shows; a listing of marine science opportunities and career information for students; added interactivity through the Humpback Whale database, "What’s It", and on-line stories; watershed education links connecting land-locked students with the ocean; and research such as contamination analysis of toxins in blue whale blubber and the official information for NOAA’s Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Right Whale Early Warning System.

"My 32 students and I have been excitedly following the NOAA’s Right Whale research off the Georgia and Florida coasts. The ‘mission logs’ from the R/V Jane Yarn have been part of our whale investigation in science class. This has been my first foray into using the Internet this extensively for science with my students, ... I am so excited...Just want to say I appreciate your wonderful work..."

Also continuously expanding has been the STOP program, marine mammal bibliographies,educational links, curriculum materials, listing of professional development opportunities foreducators, and links to research vessels.

"I just spoke to you by phone, but had to email you after seeing the wealth of information and ‘goodies’ you’ve developed...WOW!...I have to wait a whole week now for vacation to end before I can show it to the kids. To think that they thought Oregon Trail was the best -- Ha!"

"Thanks a lot!!!!! Your information helped me get an A+ on my report about whales. My teacher asked me where I got the info, I said from here."

The general organization and presentation of the web-site has been improved: the educational resources reorganized by topic/theme, a separate area created for curriculum material, the home page reorganized for student/teachers/and the general public, and new Scientistshave been added to the ASK program.

"Being in a small rural area, this (web site) exposes children to so much information that they could have never experienced." Elementary School teacher

See Appendix A for a list of many of the awards and recommendations the site has received.

"Congratulations on such a comprehensive, engaging and useful web-site." Lawrence Hall of Science

The overall goal of WhaleNet was to further develop and administer a national high-interest, interactive educational resource and research network that 1) involves communication and collaboration between K-12 classrooms, scientists, and research organizations, 2) focuses on marine animals and the marine environment to enhance interest in science, and 3) develops critical thinking and problem solving skills in students. The project focused on the environment and marine mammals in order to enhance education and interest in science, develop critical thinking skills, and improve problem-solving capacities.

Over the four years of effort covered by this report, 1995 to 1999, WhaleNet has effectively attained the overall goal and the following program goals:

 

II. Evaluating WhaleNet

RMC Research Corporation, Portsmouth, NH, served as the outside Evaluation Consultant, working with the Project Evaluator Karen Burnett-Kurie in the development and implementation of this comprehensive evaluation. The evaluation plan can be found in the Other Reports section of this report. This plan expanded on the correlation of overall and program goals with project activities, by matching activities with evaluation questions, methods, instruments, and data sources.

Summaries of the results from the following instruments are included in this report:

1. Student pre and post test

2. Test-Site Initial Teacher Survey for classrooms that administered the pre/post test

3. Test-Site Feedback and Observation Questionnaire

4. Teacher Workshop Evaluation

5. Teacher Workshop Follow-up Survey [mailed 6 months after each workshop]

6. Teacher On-line Survey

7. Student On-line Survey

8. ASK Question Asker (Student) Questionnaire

9. ASK Scientist Questionnaire

10. Web-site statistics analysis (in separate section)

The project was conducted as planned.

Feedback on how the project developed came from the WhaleNet Advisory Panel, Regional Coordinators, educators in professional development workshops, test-bed sites, on-line users, consultants, affiliates, access statistics for our web-site and continuous review by WhaleNet’s primary staff. Progress on target numbers and planned activities were tracked continuously. The Project Evaluator compiled numerous status/progress memos and reports reviewing plans, establishing/reinforcing timelines and providing preliminary results of surveys and questionnaires. (See the Other Reports and Summaries section of this report for copies of these documents.)

The project met most of its goals and objectives.

The project met most of its yearly and long term objectives. Some activities developed behind schedule, a few were continuously delayed (such as the whale watch sighting database), but many activities were ahead of schedule and surpassed projected numbers. Unfortunately, the NetPal and curriculum listservs did not sustain teacher participation. (See the Other Reports and Summaries section for additional reports on meeting goals and objectives.)

The project had the intended impacts.

A. Meeting the goals of developing telecommunications, critical thinking and problem solving skills; and enhancing interest in science and an understanding of the scientific process in students.

The results of our pre/post test, administered to 239 middle school students, evidenced that use of WhaleNet substantively produced the following intended effects.

Students developed telecommunications skills.

There was a significant increase in the number of students who could apply a range of telecommunications skills, such as successfully connecting with an on-line service (increased from 69% to 85%), using a web browser to access the Internet (52% to 71%), using a search engine to find resources (70% to 85%), and saving a gif, pict or jpg (47% to 62%). Interestingly, other indicators of increased use of the Internet and WhaleNet were increases in the number of students who found it hard to decide if a site was reliable and found it hard to find information or understand the graphs/charts on WhaleNet.

In other computer and Internet skills there were smaller increases. Only 18% in their post test had asked a scientist a question using email, as compared to 10% in their pre test; only 29% had sent or received email for a school project, versus 25% in pre tests; and 21% had submitted data to a database, compared to 18% in pre tests. We attribute these smaller gains to the constraints of school Internet use policies, the unfriendliness of our database (and the associated delays in the new database) and the small number of classrooms that use WhaleNet in conjunction with a whale watch trip. We were amazed at the home access to computers students reported (90%) and use of the Internet from home (80%).

Students’ attitudes toward the Internet/telecommunications and technology changed.

In their post tests, students’ choices of words describing the Internet became more positive, substantively more agreed that telecommunications gives access to important information (83%), and more believe they will be able to learn new technology skills if the need arises (82%).

According to their pre tests, most students already believed that it is important to know how to use the Internet (88%), that computer and telecommunication skills are important to future school work (83%) and important job skills (78%). Yet, even more agreed in their post tests 94%, 91% and 82% respectively.

Students developed scientific thinking and data analysis skills.

Post tests evidenced a significant increase in the number of students who developed an appropriate research question and hypothesis (22% increase), identified data related to their hypothesis (13% increase), described three display methods for communicating their results (12% increase) and correctly represented all the steps in this process (18% increase). While 86% offered an appropriate research question and 73% developed a hypothesis in their post test, compared to 64% and 45% in the pre tests, only 33% (versus 15% in their pre test) were successful in representing all steps in process.

In the post test, significantly more students described (increased 18%), explained (increased 20%) and demonstrated appropriate methods for grouping (increased 18%) and ordering (increased 12%) data. There was an increase of 23% in students who described a trend or pattern that followed from their analysis. In analyzing satellite tag data 44% more were able to plot the animal’s path and 37% more provide a reasonable explanation for the animal’s movement.

Students developed general thinking, critical thinking and problem solving skills.

The questions students poised to our researcher increased in number, relevance, and quality. In their post tests 88% listed three questions (up from 78%), 69% poised three questions that were relevant to the scientist’s work (up from 49%), and 83% developed two or more questions that were clear and substantive (up from 61%). They were able to identify more potential and relevant causes for a described problem and provided more appropriate research questions for examining the problem.

Student attitudes toward marine science improved.

The number of reasons given for ‘why marine science is important’ increased only slightly but the quality of the explanations increased significantly. And the number describing marine science as interesting increased from 59% to 72%.

Over three-quarters (76%) of students think it is important to learn about whales and the marine environment. There was no change in this number as a result of their WhaleNet studies.

Student confidence in their ability to use the scientific process to answer questions or apply scientific knowledge to everyday decisions did not show a change.

 

B. Meeting the goal of developing a high-interest, interactive educational resource and research network that involved communication and collaboration between K-12 classrooms, scientists and research organizations.

Students and teachers found WhaleNet to be a high interest interactive educational resource that enhanced their education.

Findings from the Test-site Teacher Feedback survey substantiate the value of WhaleNet and further describe the project’s impact. The three test-sites that administered the pre/post test during the 1998-1999 school year provided the following feedback.

 

- Sandia Prep School, Albuquerque, NM.

79 sixth graders used WhaleNet at Sandia Prep, a private school in New Mexico. The school’s science teacher used it for a class assignment (background reading and discussion), a special unit (migration), reference source, and supplemental material (whale biology, behavior and migration). Students used STOP, the database, case studies and activities in social studies, math and language arts classes as well as science. The teacher rated all components of the web-site that she used ‘highly valuable’.

"This is one of the best sites I have seen in terms of relevance, integrity, currency, and usability."

The student’s found the web-site appealing, engaging, easy to use, and the language was appropriate. They were able to find answers to specific questions and use the database. The migration maps were fascinating but they wanted more information on the maps.

As a result, the teacher reported that her students benefited to a high degree from using WhaleNet in the following ways:

* developed critical thinking skills and problem solving strategies.

* increased their interest in the environment/science.

To a moderate degree they:

* utilized and improved their telecommunication skills.

* became involved in scientific research by using real-time data.

* became involved and interested in learning about the environment.

"Using real-time information brought the kids closer to the research being conducted and made them feel more a part of the whale’s lives. Particularly since they are out in the desert!"

The long-term benefit of using WhaleNet, in comparison to other ways of presenting the same material, is "the manipulation of information by each student (which) causes... long lasting learning by students... The approach with the Internet promotes high interest in whales and their well-being."

- Plymouth Community Intermediate School, Plymouth, MA

Ninety-three 7th graders at this public school in Massachusetts used WhaleNet for a science class assignment/activity, supplemental material, reference source for research and a joint project with reading and geography. They used the satellite tagging program, the database, and links as part of their Oceanography Unit. They were the one test site that went on a whale watch trip.

The 7th graders at Plymouth Community Intermediate School found WhaleNet to be appealing, engaging and the language appropriate. The students were able to find answers to questions but they reported that the database was difficult to use. The STOP program and links were most useful. The students wanted more information on the actual satellite tag i.e. a description of what the tag is made of, and they also suggested an interactive whale anatomy program.

The teacher, reported that her students to a high degree:

* increased their interest in the environment/science

* became involved in scientific research by using real-time data

* became involved and interested in learning about the environment

* developed critical thinking skills and problem solving strategies

She rated as highly valuable the satellite tagging program, educational activities, Lucy, bibliographies, reference resources, and links to other resources. Suggestions from this test site included a better table of contents to make the site easier to use and the addition of a few games or some problem-based modules. "The most important need is better maps for tracking tagged animals. Maps with degrees in decimal form, lat/long lines that fit the data points, and can be duplicated in black and white."

"The technology was indeed a great motivation tool! The information available was phenomenal."

 

The long-term benefits of using WhaleNet, in comparison to other ways of presenting the same material, are "Students must extract the information themselves and are engaged especially when using STOP... Motivation and ease of finding information allows some students to do projects that they might not do in conventional ways."

- Derby Sixth Grade Center, Wichita, KS

Sixty-seven 6th graders used the satellite tagging program, database, links, slide shows and curriculum material as a class assignment in science. The teacher provided data for students to use in plotting the movement of various marine mammals. They also read about right whale research and found additional information on various marine animals.

The students found the web site to be engaging and for the most part it was easy to find answers to specific questions, although they had trouble finding blue whale information. The STOP data was easy to use. It was harder to find information about each mammal although the teacher indicated some problems were due to the students’ lack of Internet experience.

The teacher, reported that her students to a high degree:

* utilized and improved their telecommunication skills

* became involved in scientific research by using real-time data

To a moderate degree they:

* became involved and interested in learning about the environment

* developed critical thinking skills and problem solving strategies

* increased their interest in the environment/science

According to this teacher, highly valuable were the satellite tagging program, database, aid to navigation (tour), home page and educational activities. Additional problem solving activities using actual data and events would make WhaleNet more interactive and easier to use. "More background information and detailed instructions are needed. Some educators possess the ability to research and plan with new material. Others don’t want to or don’t have the time ... (they) want lesson plans at their fingertips."

"The long-term benefits of using WhaleNet, in comparison with other ways of presenting the same material, are "To make students more aware of the marine environment and (to provide) easy access to actual data usually reserved for researchers."

Additional Test-Site Feedback, provided by fourteen teachers during the 1997-1998 school year, also supports the interactive, engaging and enhancing qualities of WhaleNet. See the collation of their responses in the Summaries section.

"You really have done a ‘masterful’ job of setting up this site. I am teaching a high school Oceanography/Marine Biology elective course to juniors and seniors, and your site is just what I have been looking for. I have downloaded the data sets for a variety of the animals...the students will each be ‘adopting’ one of them ... to follow up on an introduction to satellite imagery..."

The most frequently described effects, of using WhaleNet, for the students at these test sites were:

* access to information

* motivation, excitement

* learning telecommunication skills

* a great resource for research, using real-time information brought students closer to

the research

* increased interest in the environment/science

"A well organized resource of everything you will need to ‘hook and reel’ in science for any age level." High School teacher

The long-term benefits of using WhaleNet as described by these teachers were:

* information is new, dynamic, many faceted, real time

* students are allowed to use information in ways they see fit and have access to

information they otherwise wouldn’t have access to

* increased comfort with telecommunications and web skills

* motivation because the medium and subject are high interest

"Exposure to real, practical science is invaluable to raising children’s environmental awareness...providing a greater sense of problems related to marine science and increasing knowledge of the marine environment." Middle School Teacher

"The advantages to using WhaleNet are myriad. It is a powerful research tool requiring good, old-fashioned reading and thinking skills as well as technology familiarity, but it adds the human touch through such areas as ASK and What’s It. ...As long as at least one on-line computer is in a classroom ... it is an invaluable tool... With multiple machines you can facilitate so many authentic learning experiences that they are impossible to list." Elementary Teacher

 

C. Meeting the goal of using telecommunications and other advanced technologies to enhance education through cooperation and communications among students, teachers, scientists, and research institutions.

Teachers and students benefited from WhaleNet’s collaboration with research institutions, whale watch companies, and other educational organizations.

Between April 1997 and June 1999 we received 237 on-line teacher surveys and 293 on-line student surveys enthusiastically endorsing WhaleNet and describing the many benefits of using its resources. They were from a mix of elementary (42%), middle school (20%), high school (13%), college (4%) and home school (5%) teachers; and elementary (31%), middle school (10%), high school (6%), college (8%) and home school (1%) students.

99% of on-line educators plan to use WhaleNet again.

99% would recommend WhaleNet to another educator.

98% rate WhaleNet excellent or good compared to other Internet sites they’ve used.

"Thanks for providing such a great learning tool for my students."

" Thank you for the fantastic site... It is ideal for our use at the elementary level. We particularly like the movies and the interactive on-line story." School Technology Director

 

The best aspects of WhaleNet according to these on-line teacher surveys are:

* the abundance of resources, diverse and interactive information

* a good source of marine research/access to real data/satellite data

* great pictures

* easy to use, read, understand information

* user friendly for students

* curriculum ideas, units, teacher resources

* up-to-date

* allows students in the Midwest to experience whales

* a place to have questions answered, ASK and communication with scientists

69% used WhaleNet as a class assignment or as a student research tool.

49% used WhaleNet primarily for their (the teacher’s) own research.

Improvements recommended by on-line teachers focused on adding more links and more pictures; keeping it up to date; and offering more for the very young/primary student.

On-line students also recommended WhaleNet.

92% of on-line students plan to use WhaleNet again.

92% would recommend WhaleNet to other students.

81% rated WhaleNet good or excellent.

"I think this is one of the better research places I have been to."

"This site makes me feel like I am part of the research."

The best aspects of WhaleNet according to the students were:

* the wide range of information

* pictures

* ease of use

* movies, video clips

* tracking animals

* ASK

* dissecting a blue whale

* slide shows

* that it’s about whales

* stories/interactive books

* career information

40% of the on-line students used WhaleNet because of personal interest.

37% for a class assignment.

31% for research.

14% for career interests.

Recommended improvements by on-line students focused on adding more photos and movies and providing more information about the pictures/movies as well as sound; adding more games and interactive activities; adding more information and having a section of general information on different whales; and making it easier to find things and navigate.

"Keep adding to it! It’s getting better all the time!"

"I’ll be back. I had fun."

 

 

ASK established communication between scientist and students and enhanced their education.

ASK was another very successful component of WhaleNet. Scientists contributed their

expertise to answer up to 50 questions per week from elementary, middle, and high school as well college students and teachers. Scientists came from around the world, including New Zealand, Hong Kong, Alaska, Hawaii, and numerous US states. Participating scientists specialized in oceanography, bio-acoustics, manatees, whales, dolphins and other facets of marine studies.

Responses to the hundreds of questions were sent within twenty-four hours, with the opportunity to ask follow-up questions. Answers were posted to the ASK archives for future users and the site search engine helped students access those archives. See the summary of "ASK Question Askers" surveys and "ASK Scientists" surveys in the Summaries section of this report.

The 198 surveys from those who used ASK indicated that most questions were submitted by individual students (90%) from home (83%). Fifty-seven percent of them asked their question for a class project or class assignment and 42% for personal interest. The 37 ASK Scientists that completed surveys all answered questions from individuals, while most also received questions from teachers and groups of students or whole classes. According to the scientists, most of the questions came from middle school students, followed closely by elementary and then high school students. Quite a few college students submitted questions as well.

"We were VERY surprised and happy to receive your e-mail response. It was a valuable lesson for Sydney (and Daddy!!) as to the Orca and more importantly, we think, as to the power of this communication medium at our finger tips." a parent

"...Being able to contact people over the Internet to ask for help with research projects and other things is brilliant. I told my teacher all about your really cool WhaleNet web-site." a student

"Just a quick note to thank you for the personal response to the questions ... She was VERY impressed to get the answers in our email and they were a big plus for her report... thanks for being available to the nation’s students." a parent

Ninety-two percent of the users of ASK gained information that was useful to them. Often the information was not available elsewhere. Many reported that the impact of the answer went beyond knowledge for example to an increased interest in the topic. Unfortunately, eight percent of the users reported they gained nothing because they did not receive an answer or the question was not in the scientist’s field of knowledge.

The "scientist taught me more about whales, was eager to answer my questions and really inspired me to learn." a student

"Finding science information geared to kids on moderately sophisticated subjects is difficult. ASK a Scientist was the only place where Sarah could ask specific questions to a real scientist." a parent

" I gained some personal experience, perspective from a marine mammal biologist ... and what she thinks about her job and career choice..." a student

"The student who had been assigned that information had tried every other source and couldn’t find the answer, so we tried this and it worked!" a teacher

 

"I gained engagement for my students. When an issue arose concerning migration we were able to get a response right away. I appreciated having support from someone with much more expertise than I." a teacher

Users liked the ASK program because it provided accurate, knowledgeable, reliable, up to date, comprehensive answers. They appreciated having access to a very unique resource - researchers or professionals, active in the field, willing to take the time to answer their questions.

"I was excited, I got to talk with a real scientist." a student

"It’s like having your personal teacher, you can ask them about everything." a student

"It was wonderful... I felt as though I should have paid this person. I was totally surprised and delighted by the willingness to share information and the obvious time put into thoroughly answering all of my questions... I wish this sort of thing was available me when I was a child." a college student

 

D. Meeting our goal of involving students in real-time interdisciplinary scientific research and education by sharing data collected from new research projects by participating organizations using high technology devices.

STOP was a source of real-time marine research.

A major contributor to the success of WhaleNet was the Satellite Tagging Observation Program (STOP). STOP enabled students to participate, with scientists, in unique research using advanced technologies. This dynamic program used advanced satellite technology and telecommunications to monitor and research the actual migration patterns and movements of eight whales and 39 other marine animals.

"..they attached a buoyed, homemade satellite tracking device ... this transmitter sent exact latitude and longitude to a satellite, which then forwarded the information to a central computer. Aquarium scientist used this information to keep track of (the whale) for six months... While scientists were analyzing data, students were doing the same thing thanks to WhaleNet at http://whale.wheelock.edu. This site lets kids plot (the) course (of tagged marine mammals) and link up directly with science as it is happening." The Boston Globe, May 5, 1997

"Jersey may be one of the most high-tech seals in the ocean. That’s because she has a satellite transmitter attached to her back. The transmitters send information about Jersey’s where abouts and diving patterns as she swims around the Atlantic Ocean. She is the second seal treated by the stranding center to be tracked under a program run by Wheelock College (WhaleNet). A gray seal named Casino... sent signals through the satellite for 78 days this summer... The data from Jersey and Casino give (the scientists) a better understanding of where the seals went after their release... Data and tracking maps are posted daily on the Internet by WhaleNet..." The Press, November 9, 1998

Students and educators accessed and used data and information from this program for a variety of purposes such as migration studies, habitat use, learning longitude and latitude and mapping skills, studying geography and calculating rate of movement. The summary of "Test Site Teacher Feedback" and "Teacher Workshop Follow-up" survey responses show evidence of the enthusiastic and successful applications of STOP in classrooms across the country. STOP was sited, most often, as the part of the web site test site teachers and students found most useful.

The top two reasons workshop participants described for using WhaleNet were 1) real life experience and data ("science beyond books") and 2) access to real-time/current data, both attributes of the STOP program. In follow up surveys, teachers reported that the most exciting aspects of using WhaleNet were all the information on tagged animals, contact with real scientists, access to real data and being on the cutting edge of whale studies.

Researchers also gained from STOP and WhaleNet’s resources.

"Congrats to you! Your creation ‘WhaleNet’ is certainly bringing folks together in the research field and providing an education and awareness vehicle not previously available." ASK and STOP scientist

 

E. Other impacts of the WhaleNet project:

An added benefit, that was not in the goals yet teachers described, was use of WhaleNet supports local and state science standards.

An elementary test-site teacher in Boston, MA reported that "...whales serve as a means to approach the city’s grade level standards in every level: K- Water and Local Natural Environments; 1- Living Things; 2 - Life Cycles and Habitats; 3 - Sound; 4 - Bones; and 5 - The Microscopic World (plankton studies). The comparative anatomy of terrestrial mammals and whales is a fantastic way to get to deep discussions on adaptation, habitats, and the biological principal of form following function."

A middle school test-site teacher, from Sanborn, NH, reported that she used WhaleNet to meet the NH Science Standards. These standards promote learning science by doing science and include communication, collaboration, scientific and technological literacy and the ability to access and process information. "The WhaleNet project which I worked on with students encompassed numerous parts of these standards...."

"There’s an emphasis upon scientific modes of thought. Students ... acquiring skills in making careful observations, collecting and analyzing data, thinking logically and critically, and

making quantitative and qualitative interpretations. This past fall, my students went into WhaleNet to gather data... on whale watches in the Gulf of Maine.... this information was then put into an Excel document for students to compare, contrast and observe (any trends). To clarify some of this information students used email to contact those people in charge of recording the data. After interpreting this information students presented their findings in a Hyperstudio presentation. Thus the students:

1. used technology to observe nature

2. recognized patterns and variables

3. worked in small groups to investigate problems

4. analyzed, synthesized and communicated scientific information using technology

5. gained a better understanding of how environmental factors affect a living community."

Teachers benefited in many ways from WhaleNet workshops, including developing telecommunications skills and enhancing teacher practices.

Teachers were very satisfied with the WhaleNet telecommunications workshop and the majority plan to use WhaleNet and/or telecommunications in their classroom after the workshop. Evaluations from 325 educators in eighteen workshops in eight states endorsed the instructors (project staff and Regional Coordinators) and the value of the training.

* 97% agreed or strongly agreed ( 26% agree, 71% strongly agree) that the

instructors were very effective and knowledgeable.

* 96% of workshop participants would recommend this workshop to other educators.

"...This (training) was very informative and productive. I am planning on testing in class several ideas on using WhaleNet that were wheeling around in my head as I drove home from the workshop. For an old faculty person of 33 years this has re-energized my batteries so to speak..."

"I really enjoyed the workshop. I found it to be a break through for my Internet knowledge."

* 43% of workshop participants intended to use WhaleNet in their classroom, some as soon as the next day, in a variety of ways including: ocean units, environmental science, endangered animal unit, data collection and analysis, as a school wide project, applications of mathematics, geography, mapping skills, reading unit on sea life, career information, and introducing technology use in general.

* 23% of the participants wanted to use WhaleNet but indicated they might not be able to because: they did not have appropriate connections/equipment yet; a few lacked the time; and a few reported ‘rigid curriculum requirements’ as a stumbling block.

* 7% intend to use telecommunications in their classroom but would focus on other sites/subject matter, they didn’t feel WhaleNet related to what they taught.

* 10% of workshop participants indicated they would be using WhaleNet as a hook to help teachers, at their school or preservice teachers, use the Internet.

* 16% of participants reported they needed more training or experience in using computers or the Internet, or experience using WhaleNet, before they would use it in their classes.

"Great workshop! I’m really excited about going back to my classroom and using WhaleNet."

The top four reasons teacher described for using WhaleNet are:

1) real life experience and data ("science beyond books"),

2) access to real-time/current data,

3) a great resource on a student level

4) the wealth of information, interdisciplinary resource.

"The instructors were really helpful ... I think something like this is much more useful to a student than taking notes... I really got into it. Maybe if schools used learning like this more kids would stay interested."

"I think (the workshop) is wonderful! I am so happy to get all this information. This will really improve my whale unit! "

Six to nine months after their workshop 240 educators reported impacts of the training on themselves and their students. The most common effects:

69% gained an understanding of the educational usefulness of telecommunications

68% gathered information/curriculum material using telecommunications

65% shared information about WhaleNet with other educators

60% increased their telecommunications skills

53% shared information about telecommunications with other educators

47% feel better about their ability to integrate telecommunications in their classes

32% used new teaching strategies

42% of the teachers had made the changes they planned six months after their workshop. The primary reason changes had not been made were lack of computer access or Internet connection problems. Other teachers were progressing more slowly then they would have liked because of delays in computer or Internet access. Some teachers were planning to start later in the school year, while others had made some changes but not all they had planned.

51% of the teachers reported they had used telecommunications, but sites other than WhaleNet, in their classroom since the workshop. They used a variety of sites (see the follow-up survey summary) for research, email, entering/using data, exchanging information with another class, and introducing students to the Internet.

24% of the teachers reported actually using WhaleNet in their classroom, most often to gather information, for research, and to enrich their curriculum. Most frequently their students used STOP, the educational resources/links, and ASK.

These teachers reported that the most exciting aspects of using WhaleNet are:

* all the information on tagged animals

* real scientists

* real data

* updated information

* building a whale

* watching students become independent (it is student guided)

* student enthusiasm

* being on the Internet

* learning about the animals

* being on the cutting edge of whale studies

The most challenging aspects of using WhaleNet are:

* lack of/limited access i.e. one computer for the class

* so much information, students/teachers were easily side tracked

* bringing it down to early elementary grade level

* the range of student adaptiveness to telecommunications

* getting the students to be patient with the on-line server

* system crashes

* monitoring student use at home

* using it off-line because it loses some of the appeal

* fitting it into the curriculum

* figuring out the database

* creating lessons

* printing documents

Teachers reported several benefits for students from using WhaleNet in their follow-up surveys.

93% student knowledge about whales and marine science increases.

82% student telecommunication skills increase.

75% student research skills improve.

60% student data analysis, problem solving and critical thinking skills increase.

58% student attitudes about the environment/science change.

51% student understanding of the scientific process increases.

94% of trained teachers rated WhaleNet’s quality as good in their follow-up surveys. Only 2% indicated WhaleNet needed improvement and 4% said it was not useful to them.

97% of the teachers indicated it is very important (74%) or somewhat important (23%) to have access to web-sites specifically designed for educational use like WhaleNet.

 

ASK Scientists also benefited from the ASK program.

They became ASK Scientists for a variety of reasons: 78% of the scientists served in the program as a way of sharing their knowledge and to have the opportunity to work with students, 46% reported that wanted to learn themselves, and for 35% it related to their research objectives or was part of their job. All except one scientist found the experience satisfying.

The most common gain for the scientists, according to the Scientists, was learning for themselves. "Children ask great questions because they come from a fresh perspective. I got some of the ‘joy’ about why I shifted into this field to begin with and I learned a lot." They also gained a sense of what teachers and students know. "This gives me a basis from which to continue to share my knowledge with the lay community." The scientists enjoyed the interaction and the sense of helping others. "I appreciate being able to give advice to future scientists mainly because I remember how much I would have loved such advice as a kid."

Scientists reported numerous benefits for the users of ASK:

* knowledge from experts working in the field

* a chance to interact directly with experts which meant they could be assured of an

accurate answer, could follow-up for clarification, and it’s personal

* practical use of the Internet

learning

* an appreciation that there are scientists/adults willing to help

answers that are up-to-date

* realizing that scientists are real people too

* help in making decisions about their own careers

* easy access to a scientist/information

* attention/direct contact

"I also appreciated parental involvement in the child’s learning process. I could tell which question came from involved parents and could imagine the parent and child discussing their question and my answer together." a Scientist

95% of the ASK scientists would serve again.

81% had recommended ASK to other Scientists.

84% had recommended ASK to a student.

All the Scientists reported that the instructions and methods for answering questions were clear and complete. However, almost one-half of them reported some difficulty. The most common problem was questions ‘out of left field/off the wall’ -not related to the marine environment or not related to the scientist’s field of expertise. Some were tedious questions. "Often these were from groups of children firing off 50 questions in a single message." Several scientists believed that some students wanted someone to do their homework for them. Additional difficulties arose in answering foreign language questions.

The web site’s technical and design features, navigation, authorship and authority, and content were highly rated.

WhaleNet Advisory Panel (WAP) members, scientists and educators from around the country, rated virtually all characteristics of the web site effective. All respondents judged the site highly for having a clear purpose/mission, being ‘user friendly’, affiliating with recognized institutions, up-to-date, and fulfilling its stated purpose.

The only problem identified by a significant number of Advisors was the type not being large enough throughout the site for someone who is vision-impaired. One Advisor indicated there were some grammar/spelling problems; a few pages lacked graphics, were missing text alternatives for graphics or lacked information about the author or bibliographic information. Noted by two Advisors - some research reports lacked the methodologies or results and some web pages required extensive downward scrolling to read the information. (See the Web Site Rating Form summary in the Summaries section for more details.)

Advisors also reported that they had gained personally and professionally from serving on WAP.

"I want to let you know how grateful I am for being a member of WAP... the experience has been wonderful for me professionally and personally. Between getting to know other members and their activities, the great ... meetings and the experience of watching WhaleNet bloom into what it has become... these have all enriched my life and exhilarated my mind and soul."

Web site statistics revealed characteristics of WhaleNet’s use.

Monthly web access statistics were compiled for WhaleNet including daily transmission statistics, hourly transmission statistics, total transfers by client domain, total transfers by reversed subdomain, and total transfers from each archive section. These statistics are posted on our web site for others to review. The reports reveal the types of institutions using WhaleNet and what parts of the web site are most frequently/ infrequently accessed. These statistics were further analyzed using Web Trends software. See the Web Statistics section of this report for further information.

Users most frequently went to the following pages:

1. the primary Home Page and Student Home Page

2. Tour

3. Index

4. Slide shows

5. How to find

6. STOP

7. ASK archives

8. the Teacher home page

9. Educational Resources

10. What’s New

11. the Humpback Whale Catalogue Intro

12. ASK a Scientist

13. A Day on a Whale Watch

14. Species and Behavior Information

15. Curriculum Resources

These usage patterns substantiate the primary educational uses of our site. The most frequently

used pages match closely the list of most useful and educationally important resources, on WhaleNet’s web site, as identified by the Regional Coordinators.

Internet connectivity was still limited in some schools but increased significantly over the four years of this report.

* Most teachers had Internet access in their schools and growing number of teachers had access in their classrooms. This access often utilized a statewide educational network such as Tenet but there were also schools using common commercial providers such as AOL.

* For those that didn’t have access it was planned soon although this was frequently delayed.

* The majority of teachers had access using Macintosh computers but an increasing number used PC’s and some had access to both.

* The majority had Netscape as their browser but an increasing number used Internet Explorer.

* States had different strategies for Internet access in their schools. In Tennessee virtually every school library was on-line; in Texas and Massachusetts it was more likely to be their computer labs.

* Students usually had the same access to the Internet as teachers, although teachers sometimes had additional avenues of access, such as an office. Only a few teachers indicated students weren’t allowed access to the Internet.

* One-half the educators had access at home while 80% of the students completing our pre/post test reported they had access at home.

Thirty-seven percent of the teachers in their follow-up surveys reported that their access had changed from when they attended the WhaleNet teacher workshop. For most access had been installed or their access had been upgraded. A number reported they had gained classroom access. "We went from one connected classroom to a networked school with T-1 Access." And an increasing number of teachers had access at home.

In our on-line surveys 41% of the teachers reported that nearly all (90 to 100%) of the teachers in their school used telecommunications in their classes; and another 30% reported that most (50 to 80%) of the teachers used telecommunications. Only 3% indicated that no one used telecommunications.

III. Conclusion

This report and the associated documentation substantiate that WhaleNet was successful in achieving it’s overall program goals. Students using WhaleNet developed telecommunications, critical thinking and problem solving skills; and their interest in marine science and under-standing of the scientific process was enhanced. WhaleNet’s use of telecommunications and other advanced technologies enhanced education in classrooms around the world. WhaleNet has become a high-interest, interactive educational resource and research network that involves communication and collaboration between K-12 classrooms, scientists and research organizations.

"If you haven’t had the chance to experience a whale watch at sea, how about a whale watch on-line? ...Anyone interested in these leviathans will find WhaleNet...well worth a look... take a minute to ... reel in a wealth of information, photographs, data, maps and stories.... Classrooms, in particular have benefited from its educational curriculum including an animal satellite-tracking program, up-to-date whale watch data, Ask a Scientist feature and children’s interactive stories." The Christian Science Monitor

Period Covered By this report: 9/15/95-9/15/99

Report Date: 4/00

Submitted by: Karen Burnett-Kurie