Karen Elinich @ Pepperdine University

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Action Research Summary

The National K-12 Science Education Standards call for students to learn about the nature of science, yet few teachers have developed their own understanding of the scientific practice. Primary source documents from the history of science offer evidence of what it means to be a scientist, yet few collections of primary sources are accessible to teachers. This conflict can be mediated by providing teachers with online access to the historical holdings of science museums. That online access can be made most effective when practicing teachers participate directly in the development of the online presentation of the primary sources. Technology, then, can provide the bridge between historical primary source collections and modern standards-based classroom learning.

The Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia holds a collection of documentary case-files associated with its scientific awards program. Since 1824, the Institute has celebrated individual achievements in science. Each individual’s case file contains two-dimensional artifacts of those achievements. For example, a case file for William Burroughs, who invented the arithmometer, contains his patents, letters of testimony, challenges to his claims, and miscellaneous ephemera like sales brochures and instruction manuals for his innovative calculating machine.

By providing online presentations of these case files, teachers will have access to the primary sources that document both the history and nature of science. In the case file for Elmer Sperry, you’ll find that many challenged the primacy of his gyroscopic compass. These documents offer teachers a portrait of the real professional nature of science.

In and of itself, the online presentation of primary sources will help teachers meet the challenge of understanding the nature of science. Beyond that, however, lies an investigation of impact. Are primary sources made more useful when practicing teachers participate directly in the development of the online presentation?

My research will consider the impact and effect of having teachers join the educational technology team as the Museum develops its online presentation of primary sources.