iSchool at Syracuse researchers improve teachers’ ability to research lesson plans
iSchool at Syracuse researchers improve teachers’ ability to research lesson plans October 10, 2007Margaret Costello Spillettmcostell@syr.edu
Educators across the country face the challenge of teaching to the standards mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act and to meeting their own state’s educational standards.
Currently, online collections of teaching resources can often only be searched by national standards. Yet teachers prefer searching for resources that meet their own state’s standards and have difficulty mapping the federal standard to their state’s requirements. That means teachers often miss out on a wide range of resources, such as other teachers’ successful lesson plans, because it takes too much time and effort to translate one standard to another.
That’s where researchers in the Center for Natural Language Processing (CNLP) in Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool) come in. They have developed the beta version of an application that will assign state standard equivalents for each national standard.
With $175,000 in support from the Verizon Foundation’s Thinkfinity, the researchers are implementing a system that will help teachers in each U.S. state identify the state and federal standards being met by an archive of more than 4,000 lesson plans on Thinkfinity’s website(http://thinkfinity.com).
“The idea is to help teachers have better access to the resources that will help them in the classroom,” says Anne Diekema, CNLP interim director and research professor.
The first phase of the project will use the system to automatically assign individual state standards to the national standards already identified for each lesson plan on Thinkfinity’s site. The goal is to make all the content searchable by whatever standard a teacher might be using.
“Say I’m a third-grade teacher and I want to meet the standard that requires students be able to add whole numbers up to 20, and I want the lesson plan to involve dinosaurs,” Diekema says. “We’re hoping to create a tool that will enable teachers to type that in and pull up any lesson plans meeting those criteria.”
The second part of the project will require hiring 20 cataloguers to review what the content assignment tool (CAT) generated, making any necessary additions or revisions to ensure greater accuracy. “The cool thing about CAT is that it learns from these human-vetted assignments and makes better suggestions over time,” Diekema says.
Once the standards have been assigned and reviewed by professional cataloguers, teachers will have an easier time identifying the lesson plans that meet their students’ learning needs.
For Kimberly Lightle, director of digital libraries at Ohio State University’s College of Education and a blogger on Connecting News to National Education Standards (http://msteacher.org), this new technology will enable her to better serve her target audience — middle school math and science teachers.
“We identify the national standards for all content we develop, but we would like to have the ability for teachers to look at their corresponding state standards through this tool,” Lightle says. “Using this tool will help teachers understand more clearly where a certain resource or activity would fit into their curriculum.”
Thinkfinity is the Verizon Foundation’s signature digital learning platform designed to improve educational and literacy achievement. Its goal and mission are to support the present and future needs of global society, and deliver resources to advance the knowledge and skills that are required of citizens in the 21st century.
The School of Information Studies at SU is ranked No. 1 in the nation for information systems and is a nationally ranked center for innovative programs in information policy, information behavior, information management, information systems, information technology and information services. The school offers an undergraduate degree, certificates of advanced studies, three professional master’s degree programs and a Ph.D. The School of Information Studies was established in 1896 as the School of Library Science and is accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). For more information, visit the school’s website at http://ischool.syr.edu.