A Pilot Study to Examine Online Idea Jams as a Dissemination Mechanism for Educational Innovations
The project is a pilot study on the effectiveness of using online, interactive technology (IdeaJam© -- http://www.elguji.com/) as a mechanism for communicating within the NSF TUES community. This tool is being used to identify and promote NSF TUES funded innovations that are ripe for adoption and to gather information about the teaching and pedagogical needs of STEM faculty members. Expected outcomes include the collaborative identification of high interest innovations that can be easily adapted by STEM instructors and promoted by professional societies or by web and print publishers; feedback that developers can use to improve or refine their innovations; the development of collaborations among instructors sharing the same interests around an innovation; and the generation of new ideas, research paths, and trends that might help define new funding opportunities. The software tool supports Idea Jams, which are expanded versions of online conferences with the usual "main stage" for scheduled live or streamed presentations and, more importantly, mechanism for a high level of interactivity and participation. The project is organizing two Idea Jams, one looking at all STEM fields and one concentrating on engineering and mathematics. Each will run for one to two days with three to four innovators making either live or taped presentations. The project investigators are using established review criteria to select specific innovations for presentation and a direct email campaign to invite NSF TUES PIs along with members of various organizations that support STEM educational innovation to submit ideas. Data collected by the Idea Jam software and also through focus groups are being used to provide participants with feedback on how to promote and improve their innovations. The evaluation effort, which is being led by independent evaluators, is using IdeaJam metrics, post Jam surveys, and follow-up interviews to determine whether the approach is suitable and effective as a dissemination tool for the STEM education community. The project's broader impacts include a low-cost, effective mechanism for strengthening the STEM education community and enhancing dissemination of innovative educational approaches in a way that allows full participation of under-resourced colleges and universities.