Read below for more details about each of our featured projects and presenters.

Teaching Environmental Science in a Virtual Green Home

Students in 2 sections of BiSc 003 (Environmental Science)at Penn State Berks participated in a research study conducted by Mary Ann Mengel, Multimedia Specialist. The study compared two types of online instruction about green homes: 1) an online instructional website 2) a virtual green home in Second Life. Mengel conducted the study in collaboration with John Meyers, instructor of Environmental Science.

Pre-test and post-test data from the two student groups was compared to learn about the effectiveness of a virtual green home in Second Life as an online instructional site, as compared to an instructional website. Both sites include the same content related to green home construction.

The students who participated in the Second Life instructional site were asked to review a number of tutorials related to the use of Second Life in order to prepare for their virtual visit, and were given a number of Second Life tasks they were expected to master.

The virtual green home, built by Mengel, features notecards that outline green features of home construction. Students in the Second Life experimental group participated in a scavenger hunt in which they are asked to locate all of the notecards scattered throughout the home to gather data about green home construction. As students walked and flew around the virtual green home, they viewed a 3-D visual representation of a green home. A number of interactive elements were included. For instance, students could click on a wall section to make it slide away and reveal the insulation behind the wall.

It is hoped that this virtual green home will become a permanent part of the delivery of BiSc 003 at Penn State Berks.

Mary Ann Mengel/ SL: Marissa Moody
Multimedia Specialist
Penn State University
Reading, PA
*HP Grantee

Mary Ann Mengel is a Multimedia Specialist/Webmaster in the Center for Learning & Teaching at Penn State University's Berks Campus. She will graduate with an M.S. in Instructional Technology from Bloomsburg University in May 2009. She is a cum laude graduate of Kutztown University with a B.F.A. in Communication Design. Mengel is involved in educational research related to Second Life. She is currently working in collaboration with an instructor of Environmental Science to teach a unit in Penn State's Environmental Science (BiSi 003) course in Second Life.

Learning From the Past Looking Toward the Future

We are in our second year of a project that is a cross-curricular exploration of influences between ecology and society. Students and teachers have been working together to explore the connections between historical contributions and current understanding of issues related to ecology, connections between ecology and present day society and predictions about how those connections might change in the future. Our entire staff has worked to find logical associations between their content area and ecology. From art to health, from Spanish to science, from music to language arts, we are all using technology to help students experience connections to how we care for our world across the curriculum. Our primary goal is to improve the way we are teaching by using technology and best practices. One of the means of meeting this goal is to incorporate lessons touching on ecology in all content areas. Because this is new to many content areas, we thought it would be a great way to incorporate new teaching strategies using technology.
Although the year has gone a little too quickly and there have been a few bumps in the road, for the most part, we have found success in our project. Students are commenting on all the “green things” they are learning about and teachers are finding new ways to incorporate technology and collaborate with each other and students.

Our project title “Learning from the past, looking toward the future” describes the two different aspects of our project. As a school, we are learning about ecology from a historical perspective, we are looking at current ecological issues and we are learning about how these issues will affect future generations. From a pedagogical standpoint, we are also learning how to improve our strategies in the classroom and use technology to implement, collaborate and learn about research-based best practices that can improve the quality of instruction at our school.
Throughout the year we have used a variety of professional development opportunities to delve into the world of 2.0, to collaborate with other institutions and to communicate in different ways. Students have become experts in some topics and they frequently assist teachers in implementing technology in the classroom.

We are planning a celebration in May to show case many of the projects and applications of our year’s work. We will be combing technology presentations and interactions with a few “get your hands dirty” activities. There will be music performances using technology and sounds of nature as well as an art show. Parents and other community members will have an opportunity to see, hear and experience some of the work the students have done over the year as we learn from our past and look toward the future improving the way we teach and the way students learn.

Mary Eldredge-Sandbo/ SL: Marie Springflower
Biology Teacher
Des Lacs-Burlington High School
Des Lacs, ND 58733
*HP Grantee

I am the life sciences teacher at Des Lacs-Burlington High School in Des Lacs, North Dakota. Like most of the teachers in our school, I teach a variety of courses each day: General Biology, Advanced Biology, Biology 2, Anatomy and a Dual Credit Biology course. I’ve been teaching long enough to know that it is a profession that is exciting and challenging and rewarding and frustrating and exhausting and exhilarating and I’m so glad that it is how I spend most of my days. I teach on a staff of about twenty at a school with nearly 190 students in grades 9 through 12.

Implementing Student-Initiated Scientific Inquiry in Environmental Science Courses Using Mobile Technology and Digital Ink

We are using Hewlett Packard mobile technology to implement changes in teaching by shifting the instructional emphasis from the teacher to the student (student-initiated scientific inquiry), field experiments (“outdoor laboratory"), and multimedia presentations. As a result we anticipate an increase in student motivation, engagement, retention, and understanding of environmental science concepts.

Impact on Teaching
The Camden County College campus includes 300 acres of land with a variety of ecological niches (pineland, swamp etc) featuring some endangered species. The mobility of HP tablets allows our students to explore and monitor this “outdoor living laboratory” and learn about environmental principles that directly affect the quality of life of the county in which they reside. The multimedia is incorporated in both lectures and labs. We anticipate that a student-centered environment in concert with the mobile technology and digital ink will make the course material memorable and easy to understand, motivate the students, and greatly enhance teaching and learning.

Technology Implementation
Environmental science probes connected to tablet PCs are used to collect data. The exact latitude, longitude, and altitude of the sampling sites are determined using a GPS device. A satellite aerial photos of the area obtained using Google maps. Digital inking capability of tablet PCs is used to annotate the maps.

Impact on Student Learning
Six student learning outcomes listed below were assessed for the Fall 2008 semester and compared with the previous traditional course of the Spring 2008 semester taught without technology implementation. At the completion of the course students will be able to describe the composition, structure, and function of Earth's lithosphere (1), atmosphere (2), and hydrosphere (3), characterize soil composition, formation and properties (4), characterize the scope of air (5) and water pollution and assess water quality (6). We observed an increase in overall student proficiency, especially related to the areas of the cognitive domain such as comprehension and application of the learned material. Student progress and retention were also assessed by comparing the percentage of the successful completions of the course, F (fail), and W (withdraw) grades across the two semesters. We anticipate a continuous increase in student achievements by the Spring 2010 semester.

Dmitry Gembitsky/ SL: Jet Firecaster
Assistant Professor
Camden County College
Blackwood, New Jersey
*HP Grantee

Dmitry Gembitsky, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor at Camden County College (Blackwood, NJ) where he teaches a variety of subjects including Environmental Science, Biology for Science Majors, Anatomy and Physiology, and Cell Biology.

Prior to joining Camden County College, Dmitry worked as a Senior Research Scientist in both industry (Biochemical Core Technology, Corning Incorporated, Corning, NY) and academia (Immunochemistry and Protein Chip Technology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY). Throughout his carrier Dmitry published a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals.
He is also an author of several U.S. and international patents.

Dmitry is an innovative instructor and enjoys a great deal of creativity in his classroom. Consequently his classes are very interactive and students respond positively in this environment. At Camden County College, Dmitry leads the Technology for Teaching Initiative sponsored by Hewlett Packard. Dmitry loves teaching and mentoring and projects his passion for technology in his classroom and through presentations and professional development seminars.

Landscape Connections

Landscape Connections is a 2009 exhibition of student artwork and poetry resulting from a collaborative educational program piloted during the 2006-2007 academic year by Olana State Historic Site, Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Hudson High School, and Catskill High School, and was funded by Teaching the Hudson Valley.

Landscape Connections created an experiential learning environment that encouraged a strong "sense of place" in participating students by weaving local and art history, environmental science and literature into the existing curriculum. Students had the opportunity to see how contemporary organizations in multiple disciplines interact in their own communities, and to gain a greater understanding of the impact of place in their everyday lives. For students to understand the importance of preserving and protecting their place, they must first learn to love it.
Landscape Connections opens April 2009 at Olana SL, and June 2009 at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, NY.

Carri Manchester/ SL: Carrilin Heliosense
Director of Education
Olana State Historic Site
Hudson, NY, USA

Carri Manchester (SL: Carrilin Heliosense) is the Director of Education at Olana State Historic Site, the 19th century Persian-inspired home, studio and designed Picturesque landscape of Hudson River School artist Frederic Edwin Church, where she manages interpretation and programs. Carri also manages Olana SL, a Second Life museum dedicated to telling the story of Olana through exhibitions of artwork, history and issues of conservation and preservation. Carri holds a BA in Anthropology and Art History from the State University of New York College at Potsdam and an MA in Museum Professions concentrating in education from Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ.

Black. It's the new White.

While studying environmental sociology during my undergrad coursework, I picked up on a somewhat hidden and almost insidious practice among humankind with regard to environmental policy. Once uncovered, I realized what is needed is not more "policies" per se but rather, complete lifestyle changes based on a new worldview.

Even today, conservation efforts are used by politicians and developers in order to "justify" the wasteful horrors we face daily; not eliminate them. Because we create and set aside protected areas, we seem to feel better about the NONprotected ones; as a bribe of our conscience.
Political green-speak and corporate green-wash are superficial practices aimed at convincing ourselves that we are making a difference by legislating healthier living. What is really needed is a new worldview of who and what we are as dynamic partners in our closed biosphere. And we are not "equal" partners because we alone possess the power to destroy the human ecosystem. Therefore, educating children to see who we are and where we live will save future generations from merely changing wasteful practices to fully engaging enviro-friendly lifestyles.

Dallas McPheeters/ SL: Dallas Trefoil
Instructional Technology Liaison
Tucson Unified Schools
Tucson, AZ, USA

Dallas McPheeters enjoys integrating technology into standards-based curriculum for one of Arizona's largest school districts. Dallas has owned and operated an online business since the days of bulletin boards – SOooo last Century! AND, Dallas is a full time graduate student at Northern Arizona University pursuing a Masters of education in Technology. In his "spare" time, Dallas and his wife enjoy their six children.

Tablet PC Community of Practice

MWCC has expanded the classroom use of Tablet PC's from two to six professors including two from the humanities. Redesigned courses include the use of interactive lecture and polling software as well as project teams to capitalize on the tablet's mobility. Redesigned courses are compared with sections taught by the same professor without the use of mobile technology. Participation, attendance and retention are being studied to understand what effects the use of mobile technology has on behaviors that attribute to learning.

The redesigned courses include Computer Technologies, English Composition I and II, Digital Photography, Anatomy and Physiology, and Mathematics II.

Susan Taylor/ SL: Susan Taylor/ SL: Susan Causten
Mount Wachusett Community College
Gardner, MA USA
*HP Grantee

Professor of Computer Information Systems Seventeen years of classroom teaching Masters degree in Computer Science from Fitchburg State College Undergraduate degree in Computer Science

Using Second Life to develop and test sustainability indices

At present, several potential catastrophes are looming on the horizon for human societies and their environments, or “socio-ecological” systems. Economic inequality and deterioration of political organization increases the risk of state failure; once a nation becomes a failed state, recovery can be difficult to impossible. Global climate change will exacerbate regional environmental problems such as water shortages, invasive species and stressed ecosystems, decreasing the goods and services ecosystems provide to human societies. The concomitant social, economic, and environmental pressures greatly increase the risk of violent social upheaval, famine, and rapid population decline. Large socio-ecological systems at the regional, national, and global scales are complex and require indices to aggregate the large number of social, economic and environmental variables to better understand where the system is headed relative to sustainability goals. A variety of sustainability indices has been developed to aggregate sustainability-related data, however all of these indices have shortcomings that make them difficult to use at present. Most critically, not all of the data relevant for sustainability measurement are available, and the accuracy of some available data is questionable due to methodological inconsistencies across regions or countries. Often missing and erroneous data are filled in or corrected through linear interpolation, and this introduces further methodological problems when using the data in time-dependent indices. Many of these problems stem from the difficulty of data collection from real world systems.

The Second Life virtual reality game is in essence a simulated socio-ecological system, in which the system is self-organized by the autonomous behaviors of many individuals and their interaction with a simulated environment. Land area is added over time in “region” units, and players can engage in many of the same consumption and production of goods and services as in the real world. Players can travel to vacation spots, build houses and other structures, and create clothes, tools and other items by writing computer code to create these virtual items. Land, infrastructure, clothes and tools, and services such as labor and entertainment can be bought and sold in the game using Linden Dollars or US dollars. This virtual world can therefore provide sustainability relevant, time-series data that are not subject to the same inconsistency and accuracy problems as real world counterparts. Although these are “virtual worlds”, their attributes and self-organizing properties are created and populated by real people, and therefore many real world system behaviors should have close analogs in the virtual ones. Unlike real worlds, the accuracy and availability of social, economic, and environmental data on virtual worlds are not subject to political whims or monitoring technology. We can therefore use data gathered from the virtual world to test index aggregation and weighting issues without the simultaneous complication of data accuracy and reliability issues. This project will produce improved sustainability indices that are calculated from sets of independent and properly transformed indicators, so that index values are correctly aggregated, and demonstrate the innovative use of virtual worlds to test sustainability indices and models.

Audrey Mayer/ SL: Audrey Frakture
Assistant Professor
Michigan Technological University
Houghton, MI USA

Prof. Audrey Mayer has a joint appointment with the Department of Social Sciences and the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University. She is a member of the Environmental Policy Program. Audrey’s projects fit broadly under the theme of multidisciplinary sustainability research, which means the simultaneous consideration of ecological, sociological, and economic dynamics of managing systems in a sustainable manner. One project is the development and application of sustainability indices to dynamic socioecological systems. This research includes both temporal and spatial indices, and how well they can be applied to systems at many different scales. She has also developed ecosystem assessment protocols that incorporate human stressor variables. Another project includes economic incentive policies for the conservation of ecosystem services. These include biodiversity conservation programs for privately owned forests, and economic incentives for stormwater mitigation of impervious surfaces in urban watersheds. A third project focuses on the ecological impact of international trade of natural resources. One example of this is her work in Finland, addressing the potential impacts on the Finnish forest industry and forest ecosystems from wood trade with Russia and other countries.