ADEC TRI-STATE AQUACULTURE OUTREACH TO TEACHERS USING TECHNOLOGY Christina E. N. Leighfield*, Laura G. Tiu, James J. Connors, Ben Swan, Kenneth J. Semmens, Gordon Mengel, Tod Porter Alan Escovitz, Siddharta Dasgupta
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Participants’ self-perceived knowledge and skills of aquaculture practices
The Tri-State Aquaculture Outreach Using Technology (TROUT) program was conducted to improve the aquaculture knowledge of selected secondary teachers using the distance education technology already available to them. The Tri-State Aquaculture Outreach Using Technology program had the following objectives: to provide a mechanism for university aquaculture specialists to train teachers in remote locations; to use and teach a curriculum using video conferencing technology to the selected teachers who have or plan to incorporate aquaculture into their classroom; and to enhance high school students’ knowledge of aquaculture and its opportunities.
The evaluation of the participants’ feelings and attitudes about aquaculture instruction, perceived barriers to using aquaculture in their classrooms, and knowledge and skills were tested in a now-then evaluation instrument. Each participant was given a survey to complete at the beginning of the sessions and again upon completing the training. Four sessions were conducted via video-conferencing from the months of January through April. Each of the participating aquaculture specialists prepared a module to teach to the teachers using Power Point, experiment examples and more. Participating teachers were encouraged to share their experiences and to ask questions. A website was utilized for the teachers to obtain information about the modules, to continue sharing experiences and for the students themselves to ask questions of the experts.
Five-point Likert scales were used for the attitudes and barrier sections. A 10-point rating scale was used for the self-assessed knowledge and skill levels. The instrument was reviewed for content and face validity by the Ohio State University Extension Aquaculture Specialist and experts in evaluation. A web site was set up for use of the teachers and the students, each of which had a module, multiple choice reviews, and threaded discussions. Each school would have a page while the three universities had a page, interesting links, etc.
At the end of the project the tapes recorded from each session were edited and converted into a 4 disc DVD. Each of the teachers in the study received a copy and the extras will be sent to teachers who want more information on how to use aquaculture in their classrooms.
The participants who completed the evaluation were five secondary agriculture teachers; three from Ohio, one from West Virginia and one from Kentucky.
Participants strongly agreed that they enjoyed teaching aquaculture, thought aquaculture had a positive effect on the environment, wanted to improve their aquaculture skills, and that aquaculture fits easily into secondary curriculum. Attitude statements showed the greatest increase (then/now) were that teaching materials were readily available for agriculture teachers to teach and that the participants had an excellent knowledge of aquaculture production techniques (Table 1).
Respondents believe that limited job opportunities in the aquaculture industry would be a moderate barrier to incorporating aquaculture into their agriculture programs. Issues related to cost of equipment, fish health and odor, care and maintenance, and limited facilities, local industry, or administrative support were deemed slight barriers by participants. Not seen as barriers were environmental regulations, limited student interest or knowledge, teaching materials, or technical support.
The teachers were asked to rate their aquaculture knowledge and skills before the program began and again after. Before the program began, the teachers rated only three items as being above average (=> 5 pts.) on their survey: their knowledge of science applications in aquaculture, transportation and handling of fish, and fish species. The participants rated their knowledge and skills on all aquaculture practices as above average at the end of the program (Table 2).
Scale: 1 = No knowledge to 10 = Excellent knowledge
The website that was set up for use of the aquaculture specialists and participants was not utilized to its full potential. Participants found that the site was down a lot of the time, and they were unable to access the files that they wished to obtain. The chat room went largely unused except for a few questions that were posed to either the specialists or other teachers in the project. The specialists used the page to post information on the topic that they would be discussing during their session and lists of activities for the teachers to do with their students.
Attitudes towards aquaculture instruction by program participants
It was found that while distance education technology was useful in delivering aquaculture information there were significant technical problems associated with delivering the instruction from universities to several remote high schools in three states. This problem was probably a result of universities and high schools utilizing different technology developed at different companies. This resulted in frustration on the part of the participants. Some participants indicated that a live, face-to-face workshop would have been preferred to the distance education program.
The participants also did not like, or use, the website that was developed for the project. Most of the participants found the website to be unavailable, hard to use and very frustrating.
While there were problems with the technology, the information provided was well received by the participants. The participants also appreciated having the aquaculture specialists teach the workshop and provide guidance and advice for their aquaculture program.
Respondents indicated that the aquaculture curriculum materials provided were excellent, interesting and very useful. They enjoyed learning about other programs and thought the professional guidance provided by the instructors was an advantage. The program had a positive impact on the participants’ attitudes and knowledge of aquaculture. The information provided to the participants did have an impact on their high school agricultural curriculum. All the participants indicated that they had, or soon would, implement the aquaculture instruction into their curriculum. One respondent indicated that a time should be established when students could be actively involved in the distance education program and/ or web site interaction.
Joe Ward, from the Scioto County Joint Vocational School, and two of his students constructing a recirculating system. Photo Courtesy of Joe Ward.
The first task was to conduct a needs assessment with target teachers. Based on the needs assessment, it was determined that the group would train teachers using video conferencing and then the teachers would transfer the information and knowledge that they acquired to their students. It was determined that we would broadcast a training session once a month. During the broadcast specialists would present new information and the teachers would provide feedback as to how they applied the information learned from the previous session. An aquaculture specialist from each University covered the session that most suited his/ her expertise. Each session included a hands on portion and recommendations of experiments to use in the classroom from the National Council for Agriculture Education. The sessions were approximately an hour and an half in length with the participant teachers being encouraged to ask questions throughout. The teachers were also encouraged to share their own experiences with other members of the group. Sessions were recorded on VHS.
Each of the specialists identified two teachers in his/her state who had videoconferencing technology to participate. Each teacher had to also have access to a technology staff member in case problems occurred. The Ohio State University’s University Integrated Telecommunications Systems (UNITS) provided the bridge for all sites.
The evaluation consisted of a now-then survey which each teacher was to answer and mail in to quantify the usefulness of this project. Participants received the evaluation in the mail along with a cover letter and self-addressed return envelope. Participants who did not return completed evaluations were contacted by telephone to obtain their responses. The instrument consisted of sections on attitudes about aquaculture instruction, perceived barriers to incorporating aquaculture instruction into secondary agricultural education programs, and knowledge and skills of aquaculture practices.
Scale: 1=Strongly Disagree, 2=Disagree, 3=Undecided, 4=Agree, 5=Strongly Agree
I would like to acknowledge the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC) for funding this project. This material is based upon work supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement Number PX 2003-06237administered by Cornell University, Virginia Tech and The American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC). I would also like to thank Carl Palmer and his team from the Ohio State University UNITS for providing the bridge and being there when there were technology problems. Thanks also to Vicki Tidwell for her contribution as the voice of the TROUT DVD. This material is based upon work supported by the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement Number PX 2003-06237administered by Cornell University, Virginia Tech and The American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC).
Joe Ward and one of his students tempering the fish to be used in their recirculating system. Photo Courtesy of Joe Ward.