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How a museum is shaping the future of learning and educator upskilling

by Mark Otter on

The New York Hall of Science (NYSCI), a nationally recognized leader in creative approaches to STEM learning, partnered with Participate to build an online learning community for educators around The Pack--an open world video game that builds computational thinking (CT) competencies. The NYSCI Community of Practice (CoP) is helping teachers engage in new approaches to computational thinking and environmental science through the design and distribution of CT curriculum, professional development activities and facilitated teacher collaboration, all in one virtual learning space.

The Opportunity 

In late 2019, NYSCI received a federal grant from the Education Innovation and Research Program of the U.S. Department of Education to expand The Pack and increase CT engagement among middle school students across NYC public schools.

Where traditional professional development methods would typically suffice, NYSCI needed a way to not only provide high quality instructional materials for educators but also a platform to engage educators and sustain their learning of CT practices and concepts.

In short, they needed a partner to help them build a space for learning and collaboration based on adult learning best practices and design.

The Solution 

Using Participate's online community platform and decades of combined instructional design experience, NYSCI built a CoP to provide teachers with ongoing access to curated activities and discussion spaces to further support classroom activities including. The community includes:

  • Supplemental CT resources introducing The Pack.
  • How-to guides for issuing in-game challenges.
  • Concept maps showing the integration of The Pack in current science curricula.
  • Formative assessment tools and discussion prompts to engage educators in one-to-one peer feedback.

Additionally, NYSCI relies on Participate to design and co-facilitate online, time-bound learning experiences, such as virtual design and integration clinics. Participate also supports NYSCI in developing a sustainability plan as The Pack and NYSCI’s CT professional development offerings expand.

Why Participate

When searching for a Community of Practice solution, NYSCI wanted to find a partner with a strong background in education and adult learning to support a robust teacher development program. NYSCI reached out to Participate because our online CoPs ensure educator development is met with support, provides space for knowledge creation and empowers learners to become leaders of a community.

Hands-on support

In NYSCI’s educator community, Participate is collaborating with NYSCI to create community resources, discussions and educator challenges around The Pack. This included working with 10 educators at an in-person training to introduce them to the game and co-develop the curricular activities and resources for future educators to use as the community grows. Participate will continue to provide asynchronous and synchronous learning experiences such as these within the community as NYSCI progress through future phases of the project.

This approach adds value where traditional PD methods lack in that these learning experiences are targeted to CT practices that progress teachers' understanding of The Pack as they support one another through close collaboration via continual feedback and peer mentorship tools. This is the essence of connected learning.

Decades of experience

As former educators, instructional designers and education researchers, Participate has built up a diversified, nationwide network of partnerships--especially in New York City. In partnership, NYSCI was able to utilize Participate's established track record and deep expertise within the N.Y. education system and provide quality training around best practices for sustainable learning for years to come.

NySci community of practice on Participate's social learning platform

Looking ahead

As NYSCI phases through this project to prepare hundreds of educators from 54 N.Y. schools for the shift required to teach students CT concepts, Participate will continue to lead the facilitation of their CoP. Using careful planning, rigorous testing and intentional implementation, Participate and NYSCI will continue to provide ongoing support to teachers, train future community facilitators and create a sustainability plan for the ongoing use of the program by hundreds of NYC educators.