Founded in 2000, the Visual Realization (VR) Program is a practice-based professional development program that is recognized by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to effectively produce superior student learning. NSTA included the impact of 15 standards-based success stories to achieve the visions for the reform of teaching, assessment, professional development, and content in the NSTA Exemplary Science Symposium programs monographs. The VR Program was selected to be amongst the 15 success stories in the nation for improving science education. (Source: NSTA, Exemplary Science, Standards-Based Success Stories) The VR Program’s research is outlined in a complete chapter of the NSTA Exemplary Science Success Stories Monograph Series. The VR Program also addresses the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) during professional development experiences.
In this digital age, how do we teach children who appear to know more about Information Technology (IT) than adults do? How do we help socially or economically disadvantaged students achieve in science? How do we train and motivate teachers to integrate STEM into the curriculum? Educating the Digital Generation (students born surrounded by IT and digital media) provides great challenges for educators trained in the traditional model of broadcast learning. Few teachers are using problem solving and inquiry to get students interested in the details of science, while also teaching about other subjects. Even teachers with the best of skills can find themselves behind the curve in providing relevancy and competence in their instruction. Mixed into this ever evolving construct is the inner-city child who often is disenfranchised or new to the language and culture. If children are to succeed, today’s school systems must provide innovations and take risks. Most students enter elementary school with enthusiasm for, and interest in, learning science. If the science studied is interesting and understandable, the educational experiences at that level can maintain students’ engagement and enthusiasm. But if their learning becomes a process of simply mimicking and memorizing, they can soon begin to lose interest.
Therefore, by the time students reach high school, the interest in learning science content is no longer there. They take science courses only because it is required to graduate. To address these problems, strategies should shift away from hierarchical broadcast learning to interactive learning. The VR Program has taken an innovative approach to get learners interested in learning science using Digital Imagery as an Instructional Mode For Student Achievement (DIIMSA). DIIMSA provides teachers with unlimited opportunities to engage learners in activities for long-term learning of science concepts, while instilling scientific processes.
“The sky is the limit” is a phrase that captures the essence of DIIMSA. Students and their teachers are revitalized and re-energized. The study of science becomes alive and the boundaries of the science classroom disappear. Teachers and students work side-by-side, questioning, discovering, sharing and learning. Teachers can effectively and successfully teach science by involving students in all aspects of inquiry; thus, stimulating a better learning environment by activating more senses getting them involved and creating experiences during learning, which ultimately increases understanding, ownership and long-term retention.
DIIMSA levels the learning field for students, not by lowering standards or resources, but by raising the bar and bringing all students and teachers up to it.