The DIIMSA® Model

The Digital Imagery as an Instructional Mode for Student Achievement (DIIMSA) Model was developed by VR Program educational leaders to provide teachers with the skills and resources needed to maintain students’ interest in science and bolster their academic achievement. DIIMSA is a technology-based teaching and learning model that synergistically integrates: Conceptual Teaching; Collaborative Learning; and Enabling Technologies in classroom teaching that can be demonstrated as students perform campus-based, field excursion, laboratory and case study experiences.


Force. (Location: Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.)

Conceptual Teaching (Practice-Based Professional Development – Inquiry-Based, Student-Centered and Authentic Assessment): Conceptual teaching uses concepts and academic vocabulary illustrated with content to convey information and knowledge to learners. Using conceptual teaching allows teachers and facilitators to develop lessons and projects based around concepts to do more using less. Conceptual teaching integrated with visualization provides numerous opportunities for learners to understand science based on their experiences.

DIIMSA professional development experiences are concept-based using a continuum series of professional learning experiences, which provides a mechanism to focus on concepts linked to teaching objectives integrated with vocabulary. Professional development activities provide direct and indirect linkages to the classroom, which requires active participation of teachers and the focus is teacher enhancement and student learning.  Therefore, professional development for teachers becomes the key issue to improve the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom, and its ultimate value flows directly from the essential role it plays in this improvement. Through its teacher professional development, DIIMSA prepares teachers to provide the foundational knowledge, skills and experiences students need for future educational achievement, while allowing them to become more involved in the processes of science.


Energy. (Location: Grand Canyon National Park – South Rim.)

Collaborative Learning (Problem-Based Learning(PBL) and Project-Based Study/Learning (PBS) Methods including Student Works/Artifacts): Collaborative learning is the grouping of learners for the purpose of involving all learners in the educational process. Learners work together in small groups and are responsible for each other’s learning. Critical thinking, problem-solving and communication is usually very high because all learners are involved in constant discussions for a given topic focus. Group dynamics become important when implementing collaborative learning projects and having a group leader to help facilitate learning makes it easier to do projects. DIIMSA includes four model designs in achieving the goal of PBL and PBS during collaborative learning. These models include: Campus-Based; Field Excursion; Laboratory; and Case Study.

(1) Campus-Based: A Campus-based experience is conducted on the school site using field-based equipment, digital imagery toolsets, kits or associated activities. Using a digital camera to “drive” observing and recording of experiences in a campus setting allows students to collaborate, share and learn How-To use or apply such kits or equipment. The Campus-based design also provides a way to perform varying problem-based interactive discussions using scenarios as they plan and prepare for other experiences. DIIMSA-EXPERT is the main site used during campus-based experiences.

(2) Field Excursion: This design requires students to work in teams in order to determine the methods they will use to answer the identified driving question(s). In addition to exploring driving questions, students are further encouraged to identify and explore new notions, concepts, or issues that arise. On-site instruction and assistance is provided as the students gather and document characteristics of and/or collect samples from explored areas (ponds, for example). After each excursion, the teams analyze the data collected, formulate conclusions based on the data collected, and communicate findings with project artifacts with the use of enabling technology toolsets.

(3) Laboratory: This design relates to an empirical project or series of projects, conducted within a laboratory setting. This model design involves students’ exploration of the use of laboratories in science in different ways. Students are expected to design experiments themselves so that they can test hypotheses as they collect, analyze and interpret data.

(4) Case Study: This design includes a non-empirical historical project, involving research of primary and secondary references. Case Studies make science relevant and humanize science as well as illustrates scientific methodology and values. It develops student’s skills in group planning and interactions, oral and written communication, critical thinking, and research skills all which are used to “solve the problem”.

These models are incorporated into PBL and PBS methods during teaching and learning that incorporate the constructivist view of learning (inquiry and authentic activities). The goal of incorporating PBL and PBS is to enhance science instruction by involving students in exploring solutions to real questions, learning science content, and understanding science through extended inquiry, collaboration and use of technology.


Metamorphic Rock. (Location: Big Island in Hawaii.)

Enabling Technologies (Digital Imagery, Authoring Technology, IT Tool-sets): Enabling Technology within DIIMSA is composed of digital imagery (pictures, video, multi-media files, etc..) and computer graphic elements that are produced or maintained using imaging technology (i.e. digital cameras, video cameras, digital microscope cameras, digital imagery software, etc…). Digital imagery is the union of images, multi-media files, audio and video files and other electronic computer graphic elements that are produced or maintained using imaging technology (cameras: digital, video, microscopes, etc..). Authoring Technology combines the power of adding dynamically captured multi-media files to a digital content repository without having to know “Programming Stuff” to get results (A digital content repository is a database or file location where content is stored for centralized access, searching and content authoring). At the core of DIIMSA enabling technologies is DIIMSA-EXPERT. DIIMSA-EXPERT is a digital content repository that includes authentic digital imagery collections linked to applied concept-based questions, vocabulary, concepts and content modules.


Erosion. Location: Channel Islands National Park.

This 3-tier integrated solution allows teachers and students to work together to successfully reach the end goal of bolstering student achievement, while increasing teacher enhancement. Research-based practices that are core to DIIMSA include the following: (1) Constructivist Theory perspectives that include both cognitive development within the individual learner and socio-cultural development within a community of learners; (2) Student application of science content to real-world situations providing authentic learning experiences; (3) Technology integration to anchor student learning experiences; (4) PBL and PBS to actively engage students in exploring solutions to real-world questions while learning science concepts; and (5) Relevance and importance of teacher quality in student achievement.

With DIIMSA, participants: (1) Gain the PBL and PBS pedagogical methods and IT skills needed for successful implementation of activities, methods, strategies, lessons and projects for increased student achievement; and (2) Acquire instructional materials, equipment and curriculum frameworks for implementing activities, methods, strategies and projects designed for the Digital Generation Learner.

Ultimately, DIIMSA stimulates a better learning environment by activating more senses – sight, sound, touch – during learning, which increases retention and provides teachers with an effective way to increase student achievement to a high level. Students are then able to move to the next level of learning in a leveled playing field regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status or background.

DIIMSA Curriculum Integration


Scale. (Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.)

DIIMSA is a Curriculum Integration Framework with the goal of improving the life and success of students, teachers, professors and staff in the use of digital imagery for long-term learning, high stakes assessment successes and overall student achievement. As a flexible Curriculum Integration Framework, DIIMSA works in conjunction with curriculum guides, e-Learning toolsets, textbooks (hardcopy/virtual), grant directives and research tools. DIIMSA activities, methods, strategies and projects coincide with National and State standards for grades K-12 spanning across Life, Physical and Earth Science with strong linkages to Scientific Practices and Processes.

The VR Program professional development also satisfies the 30-hour teaching training requirement (counts towards 45 hours required for the Gifted and Talented Level I Awareness Certificate in the area of creativity and instructional strategies).

Organisms. (Sheldon Lake SP)

DIIMSA Results Highlights

In addition to the less tangible but critical outcomes of increased student enthusiasm and involvement in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning, all of the VR program’s efforts yielded a surge in student achievement across the board from initial pilot projects to current program efforts. The DIIMSA model continues to evolve using science concepts and digital imagery integration into classroom teaching to engage learners in science, while linking other content areas.

DIIMSA Provides a way to: (1) Meet the needs of diverse student populations; (2) Insure sustainability through supports that includes modeling, coaching and specific problem-solving; (3) Stay current on real and relevant content through recent research; (4) Enhance communication; (5) Offer differentiated learning opportunities; (6) Show results during professional development that leads to achievement for all students; and (7) Promote continuous learning.

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