Social Media Comes to Afterschool Science

October 8, 2010
Austin, Texas

Contact:
Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556
Email: laura.shankland@sedl.org

Afterschool instructors and directors can now use social media to share their opinions about science resources they use. The Science After School Consumers Guide has been updated so that afterschool practitioners can review activities and curricula just as they review products or restaurants on sites like Amazon or Yelp.

Created by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and SEDL in 2005, the Consumers Guide contains nearly 100 reviews of high-quality, hands-on science content for afterschool programs. The resources can be used with students from kindergarten through 12th grade and range in price from free to more than $100. Each resource has two expert reviews—one by a science content expert and another by an afterschool professional. Updated with the support of the Noyce Foundation, the Consumers Guide has been re-launched to incorporate more feedback from the afterschool community. “We have created a consumer’s guide where the consumer has more of a voice,” says Brian Litke, a SEDL Web Administrator who oversaw the Web design and technical delivery of the guide.

Site visitors can rate the resources listed, providing their opinion along with the two expert reviews. Afterschool reviewers can assign a rating of 1 to 5 stars for categories like student engagement, clarity of instructions, ease of use and clean up, and cost. They can also describe great features and components that need improvement.

David Goldstein, the former associate director of the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Assessment Team at Lawrence Hall of Science, sees several benefits coming from the science guide’s new interactive features. “The afterschool community with whom we worked includes a lot of younger folks who communicate using social media, and so it seemed like a good way to update the guide so those leaders in the frontline staff would be able to access the site and become more active users of it. The goal is always to expand the audience,” he explains.

Instructors can also try some of the activities before buying them. The Consumers Guide has partnered with HowtoSmile.org, which is a National Science Foundation–funded digital library of science and math hands-on activities for people who teach children in non-classroom settings. Through the HowToSmile.org sidebar on Consumers Guide resources pages, visitors can access sample activities from many of the resources reviewed in the Consumers Guide. There are links to nearly 30 sample activities, designed for a variety of audiences: bilingual students, ethnically diverse students, girls, and families.

“The consumers guide was initially an effort to provide information about high-quality resources to support increased afterschool science,” says Goldstein. “As the afterschool field has grown and evolved, it seemed like [the site] would be a good place to build some community around the afterschool users and folks interested in afterschool.”

The revised guide includes videos of some of the lessons in action. “Users who might be skeptical or curious about how something actually works with kids can see it,” explains Goldstein. He also hopes that in the future users will be able to post videos of lessons that they have implemented.


About SEDL

SEDL (formerly Southwest Educational Development Laboratory) is a nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas. SEDL is dedicated to solving significant education problems and improving teaching and learning through research, research-based resources, and professional development. For more information about SEDL, visit http://www.sedl.org/about/.