I became involved as an independent evaluator. With funding from the BellSouth Foundation working with talented graduate students in the UCF College of Education, I conducted a usability study in three Orange County public schools that serve low-income communities using the Virtual Lab software in Florida. The schools were low performers on the state standardized tests for 3 or more years prior. So we were not focused on Advanced Placement students in mathematics and the sciences at well-funded schools for public relations purposes—we really wanted to know what was happening and if the technology could be improved to meet the needs of the students and teachers.
The Virtual Lab allows students and teachers to work individually with very sophisticated scientific instruments. These tools from NASA are free of cost and cannot be broken. They allow science teachers to teach science using a hands-on approach rather than only through lecture or textbook reading. This is the reason it was important for me to work within low-income schools, which provide access to the classroom conditions that are experienced across the country. If the limited access to technology is not addressed systemically in education, it will be difficult to reach the goals for the development and use of advanced technologies that we imagine setting and achieving over the next 10 years in the United States.
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