The scientific literacy of U.S. high school students is disturbingly low, leaving many ill-prepared to comprehend the substance of important modern issues, as well as their own health-related conditions. Enhanced educational efforts are needed to improve the nation's scientific literacy and help more American high school students keep pace with the rapidly evolving technological world. Neuroscience is of particular importance because of the speed of new progress in the field, which will lead to discoveries of how humans learn, and more importantly, transform educational delivery. Utilizing highly interactive technologies and evidence-based content, Terra Nova will develop the web-based Virtual M.D.: A High School E-Learning Neuroscience Investigation Unit (NIU) to stimulate the interest of today's high school students through interactive instruction and a "detective-type" process for finding solutions to neuroscience related health problems. Taking on the persona of a "Virtual M.D." to study "virtual patients" represented by animated characters, students will apply the scientific method to investigate the adolescent brain and analyze patient symptoms, patient history and advanced brain imaging studies to diagnose brain- related human diseases relevant to adolescents. The program and its associated career resources will inspire a greater interest in pursuing a career in neuroscience related health, research and education fields. Through the Virtual M.D.: A High School E-Learning Neuroscience Investigation Unit, Terra Nova will provide teachers with a program that adheres to numerous National Science Education Standards, the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study 5E Instructional Model, as well as numerous Neuroscience Core Concepts developed by the Society for Neuroscience. Additionally, the program includes extensive supportive materials including a Teacher Lesson Guide, Student Notebook, Family Fact Sheets and important Family and Student Resources. The objective for Phase I am to fully develop and rigorously test two NIU interactive modules and related materials for use in high school biology, psychology and health programs in a scalable, easily accessible course that will function in the classroom, at home, at science centers, museums and after school programs. Phase I activities will include a thorough evaluation of all deliverables through quantitative, qualitative, and descriptive assessment measures including Expert Consultant Group and Field Test Teacher reviews. Phase I will also include a comprehensive Field Test Evaluation, during which a diverse group of students and teachers will evaluate the program to provide critical data to demonstrate the efficacy of the educational intervention, assess the visual appeal/engagement value, and enhance the quality of the program to create a meaningful end product.
The proposed web-based Virtual M.D.: A High School E-Learning Neuroscience Investigation Unit educational program will provide learners with a creative, interactive, detective-type process of discovery into the differences between the adolescent and adult brain, how neurological disorders can be identified in the anatomy of the body and the behaviors of a patient, and how the current research into these conditions is changing the lives of patients and the public. Additionally, students will learn about neuroscience-related careers in medicine, research and education. By giving students the opportunity to serve in the role of a Virtual M.D. to study, diagnose, and treat virtual patient, the program will invigorate both the teacher and the students'exploration of neuroscience-related health information.