The print version of Foundation Science, a comprehensive high school science curriculum, has been extensively field tested and shown to be effective in increasing student learning and changing teacher practice. Carolina Biological Supply is scheduled to publish a digital version of Biology and Chemistry portions of Foundation Science that goes well beyond the conversion of print text to digital delivery by September 2012. Many digital enhancements have been developed and tested in the biology unit of Foundation Science, which was used as a model to develop a system to incorporate Universal Design for learning features in materials development and in on-line professional development for cross-over teachers. Some of the digital resources include a digital book reader; a notebook in which notes can take various forms such as text, drawing, voice recording; separate unscored assessments; an interactive glossary; graphing capabilities and an online research tool.

Thus this project provides a model of how existing, tested digital enhancements can increase student learning. Increasing the quality of science education requires careful coupling of effective, research-based curricula with innovative digital features that deepen and enhance science learning and teaching. This RAPID is to ensure that the content and pedagogical expertise is present during the development of the digital version of Foundation science.

Project Report

were to: Create an innovative online science learning environment that is effective for science learning within and beyond the classroom Develop a process whereby curriculum originally developed as print materials could be redesigned for the digital environment Build a successful developer-publisher partnership that is a model for developing online science curricula Consensus exists in the education communities that technology must play a major role in moving classrooms and instructional materials into the 21st century. Studies have indicated that technology can be a central agent of change in K-12 education and has the potential to transform education throughout a lifetime. Technology in and of itself will not be transformative but it must be coupled with a coherent core curriculum that supports the development of understanding and mastery of complex concepts and skills. While curriculum and digital affordances can be the biggest change agents available for reforming science education, a simple switch from paper to digital will not necessarily be transformative. The opportunity to make a quantum leap in the quality of science education will require careful coupling of an effective, research-based curricula with innovative digital features that deepen and enhance science learning and teaching, not just replacing ink with e-ink or including flashy visualizations and simulations. Appropriate application of technology can accommodate different learning needs among students, enable students and teachers to gather, analyze, synthesize, and display information in a variety of formats, support teachers in planning, presentation, reflection, evaluation, and assessment, and enable the creation of a dynamic learning environment for all students. Over the past three decades NSF has funded many innovative, research based curricula, most of which were developed for print. Foundation Science project was funded to develop introductory high school science curricula in physics, chemistry, biology, and earth science. The Foundation Science curricula are academically rigorous, scientifically accurate, providing a coherent, core curriculum in each discipline. As educative curricula, they provide a professional learning tool for the teacher by incorporating teaching and learning strategies based in research on how students learn science. The goal of the partnership between Carolina Biological Supply Company (publisher) and EDC was to redesign Foundation Science: Biology and Chemistry print curricula into innovative online curricula that take advantage of digital features that extend and enhance the instructional materials while retaining the pedagogical and conceptual features of a high quality curriculum. The primary goal of this project has been achieved. Foundation Science: Biology and Chemistry – now entitled Concepts and Practices: Biology and Concepts and Practices: Chemistry – are in the final stages of production for the Fall, 2014 market. Many challenges were addressed during the course of this work and, by necessity, compromises made. The choice of a platform that could reach the most students with current technology was the first decision. Ideally the platform would provide multi-device flexibility. After careful study, Carolina elected for a web-based platform that would optimize student access and offer greater flexibility in feature design. They determined that this choice would reach the most biology and chemistry students and enable ongoing upgrade of the digital features. The next challenge was that writing for the digital page is very different than writing for the print page. The amount of text on a screen must be limited which can impact the level and depth of the content. In many cases this can be resolved by "layering" the content. However Carolina elected to present the materials in an eBook format which mimics the appearance of the print page. In initial discussions with Carolina, EDC presented its "ideal" digital curriculum with many features that would take advantage of the digital features to enhance the learning experiences in ways not possible in print. Although some of these features were incorporated, several of the more complex features could not be accommodated in the "first edition" or Phase 1 of the product because of the cost. Because the market and business models for digital curricula are still in the early stages Carolina elected to go for a simpler product which incorporates features that are becoming standard for digital products such as text to speech, highlighting, and search functions. By choosing a flexible platform Carolina will be able to add new features as the market becomes clearer. Collaboration was yet another challenge. Each of the partners, including the software developers, Young Digital Plant, has a different language and different goals and intended outcomes. Learning to communicate clearly took time and energy but is a critical part of the process. Ideally, EDC will stay involved in further development of the digital features of the curricula and in preparing teachers to teach in a new medium and, in some cases, using new pedagogy.

Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Education Development Center
United States
Zip Code