The primary goal of the TeachSpatial NSDL project is the development of a web portal to NSDL resources that support instruction in spatial thinking learning objectives for STEM fields. There is not yet a consensus on what those learning objectives should be. We will organize the portal’s browsing and search facilities around an ontological framework mapping fundamental spatial concepts to the explicit and implicit spatial learning objectives discovered within three-four existing content standards for science and math at grade levels 9-12:

  • National Science Education Standards (NRC 1996)
  • Benchmarks for Science Literacy (AAAS 1994)
  • Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (2010) or
  • Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (NCTM 2000)

The TeachSpatial NSDL project will:

  • Complete the systematic identification and classification of spatial concept terms and simple lexical relationships between them (broader-term, narrower-term, used-for, etc.). Locate the application of spatial concepts in existing educational standards and STEM research projects, using both automated natural language processing and manual methods.
  • Host a specialist workshop at UC Santa Barbara in early March, 2011 with the goals of ‘finding the spatial’ in existing grade 9-12 content standards, and identifying what is missing. One product of the workshop will be a preliminary set of spatial learning benchmarks for college freshmen.
  • Develop a simple graph-based formalization, compatible with the NSDL metadata model, representing the explicit connections between spatial concepts, STEM content standards, and the preliminary spatial learning objectives. This will further clarify the inferred relationships between the concepts themselves and support a flexible browsing interface.
  • Build a web interface to existing resources as a managed NSDL Collection, made available as the “Resources” section of the website. The application will have the following features:
    • Faceted browsing of resources by learning objective, concept, grade level, and resource type
    • Full-text search against all Collection metadata
    • User feedback, including ratings, tags, and comments for each resource
    • User recommendation and/or submission of new resources
    • Automated harvesting procedure to discover prospective NSDL resources, for inclusion in the TeachSpatial Collection
    • Automated updating of the TeachSpatial Collection metadata to NSDL repository

We will evaluate the effectiveness of the new portal and its concept-based framework in the context of course development within a proposed new interdisciplinary Minor in Spatial Studies at UC Santa Barbara and in structuring a new freshman seminar in spatial studies. There are 125 courses from 26 academic departments included in the minor.

The project aims to help strengthen ties and coordinate efforts in this community of interest by hosting a specialist workshop in the project’s formative stage and disseminating progress and results at subsequent conferences. We plan to coordinate a workshop on Spatial Reasoning Ontologies at the 2011 Conference on Spatial Information Theory (COSIT 2011) in Belfast, Maine.