Conclusion

Key Findings:

  • The website is technologically accessible and easy to use for 8th graders, 9th graders, 12th graders, and undergraduate students/professors. The majority of all age groups reported the site to be clear and organized, easy to use, well-organized, with good presentation of materials, and helpful in finding information. The majority of 8th graders and undergraduate/professors also report that they would use the website again. The only age group that reported hesitancy in using the website again and reported trouble in loading webpages were the 9th grade and 12th grade students. As stated earlier, we attribute their responses in part to the technological problems (likely bandwidth and possibly browser problems) with their school computers which were quite slow in loading the website and shut down constantly while the students were attempting to visit login to the quiz on the CTL website.
  • Experts found the site to be clear and organized, a useful resource, but were split as to whether the site was easy to use and navigate and whether the links were helpful. This finding indicates that the experts were positive about the organization and layout of the site but thought that the links and tutorial could be more clear and organized.
  • 9th and 12th graders report an increased understanding of climate science, climate and human history, the forces that drive climate variability, and the relationship between climate and human history after visiting the website. 9th and 12th grade students reported increase in their understanding of climate science and history content in a very limited time frame, less than a typical classroom period.
  • When asked to articulate their understanding of the climate topics, the majority of 9th and 12th graders reported that they learned "nothing" from the website. Regardless of self-reported data stating that 9th and 12th graders increased their understanding of climate topics, when asked to articulate this understanding, the majority of 9th and 12th graders were unable to state accurate facts from the website.
  • The 9th and 12th grade participants who did report specific information about each climate topic reported accurate facts from the website. This finding indicates that some of the 9th, and 12th grade students increased their understanding of the topic.
  • The majority of 8th grader students did not report an increase in their understanding of climate science, climate and human history, the forces that drive climate variability, and the relationship between climate and human history. On Likert scale survey responses, the majority of 8th graders report that they did not increase their understanding of climate topics.
  • When asked to articulate their understanding of climate topic, the majority of 8th grade students were able to list at least one accurate fact from the website pertaining to the topic and many students were able to list facts which reflect their general understanding of the topic. Regardless of self-reported survey data in which the 8th graders report no increase in understanding, these students were able to accurately articulate facts from the website which reflect their general understanding of the climate topic.
  • 8th grade quiz scores increased. This indicates that the 8th grade students were able to accurately find information on the four climate topics from the website.
  • The majority of the 8th, 9th and 12th grade students reported that aspects of the website were unclear and stressed that the vocabulary and science content of the website was too advanced for them to comprehend. Many of the students reported that they were able to find the information they were looking for but were unable to understand the vocabulary or description once at the desired webpage.
  • The majority of undergraduate students report an increase in understanding of climate science, climate and human history, the forces that drive climate variability, and the relationship between climate and current events. Undergraduate students report increased understanding of climate topics and the two students who were interviewed were able to articulate aspects of the website that reflect their general understanding of the climate topics.
  • 100% of the undergraduate quiz scores increased by an average of 42%. This indicates that the undergraduates were successfully able to research climate topics on the website.
  • Experts identified several areas that need more information or coverage. Experts reported that the site needs greater coverage of global warming along with other content areas. The teacher expert reported that with some organizational and content changes, the website would be appropriate for middle school students.

Implications:

The findings listed above indicate that the Climate Timeline website has potential as an effective tool for researching climate topics in 8th, 9th and 12th grade; the website is well organized and easy to use, 8th grade students were able to increase their quiz scores in a short amount of time, and the 8th, 9th and 12th grade students who reported specific knowledge about the four climate topics accurately recalled facts and statistics from the website. However, when used as a research tool for 8th, 9th and 12th grade students, the vocabulary and science content needs to be edited to better suit the age level of the student. While observations of these students indicate that the students found the website interesting, their interest could be further cultivated by redesigning the vocabulary and scientific explanations to better suit a younger audience.

Data from the undergraduate students indicate that the website is an appropriate research tool for their age group. Undergraduates report increased understanding of all climate topics and these students increased their quiz scores. These findings indicate that undergraduate students were able to successfully research the climate topics, and no undergraduate reported any problems with the vocabulary or science explanations.

Data also indicates that for 8th 12th grade students, more time spent exploring the website coincides with greater understanding of the science content. While all three groups were given the same amount of time to explore the website, only the 8th graders were able to utilize the whole class period. The 9th and 12th grade students experienced technical difficulties with their school computers which greatly reduced the time spent exploring the website. As a result, a greater percentage of 8th grade students were able to report accurate facts from the website pertaining to the four climate topics than were the 9th and 12th grade students. This indicates that the website can be an effective research tool for 8th, 9th and 12th grade students if these students are given adequate time to explore the site.

Data indicates that for undergraduate students, time spent exploring the website does not necessarily coincide with greater understanding. Undergraduate students spent a wide range of time exploring the website (11 minutes to 2 hours). Yet, the majority of undergraduate students report increased understanding of all climate topics and all undergraduate students increased their quiz scores. This finding indicates that the Climate Timeline website is an effective research tool for the undergraduate level.

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