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Bottles and jars in a science lab.

Teachers with Guts

Empowering educators to teach science confidently.

Teachers with Guts (TWiG) needed an online community space to support teachers in dropping outdated notions of science to use inquiry-based methods with confidence.

The Challenge

Many teachers lack the skills and confidence to effectively teach science. This contributes to the below average performance of US students in the STEM fields. Teachers with Guts addresses this issue with an engaging K-12 curriculum and accompanying training for teachers.

But trainings can only go so far. Teachers still run into ongoing challenges and questions as they bring hands-on science lessons into their classrooms. To truly teach with guts, teachers needed a community they could turn to.

Social media platforms and existing online discussion forums were considered, but research showed that these platforms lacked the features specifically needed. Instead, they needed a platform tailored to their needs:

  • Forum for topical discussions
  • Resource library to share documents, videos, and code
  • Events listing page

Our Approach

From our discovery work we specifically identified together that a forum, resource library and faceted search would provide what teachers need to teach the curricula with confidence. TWiG would then support the website with both drip and push marketing to promote the resources and encourage activity.

Resource Library

StarLogo Nova curriculum is the heart of TWiG’s work. There are several learning modules as well as supporting documents such as rubrics and supplementary activities. We built the resource library so that the most recent additions are front and center, while providing a faceted search option so teachers can drill down to specific resources.

We also took advantage of the collaborative spirit of the TWiG community by allowing teachers to submit their own resources. These resources are then reviewed by TWiG staff and published after quality standards are met.

Screenshot of Resource Library
Faceted search allows users to find resources based on several criteria.

Forum

To support online discussion and peer assistance, we built a forum. We built off of Drupal Core’ Forum module and extended it to be accessible only to facilitator’s with a custom module.

We customized it further by disabling threaded comments, as that structure did not work well for their users.  However, in doing so we learned of a longstanding issue with Drupal and comments in which converting threaded comments to a flat structure risks deleting the nested comments. In response, we ported the Flat Comments module to Drupal 8.

Bookmarks

Even with faceted search and thoughtful categorization, the number of resources and discussions on the site can be overwhelming. We created a Drupal 8 version of the Backpack module which allows users to save pages to their “backpack.”

These backpacks can either be private or shared with other members. Curating specific lists is another way teachers can share knowledge with one another.

You can download and use the Backpack module on your Drupal site at https://github.com/agaric/bookmark

Screenshot of a user's backpack, a page of bookmarked pages.
Teachers can bookmark a resource or discussion for quick access in the future.

Notifications

While a custom site was more advantageous than an email list or Facebook group, the reality is that most teachers’ daily routine does not include visiting teacherswithguts.com In order to keep users engaged they needed a way to know when relevant activity was taking place.

We built a notification system, configurable by each user, so that they could be emailed about activity pertinent to their work. Users can choose to receive the following notifications:

  • When a new article is posted
  • When a new resource is posted
  • When a new discussion is posted
  • When a comment is made on a discussion

Additionally, users choose the day to be sent emails, as well as the frequency. This was all made possible by enhancing the Personal Digest and Comment Notify modules.

Screenshot of notification settings page.
We enhanced the Personal Digest and Comment Notify modules to give users fine grained control over their notifications.

Member Directory

To build upon the networking happening in the forums, we made it easy for teachers to find one another based shared interests, experience and geography. Each teacher customizes their user profile with key information about themselves, their areas of expertise and the areas they wish to grow. We then surfaced that in a filterable search of members, helping teachers mentor one another.

Screenshot of member directory
Members can easily find others with similar interests in the member directory.

Results

With an onboarding process much improved from their previous site, plus the ability to bulk invite users, TWiG was able to sign up over 700 teachers when the site launched in 2016. We’ve continued to improve the site to increase participation and surface useful metrics for site administrators.

Project Details

Project GUTS -- Growing Up Thinking Scientifically

2016

Live (teacherswithguts.org)