A. The Path to Excellence … Avoiding Common Pitfalls
B. Prior to Developing a NASA Education Product
C. Prior to the Review – General, Logos/Insignias, Electronic Resources, Pilot Testing
D. Pedagogy – Standards, Reading Level, Education Level
E. Entering the SMD Education Product Review – Call for Products, Product Submission Form
A. THE PATH TO EXCELLENCE … AVOIDING COMMON PITFALLS
The following is a list of some of the most common areas in which products that don’t pass the review have needed improvement. While this list is not exhaustive, we strongly believe that if you address all of these items, you will have developed an outstanding NASA education product.
- Conduct Formative Reviews and Field Testing: All education products should go through an appropriate formative review and testing before they are submitted to the NASA education products review. What is a reasonable review? It’s one in which the product is reviewed by appropriate science content experts, as well as field-tested and/or reviewed with the target audience (or a number of audiences if the product is aimed at a broad range of grade levels or audiences). Any shortcomings that are found should be corrected.
- Target a Specific Audience: Products that are developed for a very broad audience tend not serve any specific audience well. Often a product will be identified as K-12. Unless that product is actually broken into sections that are specifically designed for smaller grade bands (e.g., K-1, 2-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12), it is not likely to be useful to that wide an education range. Even products that are identified as appropriate for K-4 are attempting to serve students with very different capabilities and interests.
- Design Products for the Target Audience: We see many products that are not appropriate for the target audience. They are written at too high (or low) a level, the concepts are too complex (or simple), or the graphics aren’t age appropriate. One common mistake is to pair text that is written at a higher level with graphics that would appeal to younger children. Another problem often identified by reviewers is an inconsistent reading level--individual paragraphs, pages or sections show a marked increase or decrease in difficulty. Watch for consistency throughout the product.
- Support National Education Standards: Identify the primary national education standards (science, mathematics, technology, and/or geography) that the product addresses. Be selective and specific about what standards are supported and identify how the product helps a teacher address those standards. Rarely does a product address several standards – list only those standards that the product supports in a meaningful, and not superficial, way.
- Incorporate Student-Centered Approach: While some teachers will take NASA content and incorporate it into an investigative, student-centered teaching/learning style, developers should build this kind of strategy in from the start. Rather than multiple choice and “cookbook” style activities, to do well in the review, developers need to incorporate activities that provide inquiry-based, problem-solving opportunities.
- Provide Appropriate Assessments: How can a teacher using this education product evaluate student performance? Does the teachers guide provide sample rubrics, grading/scoring guidelines, answer keys for specific questions, or other appropriate assessment resources?
- References and Further Investigations: Provide accurate, accessible and age-appropriate references for outside investigation. This can include books, magazine articles, journal publications, Web sites, etc. (see also “Maintain a Web” below). Exercises, labs, and slightly more advanced investigations are a plus for students willing to go further with the material.
- Provide Color Keys/Legends/Units of Measurement: Most teachers and students are not familiar with NASA imagery. Be sure to provide the tools that are essential for interpreting images. At a minimum, provide color keys/scales, legends, captions, and identify the units of measurement that are used. (See “Go Metric,” below)
- Maintain a Web, not "Cobweb" Site: Regularly check and update Web links. One solution is to host all critical Web pages (so that you can ensure the links are kept active) or obtain permission to mirror critical sites.
- Go Metric: Metric measurements are the agency standard and should be consistently used. Including English equivalents is also very good, as well as other comparisons that would be meaningful to the target audience (e.g., 1.35 mm or as thick as one dime). Metric units should be given first, with equivalent measurements in parentheses, e.g., 10 km (6.2 miles).
- Check your Math: Does your product include math problems (or metric equivalents/conversions)? Be sure to check your math and make sure your answers and conversions are correct.
- Address Accessibility and Section 508: NASA electronic and information technology-based education products (e.g., Web, DVD, CD, videotape) must meet Section 508 requirements. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that federal agencies' electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. This includes Web sites and PDF files, as well as providing closed captioning and audio for videotapes, DVDs, and CDs. For information on Section 508, visit http://www.section508.gov/. For a checklist for making a site accessible, visit: http://web508.gsfc.nasa.gov/developing/checklist/index.cfm.
- Follow Visual Standards for NASA Communications Products: NASA communications products, which include education products, should follow the design guidelines presented in Visual Standards for NASA Communications Products, which is available at http://communications.hq.nasa.gov. This site is only accessible within NASA.
- Conduct Market Research. Talk to educators and identify whether a need exists for your product. Consult NASA Wavelength (http://nasawavelength.org) to ensure a comparable NASA product does not already exist.
- Ensure the proposed product would be relevant to and support NASA Earth and Space Science Research and Education Priorities. Information on NASA space science and education programs can be found at http://science.nasa.gov/.
- Review Visual Standards for NASA Communications Products. NASA communications products, which include education products, should follow Visual Standards for NASA Communications Products, which is available at http://communications.hq.nasa.gov. This site is only accessible within NASA.
- Proofread and edit for typographic and grammatical errors.
- Provide all measurements in metric format (e.g., Celsius, grams, liters, meters). If equivalent measurements are included, provide in parentheses, for example: 10 km (6.2 miles). Also, providing familiar examples is also useful (e.g., 1.35 mm or as thick as one dime).
- Check your math for all formulas, problems, and conversions to/from metric.
- Clearly label graphs, charts, and images, including information for the reader on units of measurements that are used. Color keys and legends (e.g., for imagery) are essential.
- Include tools in your product to help teachers and students unfamiliar with the content, such as a glossary of terms, references for additional information, etc. Teachers guides and answer keys are also very valuable tools to teachers.
- Ensure that answer keys, if included on a Web site or CD-ROM, are password protected and that the password is easily accessible to the teacher, and not students! For example, do not print the password in the student materials.
- Design your materials to be “classroom ready” for teachers. For example, provide blank student worksheets that are ready to use, or student editions.
- Materials printed by NASA must be free from copyright restrictions. Ensure that there are no copyright restrictions or obtain permission for NASA use.
- Design posters so that teachers can easily photocopy information on the backside. This can be done by designing information in 8 1/2" x 11" panels that will fit on a photocopier.
Logos/Insignias: The only permissible NASA logo to use is the official NASA "meatball" insignia. Education products printed by NASA should include the NASA "meatball" insignia, as well as the NASA publication number and education product reference box. Guidelines for proper use of the NASA logo can be found in the in Visual Standards for NASA Communications Products, which is available at http://communications.hq.nasa.gov. This site is only accessible within NASA.
Electronic Resources (Web, Video, CD, DVD, Software)
- Test Accessibility by Disabled Users. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that federal agencies' electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities, including employees and members of the public. This includes Web sites and PDF files, as well as closed captioning of video (on videotapes, Web, DVD, and CD). See the following URLs for more information:
- http://section508.nasa.gov/ - NASA Website for Section 508. The site includes an overview of section 508 requirements and contact information for Section 508 coordinators at NASA HQ and field centers. Note: some sections are restricted to NASA internal use only.
- http://serch.cofc.edu/special/overview.htm – Web site by the NASA Southeast Regional Clearinghouse (SERCH), which provides excellent resources regarding accessibility and Section 508, including information on best practices and designing accessible education resources.
- http://webxact.watchfire.com/ - WebXACT is a free online service that lets you test single pages of Web content for quality, accessibility, and privacy issues.
- Make sure all links are up-to-date. Web sites submitted to the review that are maintained with current content and links (no broken or dead links) generally receive a higher rating.
- Test software on multiple platforms.
- Produce software in a dual platform version for use with both Macintosh and Windows computers. Use the ISO 9660 international standard for defining CD-ROM file systems.
- Education Review. Have your product pilot tested by the target audience. Pilot testing activities in the classroom is also essential.
- Science/Technical Review. Have your product reviewed by content experts for accuracy.
- Education Product Criteria. The criteria used for the SMD review are available under Review Criteria on this Web site. Developers are strongly encouraged to use these criteria to assess their product.
Most products submitted to the SMD review contain very good resources and great content. However, most still do not incorporate learning styles that are in tune with the national education standards and systemic change efforts. While some teachers will take this content and incorporate the material into an investigative, student-centered teaching/learning style, developers should build this kind of strategy into their education products. Many still use multiple choice and programmed learning styles; to do well in the review, developers need to incorporate activities that provide intuitive problem-solving opportunities.
- Curriculum materials should be well aligned with appropriate national education standards, such as science, mathematics, technology, and/or geography. Other standards should be identified as appropriate (e.g., English language arts – reading, writing, and speaking). Content should match the standards and specific outcomes that are identified.
- National Science Education Standards can be found online at: http://www.nap.edu/readingroom/books/nses/
- Principles and Standards for School Mathematics: http://standards.nctm.org/
- Standards for Technological Literacy: http://www.iteawww.org/TAA/TAA.htm
- International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards: http://cnets.iste.org/currstands/
- Geography for Life: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/education/standards.html
- In general, it is expected that NASA education materials will support national standards. In some cases in may be appropriate to identify relevant state standards, either in addition to or in place of national standards.
- Product developers should ensure that the reading level of their product matches that of their intended audience. This is especially true for products targeted for elementary students – many K-4 materials that are submitted for review are too sophisticated for the target audience.
- There are guidelines for assessing and validating the reading levels of products. Many word processing applications include readability formulas. For example, Microsoft includes the Flesch Reading Ease Score and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Score in their tools. Under the “Tools” menu, select “Spelling and Grammar” and then “Options.” You can then select “Show readability statistics.” After running the spell checker, the reading level will be displayed with the results.
- The Fog Index is another method for analyzing written materials by computer or by hand and is used primarily in education. If your grammar checker doesn't include the reading level, let it count the number of sentences and words and plug them into the Fog formula below: Select a sample, Determine the average number of words per sentence: determine the percentage of hard words; add the 2 factors and multiply by 0.4 … The result is an indication of the minimum grade level at which the writing is easily read.
- Caveat: Please be aware that these formulas are based on measuring words and sentences, but they cannot measure indicators such as how complex the ideas are, whether the content is in a logical order, and if the vocabulary is appropriate and the writing engaging for the intended audience. Slavishly adhering to these formulas, for example to produce text for younger readers, can result in a monotonous writing style consisting of several short sentences.
- Therefore, these formulas should be used as a general guide and reading level/suitability should also be determined in combination with other assessments. For example, test student comprehension and engagement and use experts, such as teachers and librarians, to review materials and assign an appropriate grade level to the text.
- Product developers targeting a broad education range need to be aware of the developmental differences in that range. This is especially true for products targeted for K-4. For example:
- K-1 can’t read three-place value numbers, so one- and two-digit data need to be used.
- Angles have no meaning to K-2 and some 3rd-grade students, especially expressed in degrees. Visuals of angles need to be used.
- Developmentally, K-1 and most 2nd-graders can compare two sets of data at a time. Activities/problems working with three sets of data are too complex for this level.
- Rarely can an education product be used effectively for as broad an audience as K-12. Unless that product is actually broken into sections that are specifically designed for smaller grade bands (e.g., K-1, 2-4, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12), it is not likely to be useful to that wide an education range.
- Call for Products and Schedule—the latest schedule, guidelines, product submission form, and review criteria are available on this website.
- Submit your Product Submission Form(s) online. If submitting a physical product, send 10 copies or sets of the best-quality print available to IGES. Some materials that are expensive to produce (e.g., color posters) may be submitted on a Web site for reviewers to assess.
- Reviewers receive a copy of the product submission form for every product that they review. This form collects information that our reviewers have consistently found to be very useful in their assessments. Please provide as complete information as possible. Developers are also encouraged to include any additional information that they believe will help reviewers evaluate the product. For example: How could a teacher use this product (for example, to introduce a topic, as an extension or conclusion to a unit)? Are there other products that this material should/could be used with? Is training or other support available for teachers using the product? Has this material been developed for a specific event or program?