The Brentwood School 1997 Virtual Science Fair is an electronic version of a traditional science fair. These projects are competing in our school-wide science fair, yet they have no printed reports or display boards. The students' research was done entirely on the World Wide Web and links were made to each site where information was used.
The Virtual Science Fair will be March 13, through April 30, 1997.
The location of the Virtual Science Fair is on Brentwood School's World Wide Web site (http://www.bwscampus.com) or you can access the projects directly at the Virtual Science Fair Homepage.
The web pages where created entirely by Introduction to Physical Science students of Lou Garcia and Biology students of Jeff Porter--all of the students are high school Freshmen! The judges for the fair are anyone who visits the site: there is a section where you can vote for your favorite projects; the data is submitted via email to the school.
The significance of publishing research on the Internet was discussed in the March, 1997 issue of The Science Teacher, a journal of the National Science Teachers Association. In the article "Online Assignments," Louis Nadelson writes,
"Having students publish the fruits of their research on the Internet solves several problems common to student research projects. Students frequently put in many hours working on reports or presentations and developing a final product that reflects their learning and understanding of a topic. In essence, students become local authorities on the subjects they research. However, two issues with this process raise concern. The first is what students do with their final products once a project has been completed. When asked what they typically do with a research project, most students respond by saying they throw them away or do not know what to do with them after the project is complete. Having students publish on the Internet gives them a clearer idea of the importance of their final products because they realize that their work can become a resource for others; it also allows them the opportunity to do something meaningful with their acquired knowledge. Realizing that this potential exists, students will have added incentive to produce quality work. This shifts students' interaction with the Internet from the role of consumer to producer and increases the value and impact of students' work.
The second concern with research projects is who evaluates the final product. It is usually the teacher alone who evaluates the work of the student, limiting the feedback on students work to the views and ideas on one individual. When student work is shared with a class of peers, the evaluation expands to more individuals. By publishing on the World Wide Web, students can receive feedback from a much larger and diverse group of people around the globe.
An additional benefit of this approach is that information can be easily updated and modified to reflect changes in student learning and understanding. Thus work published on the Internet can be viewed as being dynamic.
Furthermore, publishing on the web gives students the ability to communicate ideas using a variety of learning styles. Because of the range of the type of information (text, sound, graphics, and so on) that documents can include, students are not limited to text. This means a wider range of learning styles and intelligences can be accommodated, allowing students who are not text based learners to participate as fully as their more text oriented peers."
In addition, Brentwood students participating in this project have learned how to work between Mac and Windows '95, Internet search techniques, flow charts, files vs. directories, launching applications and opening files through an application, graphic conversion, hypertext (linking), web authoring and word processing. Several students conducted their experiments with the Science Department's new computer laboratory equipped with probeware; their experience with the Virtual Science Fair enabled them to use the new equipment with ease.