Given the pace at which the scientific landscape changes, even practicing scientists can find it difficult to keep up with advances outside their fields of specialization. Imagine the daily challenge faced by classroom science teachers, who are trying to remain current with a broad range of scientific content and to incorporate the new information into existing curricula. This integration requires a depth and breadth of science knowledge not provided by the professional development available to most elementary, and even some secondary, school teachers.
In the United States today, there are 250,000 K–12 (kindergarten to high school) math and science teachers and 1.5 million elementary school teachers (many of whom provide science instruction) (1, 2). Their needs vary widely, and most have insufficient access to quality continuing education and teaching resources. Secondary-school science teachers need up-to-date content and training in laboratory techniques, such as how to use a micro-pipettor. Elementary teachers need help with basic understandings and teaching approaches across a wide range of topics, from earthquakes to the carbon cycle. These challenges are heightened in schools with significant populations of economically disadvantaged and at-risk students, where teachers tend to be less prepared to teach science (3).
BioEd Online (www.bioedonline.org) and K8 Science (www.k8science.org) are Web sites developed by Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) to address teachers’ needs for accurate, timely science information and teaching materials. The sites capitalize on the Internet’s capacity to reach many users at a relatively low cost. As 97% of U.S. schools report having broadband Internet connections, lack of access is no longer a major concern for potential teacher users (4).