Department: Life Sciences School: College of Arts and Sciences Campus: Old Westbury
Member of NYIT Since: 2007
Science education gets a technology makeover in the latest research project involving Assistant Professor of Life Sciences Lisa Runco. The five-year, $1 million project, "Cyber-Enabled Learning: Digital Natives in Integrated Scientific Inquiry Classrooms," explores using mobile, digital technologies to teach science to students.
"There are many applications that can be used to teach students in so many ways that are better than just reading a textbook," says Runco, who serves as the project's science expert.
Applications refer to iPhone apps or other information and communications technologies (ICTs) implemented by Runco and her research partners, Shiang-Kwei Wang, associate professor of instructional technology, and Hui-Yin Hsu, associate professor of teacher education. Their interdisciplinary project funded by a National Science Foundation grant is testing the effectiveness of ICTs as teaching tools, including computer games, iPads, and social networking websites.
"On the iPad, you can do a virtual tour of an animal cell," Runco says. "Students visualize in nanometers what's going on in the cell. This is where science education has catapulted."
During the summer, the trio implemented the grant's first learning module, conducting a professional development workshop for 15 New York City middle school teachers. They tested water in Long Island ponds and swamps for pollution using probeware, generated water quality data spreadsheets with iPod Touches, and later shared findings on an educational social networking site modeled after Facebook.
This project is one of Runco's many endeavors at NYIT. She is co-director of the B.S./D.O. program and collaborates with NYCOM faculty to support undergraduate research by aspiring medical students. She also serves as the recording secretary of the Academic Senate and participates yearly in the Symposium of University Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE).
Science hooked Runco as a middle school student attending a Marie Curie science camp. The experience is something she still looks back on years later as instructive of how fun science education can be.
"We did simple experiments on a high school level that taught us to figure out the direction of the research project," Runco says. "That's what made it fun. That's what science should be – the exploration of a topic."