Recommendations on Digital Resources for the Wisconsin K-12 Forestry Education Program (LEAF)
Buchholz, Sunshine R.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Students of the Millennial Generation (born after 2000) are termed “digital natives” because they have never known life without computers. As learners, these students have heightened ability and knowledge to access information using technology. Such students thrive on stimulation and engaging learning environments. LEAF, Wisconsin’s K-12 Forestry Education Program can meet the needs of today’s learners through the creation of digital resources. Such materials will help the LEAF program stay flexible and current with resources that can be kept updated to address changing forestry issues. Digital resources also serve as tools for teachers’ using the LEAF Wisconsin K-12 Forestry Lesson Guide to engage their students in meaningful, practical learning. This study was conducted to determine what types of digital resources would enhance educators’ use of the LEAF Guide to teach students about Wisconsin’s forests and provide recommendations for the creation of those resources. To accomplish this goal, a survey was conducted in February and March 2006 of all teachers who had taken a LEAF workshop between July 1, 2003 (the first LEAF workshop) and September 1, 2005. Based on survey participant feedback and analysis of the results recommendations were developed and reported to the LEAF Program. A questionnaire was used as a survey tool to gather participants’ feedback on the types of digital resources that would be most beneficial to them. Responses were returned by mail, email, and web form and all the data was entered into an electronic database. Both quantitative and qualitative means were used to analyze the data. Analysis focused both on the responses of the overall survey population and the responses of LEAF Guide users by grade specific units allowing recommendations to be provided at a greater level of specificity than if the entire population was studied as a whole. This was important to the LEAF Program because the development of new materials is usually targeted at grade-specific populations. The results of the survey show that digital resources would enhance the use of the LEAF Guide for over 60% of survey respondents and increase the amount of time the Guide is used for nearly half of respondents. Almost 90% of Guide users indicated that their comfort level with digital resources for teaching students is moderate to very high; yet research shows that training is a key component in assisting educators with the integration of digital resources into their teaching. Recommendations for the creation of digital resources include the development of a LEAF Digital Resources Library that houses a variety of resources such as digital images and maps, printable lessons and activities, educational games, and virtual field trips. Additionally, the LEAF Program can increase its value to educators and stakeholders by serving as Wisconsin’s Forestry Education Resource Clearinghouse.