The College of Exploration Hosts On-line Workshop for COSEE Great Lakes

January 31, 2007

What began as a 1 1/2 day workshop -- EE for the Inland Seas -- for a small group of interested educators was transformed by the magic of web-based streaming video into a desktop inservice program for over 400 COSEE Great Lakes participants! This remarkable opportunity began with the annual conference of the North American Association for Environmental Education [NAAEE] in October 2006 in St. Paul, MN. COSEE Great Lakes leaders conducted a face-to-face preconference workshop that received enthusiastic evaluations of the program and interest in COSEE events and materials. Unlike many workshops, however, this one didn’t end with the post-test.

All parts of the St. Paul program were videotaped by Peter Tuddenham and Tina Bishop of The College of Exploration, a COSEE partner for media-based education, with the idea that some of the footage might be useful in a planned online workshop later in the year. Indeed, TCOE was able to capture formal presentations and actual teacher preparation activities, then assemble daily web pages for posting and responding from December 3-9, 2006. The resulting on-line workshop attracted participants from 20 states plus Puerto Rico, Canada and China!

“What’s so great about the Great Lakes? Inland Seas Environment and Education” was the title of the on-line course that gave COSEE Great Lakes educators the opportunity to discover how interactive, collaborative learning could bring information and opportunities to groups much larger than we imagined possible. The web setup consisted of a set of “rooms” for interactions with the people and information of the workshop, built on Caucus® software. The rooms had a list of items for discussion, and within each item the participants could add their responses to what was happening with the topic or the discussion. The rooms for “What’s so great...” included

  • a Great Lakes Room where the Realplayer presentations and discussions about them were held,
  • a Resources room for sharing materials and posting information about web sites, books, curricula, music and other teaching aids,
  • rooms for people who were taking the workshop for credit or CEUs, where they could post their assignments and discuss with a course moderator, and
  • a “Cafe” where participants could just hang out and talk about whatever they wanted. A starter topic of “share a memorable Great Lakes experience” brought in photos, life events, and wonderful perceptions of the lakes.

With the software up and running, and the experience of TCOE staff to answer all our questions and tolerate our disparate learning curves, the week of learning went like this:

  • Sunday - Great Lakes Overview with Helen Domske
  • Monday - Regional resource distribution activity
  • Tuesday - Great Lakes food pyramid and biodiversity
  • Wednesday - Climate change impacts on the Great Lakes
  • Thursday - Aquatic invasive species in the Great Lakes
  • Friday - Inland Sea vs. Salty Sea Comparisons
  • Saturday - COSEE Great Lakes: Looking back and looking forward!

Each day, regional scientists were on line to answer questions about their topics, participants could ask questions of presenters and share ideas with each other, and COSEE leaders were able to interact with their state participants.

COSEE staff and participants alike were astonished by the ability of the program to allow in-depth discussions, to expand the limits of what people thought the internet could do, and to bring to everyone a much richer array of materials, contacts and experiences than a traditional workshop could accomplish. Perhaps the greatest part is that all the material remains on the Internet for others to review and use simply by registering for free at

The College of Exploration hosts many wonderful interactive programs for educators every year, and registration for one will put interested teachers and others on an email list to hear about their other events that might be of interest. COSEE Great Lakes was delighted with every aspect of our first experience with the talented group of TCOE professionals, and will be offering other workshops with them in coming years. The 2007 workshop topics are Lake Superior and Lake Huron. Watch the COSEE Great Lakes web site for information about these great opportunities!