Course ED795A: Seminar

Artifact GPS Algebra Learning module

An internship with Space and Naval Warfare (SPAWAR) Systems Center, Pacific turned out to be a delicate balance between three complex systems. My group members Kelley Hundley, Jodi Kohler, and I worked to create a GPS algebra learning module for SPAWAR in San Diego, while fulfilling graduate class requirements at SDSU, and ensuring the final product would be easy to use in high school math classrooms.

Working with our point of contact (POC) at SPAWAR was challenging at times due to the fact that SPAWAR is a naval research lab and as such, it has very strict security policies. These policies forbid us from going to SPAWAR and meeting face-to-face and they restricted our POC’s ability to meet with us online (nearly all web 2.0 tools are blocked). The only time we could meet was late in the evening when our POC was on her home computer. This meant that she was usually meeting with us on her own time, but she was very committed to the project and always did her best to make herself available to us. There were also strict policies about who we were allowed to contact. This made conducting our content analysis difficult, but again, the scientists and engineers (S&E’s) at SPAWAR would be available to work with us after work, on their own time.

We were also subject to the workings of the California State University system as this internship was for graduate credit at San Diego State University. At times this was helpful and at times it was a hinderance. The lectures and class resources kept us well informed and supported. And the schedule of due dates for various pieces of the project helped to keep us on track to finish by the end of the semester. However, there were times when our POC was ready and eager to move on and we were still waiting for feedback or details about what to do next. While this proved inconvenient at times, our POC was understanding and worked with our schedule.

The third system we were working within was California’s K-12 education system. The goal of the GPS module was for high school math teachers to use it to teach standards-based skills in a way that gives students a chance to explore a real application of the math they are learning. A second goal of the project was to involve scientists and engineers from SPAWAR in the classrooms to share their passion for math and science and encourage students to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). In this system we were subject to the time constraints of short class periods, the pressure of standardized testing, and the challenge of large class sizes. We knew that usability would be a key to the success of the GPS module so we surveyed teachers to learn about their willingness to teach this type of module, and we interviewed S&E’s to select grade-level content that was relevant to GPS.

Working within three highly complex systems was difficult and time-consuming. Had the key stakeholders in each system not been so flexible and easy to work with, we wouldn’t have been able to deliver a high-quality final product to our client. My group members and I found that through good communication and careful planning we were able to coordinate our efforts within each system to satisfy needs of our final product.