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Mr. McMillin: K-12 educator


Photo credit: http://bit.ly/1MJlHyQ
(CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Picture is of Dr. Michael Page, Stevenson High School, Stevenson, WA. Image was cropped to fit.
The person represented here is not affiliated with DataONE and use of their image does not reflect endorsement of DataONE services.

Name, age, and education: 

A native of Knoxville, Mr. McMillin graduated with a dual degree in Chemistry and Education from Berea College, with coursework supporting teaching certification in Kentucky. Family ties led him to return to the middle class urban/suburban neighborhood in the East Knoxville School District near where he grew up. Upon his return to Knoxville, Mr. McMillin sought employment as a High School Chemistry teacher, but the district only had an opening in Middle School Earth Science. Somewhat begrudgingly he took the job, but quickly grew to like it, and has been teaching at his school now for over a decade. Mr. McMillin now chairs the Science Faculty, and new teachers, as well as his older colleagues, at least some of them, have come to depend upon him for new ideas, programs and innovations.

Life or career goals, fears, hopes, and attitudes: 

Mr. McMillin feels successful in his career but his school district has seen hard times over the past few years. Pressures for compliance and accountability under “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB), exacerbated by the economic downturn and reduction of the East Knoxville school district’s limited property tax base, have resulted in a 22% staff reduction and the evisceration of their in-service (i.e., professional development) programs for science faculty and curriculum development.

Mr. McMillin struggles to gain his students’ attention in the face of many distractions. He seeks to engage them, to show them that science is pertinent to their lives, not just a subject in school. To this end, he values project- and inquiry-based learning and wants his students to do meaningful projects. But he needs help to continue to interest and engage students in the face of increased work and reduced resources. Regardless of the morale of the neighborhood and the school, it is essential that Mr. McMillin give his students hope that they can contribute meaningfully, and that their learning matters.

A day in the life: 

Mr. McMillin teaches five sections of Earth Science daily. With the addition of his administrative responsibilities as chair of the faculty and advisor to the Science Club, Mr. McMillin is at school from 7am–5pm with only 55 minutes of class prep time each day. At night he grades papers, prepares lesson plans, and generates lab materials. He no longer has the time or money to take his students on field trips for observation or data collection; there is a small wetlands on the edge of the campus that is a partial substitute. He has basic lab equipment, though lab supplies are short.

Instead of field trips, he attempts to grab students’ interest with the technology, e.g., computerized analysis and visualizations. He seeks to connect them to global science communities, showing how science can use the same kinds of social media tools that engage his students’ attention. However, he is required to teach to the state science standards, meaning every item in his curricula must directly match a state mandate. His students’ success on standardized tests directly impacts the rating of his school, his and the school’s success, budget and student-to-teacher ratio.

Reasons for using DataONE to share and to reuse data
Needs and expectations of DataONE tools: 

Mr. McMillin needs access to data his students can use to augment the limited data they can collect on their own in labs or outdoors. He has also found analysis of existing datasets to be a great way to involve special needs students with physical disabilities that keep them from participating fully in fieldwork. However, to be useable, he needs an educational module with teaching materials, mapped to educational standards, that identifies the appropriate data for the students to access and the tools for them to use. Ideally, these exercises will provide examples of how science and math matter in people’s lives. He has been using the National Science Digital Library (NSDL), so he wants similar kinds of support for finding material. He gets a lot of ideas from friends, so it could be useful for him to connect with other teachers using similar materials to trade tips and ideas.

Finally, Mr. McMillin seeks to demonstrate how all people can contribute meaningfully to the scientific process. Given his students’ interest in online interaction, he feels it might be possible to get them interested in participating in an on-line research project. Given the right materials, he could have students collect data and contribute it to a citizen science project, then follow that project to see how the data are used. He’s been wanting to do something like this for years, but hasn’t yet found a project that he could fit logistically and topically into his classes. On the other hand, he is certainly not going to create and deposit his own datasets, much less the metadata to describe them.

Intellectual and physical skills that can be applied: 

Mr. McMillin is familiar with scientific data collection and analysis from his undergraduate education. He has had some additional training since finishing his degree (though not in data science), and does his best to stay current with scientific developments, mostly from the popular press. He is proficient with computer applications and comfortable navigating the Web and getting data into Excel.

Technical support available: 

The school and the district has a small IT staff, but they have their hands full keeping the school’s computers and networks running smoothly and so are unable to provide much personal support for faculty. However, the IT staff is willing to install new software for Mr. McMillin, as long as it’s open source software, as the district has no budget for buying new software.

Personal biases about data sharing and reuse (and data management more generally): 

As an educator and mentor, Mr. McMillin believes in open access to science information and processes and would like his students to see how even their seemingly small efforts can integrate with those of the larger scientific community through technology.

Researcher Support
Project Planning: 
  • Professional development and training: Download curriculum units and explore online tutorials in data management practices.
  • Professional development and training: Access online tutorial datasets and visualizations for lesson planning.
  • Data evaluation, analysis and visualization: Create a simple example workflow in preparation for student application.
Project Activity: 
  • Data discovery, access, use and dissemination: Engage students in sample data exploration and visualization.
  • Data interoperability, standards and integration: Work though data integration practices with students utilizing dataset from multiple member nodes (per tutorial guidelines)
  • Data evaluation, analysis and visualization: Create species distribution graphics and simulations of species movements through time.
Publication and Data Preservation: 

Data deposition/acquisition/ingest: Upload class data from feeder observations to the Avian Knowledge Network.

Additional Activities: 

Data discovery, access, use and dissemination: Use the class data and integrated datasets as the basis for county science fair projects.


Written by Bruce Grant, Kevin Crowston and Miriam Davis with input from Kely Lotts