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Are French Fries And Grades Bad For You? Conflicting Evidence On How K 12 Teachers Search In A K 12 Digital Library

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Technological Literacy and K-12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.189.1 - 15.189.12



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Paper Authors


Rene Reitsma Oregon State University

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RENE F. REITSMA is an associate professor of Business Information Systems at Oregon State University's College of Business. He and his students are responsible for the design, development and maintenance of the TeachEngineering digital library system architecture. Reitsma’s research concentrates on how digital libraries are used and can be improved.

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Paul Klenk Duke University

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PAUL A. KLENK received his PhD in mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering in 2006. Since then, Paul has been the Co-Director of Engineering K-PhD, the Pratt School of Engineering's K-12 Outreach Center. In this position, he is an editor for the TeachEngineering digital library, develops afterschool engineering curricula through the TechXcite program, and manages Duke’s engineering GK-12 program.

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Malinda Zarske University of Colorado, Boulder

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MALINDA SCHAEFER ZARSKE is an engineering education doctoral student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is on the development team for the TeachEngineering digital library and serves as a content editor. She has co-created and co-taught engineering elective courses for both high school and undergraduate students through CU-Boulder’s ITL K-12 Engineering Program. A former middle and high school math and science teacher, she received her MAT in secondary science from the Johns Hopkins University and her MS in civil engineering from CU-Boulder.

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Jacquelyn Sullivan University of Colorado, Boulder

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JACQUELYN F. SULLIVAN is founding Co-Director of the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, and Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. She received her PhD in environmental health physics and toxicology from Purdue University and held leadership positions in the energy and software industries for 13 years. She founded and leads CU’s extensive K-12 Engineering Initiative and has led the TeachEngineering digital library project from its inception. In 2004, she founded the ASEE K-12 Division and in 2008 received NAE’s Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Are French Fries and Grades Bad for You? Conflicting Evidence on How K-12 Teachers Search in a K-12 Engineering Digital Library


The TeachEngineering digital library provides teacher-tested, standards-based engineering content for K-12 teachers to use in science and math classrooms. Since its release in 2005, TeachEngineering has experienced significant growth in users and contributors; data on this growth is presented. The TeachEngineering team─researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Oregon State University, Duke University, Colorado School of Mines, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute─continues to research its search functions and user interface in order to ensure that it meets the needs of its intended users, K-12 teachers. Empirical evidence from an experimental study on the dimensions of alignment between digital K-12 lesson materials and education standards, however, contradicts that of the observed search behavior of patrons of TeachEngineering. Whereas the experiment convincingly shows that grade band information does not add to the teaching materials’ relevance for an educational standard, observed patrons’ searching patterns show ample evidence of grade band-based searches. In this paper, we offer that although grade band-based searches should perhaps be avoided because they improperly bias search results, they are such a prominent feature in the actual use of digital libraries that as designers we must support them while mitigating the risk of unfortunate search bias. As a possible solution, we suggest supporting grade-based searches as well as offering query expansion by widening the grade band.


With NSF funding, a multi-university team of engineering researchers embarked on creating the TeachEngineering digital library in January 2003. Engineering educators from various universities, with advice from dozens of K-12 teachers, pooled their K-12 engineering curricula and created a unified collection—with a common look and feel—of freely-accessible teaching resources. The TeachEngineering digital library was launched in January 2005 as a searchable, educational standards-based repository of high-quality, classroom-tested engineering lessons and activities for use by teachers and engineering faculty to teach engineering in K-12 settings. Up to 55,000 unique users access the collection’s contents monthly.

TeachEngineering ( is a growing digital library of K-12 engineering lessons and hands-on activities. The collection’s curricular materials are developed by a variety of organizations and programs, and are available free-of-charge. New institutions are continually contributing their original K-12 engineering lessons and activities, mostly NSF-funded research grantees seeking outreach and dissemination opportunities. As a result, TeachEngineering collection content has grown to more than 800 hands-on engineering lessons and activities.

TeachEngineering founding partner institutions are the University of Colorado at Boulder, Oregon State University, Duke University, Colorado School of Mines, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Beyond this team, curricular contributions from the University of South

Reitsma, R., & Klenk, P., & Zarske, M., & Sullivan, J. (2010, June), Are French Fries And Grades Bad For You? Conflicting Evidence On How K 12 Teachers Search In A K 12 Digital Library Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16838

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2010 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015