COAST, the Consortium for Oceanographic Activities for Students and Teachers, began in 1997 to develop professional development courses to help educators use the web and other computer resources to teach about oceans and coastal processes. COAST built upon STARBORD (Stimulating Teachers About Resources for Broad Oceanographic Research and Discovery) courses, which have been offered to teachers during the summer since 1993 and are supported by the National Sea Grant Office, a division of the U.S. Navy. These two-week courses, while popular, had not emphasized electronic educational options as part of the professional development curriculum.

The COAST team created a two-day computer/internet workshop that is now presented during the two-week STARBORD course. The course introduces educators to potential resources on the web, but it does not aim for them to achieve proficiency in using the web. Instead of just lecturing about the web, the STARBORD staff bring numerous laptop computers, printers, scanners, and other peripherals to illustrate exactly how electronic information and other services can be accessed.

The workshops are broken up into two- and three-hour segments about different oceanographic and coastal topics. Workshop notebooks track each lesson step-by-step, giving teachers information they can take with them to reinforce the lectures. Emphasis has been placed on learning to digitize printed information, as teachers have indicated they already are familiar with other electronic services, such as how to search for information on the web.

Workshop organizers are sensitive to teachers’ preferences. For example, the workshops were designed for 10 teachers at a time—i.e., two teachers for each computer. When some teachers asked to stay with their colleagues and friends (and thus create larger classes), the STARBORD staff deferred to the requests. Also, workshop leaders adapted lectures to the knowledge level demonstrated by teachers.

In the second year of the program, STARBORD leaders tried to give each teacher more time with a computer by reducing the initial lecture and reducing concurrent topics from three to two. They also created a CD-ROM with the COAST web site and electronic versions of the workbook that teachers could take with them. This information can be found at the COAST web site, http://coast-nopp.org.