The University of Tartu is the oldest and largest university in Estonia with about 18,000 students and 1,500 staff members. The Science Education Department (SED) belongs to the Faculty of Biology and Geography and educates biology, geography, and integrated science teachers at both pre- and in-service level.
SED staff members are involved in educational research promoting scientific-technological literacy in Estonian, Baltic, and East-European countries. Research and development projects have been funded by IOSTE, UNESCO Science Education Sector, Soros Foundation, British Council, Estonian Science Foundation, and Estonian Ministry of Education and Research. The results of these projects have been distributed among teachers of Estonia and other countries, as SED has direct links with local and international teachers' organizations.
Research work of the educational technology workgroup of SED has focused on the areas of ICT-supported individual and collaborative problem solving and inquiry, cognitive aspects of computer-based visualized learning process, effectiveness of students-students' and tutor-students' scaffolding interactions. A number of learning environments has been deployed for Estonian general schools. Examples include a situational Web-based simulation "Hiking across Estonia" for developing students' problem solving skills, the "Young Scientist" inquiry learning environment, and constructive biology models called "Cellworld". The simulation "Hiking across Estonia" was a finalist of IASTED 1st international competition of non-commercial software for Web-based learning in 2005, and received the national award of Estonian Ministry of Environment. The workgroup has been involved in several international projects including EU FP4 and FP6 projects.