Will we ever get to the point where we can sit back and say “Our students have these skills. We’re set until the 22nd century?”
A great benefit for NSTA members is electronic access to all of the journals. After you read the print version that is part of your membership, you can read the articles in all of the others. Even though they might be oriented to a different grade level, there are always ideas that can be kicked up a notch or simplified. And this topic certainly relates to all grade levels.
It makes sense that I’m reading a digital version of this TST issue on 21st century tools. On the other hand, in the year 2011 (well into the 21st century), we’re still talking about tools for the century. Just think about tools that have come and gone already (the original iPod or PDAs for example–even the computer mouse). What hasn’t gone away, as the editor suggests, are skills such as adaptability, critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration, self-direction, and systems thinking.
Back in the 1990s, when I was a technology director, a school board member asked what tech skills students needed to get good jobs. I suggested that the technology our students would use routinely in their jobs hadn’t been invented yet and that the students would be doing jobs that didn’t exist at the time (such as the Visualization Scientist described in the Career of the Month—which dovetails with the October Science Scope theme of Art and Science). So the best thing we can do is prepare students in the skills mentioned above. The articles in this issue address these in a variety of science classroom contexts.
The authors of Science in the 21st Century: More Than Just the Facts show how these skills are integrated into the Urban EcoLab project. They describe (with a graphic and summary chart) a framework for Four Ways of Knowing Science (understanding, doing, talking, and acting on science) and how these four ways of knowing were incorporated into an environmental science course with a local context. As the conclusion states “Ecology, and indeed science, doesn’t just happen in exotic rain forests or desolate polar ice caps—it happens in students’ neighborhoods and city blocks.”
Science, Technology, and YA Lit includes a list of young adult reading titles and how teachers can promote critical thinking and connections with technology [SciLinks: Reading and writing in science]. And in Getting Up to Speed, students integrate the content and process skills in real-life scenarios related to walking (e.g., How much do I walk in school?) [SciLinks: Speed]
The teacher-author of Customizing Curriculum with Digital Resources describes the Curriculum Customization Service, an online curriculum management tool he used to integrate classroom resources, such as lesson plans, with digital and traditional resources. I wonder when districts will replace the “textbook selection” committees with “resource selection” committees, tasked with using tools such as this to tap into the continually updated resources that are available digitally.
When a scientist participated in a PD project I was involved with, the teachers were amazed at the percentage of time he spent in communications—grant writing, presentations at meetings, and writing about his research. The 21st Century Oral Presentation Tool Bag has resources to help your students improve their oral communications and information-literacy skills. The article includes a rubric and self-assessment guide. Secret in the Margins illustrates how teachers can incorporate nature-of-science understandings into existing lessons (rather than create new ones). The 5E lesson format was used in a unit on atomic structure. [SciLinks: Atomic structure]
In the earlier decades of the 20th century, pregnant teachers were dismissed and pregnant teenagers dropped out of school. Pregnancy in the Laboratory looks at potential hazards for teachers and for students (not just at the collegiate level but also at the secondary level).
TST also includes the column Headline Science with brief articles on current research and background information for teachers and students. [SciLinks: Virus, Sunspots, Carbon Cycle, Neurons/Nerve cells, Nanotechnology, Asteroids, Fungi, Cells]
Don’t forget to look at the Connections for this issue (October 2011). Even if the article does not quite fit with your lesson agenda, this resource has ideas for handouts, background information sheets, data sheets, rubrics, etc.