NSTA’s e-mail lists: PD gold mine

NSTA Reports Summer13_2in_hiresNational Science Teachers Association (NSTA) members are an active bunch! When they’re not in their classrooms, they’re continuing their professional development (PD) by taking classes, presenting sessions to their colleagues at conferences, serving as mentors to students and teachers, and sharing their experiences in NSTA publications and online in the NSTA member e-mail lists.

The lists—an NSTA member-only benefit launched more than 10 years ago—have become a popular and reliable resource—in fact, they’re in use 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We see members using them to ask—and getting answers to—questions like these:

[generalscience@list.nsta.org] Has anyone had any luck writing a successful grant? 

[chemistry@list.nsta.org] Does anyone know of any legitimate universities that offer any graduate courses in chemistry online?

[physicalscience@list.nsta.org] I would like to do more career awareness with my ninth-grade physical science students next year. Any suggestions on things that would be both meaningful and easily connected to our subject matter?

And sometimes in the wee hours of the morning or night, a question like this will be posted:

[newteacher@list.nsta.org] I have a very diverse group of kids, some very willing to learn; others very willing to test me…I have been nauseated every morning and have a hard time getting up and going [to work]. Is this typical when you begin student teaching?

Not only do NSTA members respond to these questions, but NSTA staff also pay attention to the posts and offer help—when appropriate. For example, when this query about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) appeared on the general science list,

I’ve been trying to get my head around the NGSS and how to communicate the three dimensions with colleagues, so I’ve been thinking about analogies. Has anyone found a useful one?

NSTA’s resident NGSS expert, Ted Willard, responded,

A few months ago, I had to do a workshop where I worked on an analogy. In the end, I related NGSS to baking a cake or cooking a meal.

In the baking-a-cake analogy, I liked the idea that students engage in the practices to form an understanding of the core ideas—just as a chef uses tools and techniques [to] make the cake…I also liked the idea that just as not all cakes have frosting, not all performance expectations include crosscutting concepts.

For the cooking analogy, I liked how the herbs and spices could be combined together with different dishes, just as many different crosscutting concepts could be used with different core ideas. I also liked how the food groups could be used to represent Life Science, Earth and Space Science, Physical Science, and Engineering Design.

And for all of them, we want to remember that we are talking about preparing the dish, not just eating it. Just eating a dish that someone else prepared would be equivalent to traditional instruction.

Sometimes a list thread becomes fodder for a news story in NSTA Reports, the association’s monthly newspaper. The cover story for the Summer 2013 issue (depicted above) was inspired by a list thread and featured members’ accounts of exceptional field trips.  Here are some other examples of threads that led to news stories:

If you’re not an NSTA member—or if you’re a member who hasn’t used the e-mail lists yet—check them out! You’ll also find instructions for signing up and participating.

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