Talking Technology


I had a great conversation with an early-career teacher a few weeks ago. She was a “digital native”—armed with smart phone and ready to tweet. I admit, I’m a “digital immigrant” who re-examines every new device in order to evaluate whether it’s worth the price to buy and the time to use. We talked about polling in class. She uses an APP; students respond to questions during her classes from their seats with their phones. I use post-its—admittedly a bit Luddite, but as I argued, the students have to actually stand up and walk to the front whiteboard, and while they do they usually engage in conversation. Neither of us were sure we had the final answer, but the questions we raised remained with me for a long time.

Thirty years ago NSTA participated in the first major grant initiative to explore how computers could be used in science classrooms. The site was a family-friendly environmental camp; the tools were Apple IIes. Teachers spent long days trying to develop Basic and Logo programs that could help with review, experimentation, data analysis and simulation. The project leaders moved from station to station, with suggestions for problem-solving. So did my 8 year old son. When we encountered problems we couldn’t solve, one of the teachers would say: “My money’s on the kid.”

Using computers as instructional tools was a new idea then. Teachers proved very reluctant to accept their help. One of the underlying factors was the realization that there was a significant difference between the ability of young learners and the ability of their teachers to adapt.

Most of today’s science teachers are “digital immigrants” like me. (This term was introduced by author Mark Prensky, whose works on the topic are easy to find and valuable reading.) We may be enthusiastic and capable of learning new tech, but it doesn’t come naturally. And for most of us, it’s awkward to plan a lesson and simply “put our money on the kids.” By contrast, digital natives have never experienced a world with limits on where they could go or what they could explore on the Internet so they are not intimidated by perceived barriers.

For several decades there was very little research to back up the use of technology in classrooms. Now there is a body of empirical evidence that can guide even the most reluctant immigrant to create better learning environments with tech tools. That’s why I’d like to propose a series of blogs here to share both the possibilities and the evidence we have to guide our own work. Questions like the one at the top deserve thoughtful consideration. Hopefully, you’ll join in the discussion.

Teaching the Y’s and I’s

Each generation is influenced by both society and technology. We look back to the “Silent Generation” of the Great Depression, the “Boomers” who were born after WWII, and their children dubbed “Gen X” who benefitted from the economic growth post-war and the technologies that wartime research provided. There are differences within each group, of course, but they share many attitudes because of their common experiences.

Beginning with the “Gen Y” and “Millennial” generations (born since the computer invasion of the 1980s) we’ve seen not only a change in social and economic factors, but significant and measurable changes in how people learn. Here’s just one example: When I began teaching, there was a lot of emphasis on eye tracking and fine motor skills in language arts. We drilled reluctant readers in left-right tracking, spent hours on penmanship. Today’s GenY readers have significantly different skills and preferences. They like big graphics, less text, clickable hyperlinks. I first noticed this difference when I began to teach online coursework. The over-40 grad student was likely to expect a reading that could be printed on paper (so they could see how far they had read). The younger students wanted the reading online. (There are other differences in how they see that go beyond the space I could devote in the blog, but are embedded in the development of devices like the Kindle™.)

There’s even a new term for our elementary students today—the I Gen. (Some call them “screenagers.”) They were never alive before Facebook™ or YouTube™. You see them playing with smart phones in their high chairs in restaurants. They have never had to use a stand-alone calculator, a rotary dial phone, or a paper map. They are never out of touch with one another or the world at large. They spend more than 5 hours a day before screens, and consume enormous amounts of information in the process. Many of the “dogmas” we learned in our education courses, like the idea that virtual experiences are not real to young children (Piaget), are simply not true any longer. In Educational Leadership, Larry Rosen talks about Teaching the IGeneration. “Researchers also are studying how preschoolers and infants deal with media exposure, both made for them and the exposure they get when parents or siblings are in the same room, using video games, TV or other content.” He reminds readers that children who used to begin with books now are exposed to electronic media first.

Earning Our Citizenship

For veteran teachers, the challenge of the Ys and Is isn’t just learning new software. It’s learning to see the world through their eyes. We need to not only add 21st Century Skills to their curriculum, but cut the lessons they no longer need—and that’s the hardest part! But Rosen and other researchers are optimistic: “…once teachers relegate much of the content dissemination to technology, they can spend class time more productively—helping students analyze, synthesize and assimilate material.”

In the blogs that follow, I’d like to raise questions like these:

  • Living through an Avatar: Can children learn real-world skills in virtual environments?
  • Navigating the Jungle: How do we teach children to evaluate and discriminate sources on the web?
  • Dumbing and Dumping: Why do we now talk about “Death by Power Point?”
  • Social media: Can we use them for instruction?
  • Platforms: Online, hybrid, and supported face-to-face models
  • Sense and Safety: How to select what you need and ignore what you don’t.

If you have other topics that you’d like to explore, please write me at

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#NSTA14 Heats Up in NOLA with the STEM Iron Chef Competition

chef holding a calculatorAttendees of NSTA’s 2014 STEM Forum and Expo will be challenged to cook up a recipe for STEM success next month. No aprons will be required, though; this challenge focuses on a different mix of materials—the kind you’ll be able to use in class to whet your students’ appetites for science. NSTA’s STEM Iron Chef Competition starts on Wednesday May 14 at 8:30 PM. in the Morial Convention Center. Come alone or bring friends, and be ready to collaborate! You’ll pick a challenge, and we’ll give you a set of secret ingredients to include in your solution. You can prepare your  feast on the spot, or you can meet with your group later—but be ready to turn in your final product by midnight on Thursday. On Friday, May 16, we’ll gather together and feature the top recipes for success in a fast-paced, engaging presentation. Teams will be challenged with creating one of the following meals in our “kitchen”:

  • STEM Stew: Combine the ingredients to create the perfect stew that blends science and math instruction while focusing on a hands-on approach.
  • Mardi Gras Feast: Use the ingredients to serve up a mouthwatering STEM program that uses engineering as a centerpiece of scrumptious feast.
  • DIY Homemade Brunch: Create a project where students are challenged to invent, tinker, make, and/or build something!
  • Fusion Cuisine: Create a project aligned with the science and engineering practices in the new NGSS with the given ingredients.
  • Thanksgiving Feast: To create a professional development plan for incorporating STEM in a high school using the given ingredients.
  • Presidential Banquet: Even the Obama Family would be envious!

Think you have what it takes? Join us, and be ready for some trash-tweeting (use #STEMchef). Teams will be meeting, tweeting, and challenging one another to be the BEST in creating their respective meals. This is an opportunity to access creative and innovative takeaways of ideas for STEM classrooms…at any level! Note: Preregistration is required for participation, as there is limited capacity.

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NSTA conference in Boston: Reflection and making connections Part 1, Th and Fri

I didn’t see the swan boats in the Public Garden or tea in the Harbor, but I did see many things—skylines, modern art, sunrises and fabulous sessions at the conference.

A Boston skyline with moon.Nick Cave's "Sound Suits" exhibit

Sun rays at sunrise in Boston makes an interesting reflection on the building.

I got to use a Smart Pen, talk with other early childhood educators, draw a cricket, and hear inspiring talks.

It has taken me a few weeks to report on the conference as I adapted to only having an iPad and camera at the conference, and a busy family visit soon after. These summaries are from my notes and may not accurately reflect the presentations or the presenters’ views. Don’t delay, go to the Boston conference session schedule while it is still online and download the files from the presentations you attended, or wish you did.

Beginning on Thursday at 8am with “STEM Integration—Don’t Leave a Letter Out!” presented by Shannon K. McManus (Museum of Science: Boston, MA) the conference offered up many sessions addressing the full STEM. We handled and discussed various materials to use in making a wind sail before choosing materials to build a model to test. The activity is suggested for grades 1-5 but we adults enjoyed it as we tested it for its value for our classrooms.

The “ASTC Session: Teaching with Collections: Bringing the Next Generation Science Standards to Life” presented by Wendy Derjue-Holzer and Amy Gunzelmann (Harvard Museum of Natural History: Cambridge, MA), Wendy Hanlon (Atlantic Middle School: Quincy, MA) and Fran Ludwig (Retired Educator: Lexington, MA) had us practice learning through observations and discuss how to apply this to our classrooms. There was a selection of tree twigs to sort, match and identify, and a series of decomposition jars to view—part of an on-going investigation!

Speaker PictureThe keynote presentation by Mayim Bialik from the hit TV series The Big Bang Theory, “The Power of One Teacher,” was affirming. She was upstaged (in advance) by the student who introduced her, Nick Lombardo. He won the honor in an essay-writing contest sponsored by Texas Instruments but he won the audience with his perceptive and very funny comments about science teachers. Although science did not come naturally to Bialik, she was inspired by her biology teacher-tutor on the set of the Blossom TV series who taught her the skill set and gave her the confidence that she could become a scientist. See her speech on YouTube at

Exhibit Hall.The Exhibit Hall offered many diversions and I came away with free pens, a few purchases, and admiration for the many organizations supporting science education. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) was an exhibitor this year, supporting all the early childhood teachers who teach science along with all other areas.

After lunch, it was easy to stay wide awake as Christina Ryan, a former kindergarten teacher and current independent consultant in Round Rock, TX, presented a Wheelock Pathway Session, “No Hands! Facilitating Meaningful Science Discussions with Elementary Science.” The wonderful video examples of meaningful science discussions in a kindergarten classroom reinforced the ideas she presented about a collaborative scientific classroom community. Christina noted that such discussions were both planned and spontaneous—”When there was an opportunity, we allowed this [discussion ] to happen.” Using Jos Elestgeest’s* ideas in “The right question at the right time,” she found that in her practice too, “A good question is the first step toward an answer; is a problem to which there is a solution.” I wish I could share her video of the moments her students discovered and observed as their iguana laid an egg. Within their excitement they expressed many questions, wonderings and possible answers. Christina noted that there are often way more questions than you can discuss with the entire class and that’s okay. Some you will discuss with just one or a few children, and some “just hang there,” literally, on a Question Wall. They used classroom rules for discussion, including an assigned “inviter” to invite quiet people to speak. This role can be given to children who usually say a lot, allowing others to speak and the child to develop an awareness of sharing the speaking time. The teacher’s task was to be quiet and take notes.

*Elsteeg, Jos. (1985). The right question at the right time. In Wynne Harlen. Primary Science: Taking the Plunge. Oxford, England: Heinemann Educational, 36-46.

Example of questions from a "Wonder and Discover" book.
photo 2Friday morning was too short. By staffing a table at the Elementary Extravaganza session in a ballroom, I did not take time to wander among all the others, learning from the 100+ presenters who provided hands-on experiences along with time to answer questions and share strategies for teaching science concepts. One of the presenters, Carol Ann Brennan of the University of Hawaii: Honolulu, taught us about Wonder and Discover Books. This tool is a way to record children’s unanswered questions that are worthy of later attention. The tool can be formatted in a way that fits your classroom: a student science notebook, computer file, a binder or using a big book format. Each question has its own page for students and teachers to record on, both drawing and writing and photographys, with more questions, clarifications, observations and discoveries. She recommends learning more about how to move from observations to searchable and investigable questions by reading Weiss, Tarin Harrar Weiss’s 2013 article, “Any Questions?” in Science and Children 50 (9): 36-41. Learn more about Elementary Extravaganza presentations by downloading the handouts from the session scheduler—find it quickly by searching for “extravaganza.”

Participants at the Ramps and pathways table in the Elementary Extravaganza test out their ramp design.Ramps attracted much attention.I presented with Beth Van Meeteren of the University of Northern Iowa on “Ramps and pathways,” a physical science and engineering activity that can become an exploration and investigation when children are given time to explore, supportive adults to promote questioning and problem-solving, and time to reflect on what they learned. I loved being able to hear how other early childhood educators use the materials or others in similar inquiries. Experiencing the possibilities ourselves is key to understanding what children can learn from using the materials so I was delighted to have so many participants build, roll, and re-build ramp NAEYC supports early childhood science educators with a table at the Elementary Extravaganza.structures as we talked. We heard from proud sons of mothers who are preschool teachers, engaged children and district science coordinators, and were supported by the adjoining NAEYC table! See the session schedule to download our handouts!

Moving materials from my EE table I missed the Council for Elementary Science International (CESI) session, “Family Science Events—Logistics, Engaging Science, and Parent Involvement” presented by Jim, Jackie Swanson, Kali Remelts, and Jenna Orr, all fromCentral Michigan University: Mount Pleasant, MI. But they generously uploaded files to the conference session schedule for our use. For more resources from CESI, visit

A "sink and float" station at a Family Science Night.“Preschool STEM Family Night: A University, Preschool, and Community Partnership” involved all but the kitchen sink! Or maybe that was part of it too… The first group of preservice early childhood teachers sharing their plans for a preschool STEM family night used the theme “Kitchen Science” with activities using materials that are found in most kitchens, as a way to connect with families and encourage them to continue investigations at home. Thanks to Nicole Glen, Emma Lee Hunt, Allison Mooney and Emily Tuminelli, all from Bridgewater State University: Bridgewater, MA for your presentation.

The second group of presenters created a prezi to present about two community STEM events they organized, one more successful than the other. They outlined the steps and paths they took to create their “Building Family STEM Literacy” events. I appreciate hearing about the pitfalls and problems as well as the wildly successful events. Thanks to Ellen M. Streng and Madison B. Gearhart from Wright State University: Dayton, OH for this fabulous presentation! Their uploaded files include a checklist and activities.

Literacy connections for science learning includes trade books.Books and science investigations support science and literacy learning.Gail Laubenthal and Diana McMillain’s presentation, “Connecting Science Content Using Trade Books!”went deep into and well beyond the title content and introduced us to useful technology. We learned about a game that hones observational skills, “Is this your object?” Beginning with a group of objects, the students are led through a series of clues about attributes to guide them to eliminate objects until they can identify the intended object. The students are encouraged to discuss and defend their choices. For example, in one sort, the teacher provides 5 wooden objects: tree cookie/slice, small rectangular block, large rectangular block, acorn top, and a red wooden cube. The clues are: “It is not rectangular”, followed by “It is not rough.” Then we ask, “What is it? Why do you think that?” An answer: “Red cube, because it is smooth and not rectangular.”

Two apps they suggested are iLapse for recording a series of photos over hours, and ShowMe, a way to show children’s work as they create, using video. They also use the “Big Huge Labs” program online to create inspirational posters using their photos. The Smartpen from LiveScribe helps families connect with their children’s school work during visits to the classroom by recording conversations and dictation that relate to artwork or books. See handouts on session scheduler!

Storykit imageKristen Wendell and Brandon Lee’s presentation, “Creating Digital Interactive Engineering Notebooks in a First Grade Classroom” related how they and their first grade students communicated their Bridge Design Project engineering work using the Storykit app. This app allows students to upload photos, drawings, text boxes and use multiple 1 minute audio recordings to record their work, their thoughts and later reflections and additional student work. The teachers were able to record guiding open-ended questions or comments, allowing them to go beyond the limitations of paper and pencil. They feel that writing in first grade doesn’t allow expression of deep ideas, and invented spelling may further obscure children’s thinking. (Note that to download the StoryKit app, search in the App store for “iPhone only” apps. StoryKit appears as an iPhone-only app, but it does download onto iPads.) But before they launched into their presentation, we got to play, using spaghetti, marshmallows and tape in the tower building activity. Wendell and Lee generously shared the hurdles they faced in trying out this tool in the weekly 40-min “specials” class, the successes and the “oops”. Very inspiring presentation, showing how engineering can fit into a standard first grade curriculum and it is available to download from the session schedule!

Discussion and supportive open-ended questions help participants with an engineering problem.Discussion before action.I got more engineering practice in the “Design it, Explore it!” session presented by Charles Hutchison from EDC, Inc. and Michael Koski of the Fitchburg Public Schools. They reviewed the NGSS engineering design standards for grades 1-5. They described engineering as “magic” because children get involved, get to fail, teachers may learn about the capacities of children who aren’t typically high level learners. We were cautioned that for some children, fear of failure is a huge threshold to cross. Hutchison suggested that when doing engineering design work, give set of constraints up front, ask questions of observation rather than cause, use what and how questions rather than why questions–What do you see? What materials will you use? How will this piece work? What are you trying to make happen?

photo 5 photo 4 photo 3 photo 1 (2)





We got to invent bridges to cross a 8.5″ wide “river” using 4 sheets of 8.5×11″ paper and just a little tape because it is “hugely expensive”, then test its strength with metal washers, pennies, a baggie and a paper cup (only to hold the load). Each group was assigned three jobs: materials person, scout/spy to look at other designs and find other ideas, and reporter. The scout job is important so students will feel comfortable using ideas they get from observing others, something that engineers do but is not promoted in schools.

We discussed what worked and what is a fair way to test the different designs. And the presenters discussed these important parts of the activity: teamwork, an activity that is open-ended with some constraints, including re-design as part of the process, building in failure, not giving answers, giving permission to scout which made it all about making our own design better over time not being the best, and using materials are relatively inexpensive.

Hutchinson and Koski modeled the teacher’s role—they visited each group three to five times for just a few minutes, asked open-ended questions, asked us to stay away from materials while we gave them attention, and avoided judgements. They suggest that if you can interrupt the students before they get finished or bored, they stay involved. One way to have students leave the materials alone during discussions, is to invite all students up to the board to discuss (away from materials). We were urged to prepare, pace, create interest, engage, promote and lead discussions, find conclusions and support sharing. What we did in less than an hour is designed to do over four or more sessions.

I’d love to hear about sessions you found inspiring and worthy of review. Post a comment to spread the word about your own session or that of others. I’ll report on more sessions in my next post.

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This Earth Day, Engage Kids in Citizen Science!

Citizen Science book coverToday’s guest blogger is Jennifer Fee, Manager of K-12 Programs at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (email:  Visit for resources, information, and inspiration related to school-based citizen science!

From students, to families, to interested novices … citizen scientists are people from all walks of life who participate in projects that help document biological and environmental trends over regions and timelines far broader than anyone could tackle by themselves. For teachers, citizen science is a way to motivate and inspire students through participation in research that is relevant both locally and globally. Students connect to the natural world as they make observations, collect data, and view their findings within the broader scope of the project.

In the new Citizen Science: 15 Lessons that Bring Biology to Life 6-12 book, scenarios of middle school classes engaging in citizen science are coupled with lessons that help teachers build citizen science data collection and analysis into their classrooms. From butterflies to birds, plants to frogs, turtles to squirrels—your students can collect meaningful data! Your students will not only learn science, they will be scientists. What better way to fulfill the NGSS mandate to couple science practice with content and give students a real-world context in which to apply what they are learning?

Here are five tips to consider as you and your students become citizen scientists on Earth Day… and beyond.

1. Foster a detective attitude
: Set the scene. Tell kids that they are detectives on an important investigation; one where making observations and asking questions will be the ultimate keys to discovery.  With this setup, you will have your very own team of Sherlocks ready to start inspecting the project at hand.  As you collect citizen science data, invite your students to observe closely and record questions that will pique their curiosity about the world around them.

2. Share the learning process: For example, if you’re participating in a citizen science project on birds, don’t be afraid to tell your students that you are not an expert and that you will learn about birds together. You may find them feeling even more empowered to become bird experts themselves. There is a wide variety of projects available and most projects offer online support, so whether you know a little or a lot, your students can be citizen scientists!

3. Keep track of observations in a personal journal: Scientists keep journals or field notes of their observations. Budding citizen scientists can too!  Keeping a journal helps develop keen observational skills. Encourage students to write descriptive notes and draw what they see as you work on your citizen-science project.

4.  Let them know it matters: As one teacher who participates in the eBird citizen-science project shared, “Citizen science gives students the ability to genuinely participate in science. When students realize that their bird observations are important data that will be used to make connections that couldn’t otherwise be made, they realize, ‘I am helping.’ This really motivates the kids to get out there and do science!” Citizen-science data has been used to make conservation recommendations, to document the spread of disease in wild animals, and to understand impacts of climate change. Your data matters!

5. Share your observations: Don’t just keep your data in a notebook or on a datasheet. Be sure you submit your citizen-science data to the project you are participating in. That way, your data helps researchers put the Earth’s puzzle together.  You can also share your actions on BirdSleuth’s Action Map (and have a chance to win a schoolyard habitat improvement grant or other prizes).

Wherever you are, and whatever your interests, there is a citizen-science project to meet your needs.  Many projects require few (if any) supplies, are free to participate in, and offer online support. You can explore options and search for a project at Citizen Science Central and SciStarter. For Earth Day and beyond… consider citizen science as a real-world, engaging way to teach science!

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Science for all

TSTHow many of us have said that students don’t study enough? A more fundamental question: Do they know how to study? Teachers may assume so, especially for secondary students. Many of the featured articles in this issue focus on strategies that focus on students learning how to learn and making the language of science accessible to all.

Beyond “Hitting the Books”* has concrete suggestions for helping students develop strategies for independent study and learning, including student-created tools such as science vocabulary notecards and study decks. Reducing Stress by Improving Study Skills notes that students’ parents list homework as a major source of stress (for the students). At the secondary level, if students have 4-6 major subjects and each teacher requires at least an hour of homework, it’s no wonder that students feel stressed, at least in terms of time. The author suggests that helping students develop their study skills could relieve some stress.

Continue reading …

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Displaying Student Work

bulletin boardI inherited a classroom-lab from a retired teacher, and I want to replace some of the generic posters with displays of student work. One of my colleagues says this is not a good idea. She didn’t explain her reasons, but now I’m not sure what to do.
—Therese, Charlotte, North Carolina

I’ve worked on statewide projects in which I had the opportunity to visit K-12 classrooms. The classrooms were generally very colorful; the bulletin boards and walls included motivational posters, teacher-created displays related to seasons or holidays, or artifacts related to the teacher’s interests. But I was surprised by the lack of student contributions. In some places, the student work was limited to cookie-cutter artwork (e.g., snowflakes, hearts, pumpkins). In some classrooms, every available inch was covered with something, which I found very distracting. And there were a few with completely bare walls.

By having students create the displays or showcasing student work, you show that you value student work and that the classroom really belongs to the students. Students have a chance to learn from and celebrate each other’s work, as they demonstrate connections to the current content or the processes they are learning.

I would check with your principal or department chairperson to see if there are any guidelines about displaying student work. (There are some schools where this is not allowed.)

The purpose of student displays is to reinforce students’ efforts and creativity, not necessarily to reward perfection. I would not display answer sheets from tests or quizzes or assignments with teacher-awarded final grades on them. Likewise, papers or projects with a simple “good job” comment don’t provide enough feedback on why they are on display.

Here are some suggestions:

Continue reading …

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Next Generation Science Standards Turn 1!

It’s been one year since the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were adopted (on April 9, 2013). Since then, the National Science Teachers Association has been incredibly busy, learning what science teachers need, creating resources that will help with implementation, and most importantly, creating a new hub where all our resources are collated and that facilitates user-friendly access to the standards. Eleven states plus Washington, D.C. have adopted the NGSS, and we’ve been there to support science teachers every step of the way. Whether you’re in a state that has adopted the NGSS or not, you’ll find that the practices they describe can be applied in any science classroom. They are based on new research on how students learn best, and they are worth a look!

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What Does the Lorax Say?

cover of the book Outdoor ScienceEarth Day 2014 is right around the corner (April 22), and I’ve noticed a huge number of NSTA members talking about Dr. Suess’s The Lorax on our members-only lists. Coincidence? I doubt it, because the book has a powerful message that appeals to both adults and children: We shouldn’t wait until it’s too late to think about becoming good stewards of the Earth. And that ‘s something that many of our NSTA authors focus on.

Steve Rich, author of Outdoor Science, urges us to get kids outside. Research shows that environment-centered education improves student achievement, and Rich shows teachers how to create outdoor learning spaces that can be used from year to year—with little extra effort or resources. These practical suggestions for creating, maintaining, and using outdoor classrooms work for both elementary and middle school students.

What’s your favorite book for getting students outside and into science?

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Language development in science

S&C for aprFor many students, science itself is a new language, with specialized vocabulary and an emphasis on observations and evidence, rather than feelings or opinions. Even the graphics in books and websites go beyond being decorative to include the language of tables, diagrams, graphs, captions, sidebars, and footnotes. The featured articles in this issue demonstrate classroom- and teacher-tested strategies for developing language skills in the school classroom.

“Poets and scientists both seek to observe, explain, and understand the world around them. Poetry’s brevity, conceptual focus, and rich vocabulary make it a natural teaching tool for connecting with science” is the big idea of Observe, Explain, Connect* The article describes how teachers can “take 5″ to introduce and share poems. The authors also include a sample lesson plan in which poetry is used to jump-start a science lesson (I wonder if this would be the “Engage” part of a 5E lesson?) [SciLinks: Reading and Writing in Science, Recycling]

Friction in Different Languages* describes a “sheltered instruction” approach to working with English Language Learners in a science lesson. Using a 5E format, the instructors designed a lesson in which students investigated friction. The lesson incorporated video, hands-on exploration, and experimenting with different surfaces—a good lesson that could be adapted for all students. See What Causes Friction (Science 101) if you need a refresher on the concept. [SciLinks: Friction, Force and Friction]

Continue reading …

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#NSTA14 Boston Stories

Group selfie from NSTA's 2014 Boston conference on science educationNSTA was in Boston last week, where more than 11.5K science teachers gathered for our national conference on science education. It was no surprise that all the selfies seemed to be group shots—because that’s what science teachers do, they share! So we can’t think of a better way to give you a taste of the rich, collaborative experience we had in Boston than to tell it through the voices of the attendees who shared their stories with us.

The conference kicked into high gear on day one with Mayim Bialik speaking on the power of one teacher. A “proud product of the public school system,” Bialik told us about the teacher who inspired her to become a scientist and then sat down with NSTA President Bill Badders to answer questions from the audience. One of our bloggers featured a great image of Bialik talking about “science, teaching, and the Big Bang Theory.”

blog picturesBut what about lesser-known presenters? Apparently the experience builds character. We already knew that science teachers were super heroes, and now we have the proof. The “Hashtag WORTH IT” blog post features one of our favorite stories of the week, and one we heard over and over in various iterations. One teacher, inspired… becomes presenter, sees herself in a new light, and becomes a next generation superhero!

Blogger Nicole Fuhrman shared some really fun stories with us that show the lighter side of the conference–especially focusing on the super networking–and talks about how important building relationships is in effective classroom management. And that’s what everyone was doing in Boston last week, learning and building their professional learning communities.

One of the most important professional collaborations we strengthened last week is focused around the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). A day-long NGSS forum facilitated a deep dive into the Next Generation Science Standards with writers, state science supervisors, assessment experts, and  was the highlight of the week for many, especially the NGSS curators who gathered to learn to use the newly launched NGSS Hub, with user-friendly access to the standards.

Other conference highlights included Bill Nye speaking about Dancing with Mars, Meet Me in the Middle Day, the Elementary Extravaganza, the 2014 Teacher Awards gala (where NSTA’s own former Executive Director, Gerry Wheeler, received the NSTA Presidential Citation), a tropical flamingo roaming the Exhibit Hall, and these top 10 from Ms. Goldstein.

We heard over and over how energized teachers felt by the experience–and our staff felt the same. And it’s not over! NSTA will be heading to New Orleans next month for the 2014 STEM Forum and Expo. Ainissa Ramirez will be the keynote speaker, and strands will focus on Primary, Upper Elementary, Middle Level, High School, Partnerships, and Administrators.

See more of the story:

GroupShotBonus Feature: Who was the most photographed personality at the conference? An extremely nonscientific survey of Twitter pics reveals a tie between YouTube guru Paul Andersen and the Flamingo, with the Geico Gecko and Schmitty the Weather Dog coming in a distant second…


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