The goTenna Off-Grid Communication Device: Take A “Cell Network” on your next Field Trip

Imagine co-leading a science field trip indoors in a large museum with questionable cell coverage, or outside and too far from the nearest cell tower. The goTenna system allows you to directly contact another goTenna equipped teacher using their smartphone independent of a cellular connection. The goTennas are their own communication network that runs between the phones. And there is no limit to the number of goTennas that can play together.

Continue reading …

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Legislative Update: DeVos Confirmed as ED Secretary/House Kills ESSA Accountability Regulations

After a long and contentious confirmation battle the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education on February 7 after a highly partisan 51 to 50 vote. Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote to confirm DeVos after two Republican Senators—Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—joined Democrats and voted nay during the full Senate vote, days after both voted yes to the nomination in the HELP committee (which moved the confirmation to the full Senate.)

Prior to the vote, Senate Democrats staged a 24 hour “talkathon” on the Senate floor to oppose the DeVos nomination and to encourage a Republican to vote nay on the confirmation. This came after a huge public backlash in opposition to the DeVos nomination.

DeVos became the nation’s 11th Education secretary.

Reactions to the confirmation came quickly after the vote. Senate HELP Committee ranking member Patty Murray said DeVos would be “one of the most controversial and embattled Education secretaries in the history of the department.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement that “DeVos’ confirmation battle has a major silver lining: The public in public education has never been more visible or more vocal, and it is not going back in the shadows.”  

NEA President Lily Eskelsen García noted “Americans across the nation drove a bipartisan repudiation of the Trump-DeVos agenda for students and public education. Today’s outcome marks only the beginning of the resistance. Students, educators, parents, civil rights and special education advocates—along with millions of Americans—are speaking loud and clear: we are here to stay…we will protect public education.”

Ed Patru, a spokesman for DeVos, told POLITICO, DeVos overcame “an unprecedented personal assault” from teachers unions, noting “Betsy DeVos’ confirmation marks a critically important shift in federal education policy: from now on, the needs of kids will supersede the political interests of adults, and education policies will be decided by states and local school boards, not Washington.”

Read more here.

House Overturns Rules on ESSA Accountability and Teacher Prep

As expected this week the House overturned the Obama Administration’s accountability rule under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the regulation governing teacher preparation programs.

The House and Senate have until early May to use the Congressional Review Act on regulations issued in the last half year of the Obama administration. 

The ESSA Accountability regulation was issued to help states design and implement new accountability provisions required in the Every Student Succeeds Act. Many Republicans believe the rule was too prescriptive and gave the Secretary of Education too much authority in state decision making. Democrats issued a statement saying that eliminating the rule would create uncertainty as states developed their ESSA plans. More here.

Most in the education community are opposed to the teacher preparation rules and believe changes made by the federal government should be part of the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The American Association for Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) Action Alert system is working to rescind the teacher prep regulations in the Senate. Go here.

And finally . . .

The House education committee held its first hearing this week about higher education in the 115th Congress in anticipation of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The hearing focused on ways to strengthen the nation’s system of higher education “for students, parents, institutions and taxpayers.”

On the day that Betsy DeVos was confirmed as ED Secretary, Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie introduced H.R. 899, a bill to abolish the federal Department of Education. The one sentence long bill states, “The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.”

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.


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An ECSTEM conference experience

An early childhood education conference is an opportunity to meet others who share a passion for improving our science teaching practice, meet our education mentors and gain new insights into why certain educational practices are effective. It’s a privilege to be able to attend, and fun to experience. It’s also a time to hear about new research that can guide us to achieve our goals of starting all children on the path to scientific literacy. Our local -AEYC and other professional organizations offer this kind of learning experience in smaller bites, and wider geographic locations. 

The Early Childhood Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (ECSTEM) conference hosted by The Children’s Center at CalTech for the fifth year, joined by THINK Together, brought together educators from 26 states and 5 countries as well as many, many more local California residents. The theme of “Curiosity” inspired presenters and promoted discussion. I felt fully in that happy place where early childhood education and science education overlap, so please join me as I reflect on the experience. Listen to what this Florida educator from the Osceola Center for Early Learning in the Osceola County School District has to say about her conference experience (we continued our conference networking while at the airport on the way home.)

 

I heard many times that the quality of the sessions met participants needs, and the venue, food, level of organization, and friendliness of the community made everything else a positive experience. With so many interesting session descriptions it was hard to choose among them. 

Arriving at the conference, an exhibit too!

Susan Wood greets Beth Van Meeteren

Susan Wood greets presenter Dr. Beth Van Meeteren

Poster from the exhibit

Hawkins’ Centers of Learning exhibit: “Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child: The Philosophy of Frances and David Hawkins”

At registration we were greeted by CCC Director and conference founder, Susan Wood, who engaged us with the Hawkins’ Centers of Learning exhibit, “Cultivate the Scientist in Every Child: The Philosophy of Frances and David Hawkins.” The panels illuminated the ideas of “eolithism,” “messing about,” “I, Thou, It,” and “Teacher as Learner.” The table of rocks gave us materials to mess about, a satisfying way to experience messing about and also wonder in a scientific way. We later heard more about these ideas from Alex CruickshankList of conference sponsors, Community Outreach Specialist of the Boulder Journey School.

As an early childhood educator I am very familiar with looking for funding to create opportunities to learn and appreciate how sponsors make these opportunities possible! Continue reading …

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The Celestron Micro-Fi Wireless Digital Microscope: A Handful of Wow!

The term “wireless” does not so much describe what is, but instead what isn’t. And what isn’t is wires. What’s strange about many wireless technologies is there was never a wired version to begin with so describing the device by an absent feature that never was present in the first place can be confusing to those who grew up in a post-wire world. Imagine if cars were still considered horseless carriages. Another indication of progress is the lack of a capitol letter or hyphen. For example, email officially became a thing when it changed from E-mail to e-mail, and finally to email. And the internet arrived when it no longer was capitalized in common usage. At least that is one perspective on so-called disruptive technologies.

The Celestron Micro-Fi is a highly portable handheld digital microscope/video camera released in 2014 that can magnify subjects up to 80x. Powered by three AA batteries, and carrying onboard lighting in the form of six LEDs surrounding the lens, the Micro-Fi has few limits in the field.

The ergonomics of the Celestron Micro-Fi are excellent and make for a simple effective one-handed user interface. For tripod mounting a 1/4-20 threaded port is included that provides mechanical stability when needed when distance, safety or stealth is desired. The other controls include a illumination adjustment wheel, a focus wheel, a shutter release button, and an on/off switch.

Outdoors, lichen and moss present stunning subjects for the Celestron Micro-Fi. At the microscopic scale, there is no shortage of things at your fingertips to explore, including exploring your own fingertips.

Networking

The Celestron Micro-Fi uses the 802.11x standard of wireless communication to share images and video at 15 frames per second. The 802.11 standard is the one common to wireless network routers. Someday Bluetooth may be able to carry enough information to share video, but for now the wireless of choice is something else. Why this is important is three-fold. First, the 802.11 standard is powerful enough for the lightweight battery-powered unit to send video through the air up to 10 meters and up to two hours. Second, the wireless standard is not exclusive to one pairing. Instead the the Celestron Micro-Fi can have up to three individual computing devices connected at one time. And those devices can be of different operating systems and platforms such as an iPhone, an Android tablet and an iPad. Continue reading …

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STEM Sims: Interactive Simulations for the STEM Classroom

Introduction

By subscribing to STEM Sims, teachers can open-up a kaleidoscope of educational and interactive classroom activities for students. These activities are relevant for teachers who are interested in a research-based approach to investigate STEM content that is aligned with the National NGSS Standards –https://stemsims.com/about/standards/national.pdf

To begin, the first step is to visit the STEM Sims website, which can be found at the following website –https://stemsims.com. Once there, you will find that STEM Sims maintains over 100 simulations of laboratory experiments and engineering design simulations. Designed with excellent graphics,  these simulations are meticulous in adhering to content and engaging students into meaningful classroom learning scenarios. Moreover, like the best video games, these simulations are challenging and are designed to harness students’ attention. The good news, however, is that the content of these  activities is relevant and standards-based.  

After sampling several activities, we found STEM Sims to be an incredibly user-friendly program for both teachers and students. Moreover,  a single subscription gives access for 30 students to participate in the activities. In addition, for students who need remediation, STEM Sims provides students with background information and terminology for each simulation activity. Continue reading …

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Mentoring — A team effort

The most experienced science teacher is retiring this year at the middle school where I am principal. The other five teachers on the science faculty are early in their teaching careers. What are your thoughts on asking an experienced non-science teacher to mentor the new hire?  —K., VA

When I started as a teacher we did not have a formal mentor program, and the other two science teachers were almost as new as I was. I struggled with an especially challenging group of students until a veteran English teacher took me under her wing and helped me through the first year.

Years later, I was asked to mentor a new Spanish teacher. My knowledge of Spanish is minimal, but the principal noted many issues faced by new teachers transcend specific subjects. Classroom management, relationships with students, dealing with parents, navigating paperwork—all beginning teachers face these challenges. Even though our subjects were different, my mentee and I worked well together, developing a sense of trust and mutual respect.

In addition, perhaps the retiring teacher would be willing to be “on-call” to answer questions or provide advice. The district safety officer can also help with questions related to safe practices and inventories. Encourage your team of young science teachers to form a “support group” to share ideas and experiences.

The onsite mentor can help the new teacher with school culture and local issues and requirements, even though subject areas are different. Remind your new teacher that he/she has hundreds of potential online science mentors in the NSTA listservs and discussion forums. These experienced colleagues can provide just-in-time answers to questions specific to science instruction.

Having an onsite and online team of mentors can help to make the first year less lonely.

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Commentary: It’s About Time to Teach Evolution Forthrightly

Fifty years ago, in 1967, the Tennessee legislature repealed the Butler Act, a 1925 law that made it a misdemeanor for a teacher in the state’s public schools to “teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals” (Larson 2012).

It was the Butler Act under which John Thomas Scopes was prosecuted and convicted in what remains the most iconic event in the litigious

Teacher John Scopes shortly before the 1925 “monkey trial.”

history of evolution education in the United States (Moore and McComas 2016).

Teaching evolution is still contentious
The repeal of the Butler Act notwithstanding, the teaching of evolution is still contentious. Proposals to require the teaching of Biblical creationism, creation “science,” and intelligent design—all billed as scientifically respectable alternatives to evolution—have, in a series of federal court cases, been ruled to be unconstitutional (Branch, Scott, and Rosenau 2010). Evolution’s opponents have thus resorted to calling for teachers to be required or encouraged to misrepresent evolution as scientifically controversial. Such proposals were enacted as laws in Louisiana in 2008 and Tennessee in 2012 (Matzke 2016).

But of course evolution is anything but scientifically controversial. The nation’s premier scientific organizations, the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, are on record as describing evolution as the foundation of the biological sciences (NAS 2008; AAAS 2006). Moreover, the consensus is reflected among individual scientists. In a 2014 survey, 98% of scientists—and 99% of active research scientists and working PhD biomedical scientists—accepted that “[h]umans and other living things have evolved over time” (Rainie and Funk 2015). Continue reading …

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Students Teaching Science to Younger Students

A Science Ambassador from North Forsyth High School in Cumming, Georgia, uses a tube with a marble inside it as a “roller coaster” to teach an elementary school student about gravity, force, and motion.

For more than 42 years, Manhattan High School in Manhattan, Kansas, has offered the Wide Horizons Nature Program, a science course in which high school students “work with a partner to put together a [30-minute] educational program [and] teach [it] at local elementary [schools] and preschools,” says science teacher Leslie Campbell, who has taught it for five years. Wide Horizons students “report to my classroom to pick up supplies, then drive out to the schools to present. The goal is to do it all within a normal class hour,” Campbell explains.

“It has grown to be two classes per day (36 students enrolled between the two this year). They present 2–3 times per week on their subject,” she reports, adding, “I make sure their science instruction will enhance elementary school classes.”

The course has no set curriculum. In 1974, biology teacher Gary Ward designed it “as a flexible course for juniors and seniors to pursue their [individual] nature study interests,” says retired biology teacher Tish Simpson, who taught Wide Horizons from 1994 to 2011. Prerequisites include teacher recommendation, science interest, commitment to a year-long class, good character, reliability, and responsibility—“not necessarily their academic performance,” she notes. Students need to have completed required lab science credits or “be taking them simultaneously” because Wide Horizons is an elective, she adds. They also need to have “some form of transportation to the elementary schools.”

Campbell also relies on student recommendations because peers typically are knowledgeable about students’ attitudes and social skills when “dealing with younger students, teachers, and administrators,” she relates. After checking with guidance counselors and other teachers, she issues invitations to students interested in taking the course. Continue reading …

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The Carson HookUpz 2.0: The Missing Link Between Camera and Eyepiece

Over the years I have held digital cameras and phones up to the eyepieces of telescopes, spotting scopes, binoculars, and most often microscopes to take pictures, capture video, and stream imagery to projectors and TVs. In all cases the idea was sound and the optics were fine, but the execution needed work even when duct tape was involved.

The HoldOnz 2.0 clamps securely to a Leica dissecting scope leaving one eyepiece open for critical focusing.

More than a few devices were employed to assist in holding the camera in the perfect position to look down the pipe of what instrument I was trying to leverage. Some adapters worked better than others, but the perfect clamp was illusive. The best solution was often dedicated electronic eyepieces that were expensive stand-along cameras of mild resolution. What was really needed was an elegant adapter that fits all phone cameras and all eyepieces. A pipe dream of sorts if you don’t mind the pun.

Enter the Carson HookUpz 2.0. The HookUpz 2.0 is a highly adaptable adapter that accommodates smartphones of many sizes on one end and eyepieces of many sizes on the other. The HookUpz 2.0 fits eyepieces diameters from 25mm to 58mm, and holds smartphones sizes from iPhone 4 through iPhone 7 Plus and other phablets.  Continue reading …

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The Micro Phone Lens: A Tiny Solution to a Huge Problem

Other than computer code, the Micro Phone Lens just might be the lightest accessory you can add to your tablet or phone. Weighing in at a fraction of a gram, the tiny lens leverages the optical power of existing cameras on phones and tablets. And like a contact lens, its power is not measured in size but in performance.

Taking close-up photos and video, and I mean really close-up, pushes not only the limits of phone camera technology, but also the physics of visible light. In order to refract the light waves enough to focus on a subject that is a few millimeters from the lens, a significant amount of light-bending convex transparent material must be in the path of the light. Of course it would be easy to do that when the camera was made, but since most photos are not extreme close ups, the lens optics favor the more distant subjects. Close-up or macro photography captures details much smaller than what an unaided human eye can see. So macro can be the details on a penny, or a pinhead, or even a pinpoint.

 

One major difference between the Micro Phone Lenses and other clip-on accessory lenses is that the Micro Phone Lens is about the same size or even smaller than the camera lens on the device so it fits directly on the camera and is unaffected by anything surrounding the lens. Any lens accessory larger than the camera can be affected by a phone or tablet case. And worse, any space between the accessory lens and the camera lens wreaks havoc with the camera’s ability to focus, not to mention the tunneling or vignetting that separating causes. Continue reading …

Posted in NSTA Recommends: Technology, Science 2.0 | 3 Responses