Taking on Tech: From Daunting Task to Indispensable Tool
Posted: Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
by Chelsea Poma and Jill Grace
Where does a second year science teacher start? Still getting used to a school and its students, families, and colleagues, we are still very much in survival mode. We find ourselves needing to re-vamp lessons from the prior year, wrap our heads around NGSS, and try to take care of ourselves so that we can bring our A-game – because isn’t that what every kid deserves? The cherry on top here in California has to be the added layer of BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment). Designed to support new teachers and provide mentoring, BTSA also requires a lot of new teachers, adding another layer on to their to-do list.
Enter an unexpected partnership between us: Chelsea and Jill. My second year has, as a whole, been far more successful than my first… who’s wasn’t, really? I feel I owe that to the collaborative spirit of my colleague, Jill. Getting to pick her brain all year has been a privilege for me beyond measure; I guess I was blessed by the fact that she has had to valiantly take on a section of 6th grade science this year, which enabled this meeting of the minds to occur. There has also been some, if I may say, courageous dabbling in NGSS, something I never would have attempted without the opportunity to collaborate. Although I have a great BTSA mentor (a beloved retired language arts teacher with mad classroom management and organizational skills), I sometimes just need a science teacher to bounce ideas off of. (Jill will would like to add that I also graciously agreed to provide some support to her this Spring term, helping out with lessons for her many sub days as she is a part of the state’s NGSS Roll Out #2 team.)
When I initially found out that the focus of my final BTSA inquiry was to involve technology in the hands of the students, my heart dropped. A tech-focused inquiry coinciding with three solid weeks of computer-based testing during which virtually all usable tech would be unavailable? I started to feel Sisyphus-level futility sinking in. But, as all teachers do, I soldiered on.
As Jill and I mapped out our earthquake and volcano unit, I explained my plight. We quickly realized the solution: ”bring your own device”! Fortunately, our school has been forward thinking and recently adopted a “bring your own device” policy, allowing students to have mobile devices, tablets, etc. with them in class. Not all students have these, of course, but with some creative student grouping, we thought it would be fun to incorporate use of the United States Geologic Survey earthquake app into a lesson. Using the USGS earthquake app on their own devices, the use of a traditional classroom computer was unnecessary. Not only did this solution bring the lesson into the 21st century, but it also allowed us to integrate some NGSS critical-thinking and argumentation skills into the lesson plan.
We also decided that this would be a great time to challenge ourselves to play around a bit with NGSS. We quickly realized that Performance Expectations MS-ESS2-2 and MS-PS3-5 melded well with the 1998 standards we are currently teaching. Following the model for 5E lesson plan that is featured in California NGSS Roll Out #2, we began by teasing out the concepts we wanted to target in the lesson, followed by identifying what teachers and students would be doing.
*Sample Claim-Evidence-Reasoning table can be found in the “Output Arsenal” discussed in this article. Please note that these students have been practicing these all year. This would take more direct instruction/scaffolding if a new task for students.
As a result, we took care of three birds with one stone: BTSA technology integration, practice with NGSS, and a collaborative effort from which both of us were able to benefit. Further, for me, more exposure to the 5E model has bolstered my ability to use this thorough and useful tool that supports student thinking. It’s exciting to practice guiding students to discover new ideas. Thus, an initially daunting and seemingly impossible prospect became an enriching and eye-opening opportunity to really play around with the new standards, incorporating technology as a tool to deepen student understanding and underscore the real purpose of NGSS: to shape learners (i.e. future voters) to become critical thinkers who can effectively use data in explanation, argumentation, and understanding. By no means is this a perfect NGSS lesson, but we thought it would be good to start trying. Truly, these are the exciting moments we as educators–veteran and untested alike–live for.
We are curious to know the ways you have discovered to incorporate technology into your lessons. Join our conversation on our California Middle School Teachers Facebook Group. (Not a member of the group? Send us a join request then check your “other” message box for verification)
Chelsea Poma is a second year 6th grade science teacher at Palos Verdes Intermediate School who bravely agreed to tackle this article as she was working on her final BTSA inquiry! Her colleague, Jill Grace (also a middle school science teacher at PVIS and the CSTA Middle School/Jr. High Director) was her cheerleader on the side.
Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016
by Jessica Sawko
In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.
At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ta/tg/ai/infomeeting.asp.) Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
by Carol Peterson
1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/google-offers-360-degree-tours-of-us-national-parks/. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!
Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award
The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Peter A’hearn
NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?
The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…
Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016
by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt
Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. Learn More…