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: Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.
For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.
The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
The 2017 Award Season is now open! One of the benefits of being a CSTA member is your eligibility for awards as well as your eligibility to nominate someone for an award. CSTA offers several awards and members may nominate individuals and organizations for the Future Science Teacher Award, the prestigious Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, and the CSTA Distinguished Contributions Award (organizational award). May 9, 2017 is the deadline for nominations for these awards. CSTA believes that the importance of science education cannot be overstated. Given the essential presence of the sciences in understanding the past and planning for the future, science education remains, and will increasingly be one of the most important disciplines in education. CSTA is committed to recognizing and encouraging excellence in science teaching through the presentation of awards to science educators and organizations who have made outstanding contributions in science education in the state and who are poised to continue the momentum of providing high quality, relevant science education into the future. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
CSTA is now accepting applications from regular, preservice, and retired members to serve on our volunteer committees! CSTA’s all-volunteer board of directors invites you to consider maximizing your member experience by volunteering for CSTA. CSTA committee service offers you the opportunity to share your expertise, learn a new skill, or do something you love to do but never have the opportunity to do in your regular day. CSTA committee volunteers do some pretty amazing things: Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Marian Murphy-Shaw
If you attended an NGSS Rollout phase 1-3 or CDE workshops at CSTA’s annual conference you may recall hearing from Chris Breazeale when he was working with the CDE. Chris has relocated professionally, with his passion for science education, and is now the Executive Director at the Explorit Science Center, a hands-on exploration museum featuring interactive STEM exhibits located at the beautiful Mace Ranch, 3141 5th St. in Davis, CA. Visitors can “think it, try it, and explorit” with a variety of displays that allow visitors to “do science.” To preview the museum, or schedule a classroom visit, see www.explorit.org. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, March 13th, 2017
by Joseph Calmer
Probably like you, NGSS has been at the forefront of many department meetings, lunch conversations, and solitary lesson planning sessions. Despite reading the original NRC Framework, the Ca Draft Frameworks, and many CSTA writings, I am still left with the question: “what does it actually mean for my classroom?”
I had an eye-opening experience that helped me with that question. It came out of a conversation that I had with a student teacher. It turns out that I’ve found the secret to learning how to teach with NGSS: I need to engage in dialogue about teaching with novice teachers. I’ve had the pleasure of teaching science in some capacity for 12 years. During that time pedagogy and student learning become sort of a “hidden curriculum.” It is difficult to plan a lesson for the hidden curriculum; the best way is to just have two or more professionals talk and see what emerges. I was surprised it took me so long to realize this epiphany. Learn More…