September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

Using the Internet to Connect Science and Mathematics Teachers to Each Other and to Excellent Online Resources

Posted: Thursday, December 1st, 2011

by Laura Henriques, Davida Fischman, David Andrews, and Elizabeth Ambos

In 2007, a group of California State University (CSU) faculty from several different campuses in the 23-campus system started working together to help preservice and in-service teachers find, evaluate and use on-line science and mathematics teaching resources. Through this project, resources were identified at the local level and then linked together online for use globally. Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), Building Locally, Linking Globally provided a way for campuses to connect their preservice teachers and recent alumni to one another in order to enhance mathematics and science teaching. Pre/In-service teachers were identified both within a campus and across campuses; a particular target audience was the Noyce Scholars on CSU campuses.

Noyce Scholars are Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) majors who commit to teach in high need schools throughout the nation. Supported by NSF via stipends and scholarships, California has more Noyce Scholarship Programs than any other state. All 22 CSU campuses which credential teachers, 5 University of California (UC) campuses, and a few private higher education institutions host Noyce programs. Each campus provides in-person academic support and teaching and mentoring services to their Noyce recipients, and the  Building Locally, Linking Globally project is viewed as an important extension of the learning environments provided by CSU Noyce campuses to future teachers.

This article introduces various aspects of the Building Locally, Linking Globally project. In coming months different members of the leadership team will highlight different facets of the project, providing links to online resources and teaching materials. The resources we will highlight are all high quality, work well in classrooms, and are free. In a time where schools and teachers are strapped for cash, free resources that are tested and effective in real California K-12 classrooms are high value! Many of the resources can be used either by the teacher for classroom demonstration or other whole-class work, or by individual students working online on the materials.  We have also found that the online communities formed by pre- and in-service K-12 teachers using the various products and services are sustainable and effective ways for teachers to support learning with digital resources.

Major components of the project include:

  • Development of a web portal for preservice and novice teachers
  • Collections of online teaching resources, linked to California Science Standards and to the California Common Core Standards for Mathematics
  • Evaluation and recommendations for use of online materials for use in the K-12 classroom
  • Development of web-based portfolios
  • Use of interactive web based simulations
  • Familiarity and linkages to online databases such as the National Science Digital Library, the Mathematics Digital Library, Compadre, and MERLOT
  • Use of online data sets in the K-12 classroom

The preservice/in-service teacher web portal is an entry point for STEM teachers to learn about becoming a teacher, teacher resources (including classroom management), grants and awards, professional communities, and research opportunities. Although the page is hosted on the CSU’s server, its access is not limited to CSU students and alumni. There’s a science portal and a mathematics portal.

Groups of student and teachers have collected and evaluated online resources. These include digital libraries, interactive simulations, and more. Among our favorite resources are the Phet simulations, Virtual Courseware’s drosophola lab, and the electronic portfolio program, Content Builder.  These will each be highlighted in upcoming articles.

MERLOT is the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching. This is a digital library of teaching materials for all content areas and at all levels. Searchable by topic, type and grade, MERLOT allows users to post materials, collect resources in a personalized folder or portfolio, and it is the gateway to Content Builder, a free website/portfolio program. In upcoming issues of eCCS we will share information about how to create your own websites and e-portfolios.

Over the last four years, project participants hosted more than ten (10) professional development workshops, and alumni of the program have made several presentations at CSTA meetings. As teachers it is incumbent upon us to find new ways to reach our students. Our students tend to be more savvy technologically than we are. These amazing online resources will help us meet our students where they are and teach them in new, engaging ways. A few of the lessons learned during our project relate to how the resources can most effectively be used in the classroom setting. Here are some of the highlights of what we’ve learned:

Virtual Labs

  • Virtual labs allow all students access to materials which work. Often science teachers either don’t have “hands on” materials or sufficient materials for students to use during lab. Materials that are in the classroom often don’t match and may not work well. Using an online laboratory ensures that students will be investigating with virtual “equipment” that works.
  • Not all virtual labs are created equal.
  • Just because a lab can be done online doesn’t mean it should replace doing a lab with real equipment and materials.

How to use online resources when you don’t have easy access to a computer lab

  • A projector and teacher computer allows for interactive demonstrations or class labs. A particularly nice way to use the labs in this way is to set up the situation, have students collect and manipulate the data, and determine what it all means. A Phet simulation on two-dimensional projectile motion is a great example for this. Much more engaging than simply solving for the landing spot of a projectile is solving for the location and then testing your answer with a cannon shooting a Buick.
  • Some of the simulations we found are downloadable and can be given to students on a CD or thumb drive.
  • Most kids have computer access or smart phone access. While not all labs and simulations work on mobile devices, many do.

Practice makes perfect

  • As with any new teaching tool, it takes time to become comfortable and effective using online labs and simulations. Start small and keep at it. Only use online simulations and labs when it makes sense to do so.
  • Don’t be discouraged by a less than successful first time out. Teaching with technology is a new skill for many of us, we need to have patience with ourselves until we become reasonably expert.
  • Have a back-up plan. If you are relying on internet access for your lesson and the internet connection doesn’t work that day you should have something else prepared.

Please look for the upcoming articles in eCCS. For the rest of the spring we’ll highlight different features of the project and showcase different resources which we think you will find useful for your teaching.

This project was funded by the National Science Foundation, DUE 0735011.

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president-elect of CSTA.

Davida Fischman is a professor of mathematics at CSU San Bernardino.

David Andrews is a professor at CSU Fresno and a life member of CSTA.

Elizabeth Ambos is assistant vice chancellor for research initiatives and partnerships at the California State University Chancellor’s Office.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

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California Science Assessment Update

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 Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

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. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

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

John Keller

John Keller

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…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

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…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

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…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.