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Science ed. conference wrap-up and thoughts

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

I very much appreciated the opportunity to attend this year’s National Science Teachers Association Conference. Meeting people from across the country facing the same challenges, while being innovative, was a good kick start in the midst of the long slog to the PSSA. Between the conference and reading Education Week‘s Technology Counts, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the state of my teaching, and the state of science teaching around me.

Some ideas I took away:

  • We as teachers (science and otherwise) have the expertise to give children a 21st century education right now. Connecting knowledgeable people is the obstacle.
  • Science educators want the measurement of our student’s knowledge to matter as much as literacy or mathematics knowledge, but disagree on the worth of current assessment practices.
  • The skills the next and current generation of teachers will need to have are the ability to collaborate and the ability to facilitate student-led learning.
  • The concern over content knowledge of teachers should be secondary to the concern of how we formatively access learning. In the age of Google, students can find the answer. Our job is to make sure they get it right.
  • All of this focus on STEM or STEAM teaching is not only worthwhile, but the correct course to take. Divorcing technology from any discipline is no longer an option. Science has never been about isolated experiments, and it shouldn’t be now.
  • If students without teachers in Mali can use mobile phones to better their instruction, we need to focus on ending school cell-phone bans, research pedagogical practices that successfully incorporate cell-phones, and write the policy (Hello, 440).

I finally broke down on Friday and joined Twitter.

Honestly, I always thought the concept of displaying 140 characters or less of what you’re doing at any given time was pretty stupid. Then I heard about a teacher using twitter to update parents about what their kids were doing that day in school. Ending each lesson with a student or students composing a short summary of the work seems like a fantastic way not only for students to be reflective about their work, but also a great way to engage parents.

I don’t know if any of my student’s parents use Twitter, but it seems like an easy way to open up my classroom. After watching Michele Dixon’s presentation on Co-generative dialogue, it seems to me that making what goes on in the classroom more transparent can only help. I expect to start using Twitter with my students in mid-April once the first leg of PSSA is over.

I’m not sure how many people are familiar with drop.io. I’ve been using the service since last summer as a way to store and access data and collaborate. Since I complain so much about there not being a great way for science teachers in the city to collaborate, I figured I might as well give this a try.

Today I’ll start posting links and files, and anyone who wants to add something can go right ahead. The URL is drop.io/phillyteachingscience. The login is philly. Let’s see what we can do together.

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