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Science Fair 2.0: Let's Bring the Science Fair into the 21st Century

From the article:

Looking for some really good ideas from teachers that are currently running very successful science fairs? We’ve captured a few of the conversations that are happening on the MSP2 social network. You can contact any of our “guest speakers” by posting a comment on their MSP2 wall.

In addition, we’ve highlighted some resources that will provide other great ideas for you and your students. Please add to the list if you have other resources that have been helpful to you. Click on NSDL Login in the upper right hand corner of this page and register so you can share your knowledge with other teachers!

If you want substantiated justification for making your students participate in science fairs, have a look at the NSDL Strand Map Service. These maps illustrate connections between concepts and across grade levels. Several contexts are associated with science fair including Nature of Science, Nature of Technologyand Habits of Mind. An image of the middle grades (6-8) only part of the Scientific Investigations map appears below. This map is one of sevne under the heading Nature of Science. Clicking on a concept within the maps will show NSDL resources relevant to the concept, as well as information about related AAAS Project 2061 Benchmarks and National Science Education Standards. Move the pink box in the lower right hand corner of the page to see the grades 6-8 learning goals.

Associated articles:

Science Fair 2.0 from NPR Science Fridays
“The science fair is a nearly century-old right of passage for students. What role does the traditional science fair play in the digital age? How can these competitions be reworked to include broader participation and encourage students, and teachers, to explore hands-on learning?”

Totally Awesome Science Fair Planning Guide

Action Science: Interview with Author Bill Robertson

Bill Robertson is a good friend of mine and is affectionally known to thousands of students across the US and around the world as “Dr. Skateboard.” He recently released a new book “Action Science:Relevant Teaching and Active Learning" on Corwin Press. He graciously has agreed to answer a few questions about his book.

But before we get started, let’s look at a video about what Action Science and Dr. Skateboard are all about:

Can you tell us a little about yourself? How did you ever get the idea to mix science instruction with BMX and skateboarding?

I’ve been a skateboarder for over 35 years, and have done demonstrations nationally and internationally. I have done hundreds of demonstrations in festivals, events and in academic settings. In my onsite school demonstrations, I have performed for thousands of students in elementary, middle, and high school levels throughout the United States, in Canada, Mexico and into South America.

Additionally, I have been an educator for over twenty years. My academic areas of expertise are science education, curriculum development and technology integration. I also teach and do research in the areas of problem-based learning and action science.

As an educator and a skateboarder, I knew I would have unique opportunities to instruct and to work with students and teachers, and the development of action science is a practical example. Through skateboarding and education, I have learned creativity, practice, patience, discipline, and goal setting. Many of my audiences of students and parents typically don’t see the connection between skateboarding and science. They often wonder, if you have a Ph.D., why do you ride a skateboard? The answer is because it’s fun and it’s part of who I am.

Give us the 10,000 ft view of Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning. 

How can you get young people interested in science and mathematics? What efforts are there to integrate the experiences of young people into the things they need to do and learn in school? How can action sports, like skateboarding and BMX, be used to teach physics, algebra, data collection, and help students to grow in their engagement and motivation in science and mathematics?

An answer to these questions and more are addressed in Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning, a new publication from Corwin for Middle School teachers and the students in their classes. This book combines physical science concepts in areas such as forces, motion, Newton’s Laws of Motion and simple machines set in the context of activities that young people enjoy doing, such as riding bikes and skateboards.

Many authors of texts are looking to solve a problem. What problem are you trying to solve by writing this work?

Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning was written as a resource for teachers to integrate a relevant and practical setting for learning centered on youth culture that would allow for the study of fundamental physics principles to be brought forward in skateboarding and bicycle motocross (BMX). This book looks to solve the dilemma that many teachers face in teaching the concepts of physical science in a context for the modern learner. Placing the content in a relatable format with action sports as a focus, combined with the use constructivism, this book presents a strategy for teaching that is student-centered and built on active learning strategies.

Do you think that by using skating and BMX as your starting point, you might alienate girls that traditionally are not attracted to these sports? 

Why write a book about physics set in youth culture? Primarily, it is a resource for middle school science teachers that integrates physical science content in the context of action sports, which should help to increase engagement and motivation in the classroom. The methodology integrated within the book is a student-centered, teacher-facilitated approach that allows for active learning within the classroom. I think this is an inclusive work that is designed to appeal to boys and girls, and the goal is to integrated engaging content to motivate learners. I also think that it can be easily expanded in the future to showcase other examples of Action Science that might be more applicable to girls, such as surfing, snowboarding and inline skating.

You have integrated a lot of QR codes and web links into the work. Do you think that text books need to become more interactive to capture the reader’s attention?

The content, images and associated video with Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning are meant to help the teacher to provide relevance for important science applications through the use of hands-on activities and engaging video and graphical content. I do believe the teacher needs to integrate technology in teaching and learning, and this book is designed as a crossover text that integrate video and high quality images that enhance the engagement aspect as well as unlock the interactive nature for content immersion by students. The book describes a process that a teacher can effectively utilize that integrates both relevant science content and purposeful teaching methods. It is not a workbook or a series of activities in and of itself, it is a professional development resource that utilizes an approach that can be integrated into the classroom in order to help the modern student learn more effectively.

Action Science is targeted to middle school students. Why that grade level?

The purpose of this book is to provide middle school teachers and students with a resource that will help them to be better equipped to instruct students and to provide students with rich and compelling content that is motivating and engaging. Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning is about today’s modern student in today’s modern classroom, and is designed to help teachers with relevant and practical approaches in science instruction. As with all middle school students, but even more so with marginalized students, science education needs to be transformed, and Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning is a great example of student-focused transformative resource designed to reach the modern learner. This is the way you wish you were taught and certainly the way in which you would want your children to learn.

How do you mix a constructivist approach to learning with skateboarding? Why do you believe in this methodology for instruction?

For education to be constructivist, the traditional teacher-student relationship, which historically has been defined by a method of the teacher delivering content while students listen passively, is discarded. Instead, teachers must serve as facilitators, mentors, role models, co-inquirers and friends, while helping students to seek understanding to the content of the classroom curriculum. Teachers need to view themselves as respectful guides and compassionate helpers who provide students the opportunities to become actively involved in their own learning and in classroom operations.

The constructivist approach used in Action Science: Relevant Teaching and Active Learning has been used over many years in schools across the United States and internationally, and the method is focused on the student and puts the teacher in the role of a facilitator in the classroom. This book combines detailed methods for instruction in the classroom, relevant activities for students to do, and captivating photos and video of top professional and amateur extreme sports athletes doing difficult and captivating tricks that underlie the science being presented.

Some say we need to go back to the “old ways” of teaching and learning: Kids sitting in desks listening to teachers teach. What do you say to that?

I say “no” to that idea and think that education needs to be relevant, practical and learning needs to be active and student-centered. This book describes the need to make the science curriculum relevant, so that a transformative educational approach can be used to motivate middle school students to learn science. If students who are reluctant to become engaged in schoolwork, can come to enjoy learning concepts in physics, such as, forces and motion, it may up to them open other educational experiences in their everyday lives.

Do you subscribe to the research that says physically active kids are more academically successful? If so, how do we get kids up away from TVs and video games and into the environment?

The importance of an active environment for learning that integrates oral, visual and kinesthetic strategies by the teacher allows for learning to center on the students. In this manner, teachers become change agents, linking the relevant life experiences of the students to the content of the curriculum, and in no area is this more needed than in Middle School science. The teacher must work to establish links within their learning communities, and to try and engage their students in active learning projects that require them to interact with individuals inside and outside the school. For the constructivist education teacher in science, learning needs to be extended into the fabric of student’s lives, not solely as a subject to be explored uniquely in a classroom.

I always like to end these interviews with this question: Who is listening? Who do you HOPE is listening?

I know that people wanting to reach young people, to make science content relevant and learning a fun process are listening. I am also sure that the action sports industry, specifically in the areas of skateboarding and BMX, are listening and actively looking for ways to combine education and action sports. Who do I hope is listening? I hope that teachers needing a path to relevance and a way to re-energize the classroom are listening. I also hope that Teacher Preparation programs and university professors are listening, and that Action Science can proliferate as an educational approach and methodology for teaching and learning.

You Can find “Action Science:Relevant Teaching and Active Learning” at these locations  :

Amazon Corwin eBooks

For more Dr. Skateboard Action, go here:

Ten Ed Tech books for summer reading in ten minutes. Part of the Ten in Ten series from EPISD.

Apr 7

It’s all about the narrative.

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.” - Indian Proverb

Have you been watching Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s excellent reboot of Carl Sagan’s classic television series Cosmos? If not, you should be. This is non-fiction television at its finest.

Every episode has a theme that is generously interspersed with the historical background of the topic. For instance, in one episode, A Sky Full of Ghosts, the host used animation and historical storytelling featuring Isaac Newton, William Herschel, Michael Faraday, and James Clerk Maxwell to explain how science came to understand the nature of black holes and how far light travels in a year, thus understanding how big the universe is and where we are in it.

William Herschel, the great English physicist, when asked if he believed in ghosts, explained to his son John, that the light we see from stars today are actually light of the stars from millions or billions of years ago. We are, he said, in fact, seeing ghosts of something that is no longer there.

The story is powerful. It is coded into our genes. We are a people of the story and our species is a species of storytellers; from the cave paintings El Castillo in Spain to The Grand Budapest Hotel to our family dinner table, we tell stories. And we learn from stories.

The producers and writers of Cosmos understand that story trumps facts and figures any day. Cosmos could have been a terribly boring retelling of science theory and formula. Instead, by weaving the story into the science, the concepts come alive. I bet you still remember what you just read about the ghosts of stars.

And the writers of Cosmos are not the only ones that know the power of the story in teaching science.

A 2010 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed an intimate connection between the brain activity of speakers and listeners in conversation, demonstrating how the brain of an engaged listener “syncs up” with a speaker. By engaging students with compelling stories that impart important material, teachers reach students both emotionally and biochemically, increasing the potential for rich learning experiences.” (source) A 2004 article from the Association for the Psychological Science broke down three reasons why storytelling in teaching is important:

  • Stories Provide a Structure for Remembering Course Material
  • Stories Are a Familiar and Accessible Form of Sharing Information
  • Telling a Story From Experience Can Create a More Personal Student-Teacher Connection

Yet the narrative is sadly missing from most teaching that we do. In our efforts to cover as much academic territory in as little a time as possible, we have thrown out or maybe even lost that trait that all of the great teachers of old had: storytelling.

So how do we get the story back into the teaching and learning? How can we make the connection to the future if we do not understand the past?

Roy C. Owens (1899-1973) in a speech to the Vancouver Club in 1958 said "We cannot know where we’re going if we don’t know where we’ve come from." That has been quoted many many times, most famously by JFK. We can only know where we come from if we know our story. We can only understand where we are today if we understand how we go here. The story is important. You cannot understand how you got to where you are without story.

I am not suggesting that we add the historical narrative to everything we teach. However, there is enough evidence to point out that the narrative is a superior way to get students understand concepts.

The narrative is a good way to make things “stick,” as the Heath Brothers would say. One of the six ways that they have for making an idea stay with someone was the Story.

In their companion piece "Teaching that Sticks," the Heath Brothers say “The stories don’t have to be dramatic, they don’t have to be captivating, and they don’t have to be entertaining. The story form does most of the heavy lifting—even a boring story will be stickier than a set of facts. And that’s comforting to a lot of us who don’t consider ourselves great storytellers or dramatists. Woody Allen said, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up,” and that seems to be true of storytelling. Ninety percent of the value is just trying.”

Authors as diverse as John Medina in Brain Rules and Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind understand that the story, or storytelling does something to the brain that tumors on multiple areas that all connect. Pink says “Story represents a pathway to understanding that doesn’t run through the left side of the brain.” The story stimulates all portions of the brain. The more neurons firing, the more learning taking place.

Doug Stevenson wrote in his blog about the relationship between brain science and storytelling: "Now is the time for leaders to become wisdom sharers – synthesizers – storytellers. Simply “getting through the content” is not only ineffective; it wastes everyone’s time. However, simply telling a story will not make you a better leader. It has to be the right story, crafted strategically to make the right point, delivered at the right time, and in a compelling way."

Change the word leader to teacher and you now understand how story becomes important in class. What is your story and how are you telling it in your classroom?

Pros and Cons of BYOD Infographic

Find more education infographics on e-Learning Infographics

From the series I do called “10 in 10” here are 10 things an reader can do.

Just some of the many uses for mind mapping software.

Apr 6
If charter schools are allowed to push out existing public schools, they should, at the very least, be subject to the same accountability measures for enrollment, attrition and disciplinary procedures, to ensure that the neediest students are being treated fairly.-Gabor

Charter School Refugees

If charter schools are allowed to push out existing public schools, they should, at the very least, be subject to the same accountability measures for enrollment, attrition and disciplinary procedures, to ensure that the neediest students are being treated fairly.-Gabor

Charter School Refugees

(Source: recitethis.com)

Call for Presentations is now open.

Call for Presentations is now open.

Apr 4
Does the web resource pass the CRAAP test? Nice tool to test a website for use in class. 

Click here for a PDF version.

Does the web resource pass the CRAAP test? Nice tool to test a website for use in class.

Click here for a PDF version.

Apr 2

Out of Print: Reimaging the K-12 Textbook in a Digital Age

From the SETDA website:

The benefits of digital content for student learning are many. Digital content can easily be kept up to date and relevant to students’ lives without the cost of reprinting or redistributing print materials. It can be made available anytime and anywhere, both online and offline, accessible when the student, teacher or parent needs it, whether from home, school, or another location. And digital content can be far richer and engaging, including not only text, but also high-definition graphics, video clips, animations, simulations, interactive lessons, virtual labs and online assessments.

Out of Print makes the case for the digital difference and how digital content can positively affect student learning and engagement, make accommodations for special learning needs, provide unbundled search and discovery, and provide support for personalized learning. It also provides profiles of four states – Indiana, Texas, Utah, and Virginia – and summarizes actions of policymakers from nearly half the states to encourage digital content. Research behind to the paper revealed seven success factors for making the shift to digital content: sustainable funding for devices, robust internet connectivity, up-to-date policies, prepared educators, intellectual property and reuse rights, quality control and alignment to standards, and state and local leadership buy-in. This research led to three recommendations:

Complete the shift from print-centric textbook adoption practices to digital resources no later than the 2017-18 school year.
Develop a vision and roadmap for completing this shift that includes eliminating unnecessary regulations and enacting supportive policies, investing in infrastructure and devices to support the shift, and ensuring effective implementation of digital policies.
Ensure a vibrant marketplace for digital and open content.

Click here to download the report

Apr 1

I have been trying out a new screen capture program and here is my first effort, a short intro to Thinglink.

ThingLink helps you create and discover rich images.

Be creative! Make your images come alive with music, video, text, images, shops and more!

Every image contains a story and ThingLink helps you tell your stories. Follow image channels from your favorite bands, bloggers and friends. Your ThingLink interactive images form a channel that other users can follow.

Share your channel with friends on Facebook and Twitter, and follow your friends. Touch and discover.