Inspiring engagement in STEM – the NGSS vision takes form at King MS

This report on the expeditionary learning linking science and engineering reflects the vision of NGSS.  Teachers Gus Goodwin and Peter Hill (and their teammates) at King Middle School create a meaningful context for science and engineering.  I am inspired by the student learning capture in this video report. Take a few minutes to watch it.  I think you will agree, you can see the practices, crosscutting concepts, and core disciplinary ideas in this  expedition.


Tools to enhance Analyzing and Interpreting Data: Practice 4

This practice is all about making the thinking visible and we are lucky!

The MLTI tools provide a rich set of tools to support analyzing and interpreting data AND provides a great context for collaborating with teachers of mathematics. Some of the tools offer similar features so you and your students can choose the one that is the best fit.

As always let’s consider what the Framework says about the progression of analyzing and interpreting data from the elementary level through high school.

At the elementary level, students need support to recognize the need to record observations—whether in drawings, words, or numbers—and to share them with others. As they engage in scientific inquiry more deeply, they should begin to collect categorical or numerical data for presentation in forms that facilitate interpretation, such as tables and graphs. When feasible, computers and other digital tools should be introduced as a means of enabling this practice.

In middle school, students should have opportunities to learn standard techniques for displaying, analyzing, and interpreting data; such techniques include different types of graphs, the identification of outliers in the data set, and averaging to reduce the effects of measurement error. Students should also be asked to explain why these techniques are needed.

As students progress through various science classes in high school and their investigations become more complex, they need to develop skill in additional techniques for displaying and analyzing data, such as x-y scatterplots or cross- tabulations to express the relationship between two variables. Students should be helped to recognize that they may need to explore more than one way to display their data in order to identify and present significant features. They also need opportunities to use mathematics and statistics to analyze features of data such as covariation. Also at the high school level, students should have the opportunity to use a greater diversity of samples of scientific data and to use computers or other digital tools to support this kind of analysis.

Students should be expected to use some of these same techniques in engineering as well. When they do so, it is important that they are made cognizant of the purpose of the exercise—that any data they collect and analyze are intended to help validate or improve a design or decide on an optimal solution.

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Numbers – Students can use this software to enter, display, and analyze data in tables, spread sheets, and variety of graphs.

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Data Studio – Students can collect realtime data using PASPORT sensors OR  enter data from other sources to create graphs.   Students can use a variety of tools to analyze, summarize, and display their results.

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Students can quickly sketch a graph and then extract data from it in a number of ways. It is very useful as a way to show trends and concepts without needing extensive data sets.

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Logger Pro – Students can collect realtime data using Vernier probes OR enter data from other sources to create graphs.   Students can use a variety of tools to analyze, summarize, and display their results.

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Bento – This is a database  management tool. Students can sort and create reports from their data.  There are a number of templates that students can customize.  For example, could image students modifying the Exercise Log to collect data for a heart rate lab. The program creates entry sheets for data that are dropped onto a spread sheet.

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GeoGebra – Students can use this geometry software to create and analyze constructions. This is a powerful geometry, algebra and calculus application and a perfect complement to science.

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Grapher – This tool is pretty sophisticated.  It can create 2D and 3D graphs from simple and complex equations. It includes a variety of samples including differential equations.  It is also capable of dealing with functions and compositions of them. Grapher is able to create animations of graphs by changing constants or rotating them in space.

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MyWorld GIS – Students can import GIS databases from the web and analyze geographic data. This offers a very different window on data visualization.

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PhotoBooth – Students can record and compare photographic observations.

Sketch Up Pro Logo

SketchUp – This program should also be considered an analysis tool. Students can use Sketch up to test 3D models. By making creating prototypes in SketchUp students can test the practicality and feasibility of their ideas.
And . . . don’t forget that you can listen to the NSTA webinar on Analyzing and Interpreting Data with Dr. Ann Rivet from Teachers College Columbia University.

Tools to enhance Planning and Carrying Out Investigations: Practice 3

Happy 2013!

I am kicking of the New Year with the third in a series of posts designed to identify MLTI tools that can be used to enhance science practices.  Teachers throughout the Maine already support students to plan and carry out investigations. The good news is that are several GREAT tools on the MLTI device that you can use to expand the ways you can engage students directly in investigation.

First, let’s take a moment to consider what the Framework says about planning and carrying out investigations. The excerpt below describing the progression of planning and carrying out investigations includes teacher-guided and student-directed experiences.  Virtual investigations can provide more opportunity for both.

Students need opportunities to design investigations so that they can learn the importance of such decisions as what to measure, what to keep constant, and how to select or construct data collection instruments that are appropriate to the needs of an inquiry. They also need experiences that help them recognize that the laboratory is not the sole domain for legitimate scientific inquiry and that, for many scientists (e.g., earth scientists, ethologists, ecologists), the “laboratory” is the natural world where experiments are conducted and data are collected in the field. . .

Students should have opportunities to plan and carry out several different kinds of investigations during their K-12 years. At all levels, they should engage in investigations that range from those structured by the teacher—in order to expose an issue or question that they would be unlikely to explore on their own (e.g., measuring specific properties of materials)—to those that emerge from students’ own questions. As they become more sophisticated, students also should have opportunities not only to identify questions to be researched but also to decide what data are to be gathered, what variables should be controlled, what tools or instruments are needed to gather and record data in an appropriate format, and eventually to consider how to incorporate measurement error in analyzing data.

Older students should be asked to develop a hypothesis that predicts a particular and stable outcome and to explain their reasoning and justify their choice. By high school, any hypothesis should be based on a well-developed model or theory. In addition, students should be able to recognize that it is not always possible to control variables and that other methods can be used in such cases—for example, looking for correlations (with the understanding that correlations do not necessarily imply causality).

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NetLogo – Students can manipulate variables in existing models to explore phenomena in biology, chemistry and physics, and systems dynamics to name a just a few of the collections in the models library. Students can also adapt and develop models to test new assumptions.

Maine Explorer – Students can run, and see the effects of, preset investigations for five ecological scenarios.  Students can also investigate the effects of changing the rules of the scenario in Program a Bunny.  Teachers may download a full curriculum from the project website.

Molecular Workbench – Students can manipulate the models to investigate aspects of molecular interaction.  As an example students can manipulate the influence of the number of  atoms and the temperature to better understand Brownian motion.

Geniquest – Students can design their own crossbreeding experiments with  fantasy dragons. The ability of this program to “see” chromosomes, alleles, and genes in addition to the physical features of the dragon make the investigations appropriate at a variety of levels, from discussions of the heritability of traits at middle school to discussions of cross-over at high school .

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Wolf Quest – Let me start by saying I LOVE this simulation (game)!   By becoming immersed in a model of “being” a wolf, students can investigate the complexity of a wolf’s ecological niche and investigate what happens when a wolf changes its interaction with the environment.

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PhotoBooth – Allows students to investigate phenomenon around them by recording photographic observations comparing changes.

MyWorld and Google Earth – Allow students to investigate relationships among many different types of datasets. This tools provides a great way to develop the understanding in the Framework “that it is not always possible to control variables and that other methods can be used in such cases—for example, looking for correlations (with the understanding that correlations do not necessarily imply causality).”

Tools to enhance Developing and Using Models: Practice 2

This fall, Phil Brookhouse has been delivering workshops showcasing  MLTI resources educators can use to integrate the  8 Science and Engineering Practices described in A Framework for K-12 Science Education into classroom instruction.
This guest post from Phil addresses Developing and Using Models: Practice 2 and highlights the MLTI resources that you can use to support this practice in your classroom.  Thank you, Phil!
Computers hold real promise in the learning process, especially when educators use them to help students understand science and engineering concepts. Back in the ‘80s, Seymour Papert proposed that computers have the power to “concretize the abstract.” In other words, computers can demonstrate phenomena that cannot be represented in real time or scale.  Computers can  provide models and simulations that animate processes, strip away variables that mask relationships, compress or expand time and scale, and allow students to observe how changing variables affect outcomes.
What does the Framework have to say about models? The authors describe the progression of the second practice as follows:
Modeling can begin in the earliest grades, with students’ models progressing from concrete “pictures” and/or physical scale models (e.g., a toy car) to more abstract representations of relevant relationships in later grades, such as a diagram representing forces on a particular object in a system. Students should be asked to use diagrams, maps, and other abstract models as tools that enable them to elaborate on their own ideas or findings and present them to others  Young students should be encouraged to devise pictorial and simple graphical representations of the findings of their investigations and to use these models in developing their explanations of what occurred.
More sophisticated types of models should increasingly be used across the grades, both in instruction and curriculum materials, as students progress through their science education. The quality of a student-developed model will be highly dependent on prior knowledge and skill and also on the student’s understanding of the system being modeled, so students should be expected to refine their models as their understanding develops. Curricula will need to stress the role of models explicitly and provide students with modeling tools (e.g., Model-It, agent- based modeling such as NetLogo, spreadsheet models), so that students come to value this core practice and develop a level of facility in constructing and applying appropriate models.
Since the Framework references NetLogo, let me start with this MLTI resource first. NetLogo is a modeling resource with an extensive library of models that represent many science and engineering concepts. Teachers can use these models to help student explore and understand phenomena.  Students can manipulate the models, AND students can “play” with the coding to investigate assumptions that are built into the models. This means students can both use the existing models, and adapt and develop their own models to test new assumptions.
Maine Explorer, is an application that includes modeling.  The Foundation for Blood Research developed this application especially for Maine with funding from the National Science Foundation. This software offers five ecological scenarios in which students manipulate variables in the simulations.  Maine Explorer ALSO allows students to adjust the model programming and understand the “nuts and bolts” of how the model are built. Users across the country have given Maine Explorer accolades its conceptual depth and pedagogical promise. Teachers may download a full curriculum from the project website.
Concord Consortium created both Molecular Workbench and Geniquest. Teachers can use these resources also to promote student interaction with models and simulations. Molecular Workbench has a library of models and activities that represent physical science, life science, and chemistry at the microscopic level.  Molecular Workbench allow students to “see” the molecular interactions. Geniquest offers a genetic context in which students crossbreed fantasy dragons, observe dominant and recessive traits and the process of meiosis, see Punnett Squares and pedigrees in action, and explore what happens at the chromosomes, alleles, and genes levels.
Let us not forget that developing proficiency with models includes students creating and understanding graphical representations. There are several MLTI resources that students can use to create graphs from data.  They include: Numbers, Data Studio and Logger Pro, Grapher and GeoGebra, and Omni Graph Sketcher. Educators can also use these tools to prompt students to explore the relationships among data.  Numbers, a spreadsheet and layout program, is found in iWorks. Data Studio and Logger Pro allow students to use real time data and tables to build graphs and use analytical tools. Grapher and GeoGebra offer rich graphing and analysis capabilities. And, Omni Graph Sketcher is yet another graphing tool that supports students to make elegant and precise graphs quickly.                          .
MyWorld and Google Earth are also important tools that allow students to use and develop geographical models to represent data and conceptual relationships spatially. Educators can access  a world of databases that can be used with these tools to build conceptual understanding.
SketchUp Pro is a 3D modeling application that supports students to build models in three dimensions to solve design problems, explore scale, measurement, and design feasibility.
Scratch, a simple programming environment,  allows students to build their own models. These models can be games, animations, presentations, or applications. The real power of Scratch is in its ease of use. Students “build” programs using modules rather than more complex programming language.

Tools to enhance Asking Question and Defining Problems: Practice 1

This summer Phil Brookhouse and I inventoried the MLTI tools using a “science practices” lens. Our purpose was to identify the tools that provide obvious instructional support for integrating the 8 Science and Engineering Practices described in A Framework for K-12 Science Education.

Over the next few months Phil and I will write about each of the 8 science and engineering practices.  We will also offer suggestions about which MLTI tools can be used to support integration of each of the practices into classroom instruction.

I hope that this series will serve as a complement to the Practices webinars that NSTA offered this fall, to the MLTI workshops that Phil is currently conducting around Maine, to the Cross Disciplinary Content Literacy sessions, AND to the upcoming webinar series on the Practices that the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA) will offer starting December 10, 2012.  The MMSA series will concentrate its focus on the engineering practices.

So . . . now to Asking Questions and Defining Problems . . .

The Framework for K-12 Science Education describes the following K-12 progression for asking questions and defining problems in the following way.

Students at any grade level should be able to ask questions of each other about the texts they read, the features of the phenomena they observe, and the conclusions they draw from their models or scientific investigations. For engineering, they should ask questions to define the problem to be solved and to elicit ideas that lead to the constraints and specifications for its solution. As they progress across the grades, their questions should become more relevant, focused, and sophisti- cated. Facilitating such evolution will require a classroom culture that respects and values good questions, that offers students opportunities to refine their questions and questioning strategies, and that incorporates the teaching of effective questioning strategies across all grade levels. As a result, students will become increas- ingly proficient at posing questions that request relevant empirical evidence; that seek to refine a model, an explanation, or an engineering problem; or that challenge the premise of an argument or the suitability of a design. (Framework, p. 56)

We found some GREAT resources that you can use to support the practices. Below I have listed each of the MLTI resources and how it could be used to support Practice 1. As a visual cue, I have also included the icon used in the applications window. Try one out this week!

Data Studio Logo

1.  Data Studio  and Logger Pro- Data display tools that provide a way to display real-time data, with or without probes.  Teachers can use these displays to solicit student questions.

Geniquest Logo

2.  Geniquest – A series of powerful genetics simulation activities that can be used to prompt students to pose questions about heritable traits and set up tests to find the results.

Molecular Workbench Logo

3. Molecular Workbench – Another interactive set of simulation tools that can be used to prompt students to answer and pose questions about molecular interactions and test the results.

4. Google Earth – A imaging tool that needs little introduction, Google Earth can be used to prompt students to answer and pose questions about relationships between geography and phenomena through its many maps and constructions layers.

5. Maine Explorer- This multi-layered software includes ecological activities and modeling tools specific to Maine that students can directly manipulate, providing the opportunity to play “What if?” scenarios about ecological concepts.

6. My World GIS – With its GIS layering and powerful analysis tools, you can use this software to prompt students to explore relationships and analysis of many geographical and other databases.

7. Net Logo – A rich library of science and non-science simulations, these tools have a wide range of complexity.  Some are appropriate for middle level and some are more appropriate for high school.  Teachers can direct students to interact with models and explore “What if?” scenarios connected to science concepts.

Numbers Logo

8. Numbers – Calculation and graphing functions that teachers can use as tools for students to organize and analyze data in and then prompt students to ask further questions about the representations.

9. SketchUp Pro – Using this CAD design

SketchUp Pro Logo

program, students can pose design questions and generate solution designs. Students can also ask questions about the constraints and limits of existing designs

Remember, you can also view the NSTA webinar on the Practice of Asking Questions and Defining Problems.

What teachers of English language learners should know about NGSS and CCSS for math

Last week Michele Mailhot and I offered a webinar for teachers of English Language Learners (ELL).

This webinar addresses the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Math and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), including a brief history and review of similarities and differences with the Maine Learning Results.  Building background knowledge to improve communication between EL and content teachers, the webinar looks at how content teachers work with these standards, build lesson plans and apply the standards to instructional practices. The presentation highlights the MANY similarities between CCSS for Mathematics and the NGSS.   At the end of the webinar we point to a variety of resources that teachers can use to learn more and gain a better understanding of CCSS and NGSS.

The webinar and resources are archived for your use. Please share them with others.

Later next week I will post materials from my upcoming presentation for the Maine Principals Association Conference on March 16, 2012,  “What Every Principal Should Know about STEM Education”.

Vital Signs prepares teachers for new standards

Just about a year ago GMRI’s Vital Signs Program Manager, Sarah Kirn, was my blogs’ very first guest posting.  I am lucky to be able to share this post from Christine Voyer, also with GMRI’s Vital Signs program.  Christine helps us to see how GMRI’s Vital Signs program is helping to prepare Maine teachers for the NGSS. Thank you, Christine…

At the Maine Science Teachers Association (MSTA) annual conference Rhonda Tate of Dedham School and I got to share Vital Signs with a group of interested teachers from around the state. One of the big topics at MSTA this year was the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I was excited to show these teachers some of connections between Vital Signs and the science practices outlined in the Framework. Here’s some of what I shared.

Students collecting data along coast.

Vital Signs was developed both to provide a service to the science research community and to achieve science learning goals. Ready, Set, SCIENCE! (RSS) was a significant resource in VS development. RSS draws on

Ready, Set, Science!

research findings from National Research Council on best practices in science teaching. This work also underlies the development of the Framework for K-12 Science Education and the NGSS. While educators organize their students’ Vital Signs experiences in different ways and around different topics in the content area (this flexibility is one of the strengths of Vital Signs) their participation is strongly tied to the science practices in the Framework.

The first science practice in the Framework is, “Asking questions.” By using Field Missions as the research questions that guide their investigations, students are seeing that science starts with a question that we can answer with evidence. Investigations can focus on research questions that highlight content core ideas around biodiversity, ecosystems, evolution, and more.

Measuring insects.

Measuring insect length.

Planning and carrying out investigations is another of the science practices in the Framework. Students plan and carry out investigations with more or less scaffolding depending on the Field Mission selected or the development of their own school or class field mission. The selected Field Mission is a great way for teacher and student participation to evolve over time. Check out the Massabesic Field Mission for an example of this kind of evolution.

When students support their found or not found claim with photo and written evidence they are exercising the scientific practice of engaging in argument from evidence. They also have opportunities to support their arguments with evidence through the data analysis.

The Framework calls out analysis and interpretation of data. There are examples of analyses that students can do as part of their Vital Signs investigations on the Mission: Analysis page. These Analysis Missions invite the use of models, as well as mathematical and computational thinking which are also practices called out in the Framework. “I’m actually looking forward to the standards change – kids learning real science by doing real science and having a stake in what they learn. I feel lucky to have Vital Signs as a resource to count on. For once in my career, I feel ahead of the game” Pat Parent, Massabesic Middle School teachers like Pat who are already using VS are happy to discover that the learning in their classroom is aligned with the Framework for the Next Generation Science Standards and they’re excited to bring their colleagues on board.

Remember you can become a follower of the Vital Signs Blog.