NSTA 2010

Anne Dalke's picture
NSTA 2010
Connecting Science Past with Science Future,
by Jill Garland, Alice Kaufman, Maggie Powers, and Doug Vallette

We are looking forward to sharing some of our thoughts and reactions to the NSTA conference.  As we attended a variety of different sessions, this documents combines some of the big ideas that came out of the experience.  A few major theme emerged, federal policy and response to science education, creating inquiry-based science experiences, and the changing role of technology and digital citizenship in the classroom.   


Questions we saw being asked at the conference:

- What tech tools are acceptable for the classroom/teaching?
- Where do you get funding for tech-related projects?
- What ways can we use tech: to collaborate, for homework, for immersion/simulation, etc?
- How can we make connections between high school, higher ed, and research (content-wise and through in-person/virtual collaboration) 
-How can technology be used to enhance "old school" media like the science notebook or field journal?
-How can classroom teachers and other faculty members approach co-teaching to create the most supportive, differentiated classroom environment for students?

What we learned or what surprised us:
  • Maggie saw two different sessions/
    demonstrations of new, virtual classroom instruction or animated tools that are being created to further science learning (CHANCE & biologically realistic 3-D animations)

  • CHANCE (Connecting Humans And Nature through Conservation Experiences) seems to have a lot of exciting implications for connecting the idea behind virtual field trips to something more interactive and academic, as well as international.
    • The fact that each module is co-constructed by a high school teacher and that the program brings together undergraduates, pre-service and in-service teachers, as well as college faculty and outside scientists/researchers, also seems to set a precedent or create a model for better collaboration across age levels and eventually across disciplines (their newest project is bringing together business and science education students)
    • I also really liked that CHANCE was trying to give high school students access to the real data that scientists are currently using to examine issues like global warming or species endangerment and that the high school teachers who participate can also bring back the lived-experience of collecting that data abroad. 
    • It's also nice that the focus of the project really seems to be research and the dissemination of their data/educating a larger group of people to increase environmental awareness and therefore all of their materials/modules are free!

  • The session on creating biologically realistic 3-D animations (i.e. going into the bloodstream of a calf and watching the sodium levels and then choosing a treatment plan - an idea that started at their veterinary school) from the professor at UGA was exciting because it allowed for a different type of science immersion, where students could really enter into the body and experience how it reacts in different circumstances.
    • The technology itself was also very advanced, they are using the same software Pixar, paired with gaming technology, to create a highly detailed visual environment in which a participant can be mobile and smoothly transition from one area to another. As it continues to develop, it could have applications for other parts of the body (looking at how connections work in the brain) or other subject areas (exploring a geographic area, maybe what Europe was like during the plague or Boston during the American Revolution).

  • Maggie also attended a session that discussed the various types of technologies teachers can utilize when working with digital natives (podcasts, websites, wikis, etc) They did not really present any new material. This is a link to their presentation and some of the sites they are using with science activities/web pages/etc. Some of the links appear to be broken but there are some interesting resources. 

  • Maggie attended an interesting session on what to think about when making a lesson plan presented by a professor from Walden University. Everything in the presentation was given out on a thumb drive (I've included it in the NSTA folder) and most of the presentation just walked through the PowerPoint. The most interesting part was when we were asked to think of a lesson plan we have never done, are planning to do soon, or have always wanted to do ... and then think of the 3-4 main reasons why we haven't done it. Then we were asked to pair-share and discuss each other's problems and then he chose one attendee to share her idea and asked all of us to offer suggestions for how to help her (she's from LA and wants to teach about their watersheds by going on a trip there but she could only take 30 of the 180 children she teachers due to transportation/funding/scheduling/etc.). After we brainstormed/discussed her issue, the presenter then explained that that was what collaboration looked/felt like. I thought it was a very concrete and effective way to help some of the attendees start thinking about ways to work with other colleagues on their lessons/projects and reminded me of how valuable a peer network or online space for that type of exchange can be.

  • Maggie also stopped in on one and attended another session on virtual classroom spaces (telepresence and Elluminate). The difference and benefits between videoconferencing and TelePresence did not seem to be clear in the first session but a Cisco representative in the second one spoke to the clear, seamless exchange that's possible with TelePresence and possibilities for an immersive experience, especially for things like language exchange and also global communication/collaboration. The drawbacks being that it's extremely expensive and also requires an entire TelePresence set up on each end, so individual students would not be able to connect in from their classrooms/dorms, everyone who participates has to be in a TelePresence-ready room. Meanwhile, Elluminate can allow individual users to connect from their outside/home locations. Some attendees spoke of using Elluminate with their classes and faculty meetings and having very large groups (100-200 people) connected at at time but only via audio, since having more than one video open used too much bandwidth and slowed the connection. Problems with desktop sharing seemed universal with Elluminate, although some people also added that other programs, like Skype, don't provide a better connection either, so it maybe be a gap in current collaborative technologies. The presenters also discussed the benefits of using breakout rooms and recording sessions with Elluminate and having everyone go to a website or examine documents together. The presenters did say that they encountered difficulties encouraging/convincing their teachers/faculty to use Elluminate and become comfortable with the technology and that it took a lot of perseverance and one-on-one assistance.

  • Maggie was also surprised at how much emphasis was placed on opportunities to work with "real scientists" such as via the CHANCE project. I had not realized that the definition of a scientists was so specific and tied to people doing current research and work in the field (vs. teaching science)

  • Maggie was also interested and slightly surprised at the range of content presented at the conference. I expected there to be complex science content topics and a lot of connections to inquiry, collaboration, experimentation and hands-on learning and also technology integration and/or education, since technology and science are often paired (STEM). Instead, there were a number of what seemed like more basic technology sessions (i.e. what is a wiki and how can you use it in class, how do you write a basic lesson plan using inquiry). I'm sure there were also a number of sessions that I didn't attend that also examined more complex or advanced issues, it was just eye-opening to see that even within "tech friendly" fields, there is a huge range of interest and comfort with technology and inquiry.


  • Alice was impressed and intrigued at the vendor space. In a huge area with dozens and dozens of commercial and federal vendors, what is their purpose? Some vendors were clearly trying to sell their brand of textbooks, computer simulations, laboratory equipment, magazines, and other resources. Some, particularly the
    federal agency representatives (EPA, NOAA, etc.) seemed designed to spread information on the resources they can provide to classroom teachers. Who are these groups 'selling' to?

    • The panel discussion on the federal response to the science education crisis included
    representatives from National Institute of Health, NASA, Department of Defense,
    Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and
    Atmospheric Administration, STEM section of Department of Education, and Food
    and Drug Administration. Content was thin, and the words repeated most often were: opportunity, security, compete, defense, resources, funding.
Questions we have after attending:

  1. Where are teachers/professors/scientists getting the standards that they use to create lessons, projects and goals for new programs (ISTE, 21st century skills, national/state standard)?

  2. How are decisions made about what to recommended as tech tools for the classroom (calculators, cell phones, flip cameras, etc) Who makes the decisions and are issues around access and funding being addressed?

  3. With wikis and tools like Google Wave that allow for instantaneous editing/collaboration, what does this mean for how we are having students think in the classroom? Do we need to teach that type of collaboration? Are teachers thinking about these questions and are they re-thinking how they are/could be thinking?

  4. Where do classrooms and teachers stand with tech? Is there something like the MISO survey or some type of data collection that occurs for elementary and secondary schools to assess the ways tech is being used, when and where, in which subjects/areas (if there are differences), and maybe more important, why teachers are using tech/think they should(n't) be using tech?

  5. Who’s designing the web portals for programs like the Navy Challenge, CHANCE, etc … are there specific companies that lead the industry?Are there ways to collaborate with them?

  6. Is technology becoming a trend as a homework solution? "It's online, so you can just do it at home." What does that mean for what content becomes self-learned, student responsibility? What impact does it have on time commitments at home, parent involvement/divide and computer access?

  7. To whom are the vendors selling and advertising? What is the impact of commerce on
    teaching, collaboration, and pedagogy? Who makes curriculum choices about this
    material, and what motivates that choice?

    8. Are federal agencies 'selling' themselves to teachers and administrators as well? If so,
    why?

    9. Is the STEM education crisis real? It was referenced often by bureaucrats, and seemed
    to be accepted. I know of the debate over A Nation At Risk, but do not have a wide
    enough perspective to know its validity.
    10.What are the benefits of including a wide variety of subjects and grade levels in one
    large conference?
Things to investigate further and resources from the conference:

- CHANCE modules
- Real World Navy Challenge,
    Juicy Ideas Competition
- Videos and labs on the Howard Hughs Medical Institute site
- PhET interactive simulations
- iEARN
- 21st century skills
- infinite thinking machine
- TelePresence with Cisco
-Understanding by Design