Three Web 2.0 Science Projects for Your Science Courses

The Web 2.0 science projects described in this post will enable your students to interact with students around the globe.

Web 2.0 refers to using the Web in a more interactive, and social way where students can create, share, publish and work together in collaborative groups.  Over the years, science teachers have created a variety of Web 2.0 projects for K-12 students.

This post is to announce the availability of three Web 2.0 projects that you can use with your students.  The projects are geared to students in grades 4 – 12, and they can be used in a variety of situations.  They could be used as an interesting way to begin the year (especially Project Green Classroom), individual or small teams of students could use any of the projects as a starting place for a project or a science fair investigation.  You could use any of these as part of your ongoing curriculum.

The Projects

  • Project Green Classroom—you and your students try and answer the question: How green in our classroom?  Off to the project.
  • Project Ozone–students explore the quality of the air they breathe, and also investigate two aspects of ozone: the good and the bad.  Read more…
  • Project River Watch–students learn to monitor a local stream or river, and use the data collected to make an evaluation of the quality of the stream’s water.  Further information…

Websites

Each project has its own website from which you can work with your students, and connect with students and teachers in other schools.

Access and Further Information

Please go to Web 2.0.  Here you will find details, and links to each of the project websites.

Five Important Science Teaching Organizations

 

Research in science education is a significant force in impacting the practice of science.  Science educators (researchers and teachers) around the world have created a strong community of practice that contributes to our understanding of how students learn, and the nature of science teaching, pedagogy, and curriculum.

You will find on this page links to science education organizations, many of which have online journals, and sponsor conferences throughout the year.

If you would like an organization or a conference added to this list, please use the comments form at the bottom of this post.

Organizations/Journals

The table here represents just a few of the variety of journals in science education.  Visiting anyone of these journals and organizations will lead you to further resources.

National Association for Research in Science Teaching
Journal of Mathematics, Science & Technology Education
Science Education
International Journal of Science Education
International Journal of Environmental and Science Education

Have you added your favorite journal or organization. We’ll organize the list into another post. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

In a Liberal Democracy, Can Inquiry Science Teaching Flourish with Common Standards?

Can science as inquiry continue to be a primary goal of science teaching in the burgeoning culture of creating common standards, and common high-stakes assessments?

This is a question that I raised about a year and half ago. I am returning to the question now since the National Research Council just released its report entitled A Framework for K-12 Science Education. The question is not “should we have standards.” Instead, the question and concern, is that the development of standards appears to be driven by high-stakes assessments, resulting in an educational system monitored by test makers and data analysts.

We live in a liberal democracy, and as such, education has been a fundamental aspect of helping citizens become literate in not only language and reading, but in mathematics, social studies, art, music, and science. Our society is a diverse, and multicultural, and the recent movement to move American education toward a one-size-fits-all system seems to be the antithesis of education in a democracy.

In a liberal democracy we need an educational system that is decentralized, and that puts into the hands of educators at the local level the responsibility to choose and develop curriculum and methods of teaching by able professional teachers. One of the hallmarks of liberal democracy has been the freedom accorded citizens to develop and express widely varying ideas and inventions. At the heart of this is creativity, and the development of life long aspirations for inquiry.

Admit or not, we have a real problem here.

I know you realize that nearly all of the states have embraced and adopted the Common Core State Standards in language arts and mathematics. These standards also include specific science standards has it relates to language and literacy. The Common Core Standards were written by Achieve, a company that was created by the National Governors Conference, and is funding by private benefactors such as the Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Broad Family Fund.

Last year the Carnegie Foundation provided funds to the National Research Council to create a new framework for K-12 science education. The framework was published last week, and it will be used to write a new set of science standards for American schools, K-12. Guess who will write these standards? You’re correct–Achieve!

You are probably thinking that I am a conspiracy theorist. Actually, I am not, but it seems to me that the fact that one not-for-profit company has such power in developing standards for American schools has to make you wonder.

The new science standards have not been written. But the process has begun. Achieve announced that they have already recruited writers, and are going to work with the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). NSTA appears to be working hand-in-hand with Achieve, and their website provides updates on the new framework, and summary of the key ideas of the new framework. There is no evidence suggesting that NSTA has questions about the new framework.

Can inquiry flourish under a common approach to developing science standards for each state to adopt? Will the various states adopt the standards as they have in language/literacy and mathematics? Most likely they will. They will because not only is there pressure from groups like Achieve, and the National Governors Association, but the U.S. Department of Education. You probably know that when the Race to the Top Funds Request for Proposals was released, states were encouraged to adopt the Common Core State Standards. If they didn’t their proposal would not fare as well—they would lose points on the evaluation of their proposal.

The problem with a single set of standards in a diverse culture such as ours, is the eminent development of a common set of high-stakes science assessments that will be created. Funds are already available for the development of national assessment high-stakes tests.

And this is the problem.

Some educators think that the standards movement is simply part of the assessment movement in which student achievement scores will be used to evaluate not simply the students, but more dangerously the effectiveness of teachers and schools. Data analysts have convinced corporate and government types that they can indeed measure teacher effective using the so called “value added” approach in which they can nail down how much student achievement progress from beginning to end of year can be attributed to their teacher.

[Science] teachers will have to continue to navigate through this maize of new standards and assessments. They will have to prepare their students for bubble tests, but they will also want to instill in their students a sense of wonder, and help their students understand how science can influence their lives.

Science teaching needs to focus on the lived experiences of students, and engage them in inquiry and experimental ways of knowing that relate to their personal lives. Allowing common standards to determine what is taught, and how, is quite the opposite of a liberalizing and democratic approach to education.

Further investigation
Read original post on this topic here.
NSTA
Race to the Top

5 Attributes of the Framework for K-12 Science Education

According to the committee that drafted and wrote the final edition of the Framework for K-12 Science Education, American science education needs a complete overhaul, currently lacks vision, and does not prepare students for a scientifically and technologically-based society.

Helen Quinn, Chair of the National Research Council’s Conceptual Framework for K – 12 Science Education Committee had this to say about the state of science education in the USA:

Currently, science education in the U.S. lacks a common vision of what students should know and be able to do by the end of high school, curricula too often emphasize breadth over depth, and students are rarely given the opportunity to experience how science is actually done.

Truth be told, this same argument was set forth in the late 1980s when the AAAS created Project 2061, Benchmarks for Science Literacy, which led to the creation of the National Science Education Standards (NSES).  And these standards have become the benchmark for the state departments of education to develop their own standards in science.

The Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas, according to the NRC committee, provides a blueprint for K-12 science education, and will lead to the development of a new set of science education standards.

What are some of the attributes of this new framework?  Here are just 5 attributes, and of course I could identify many more.  But I hope this will get you started exploring this new document.

1. Dimensions.  It’s a book length report, spanning 280 pages.  It contains 13 chapters, divided into three sections: Section I: A Vision for K-12 Science Education; Part II: Dimensions of the Framework; Part III: Realizing the Vision. You can download a PDF file of the entire book for free here.

2. Vision for K-12 Science Education.  According to the report, “The framework is designed to help realize a vision for education in the sciences and engineering in which students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of the core ideas in these fields.”  Two reasons are given for writing a new Framework.  The first is that its been 15 years since we wrote the last set of standards (NSES).  The second is that science education community has the opportunity to use the momentum of Common State Core Standards movement.  In fact, the Framework will be used by Achieve, Inc., to write the new science standards.  Achieve wrote the reading/language art and math Common Core State Standards.

The vision is stated in terms of “by the end of the 12th grade, students should have gained sufficient knowledge of the practices, crosscutting ideas and core ideas to be able to..”  This is language similar to the way in which standards are presented in the NSES, and in most state science standards.

The vision of the new Framework, according to the Committee, is based on the earlier documents including the NSES 1996 standards, AAAS Benchmarks, the Science Framework for the NAEP, and Science College Board Standards for College Success.

3. Practices.  This is the first of three major dimensions of the Framework (the other two follow in items 4 and 5 below).  The Committee chose the term “practices” (as in scientific and engineering practices) to get us away from the notion that there is one scientific method.  The Committee believes that students should learn how scientists and engineers do their work, and thus should be involved in the practices of science and engineering.  You will find the “practices” very familiar because they are a list of science processes that emerged decades ago with the science reform era of the 1960s.  The committee identified these as scientific and engineering practices that students should learn:

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)
2. Developing and using models
3. Planning and carrying out investigations
4. Analyzing and interpreting data
5. Using mathematics, information and computer technology, and computational thinking
6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)
7. Engaging in argument from evidence
8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

There is also a lengthy discussion of how science and engineering differ, as well as how the “practices” of science and engineering are different from each other.

4. Crosscutting Concepts.  The committee defines “crosscutting concepts” as concepts that bridge disciplinary boundaries, having explanatory value throughout much of science and engineering.  Examples of crosscutting concepts will be very familiar to you.  Some include patterns, cause and effect, and stability and change.  As stated in the report, the committee acknowledged that crosscutting ideas were no different than earlier reports’ usage of terms like unifying concepts or common themes.  Each crosscutting concept is explained in detail, and you can read about them in the report here.  The complete list of crosscutting concepts include:

  • Patterns
  • Cause and effect
  • Scale, proportion, and quantity
  • Systems and system models
  • Energy and matter
  • Structure and function
  • Stability and change

5. Core Ideas.  Now we are getting to the heart of the Framework, the core ideas.  The Committee wanted to focus on a limited number of ideas and the Framework organizes the science & engineering curriculum into four core areas with just a few core ideas identified in each area: Physical Science, Earth and Space Science (which the committee thinks is a new area of the science curriculum!), Life Science, and Engineering, Technology and Applications of Science (ETAS).  ETAS is an area new to the science standards, although some of you might argue that STS, and Context-Based Teaching explored some of the ideas in this part of the Framework.  Unfortunately, there is little integration of ideas, that is to say, wouldn’t have been possible to integrate ETAS into each of the three content areas of Physical, Life and Earth/Space science?

Within each area, the Committee, through the work of separate design teams for each content area, identify just a few core ideas—three or four core ideas that the committee felt underscored the essence of that particular content area.

The report identifies the core ideas as shown in example taken from the Physical Science content area:

CORE IDEA PS1: MATTER AND ITS INTERACTIONS
How can one explain the structure, properties, and interactions of matter?

So, the first Core Idea in the physical sciences is “matter and its interactions” followed by a core question.  Interestingly, the committee identified two fundamental questions for the physical sciences which included: questions—“What is everything made of?” and “Why do things happen?”

The committee then identifies “grade band endpoints for each content area at these grade level points: grade 2, grade 5, grade 8, and grade 12.  These are quite specific paragraphs of what students should know about the core idea at these points along the students’ school experience.

Each of the content areas of Life science, Earth/Space science, Engineering is detailed in the same manner as the physical sciences.

I’ve identified for you only 5 attributes of the new Framework.  There are many more, but I hope that these help you explore the Framework, from the standpoint of its strengths and weaknesses.  Let us know what you think.

5 Criticisms of the Framework for K-12 Science Education

The standards devote insufficient attention to the need for an interdisciplinary curriculum, and represent a contracted view of the “common core” that disregards the role of schools in preparing students for citizenship.  William G. Wraga, Professor, University of Georgia as quoted in Education Week

You probably know that the National Research Council has published A Framework for K – 12 Science Education: Practices, Cross-Cutting Ideas and Core Ideas.  The report was issued by the Committee on a Conceptual Framework for K – 12 Science Education Standards.

As Dr. Wraga wrote, the standards, especially the Common Core Standards, lack any attention to interdisciplinary curriculum and it is his judgement that this has resulted from the “discipline myopia” that characterizes the Standards (in any field of study).

How does the Framework for K – 12 Science Education fare?  There are several criticisms that I identify here, and ask you to think about your own professional work, and what you think of these criticisms.

1. Composition of Committee and Design Teams.  You will probably agree that a committee that is going to create a framework for K – 12 science education ought to comprised of a mix of individuals from academia, research organizations and K – 12 schools.  An examination of the report shows that there were 19 individuals on the Conceptual Committee, and 19 people on the four design teams.  There were no K – 12 educators on the Conceptual Committee.  There were two persons listed of the 19 design team members who worked in either a state department of education or a school district.  But there were no science teachers listed in the report.  This is a serious problem in my opinion because it sends the message that K – 12 science educators are either not capable or not interested in serving on such boards, and committees.

2.  Discipline Myopia.  Using Dr. Wraga’s terminology, you can see that I am extending this criticism to the Framework for K – 12 Science Education.  The Framework promotes four disciplinary content areas, Life science, Earth/Space Science, Physical Science, and Engineering and Technology.  As a result, the curriculum that is implied from the Framework is overly discipline oriented, and except for the addition of the area entitled Engineering and Technology, is no different than the 1996 National Science Education Standards.  Even in elementary and middle school, there is little attempt of interrelate the content of science.  Interdisciplinary science is not a structure in the Framework.

3. Student as Outsider.  This might seem overly critical, but the Framework is written from the standpoint of the discipline of science, and very little attention is placed on students, their communities, and environment.  The content is seen as out there to be learned, rather putting the context of learning as the center of the Framework.  Much of the work in environmental education, STS, science and social issues is put on the periphery of the Framework.

4.  What about the Content?  One reader had this to say about the content in the life science section of the Framework:   “That section is certainly improved, but still reads as if written by individuals with only a superficial background in biology. In the evolution section, natural selection is still ill-defined and treated as the only mechanism for change. In the information processing section, animals are apparently the only organisms that can sense and respond to their environment.”  Although Dr. Fugate is questioning the nature of the content, because there were no science teachers on any of the panels, we can question the relevancy as it relates to K – 12 students.  Or at least we can raise questions.

5.  Pipeline Mentality.  The Framework underscores the domination of curriculum by a pipeline mentality, and disregards the more important notion of preparing citizens to live in a changing world.  Very few students will go on to careers in science or engineering, and as you read this report, you’d think that this is still the major goal for teaching science in our schools.

What do you think about the new Framework?  What other criticisms would you name?  Let us know what you think.