A Start with Humor
The first session I attended was about using spectroscopy in a high school chemistry forensics classroom. My belief is that we don’t emphasize spectroscopy and application of EM waves enough, so I wanted to see what I could pick up and possibly use. Oh my! I understood about the first 5 minutes of the 30 minute presentation – it was WAY over my head. Fortunately things calmed down after that.
I was pleased to attend a session led by two of the pioneers of flipped instruction, Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams. After flipping my classroom this year, I wanted to see what I could learn from their wisdom. The good news is that I’m on the right track – I didn’t really learn anything new. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying I’m as good as those guys, just that I’m on the right track.
I see that I’m doing a good job and I’m set up well to move into a flipped mastery model of learning next year. I was pleased to know that the issues I am having with grading and communicating with parents are issues that they had as well. Pleased may be a poor choice of words; let’s say that my frustrations are shared by those who have been at this longer than I have. It made me realize it was just part of the process and I wasn’t doing something wrong.
I discovered new benefit of the flipped classroom. This is the first year in eleven years I have managed to progress through my entire scope and sequence by the end of the year. I just thought it was because I had a great group of kids – which I do. What I came to realize is that many other who flip have discovered they get through more material with greater understand by the students than they ever did with traditional instruction. That’s a win that should make administrators pay attention.
PAEMST (Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching)
I attended a session about the process for applying for this award. No – I’m not declaring I deserve the award but I do aspire to be the best teacher possible. I was interested to learn about the selection process and what teacher qualities make a PAEMST award winner. It was an enlightening session and I may well apply during the next cycle as a professional development experience.
Girls in Physics
Another great session addressed the reasons why there is such a statistical difference in the way boys and girls view and enjoy physics. I will have to address this fascinating topic in its own post – there is much to share. Let it suffice to say that there are some simple techniques we can all employ that have been shown to demonstrate a statistically significant improvement in the success of girls in a physics classroom.
So that I might leave you with something and not just a tease, the presenter showed evidence that attribution theory had a significant role in a physics classroom. This link has some information in case you are interested http://www.education.com/reference/article/attribution-theory/
I was VERY excited by these folks. As some of you know this is my first year to teach physics. The unit so far this year that was the least satisfying for me personally, and I suspect for my students, was the unit on current electricity and circuits. We did a lot of labs and had hands-on experiences but nothing we created looked like what one sees when you look inside a cell phone or other device that contains a printed circuit board.
Sparkfun electronics has a great solution. Visit their website: https://learn.sparkfun.com/
The essence of their business is to share a passion for electronics. Using an Arduino microcontroller and a breadboard kit, students can be building circuits and, using simple coding, making their circuits DO STUFF. I find they have a great vision of teaching electronics and coding in a way that will make students excited and anxious to learn. I know I was hooked.
I was very excited to make some new friends. I had the opportunity to share a great meal with a couple of folks I met through my PLN on twitter. Katie Lanier, Kerry Cule and I all had a great meal at Boudro’s on the riverwalk. I found that all passionate and dedicated teachers speak the same language and have common experiences. After five minutes, I felt we had been friends for years. I hope we have begun a professional friendship that continues and grows.
To summarize, NSTA 2013 was a great experience for me. I am reinvigorated and energized. There is nothing quite like spending three days with a few thousand passionate and excited science teachers. I hope I have an opportunity to attend next year.