Dusting off my blog…

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately and find that I’m not quite pulling ideas together as I must. I think forcing myself to write through my thinking may be useful.

I’m going to be mindful of the tension I sometimes feel about sharing ideas that are currently in development – either to protect future plans from competition (is this even a thing???) or protect my ego from having to change directions, publicly. It’s all human and fine. I’ll let it be what it is.

And hey, it’s still spring. I’m going to use the energy of this coming-back-to-life season to get started.

Left to right: garlic growing from Bradbury seed, garlic from Vonderweidt Heirloom bulbs, garlic growing from Bradbury bulbs.

Bridge poems

I’ve been writing little poems in my head as I walk to or from work over the Casco Bay Bridge. I have to memorize them as I walk – the cold has been bricking my iPhone in moments and I haven’t made a habit of bringing paper and pencil. I’ve been “publishing” them on Facebook, with lovely encouragement from lovely friends. But I don’t know if that means I’ve given them to Facebook… And I don’t have the energy to read their policies, and they might change anyway. So, it occurs to me to publish them here.

They aren’t great, they are composed in something less than the 18 minutes it takes to walk from work to home, but they are the product of a muscle I want to learn to flex and control and develop. As is my bravery!

Here’s the latest. I’ll post #1-#3 next.

Bridge commute poem #4

What is that mark in the mud?

A parallelogram of lines dragged by some departed object,

Or maybe the surface expression of something below?

I’ve watched that spot for weeks.

Why do some scars persist, and some fade?

Geography, I suppose. Location, location, location.

This scar is in the soft silt behind a granite wall,

Protected like the soft spot behind a rib.

White House Recognizes Citizen Science, CSA Commitments, at Science Fair

It’s an exciting day for STEM education and citizen science at the White House!

Citizen Science Association

Washington, D.C.­­(March 23rd, 2015)– Citizen science received some high level attention today when plans were unveiled to install a new rain gauge in the First Lady’s Kitchen Garden.

This rain gauge represents far more than just a Pennsylvania Avenue data point for the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS), a citizen science network of over 20,000 active participants who serve as the largest source of daily precipitation data in the United States. Announced in conjunction with the White House Science Fair, this commitment points to high-level recognition of citizen science as a powerful platform for science education.

CoCoRaHS founder, Colorado State Climatologist Nolan Doesken, was on hand for the White House Science Fair. Doesken, also a member of the Citizen Science Association Board of Directors, says: “This fair clearly shows how the youth of our national are exploring the frontiers of science.  But…

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Building a Framework for Citizen Science & STEM Learning

Please take a look at the latest citizen science association blog post. What do you think?

Citizen Science Association

Students participating in Project BudBurst at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo courtesy of: Project BudBurst Students participating in Project BudBurst at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo courtesy of: Project BudBurst

By: Ryan Collay, Mary Ford, Sandra Henderson, Eric Jolly, Nancy Trautmann, and Sarah Kirn

Join the Education Working Group of the Citizen Science Association for the panel discussion – Developing a Framework for Citizen Science in Education – Join the Conversation – on Wed. Feb 11th at 9:55 am. You can also participate in their open conference session on Feb. 12th.

The Education Working Group has been meeting since August of 2014 with a focus of drafting a vision for the role of citizen science in science learning and a framework to help the community achieve this vision. From the outset, our intent has been to tee up ideas for our conversation with the broader citizen science community at the February Citizen Science 2015 Conference in San Jose.

The current education climate…

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thoughts on Learning Science in Informal Environments

I spent a couple of hours last night reading this excellent report (http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=12190) from the National Research Council. I made some notes in the margins, but no notes to bring to work. So this is from memory. (I’m trying to be both looser and more committed to reflecting on this blog!)

My takeaways/thoughts:

  1. Context, context, context. I have to give some credit to John Seely Brown here as well – the report doesn’t use the word context. It talks about the importance of considering people, place, and culture when designing and assessing learning experiences.
  2. Social, social, social. Learning experiences must prompt students to reflect, and are best when that reflection gets feedback, as in conversation. Or comments on a blog post. Reflecting silently is useful, but it’s impact is amplified by feedback. So my blogging for me here is only a first step – if I really want to learn, I need to go public… Interesting that that is so intimidating. It’s perhaps a mark of my generation. And a great thing to be scared of and then get over!
  3. Organizations like the Gulf of Maine Research Institute who create rich science learning experiences and then support teachers using them in their formal curriculum are more unusual/rare than I previously thought. Informal science institutes more often provide programs for learners to visit, or do after school, or during summer. They may interact with the formal system through teacher professional development, but they rarely design programs to be used during class hours by teachers.
  4. The design recommendations are remarkably aligned with GMRI’s practice. Remarkably.
  5. The learning science world is pretty small… I was happily surprised by how many citations were of people I know personally. I feel lucky.

I’m only partway through the book. Thank you, Tom Keller, for giving me a copy! I should have read it long ago.

NRC’s report on Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards

(This is the first is what I anticipate to be a moderately regular series of posts on things I need to think about for my job as the Education Programs Strategist at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. Ideas included are my own, put forward as much to help me get my thought ducks in a row as to share my thinking with anyone.)

I finally read the summary and first two chapter’s of the National Research Council’s report on Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=18409). Interesting read!

Here’s what I learned:
1. The committee concluded what one would hope – that assessing the NGSS will be challenging and time consuming and quite different from current assessment practice. I’m heartened that they did not conclude otherwise!
2. Here’s a quote from the document’s summary section (Sum-2)

Measuring the learning described in the NGSS will require assessments that are significantly different from those in current use. Specifically, the tasks designed to assess the performance expectations in the Next Generation Science Standards will need to have the following characteristics (Conclusion 4-1):

  • include multiple components that reflect the connected use of different scientific practices in the context of interconnected disciplinary ideas and crosscutting concepts;
  • address the progressive nature of learning by providing information about where students fall on a continuum between expected beginning and ending points in a given unit or grade; and
  • include an interpretive system for evaluating a range of student products that are specific enough to be useful for helping teachers understand the range of student responses and provide tools for helping teachers decide on next steps in instruction.

3. The authors describe three components of the assessment system required to assess the NGSS

      1. assessments designed to support classroom instruction;
      2. assessments designed to monitor science learning on a broader scale; and
      3. a series of indicators to monitor that the students are provided with adequate opportunity to learn science in the ways laid out in the framework and NGSS.

Whatever is eventually developed to address #3 might be an interesting place for organizations like the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to start evaluating the degree to which their own programs offer rich, NGSS-aligned science learning experiences.

4. The authors call for a bottom-up development approach to start with new tools to help teachers measure and direct learning in their classrooms.

The authors also note that “Teachers will need extensive professional development to successfully incorporate this type of assessment into their practice.” Just where this money will come from is not specified, although there is a (concerning) comment that “States will need to include adequate time and resources for professional development so that teachers can be properly prepared and guided…” Oh dear.

Overall, I found the report sobering, but appropriately so. There seems to be energy around creating assessments that truly address the vision of the Framework for K-12 Science Education.

the pieces are coming together

Three pieces in recent press are making me think.

First, there’s this from Tom Friedman of the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/opinion/sunday/friedman-obamas-homework-assignment.html?hp&rref=opinion&_r=0. His thesis is that maybe American education isn’t up to snuff because parents and students just don’t care enough. He cites teachers’ observations of the growing number of students not even passing in work as indication of growing apathy.

Then there’s this one from Hamden Rice, guest blogging for the Daily Kos today (Martin Luther King, Jr Day): http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/29/1011562/-Most-of-you-have-no-idea-what-Martin-Luther-King-actually-did. His thesis is that the thing that Dr. King and other civil rights leaders did that changed the world was to encourage the victims of racial injustice to stand up, do the thing they feared the most, suffer the unjust consequences, survive, and celebrate their freedom. (This one is well worth reading, don’t just take my summation!)

And the third, from Debra Monroe on the NY Times Motherlode blog: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/a-balanced-school-needs-a-balance-of-volunteers/ . She observes that it’s only the parents who can afford to take time away from work to volunteer who do, and their unconscious (and unconscionable?) decisions grossly favor their children over those of working class parents. For example, think about the decision regarding which and how many uniforms parents must purchase in order for their child to participate on a sports team.

There are some missing pieces still, but a picture is emerging for me. Is it that parents don’t care about their child’s education, or that they don’t have the time to express their care? Where are we paralyzed by (legitimate) fear? Which among us are paralyzed by fear? Is it the poor who are feeling the deck being stacked higher and higher against them?

I don’t have the answers, but I’m re-committing myself to this blog, wether or not I’m sure of what I say. I am sure that the act of writing will bring me a step or two closer.

Maybe I’m just falling under the influence of another online course – this one the Deeper Learning MOOC (http://dlmooc.deeper-learning.org/).