Equity and Diversity: The Heart of NGSS

This summer, I took a step and joined a book study. I was not really sure what the book was about, but I wanted to use my time this summer to squeeze in a learning opportunity. The book was “NGSS for All Students”. This book is centered on the new Next Generation Science Standards. While talking about the design of the standards, the book also provides real life examples of teachers implementing the standards. As a classroom teacher, it was helpful to hear from other teachers about how they are implementing the standards. I learned so much from reading the text as well as participating in the twitter chats learning with other teachers.

Last school year was my first exposure to the new science standards. As far as I was concerned they were just like every other set of standards – impersonal delegations that teachers were now expected to teach their students. I didn’t know the process in which standards were designed. I had no knowledge of the thinking behind the standards. So, when I made it to chapter two of the book, I became personally invested in the science standards. I learned how all students were considered in the design and had a clear role in science education.

“Equity demands that every students has the opportunity to develop the capabilities and understanding they will need to make life and citizenship decisions that involve interpreting scientific information and data.”

The authors made it so clear to me – not every child was going to grow up and be a scientist- yet, every students could use the skills learned in their adult life. The goal was no longer to force feed science to students who may or may not like it. Thus, pushing side those students who have no interest or desire. The goal has transformed to emphasizing skills such as problem solving and making choices based on data while learning science concepts in order to grow each child and their chance to be successful post-secondary education.

Students have become the focus of the new science standards. Before the designer even began to write the actual standards, there was a responsibility to ensure the team itself was diverse. The team worked to make sure every diverse group had access to the standards. Teams combed through the standards reviewing for bias and making corrections. Diversity and Equity were not an afterthought in the design process; they were part of the roots as teams designed each standard.

Standards are not just for those who were dealt a better hand then others. As an African American woman, I have experienced my share of educational standards that were not designed with me in mind. Standards and classroom experiences had been made with a different student in mind and I was welcome to ‘tag along’, but not important enough to be considered in the design. After reading Chapter 4, I was convinced that the NGSS was different! The new science standards are breaking the mold. They have set a precedence, not concerned about popularity or likability. It is strictly focused on the principal that ALL students have the right to learn science and be exposed to the best science education possible. Regardless of their diverse background, socio-economic status, or gender.

The science standards place equity and diversity as a priority and that is something that I believe every educator can stand behind. The new standards requires much for educators, you must be willing to step out your comfort level in your classroom. You will need to build relationships with your students and be purposeful in your teaching, designing and assessing. There is no ‘winging it’ with the standards, which I am glad to say. I have a personal investment in our education system. My children may walk into your classroom, desperate for learning and I am pleased to know the information they must learn has considered them. I am willing to be uncomfortable and learn a new way of teaching if the result is my students won’t question whether or not they can be successful beyond school. With the Next Generation Science Standards, we are teaching every student, no matter their background, the skills they will need to be successful tomorrow. Every child is included and every child was considered.

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A Personal Invitation

I knew at 18 years of age, the profession of teaching was what I was made to do. The passion for education burned through my veins and I was inspired by those who taught me and who had gone before me. As I marched towards my goal of the classroom I used journals, magazines, even one on one testimonies to help give me perspective and prepare me for my classroom. The brave teachers who opened the doors of their classrooms and let me sit front row viewing their strategies, witnessing personal reflections. I gravitated to their vulnerability and strive to learn from their experiences in order for the betterment of my students.

Six years later, I have become one of those people who enjoy waking up and going to work. I am inspired by my students to be the best version of myself. To be transparent on my quest to ensure ALL students are reached right where they are. I cling to the refreshing springs of my fellow educators pouring themselves and their experiences out whether through blogs, twitter chats, podcasts, or other outlets. I sit and ‘drink-in’ the conversations and reflections noting how I can personally take the journey my fellow colleagues have taken and use it to help empower and educate my students. Recently, I find that the spring seems to be decreasing. The same voices contributing, while majority lurking in the shadows, waiting to be called upon and reassured you have something to offer.

This invitation is for you. Today I am asking for you to join me. To join the ranks of teachers who want to improve our craft. The teachers who are opening their classroom doors. Who are prepared to be vulnerable. Who embrace the ideas of transparency in the school setting. All with the mindset that we cannot change the way students are taught if we do not start the dialogue. The education system will remain the same even while our students are ever changing. If we let this occur then we are doing a disservice to the very children who inspire us to stand in the front of the room each day.

Today! This moment! I am inviting you to be a part of a group whose sole goal is to reach, connect, empower, and educate ALL students. Your voice is important. Your perspective is vital. Your lens and experience have the power to shape the methods in which we utilize strategies. Please do not wait till you have reached that “level”. We want to hear from you while you are walking the path. We want to hear from you as you reflect. We want to hear what worked and what didn’t. We want to know what you would do differently. To discuss with you about the results of your choices. If you ask why? The reason is because we are not meant to be isolated. We are better together. We are better as a team of teachers, band together to meet the goals of our students.

Your voice matters. You matter to your students, your community and our profession. I am inviting you to step out of your comfort level and contribute to the NGSSBlogs Project. Our goal is to provide teachers a place to connect, collaborate, and empower to educate. We are walking the journey of applying and understanding the NGSS curriculum so that we can apply it in a meaningful and realistic manner in the classroom. In order to meet this goal we need to hear from you. We need to know what you are doing in your classroom.

I understand, what I am asking of you is risky business. You could be rejected, go unnoticed or be challenged. I am asking you to pour out pieces of your teaching experiences and stand front and center, and that can be scary. Before you make your decision though, think of your classroom and the people you reach. You have an amazing opportunity to mold and shape our future. Each one of us as educators have an enormous role in a child’s future. So wouldn’t it only make sense that we are equipped to ensure that each student, no matter whose classroom they are sitting in; are able to access the curriculum in a meaningful manner.

We have supports for you in place, which mean you will not walk this journey alone. We have a community which we encourage you to be plugged in and dive into the resources. We are here working and all that is missing is you.

If you are interested in joining our blogs project please visit us at  NGSS PLN

If you are interested in taking part in an inspiring book study we are reading and discussing the book “NGSS for All Students” Edited by Okhee Lee, Emily Miller, and Rita Januszyk please visit here: http://goo.gl/forms/7Iz2CZ7MFT

Voxer- Communication Made Easy

Collaboration and communication are some of the big Cs in education. We as educators want our students talking and being engaged with one another. The app Voxer, which is available on both apple and android systems is an easy and awesome way to achieve this goal.

Who can use this tool:
This app can be used by both students and teachers. If you are looking for an app that will promote communication in your classroom, Voxer will allow you to do this. Students can communicate with multiple peers simultaneously. Students are able to communicate with their teachers, leaving messages explaining their thinking. Voxs are recorded and can be listened to multiple times, which allows students to reflect on their thinking throughout the an assignment.

For educators, Voxer is an amazing app that allows and promotes discussions. There are several groups utilizing Voxer to hold book discussions or project developments. Teachers are able to ask other educator questions and get feedback in a manner that is non threatening to an educators busy schedule. You can Vox a fellow teacher an idea or comment and when they are ready they will respond to your Vox.

Science Practices Addressed:

     1. Asking Questions (for science) and Defining Problems (for engineering)

    1. Have students work in groups and create a group within voxer. Students can use their personal device or a provided device. Have students record their thinking or pose questions to the group. Have group members answer their peers and pose other questions. Be sure to have all groups include the teacher in their group so teachers can monitor information being discussed as well as address any misconceptions or guide the conversation.
  1. Planning and Carrying out Investigation

    1. The teacher can introduce a problem or a topic that must be investigated. Have students respond to the teacher using the Voxer apps. Encourage students to utilize their vocabulary. Also, remind students they can re-listen to any audio messages that have been sent by a peer or the teacher. Have students take pictures using their device and Vox their images to their groups or to other groups for collaboration and evaluation.
  1.   Analyzing and Interpreting Data
    1. Once Voxer is set up the teacher is able to send data, images or links to the groups. The teacher can also vox what is the expectation for how students should analyze the data. Students are able to analyze data or interpret data while recording their thinking. Voxer also allows students to Vox themselves. This means students are able to record messages that are not sent but available to be listened to at another time. Have students independently reflect on data and record their thought. Then have students listen to their thinking and share the ideas that have been per-recorded. A step further would be for students to listen to themselves and think about the way that they are interpreting data and the manner that they are thinking about presented information. Discuss with students the importance of reflection and have students reflect on their personal understanding and thinking

Description of Tool:

Voxer is an amazing walkie-talkie app that has several functions and can be utilized as an important tool in the classroom. Once downloaded teachers are able to build collaborative groups with their students in a manner that respects privacy. (No actual phone numbers must be shared) All voxs are recorded so the teachers and students are able to document their thinking as well as reflect on statements or questions that have been posed. The apps main function allows for voice messages but you are also able to send texts similar to SMS or images. I have posted a video on how to get started using Voxer here:

Highlights

  • Students can collaborate with peers in real time
  • This is very easy to use and upload onto device
  • Allows students or teachers to quickly record their thinking orally while providing an opportunity to give feedback asynchronously
  • Voxer maintains a database of conversations enabling students to reflect on previous discussions
  • This app will notify the group members once a message has been sent as well as when it has been listened to by others. This will encourage accountability for all users.

Drawbacks

  • It has that walkie-talkie feeling so there is no redo. Every time you hit the button that attempt is sent. So it is possible to have tons of 3 second recording of mumbles.
  • Ideally you will be using this in the classroom, with that being said this app will pick-up background noises so be sure to make students aware of their volume.
  • If students are listening to the recording keep in mind the volume of the device and ensure that there is an expectation of how students should communicate with one another.
  • This app requires that there is internet connection. You will need to be sure that the devices being used will be on web-enabled devices and have access to internet connection.

Product in Action

In a science classroom I observed students in groups of 4 and 5 using an Ipad Mini recording their observations. Each group had once device and the students were reading articles and then recording their thinking to their group. Other students would pass the Ipad around and record their thinking. The teacher was connected to all of the groups and was able to listen to what was being discussed and contribute or pose questions. Students were working on an assignment that would take two days to complete and they completed the research portion of the first day and the second day was planning and implementation. I enjoyed observing students on the second day listening to their recording and following along with the ideas and observations that were made previously. Students were able to easily transition into the activity since they had prepared messages for themselves to review from the previous assignments

Take-Away

If you are looking for app that allows easy communication between students as well as teachers than look no further. Voxer is easy to use, easy to install and promotes positive collaborative relationships. Voxer is a great way to promote accountability in the classroom and to use as a way to assess where students are in their thinking.

Where to find:

Click a Link below to Download Voxer

Voxer for Android

Voxer for Apple

Call to Action

Now here is where you get involved. I would love to hear how you are using this app in your school. Please tweet to me @BCHSHolman or comment and let me know how you are using Voxer. I think that it is important that we build community and continue to support one another with our ideas and methodology.

Diving into the Twitterverse through Twitter Chats

I decided to take the next step in my Twitterverse experience and joined in on chats. Honestly, this was nerve wrecking; so for baby steps I started with New Teachers to Twitter (#NT2T). The people involved are amazing and extremely supportive; they help guide me through the newness of twitter. This weekend I wanted to step my game up so I participated in a Saturday Chat (#satchat). First thing first I didn’t understand why everyone was putting #Satchatwc until a friend told me I was in Saturday Chat West Coast. So that was fun!!! Here are the things you’ll notice when you join a chat. Things move fast. I mean really fast. To combat that I use a program called tweetdeck. This allows me to make columns organizing the chat and I can watch the activity as well as interact. Which helps me to not feel overwhelmed. If you start to feel overwhelmed take a deep breath and step back for a minute. Most chats start off with you introducing yourself which is simple enough. Some will have the questions up ahead of time and others will not. (this is where tweetdeck has its advantages) Remember that you can be as active as you would like to be. There is no pressure. #Satchat is an amazing educational chat that happens on Saturday 7:30 am on the east coast and then #Satchatwc happens at 10:30 am EC. I was logged into Tweetdeck had my columns ready and decided to dive right into the twitter experience. It was amazing! I felt so empowered while in the chat. Being surrounded by so many brilliant teachers who are sharing and contributing. When the chat was over my head was spinning. This was like a recharge for me. There are moments, during the day to day and lesson planning then implementing I start to feel drained. Even start to wonder if I chose the right profession. But this place, this chat, it made me feel not alone. I am not fighting for my kids success all by myself. I don’t have to come up with all the answers. I found a place that I could plug myself into. Where I could recharge as well as get resources that I could use. Even talk to the people who were actually following the practices. After the chat, my wheels were still turning. I went back through the chat and saw that there was not one thing said that would not have been helpful. The strategies suggested and resources provided were enormous. The connections were priceless. Yet, I had never heard of this chat or just any chat two months ago. Now I am engulfed in a passion to connect more teachers. To inspire and connect teachers to a hub of ideas that can empower and encourage you. If you are on twitter I encourage you to join some of the chats. I have included a list of educational chats that occurring. If you are not on twitter don’t be afraid to dip your toes into the water and come and join an amazing tool to move your thinking and teaching to another level. Twitter chats is a lot like swimming. Some are fast paced in the deep end for the more experienced users and some are calming and slow paced. You just need to go at your own pace. I hope to see you at the chat. If so feel free to say hi. Remember: what you have to offer is valued and needed. As well as if you have questions there are people who are ready to offer support and assistance if needed. See you soon

TodaysMeet – Capturing Communication in a NGSS Classroom

TodaysMeet 

Used by:

Students/Teachers

NGSS Practices Addressed

Paired with another assignment/article this tool can address these NGSS practices:

1. Asking questions (for science) and defining problems (for engineering)

Students can document thinking as the generate questions collaboratively in a Todaysmeet classroom while addressing a scientific phenomenon.

4. Analyzing and interpreting data

After conducting an experiment students can discuss their data and reflect on their experiment as well as share with their peers what conclusions were learned from the experiment.

6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

Assigning students articles to read and then answer questions related to the text as well as draw real world   relationships. Students would post their answers in the chat box and have the opportunity to justify their responses while their peers ask  questions.

7. Engaging in argument from evidence

Have students choose a position on a topic. They can work in groups or individually. students will add to the forum what their position is and why. They can include links to documents/images/videos that can support their claim. Other students can explore what is presented and pose questions to the student/group that is arguing their point. 

8. Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information

The teacher can give/post a chart or text that the students will evaluate. The teacher can pose questions or perform a  think aloud with the students demonstrating how they should conduct their thinking while working with the artifacts. Students can then explain and demonstrate their understanding by contributing to the chat/discussion

Description

TodaysMeet is an online space that is similar to twitter but not as intense. The teacher creates a “room” that the student will type into their browser. Once students are in the right “room” they will be able to put their names in the nickname box and get started. Any device that is able to access the internet is able to use this site. Here is a tutorial video if you would like to see how to get started.

Highlight

 Easy to use format. Great way to introduce students to online forums as well as discuss appropriate discussion forum behavior. This site allows students to use their devices that they are comfortable with in the classroom and contribute to the discussion. If you have students who do not like to answer orally this gives a different method to answer. Using this site students can answer questions, participate in discussions as well as feel comfortable using a medium they are familiar with. The site also allows the teacher to print the script that was produced to document students thinking and contribution

Drawbacks

Students will have to be redirected to behave appropriately and to make school appropriate comments. Students have the ability to choose the name that they would like to use, so the teacher will have to be sure to address that with students prior to lesson.

Product in Action

In our collaborative class, we used this tech tool to open a discussion about a reading. We had all of the students log in and greet the class. Then, we gave the reading materials and gave students time to read the article. We had the Todaysmeet classroom also projected on the board so that all students could see it on their own devices as well as in the front of the room. We asked students questions verbally as well as in the chat then provided an opportunity for students to respond in the chat. We gave verbal praise as well as praised students within the chat. Students became comfortable with answering questions online and receiving immediate feedback from their peers as well as the teachers. We had students discover if they were using their phones they could attach emojis. Other students realized that they could change their names throughout the discussion. When this happened, we reminded students the expectations in the class for how students were to behave in a forum. Overall the lesson went well and we had students who are comfortable with never speaking in class engaged and answering questions in this format.

Takeaways

If you are looking for a great site that allows you to host discussions in a safe way. Then Todaysmeet is the site for you. Teachers are able to create and use a space in an easy manner to enhance discussions in class as well as encourage students to participate in a new format.


To go straight to todaysmeet click here

Contributing to the Conversation

I am a special education, collaborative (or inclusion) teacher – it depends on where you are from. I work mainly in science classes. As a collaborating teacher, my job requires applying subject standards, working with new teachers and students, all to further the success of not just SpEd students, but all students. All this “new” makes it very easy to feel overwhelmed and retreat back to what I know. I find myself turning a cold shoulder to the enthusiasm and excited go-getters and instead running back to the safety of what I know. But (and this is a big BUT!), no one benefits from that choice. Not me, not the teachers, and especially not students. Which leads me to how I took a risk, embraced a new idea, and began blogging about my experiences.

My blogging serves as a tool for reflecting and sharing. At first, I was apprehensive about my ability to be successful. After jumping in head first, I have grown more comfortable being vulnerable and find myself encouraging fellow educators to join me in blogging. Which brings me to the point of this post, how writing a blog can help you to communicate your thinking and grow professionally. The act of putting your thoughts into words can be challenging. Then to share those words with strangers may be downright scary to even suggest. However, I want to share what motivates me to blog. I blog because (1) blogging is a tool to help others and (2) there are tools to support my writing when I feel insecure.

As an educator, my goal is to engage students as well as empower them to become the best version of  themselves. The same concept can be applied to supporting teachers. I have had many experiences in my education career that have shaped my outlook on teaching and learning. I don’t believe I would be the teacher I am today had amazing teachers not shared their experiences with me. Blogging is my way to professionally contribute to the development of other educators. What you have experienced – your successes and amazing lesson plans as well as your missteps and units that you think should be burned – are all tools for another teacher to benefit from. In a quest to improve student learning, I yearn for knowledge of what I can do better. You and your experiences are avenues for me (and others) to meet that goal.

I am pleading with you to be vulnerable by sharing both the triumphs and disasters. I am asking you to open the door to your classroom and let us in – which can be very intimidating. The overall reaction I have received from teachers is that they want to share, but the actual action of putting pen to paper and then to be judged is what is holding them back. Well, I have been in that situation and I can tell you the way out. If a lack of confidence in your writing is what is holding you back, there are many tools to overcome this obstacle such as, @ProWritingAid (www.prowritingaid.com). 

ProWritingAid is a fabulous editing tool that will check your writing for all sorts of errors. I have been using this tool and I am in love.  It is very easy to use and its design is simple to manipulate. After using it, I am even more encouraged to write my heart out. The first thing is to write your initial thinking. Once your ideas are on “paper”, you can have the site edit your work. First, you will click the “use the editing tool” button. This will open to a page where you can paste your writing. This site also allows you to upload documents from Google Drive rather than pasting. Once it is pasted, you will then click the blue Analyze button.

The program will analyze your work and then divide the errors into categories. You have the ability to review and make changes for all the areas that are highlighted within each category. The program is extremely thorough for being a free tool. Although, there are some functions that come with a paid premium account – which you can do at your convenience. Once you have used the tool,  feel free to have another set of eyes to check it for readability and then post it to a public forum, such as WordPress or Blogger.

Hopefully, by using a tool such as this, you will build confidence with documenting your experiences and be encouraged to share your insights. There is an audience for your ideas. They are in need of hearing what you have learned in order to sharpen their practice and build their classrooms. Go ahead and try ProWritingAid and begin the journey of getting comfortable being uncomfortable.

Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

It was in my senior year of high school that the passion to become a teacher began to bloom. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that teaching was what I was made to do. I immediately went to college to fulfill my dreams and when I graduated and got that first teaching job, I was thrilled beyond measure. I finally had an opportunity to do the things that I was trained to do.

I learned rather quickly, in my high school special education classroom that I was completely unprepared for several things. After several tear filled nights, I made a decision. I would rise to the challenge. So, I worked harder to figure out what my students needed to learn the information. I volunteered for every training that my principal would allow me to attend. I collaborated with any teacher who would share their secrets learned through experience. I soaked it up like a sponge and was eager to apply my findings to my classroom.

All the while, I was developing the boundaries of my comfort zone in my teaching profession. I became very complacent in my methodology, settling for the tried and true strategies that had been implemented. An overwhelming feeling settled on me, I could sense that I was missing a critical component in my profession. Little did I know that the answer was found in the first steps of saying “yes” to a teacher leadership opportunity. While attending a teacher conference, all the things that I was missing in my profession became clear and found direction. The absent component was that sharp feeling of being uncomfortable. Surrounded by such amazing teachers, I wasn’t sure what I was doing there and even more so, all the things that were suggested were things that would push me way out of my comfort zone and required much risk of my normal.

Teachers spoke of collaborating in the realm of social media. Blogging about reflection and teaching practices. All I heard were methods of how I should put myself “out there” to be criticized by others in a very public way. No, thank you! Then, I took a step back. I settled into my uncomfortable feelings and reflected on the things that I had done. I realized that I did have something to offer. I possess experiences in the teaching world that could help other teachers avoid the same mistakes I made or make good lessons even better.

The reason I decided to become a teacher was always about reaching kids. All the things that were being asked of me would help students, but they would make me, as the teacher, very uncomfortable. I found myself at a crossroad. I could do things the way that I have always done them; which isn’t a bad thing, but it could be better. Or, I could step out of my safe place and try something new. I could risk being ridiculed and criticized at the cost of another teacher gaining understanding. My “risk” could be the words that give confidence to a teacher to use new strategies in their classroom. I made an active decision to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

This new place that I find myself is full of doubts and risks, but I am facing them head on. I am trying new things and keeping focused on the goal of helping teachers help students better. I am discovering that the more I am out of my bubble, the more that I am growing professionally. Maybe, you have also felt that tug to break out of your comfort zone. Maybe, you are ready to get your feet wet and try something new in the teacher leadership role. Let me tell you, there is support out there for you. We teachers can be so fearful to step out of our classrooms. Just know that there are teachers who need to hear the things that you have experienced. Teachers who will use your lessons to reach their students. Teachers who will stay teachers because of the tools you will equip them with.

         I challenge you today, break the norm. Step out of your boundaries and embrace the uncomfortable experiences. Try something new, whether it is getting a twitter account or starting a blog. Maybe even just commenting on blogs that you have read or joining in live chats. Your voice matters and we want to hear from you.

 

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