February 2009 Archives

What's our brand?

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scied09.JPGLast Friday (2/20/09), the SCIED faculty at Penn State met for an all day retreat at St. Joseph Institute -- a magic wand event. The setting was lovely and it was nice to get away from campus and spend some uninterrupted time discussing program issues. A centerpiece of discussion was defining who we are as a group and what we hope to accomplish through our graduate programs in SCIED. In many ways, we were talking about our "brand."

When I first came to Penn State, there was a strong emphasis on teacher education in SCIED. It was part of the draw for me and it is where I have placed my energy over the years. Colleagues have come and gone over time, but I think we are still seen as a faculty who take teacher education seriously -- whether it is through our partnerships with teachers and schools, our collaborative efforts with scientists to develop meaningful science learning opportunities for future teachers, or our use of technology to support learning to teach (video analysis, e-portfolios, etc.). True, we have more folks who study the discourse and practices of science, as well as science learning and learning environments. So how do we capture this new brand in a way that makes sense for the group? More to come as we work this one out.

Faculty in photo (left to right): Deb Smith, Greg Kelly, Annmarie Ward, Kate Sillman, Rick Duschl, Leigh Ann Haefner, Scott McDonald, Carla Zembal-Saul (with wand) and Bill Carlsen.

My top 5

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I am serving on a science teaching video consensus panel. In preparation for our first meeting in March, the following prompt was put to us by Kathy Roth of Lesson Lab, the project PI.

At this point in time, what would you nominate as the top 5 features of science teaching that would benefit from a shared coding language within the science education community? In thinking about your nominations, please consider:

(a) the wide usefulness of your nominated feature (e.g., many researchers would be interested in this),
(b) current confusion about how to define/codify this feature of science teaching, and
(c) potential/evidence that the nominated feature is predictive/supportive of student learning.

Here's my short list.

1. Assessing and attending to students' prior knowledge of science concepts (children's thinking and ideas)
2. Giving priority to evidence and explanation in science teaching (explanation-driven inquiry)
3. Classroom discourse (norms of making claims, supporting claims with evidence, challenging claims on the basis of evidence, etc.)
4. Questioning for the purpose of assessing and monitoring students' conceptual development AND for scaffolding learning (identification of patterns in data, construction of claims, etc.)
5. Coherence among content representation (content storyline)

What do you think?

Tech Cafe: The start of something interesting

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techcafe1.jpgWe held the inaugural session of Tech Cafe this morning. The idea is a simple one -- get faculty, field supervisors, teachers, and graduate students together to share innovative pedagogical ideas in teacher education that involve technology in one way or another. The issue that complicates matters is that engaging in this kind of community-building is not necessarily rewarded (or even recognized) in higher education contexts. Thus, there is a critical need to nurture a community in which members participate because they want to -- intrinsically motivated and inspired by sharing and learning from one another.

So what does this emerging community look like? I am hoping a lot like the group that gathered today. A diverse crowd -- 2 faculty members from the field experience office, 3 PDS colleagues, 2 graduate students, the director of EDUCATE, 3 colleagues from Altoona, 3 colleagues from the methods block, and one classroom teacher via Skype. Several members of the group shared their uses of blogs to organize course content, capture negotiated ideas from their courses, engage preservice teachers in reflecting on their developing understandings and practices, and more. The discussion that followed was one of genuine interest in the blogs and their applications, as well as intentional ways to address professional publishing considerations in our teacher education program.

We have a lot to learn from each other, and I am excited by the prospect of carving out the time and space to do it. Stay tuned to see how the community evolves.

Note: This was a magic wand event. The actual wand can be spotted in the group photo. Whenever you see it, you will know that the Kahn endowment was involved in some way. Thank you Donna and Gilbert!

Pack it up!

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After months of planning and programming, the Pack It Up tool is now available as part of the Teacher Education Performance Framework template. A HUGE thank you to Brad Kozlek and other colleagues at ETS at Penn State for making it happen.

Download the 4 minute screen cast to learn how to make use of this exciting tool.


Here is the screen cast for submitting your work on TaskStream.