Teaching science is one of the best professions in the world. Each day, you get to split open the minds of youngsters with bewildering, fantastical knowledge of structures and forces you can’t see with the naked eye. You have the privilege of leading your students to leverage existing information to access new knowledge. You can experience immeasurable amounts of joy when they start to recognize that inquiry is everywhere.
Nonetheless, science teaching isn’t all rainbows (or should I say, ‘refracted light rays’) and lollipops (‘sucrose sticks’). When I left the classroom in 2013, I was knee-deep in the planning process to help my science department transition to the Common Core State Standards (read this post about our CCSS for science planning process!, all while preparing my own students for the California Star Tests (CST) and the College Board AP exams. At that time, I believed this symbolized a changing tide for science teachers across the country. Two years later, I know this to be true. The science of being a science teacher is, in fact, evolving.
With the No Child Left Behind Act and Obama’s STEM initiatives like the Educate to Innovate campaign, increasing attention has been drawn to science teachers in the US. And while a lot of discussion has centered around what science teachers could or should be doing in their classrooms, there hasn’t be an equal amount of praise for the incredible amount they do in fact do, day in and day out.
This year is no exception. Science teachers are balancing the increased focus on the quantitative, analytical skills so desired in society with the literacy skills students need to communicate their ideas and succeed in reading-heavy college courses. Teachers have to juggle the Common Core Reading in Science and Technology standards (RST), the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and perhaps some state standards of AP material lumped on top of all that. Lastly, as testing shifts towards digital assessments, science teachers have been tasked with implementing more technology in their classrooms.
There’s no question that science teachers are juggling a lot right now, but these diverse needs won’t discourage me. It just makes even more excited to work with science teachers and provide this science perspective for the Edcite team. Though I miss teaching science every day, I’m just as excited now to work hard and build a website that can help, not hinder, the inspirational science teacher community during this time of transition.
Science Teachers and Education Technology:
Technology in the classroom should help science teachers with all of these new challenges, not add on to them. But, with the focus on the Common Core, many platforms and websites focus far more heavily on math and ELA. Check out this list of the 100 best apps and websites in 2014. Only 3 of them (out of 100!) relate to science… and yes, that’s counting the zoo animals app.
Helping science teachers with education technology was one of the main reasons I joined the Edcite team after leaving the classroom, and why I am ever-passionate about working to make our website better and better for science teachers. I believe that our site is already quite outstanding for science teachers. It offers the ability to tag and search for content by a range of standards – from content that aligns to a specific Common Core RST standard, to a specific NGSS standard. Moreover, it allows teachers to build assignments from a range of interactive question types, an innovation that is especially useful in science classrooms. Teachers can ask students to label atomic diagrams or cells with the image labeling question types (4 of them, actually!), practice their literacy with text-to-image and text-to-text matching, or practice their physics calculations with drag and drop tools.
Most importantly, the Edcite team is committed to meeting the needs of science teachers as they continue to evolve. Recently, we won the iHub fellowship from the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, which will allow us to work alongside science teachers and gain their perspective on how to make Edcite better. As science teachers continue to navigate the tricky territories of testing, technology, and totally new standards, we hope to be there right alongside them. Onwards!