March 10, 2011 - National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) conference in San Francisco, CA
This is just my opinion, but I think the world would be significantly better if scientists were treated like rock stars -- with the press stalking their every move and kids dreaming of becoming physicists, astronomers, biologists, or chemists someday.
To get a little closer to that reality, the world of science might consider electing Jeff Goldstein to be a goodwill ambassador. The astrophysicist and director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE) opened the NSTA with a passionate keynote titled, "Science -- It's Not a Book of Knowledge...It's a Journey." He got a standing ovation (and at least one of us teary-eyed). Why? For starters, he made this bold statement: Science teachers are the future of this nation.
He talked about the "sacred bond" that we as educators, parents, and a community have with past generations and future generations through science -- and that we are charged with the responsibility of nurturing, and not squashing, a child's curiosity and joy for exploration. Science education, he says, is just a method for organizing our curiosity.
He also reminded us of the powerful and emotional response we can have to the world of science. That a technological event like the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk could lead to the first moon landing in a span of just 66 years, or one generation, because it inspired a kid to dream.
I wasn't alone in being inspired by Goldstein's speech. John D. Boswell of Symphony of Science took some of the clips from the keynote and remixed them into this inspirational music video:
You can read highlights of his keynote address and get links to some of his favorite resources here: http://blogontheuniverse.org/nsta/
Themes from the Conference:
- Technology is changing the role of teachers. Educators are evolving from information conduits to learning facilitators; from lecturers to collaborators; and instead of communicating generalized info, they can now focus on more individualized attention. Jeff Goldstein, astrophysicist and director of the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE), said teachers should think of themselves as guides, and their job is to help students own the inquiry process. That's the core of science education. In a different session, a physics teacher said we should empower students to be the experts -- especially when it comes to using technology to teach science.
- Wikis, virtual worlds, and mobile devices are essential for true collaboration -- and very effective for engaging students. We heard about teachers holding classes in Second Life, classrooms creating their own online textbooks with the help of wikis, and math equations being photographed and shared via mobile phones. (Be sure to check out the latest Speak Up Report to read student, parent, and teacher attitudes about mobile devices. And, Ben and Jared posted a very useful list of tools to use in the classroom.)
- Our standardized testing approach is doing real harm to the world of science education. We heard over and over from educators, scientists, and thought leaders that the way we assess learning is doing more harm than good. And, if we don't turn things around, we will kill America's chances for producing top-notch scientists. Most echoed what we believe here at Edutopia: authentic learning happens when you close the books and dig into real world challenges and problems. Science education should mirror science in real life.