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Sunday, September 25, 2016



First one through the wall always gets bloodied, always!

There is an analogy between baseball and education in our public schools.  Here it is:
“I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall — it always gets bloody. Always. It’s the threat of not just the way of doing business, but in their minds, it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods. It’s threatening their jobs. It’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people who are holding the reins —  have their hands on the switch — they go batty … crazy.”  — Boston Red Sox owner John Henry in Moneyball.

Education in our public schools, now in the 21st century, needs to transcend into a new paradigm preparing students for challenges associated with new realities of a dynamically changing world.  I cannot stress enough that given how educators approach pedagogically the creation of learning environments for our kids, will eventually determine the economic, political and social viability of our world into this century.

The story of Billy Bean and his commitment to a new way of producing a viable baseball team has parallel analogies to teachers’ commitment to producing a viable educational experience for students in their classes. The inequity in our nations’ education system which now resembles an apartheid system of education, can be seriously upended through the creation of learning environments that produce, inquisitive and evidence-based inquiry experiences for our children.

Education in our public school is not about processing students through the education system to get them to graduate, it is about the learning process taking place for each student EVERYDAY.   Working within conceptual silos and parceling knowledge out in bits and elemental pieces is not addressing the needs of students in this century. Cross disciplinary and engaging real-world activities worth learning are central to the development of students’ cognitive abilities.

As an educator in science with over 20 plus years teaching, physics, chemistry and physical science I am not only an advocate for these new models of learning, but I bring to fruition, in my classrooms, learning experiences that are based upon students becoming deeply involved with project-based learning.

One of my projects called, The Earth Stewardship Project, provides students with opportunities to develop needed skills and abilities that successfully address challenges they face in school and in life.  I believe that an education system tailored toward the development of cognitive abilities would help students make sound judge, predict outcomes and engage in thoughtful experimentation.  Increased cognitive abilities allow students to design rational explanations of causation from observing occurrences and students work effectively in teams share their experiences, knowledge and understanding, while expressing their beliefs to an audience. 

Without opportunities to develop as a whole person and as a cognitive learner through project-based models for learning, the learning experience gets erased in short term memory and productive gains toward showing performance are lost.

Masters of the current conceptual silos (chemistry, physics and biology) continue to advocate for adherence to conventional approaches of learning, which include elemental and piece meal aspects of knowledge and understanding. Students assemble and build upon logical arguments that lead to comprehension, but the idea of usefulness and application to the bigger scheme of things always seem to fall short in these science disciplines.

A baseball metaphor illustration would show a person learning the rules and skills of the game of baseball, but never allowed to fully participate in a real game or even a scrimmage!  Without such an opportunity to play, then how does a person come to fully understand his or her level of competency? These learning experience for students become an uninspiring exercise as students are denied opportunity to perform.


My avocation for these changes in education to help our students meet 21st century challenges is often met with skepticism, consternation and disinterest. Efforts by progressive thinking educators to break the current learning mold and strike out in a manner of delivering learning experiences (project-based models of learning) that more clearly address  21st century skills and abilities continues to becoming a focal point of contention in education today.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016






2106 Physical Science and Physics Curricula Design and Implementation

Pedagogy and rational for learning science.

Purpose, Policies Programs and Practices

Translating the standards from policies to school programs (curricula) and classroom practices (instruction).
Purposes: aims, goals, and rationales.
Policies: standards, benchmarks, syllabi and action plans
Programs: curriculum material, resources, differentiation
Practices: classroom instruction, fundamental level of engagement

EXPECTATIONS

Clear, comprehensive and challenging goals for student learning.
Clear and coherent curriculum and instruction that connects standards and assessments.
Implement and coordinate NGSS science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas and principles.

Performance and practice become the measure of assessments of student performance.

EDUCATIONAL FRAMEWORK

NGSS Goals and Perspectives: "Expanding and enriching the teaching and learning of science.
 When students engage in scientific practices, activities become the basis for learning about experiments, data and evidence, social discourse and argumentation, models and tools, and mathematics and for developing the ability to evaluate knowledge claims, conduct empirical investigations, and develop explanations." (Bybee, Translating the NGSS for classroom instruction p. 41)

Cognitive Abilities
The development of logical, rational and critical thinking people originates from the development of a person’s cognitive abilities and their personal attributes as loving and lovable people in society. Learning science lends well to the development of the social, analytical and decision-making cognitive abilities of each individual.

Cognitive abilities are independent of subject-based models of learning.  Cognition is an innate human quality that can be improved upon through experiencing a diversity of learning experiences, while still progressing toward achievable learning outcomes and human development.  Education goals, curriculum and classroom instruction can be tailored outside the constraints of finite subject matter and theories.  Learning outcomes that yield progressive development of cognitive abilities is a true measure of education in our schools.

Curriculum is a guide helping to facilitate learning experiences for students in schools.  Its implementation, as a means for instruction, becomes the fundamental and front line exposure for students.  It inspires and challenges them by utilizing their understanding and critical thinking to solve problems. 

Curriculum based upon subject matter provides a level of coherence in education models, but it is not the defining outcome for our students.  Growth in cognitive abilities is the focus of teachers’ pedagogy put forth in our schools.  This growth is the prime motivation behind the creation of learning experiences for our students.


This cognitive-based model for education parallels with the belief that to know science is to do science. It is not the memorization or regurgitation of fact, figures and theories, but the application of knowledge through experience that captures meaning for students.  Subject-based models for learning miss the essence of why we learn in the first place.  We learn because we believe that it is worth to know.  If an educator commits to learning through experiences then this will provide students with meaningful opportunities to engage and to be inspired.


Monday, June 27, 2016




Cognitive abilities and clear, meaningful and achievable goals.


It is important to remain viable.  What you do as a person, every day, will influence people and change lives.  There is always this moral imperative for teachers that pull at the heartstrings of everything they do and goes straight to the core of their commitment in what they do as professionals. I believe that to proceed into the future and remain viable as an educator I must create experiences, in my classroom, which will enhance students’ own viability as loving and lovable people in our society.  Online collaborative projects, inspired teamwork opportunities and access to experienced mentors are elements that can provide for a more poignant and powerful education model designed and delivered to our youth.  These new models for learning will help develop students’ cognitive abilities that can be strengthened and will endure throughout their lives.

 It eventually comes down to choice.  In education it is students that will make choices in education affecting their lives not the dictates of school officials or state mandated curriculum.  Motivation for learning is based upon interest, experience and personal goals and students will grasp upon these ideals and become makers of their own destiny given sufficient opportunities and choices in our schools to do so.  As a teacher I want to put these resources in place for my students to act. To be challenged and to investigate new outcomes.  It is critical that the focus of my effort in the classroom be directed toward creating a learning environment with enough academic scaffolding that lends sufficient support and guidance, but not so much that it diminishes student effort.  It is a delicate and sophisticated balance to achieve as students learn, but it is what is needed from our teachers in schools today.



Cognitive abilities such as making predictions, detecting causation within sequences of event, or
experimenting and rendering final judgement from the accumulation of new experiences, analysis and
collaborative work with peers are just some of the needed abilities students develop as
they learn in schools.  These skills and abilities are taught in context of
curricula opportunities designed around projects with clear, meaningful and achievable goals. The

 learning experience require the use of skills in reading, writing, performing math calculations, critical thinking about problems and solutions and proceeding in a systematic way.  These skills are instruments that are utilized by students to achieve learning outcomes. Learning is the improvement of one's cognitive processes.  One becomes increasingly apt at the acquisition and analysis of experiences to draw upon when solving problems.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

SUCCESS for both students and their teacher


Teachers work to create opportunities for students to succeed in school, while keeping in mind the needs of their students striving to become happy and productive people in our society.  Immersed in this effort is a yearning for relevancy by students and teachers that transcends subject matter, grades and testing.  Relevancy, in the science curriculum, trumps both the apathy and disengagement that students and teachers fall prey to in our schools.  Useful new knowledge and understanding adds to the cognitive abilities of students marking real progress in their ability to think better.




Providing a breath and depth of experiences for students in solving problems, modeling ideas and working collaboratively is critical as a means to mentally construct processes that achieve results. Teachers who focus upon improving the cognitive abilities of students, with less emphasis on memorizing rote subject-matter, will accelerate the learning process, while supporting a learning environment that holds merit. Emphasizing cognitive processes, analytical processes and social processes as the means by which to learn, is a new education model replacing an antiquated one. The new model fulfills the needs of students by better preparing them to function and be successful in our modern society.



It is not hard to imagine learning institutions presenting academic environments that stress exploration, experimentation and reflective thought as the collective daily practice of all students in the school building.  Students acquiring the ability to make predictions based on research, completing diagnostic interpretation of data and negotiating organized methods to achieve results is the goal in education.  This effort, put forth by teachers and their students, lends well to preparing to take on future challenging tasks with problem solving abilities that are crucial for success in the real-world.


Saturday, May 21, 2016




The Water Bottle Rocket Project

The pursuit of cognitive abilities

Each year students in my physical science classes at Streamwood High School utilize a Pitsco Water Bottle Rocket launcher to culminate a unit in physics on kinematics. Launching water bottle rockets provide great opportunities for students to apply knowledge and understanding in physics and critically assess the motion of moving objects.

Students’ critical thinking skills are tested as they take on the challenge of investigating how chosen fin designs will impact the flight performance of water bottle rockets.  This design challenge allows students to creatively influence the engineering of rockets.  It is a curriculum initiative that is not only engaging with the students both physically and emotionally, but it also positively influences their intrinsic motivation to learn.

This project allows students to develop their own brainstorm ideas, work cooperatively with fellow students to bring to fruition the testing of experimental designs and take pride in efforts put forth to solve problems.  Students are able to evaluate experimental observations, diagnose evidence in support of their hypothesis and eventually make judgement as to the superiority of one fin design over another.

I believe that a project such as the one detailed above is the means by which teachers can introduce to their students a curriculum focused upon cognitive abilities.  Students are given time to think about the process of investigation, critically assess the methodology employed in testing and keeping in mind why they are pursuing these goals that merit their efforts.

Roger Schank, Professor Emeritus and founder of the renowned Institute for the Learning Science at Northwestern University, writes in his book Teaching Minds,Intelligence can be enhanced by practicing the cognitive processes that are the basis of intelligent behavior and intelligent reasoning.”  He continues this descriptive venue by further writing,Intelligence is the ability to diagnose well, to plan well, and to be understand what causes what.  To do this one must be able to reassess one’s belief system when new evidence is presented and one must be able to explain one’s reasoning clearly to those who ask.  And, one must have a knowledge base of relevant information to draw upon.”


Twenty first century learning is about meeting and improving the mindset students bring into the classroom. Students become good at performing these cognitive processes which are life skills. The fundamental cognitive processes such as, diagnoses, causation, planning, prediction and judgement need to be mastered.  Therefore, a teacher’s mission should be to facilitate repeated opportunities in school helping students develop cognitive abilities and skills within each student and increasing their abilities to make evidence-based judgement that are supported by experimentation and validate hypotheses.  These are cognitive abilities that evolve into essential life skills.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016





A 21st Century Spring is here!

Spring is here and the end is near! Yes that is how I feel when it comes to school and getting to the finish line and wrapping this school year up.  With 70 to 80 percent of the curriculum having now been employed in the classroom, I can take a long retrospective view of what has been achieved this year and begin to rationalize the legitimacy of implementing a models-based approach to learning.

For decades, as an educator, my thinking has evolved with respect to “best practice” and the means to produce the most effective learning environment for my students. Since my inaugural day, as a certified high school teacher, I have researched and implemented progressive curricular reforms addressing the urgency to meet diverse educational needs of students.

Since the mid 1990’s, I have developed a legacy of educational initiatives reflecting advocated reform measures in science education.  Each passing decade has brought more strident approaches to learning based upon experiences that students bring with them into the classroom and acknowledging new learning models developed from research-based educational psychology.

As a new science teacher, back in the 1990’s,  my focus was upon getting the tools of learning (labs, scientific probes and conceptually-based models) into the hands of students in the science classroom. Hands-on experiences for students was the battle cry for teachers on the frontlines of science education.  Long hours were put in to the development and orchestration of science labs helping to make concepts more concrete for students. Less textbook memorization, less lecture presentations, and more hands-on experiences for students in science was the progressive way to teach science.

At the end of the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st century inquiry-based models for learning science was ushered into the science curriculum.  This new emphasis in science education stressed a pedagogy of getting students more intrinsically involved with the process of doing science, asking questions and exploring outcomes in greater depth.  Inquiry-based learning defined the progressive educational initiatives put forth by science teachers across America.  National Science Foundation’s development of new standards for learning science was held up as a guidepost helping teachers bring forth learning models requiring deeper thinking and increased motivation to understand science as a process and not as merely memorized facts.  Students realized that science is both a dynamic process and an evidence-based endeavor.

Project Based Models of Learning (PBL) began to surface, with vigor, as the first decade of the new century unfolded. Citing the development and establishment of Next Generation Science Standards along with the need to educate students to be critical thinkers and problem-solvers; the focus has turned to increasing students’ ability to learn, gather and analyze information, work cooperatively and present rational evidence-based arguments regarding findings.  This is an education model that is not only cross-disciplinary, but requires the utilization of multiple talents, abilities and skills.  It is a holistic approach to achieving learning outcomes that help learners adapt and be successful when dealing with changing conditions that bring forth new challenges to deal with in their lives.

Science educators are a pragmatic lot.  We recognize the education needs of our students yet we are diligent in the development of “best practices” which are research-based and that lend well to the diversity of learning we find embedded in our classrooms.  Upon reflection, after 7 months of working to increase learning in the science classroom, I am more convinced than ever of the need to transform how students learn into problem solving ventures.  

I find that when doing projects such as optimizing engineering designs or projects related to the improving the quality of soil mediums, or projects related to understanding carbon dioxide’s contribution to the warming of the atmosphere, students show greater motivation for learning and exhibit a deeper understanding of concepts in science.

 PBL models for science education is the progressive venue that science teachers can utilize to develop effective and meaningful learning opportunities for their students, while addressing multiple challenges we now face in the classroom.  This new model for science education gives teachers a great opportunity, as professionals, to remain viable as facilitators and providers of projects for teams of students to succeed within our schools in the 21st century.  




Friday, March 11, 2016



 

The Physics Science Classroom

innovation, creativity and inspiration

 

Since Monday my physics students have begun working on a new engineering design project that will culminate in independent research, new experimental methodologies and group presentations of their results among peers.
This learning opportunity, for physics students, provides the venue by which they can utilize their knowledge and understanding to solve real-world problems.  The open-ended format of this challenge allows students to innovate and be creative in their approach to tackling problems and offering solutions.
The Pitsco Torsion and Trebuchet Catapult kits help to provide the context for this investigative process.  Students apply concepts that they have learned with respect to motion, force and energy and fashion relationships expressed within factors that contribute to the dynamics of motion.  The ultimate challenge for students is to maximize the performance of their catapult with respect to clearly defined parameters.
Students are given a free-hand in what they plan to investigate, how the investigation will be performed, what factor will be tested and how will the data be assessed.  It is a time for students to clearly express deep understanding of the physics that they have learned and to develop the abilities to fully express themselves as competent scientific investigators.
A few other teams of students are researching wind turbine blades that will be attached to Pitsco Wind Turbines that are constructed in class.  Energy conservation in the residential home is another line of research that some teams are pursing.  This is a time for students to put to the test their abilities and to embrace the relevance and rigor of the scientific process.
In this project I am stressing quality over quantity and I have high hopes in witnessing substantial growth in their abilities to produce quality research and to present their findings at a high level of proficiency.  :)


                                          
                                          Students determine which independent variable
                                          will be investigated to maximize performance of the catapult.




                                         Students collaborate on different aspects of the construction
                                         and planning process for this scientific investigation.



                                         Students perform pre-lab analysis of the catapult
                                          and document their experimental design methodology
                                          along with writing a hypothesis for this investigation.





                                          The Pitsco Trebuchet and Torsion Catapults
                                           are readied for testing as students finish construction
                                           and begin their investigation into relationships
                                            between independent variables and the resulting
                                            dependent variable outcomes.





                                            The testing has already begun for teams of students 
                                             researching and designing new wind turbine blades.

                                             Blade design is the focus of this investigation
                                              as students attempt to optimize electrical energy
                                              production from the operation of Pitsco Wind Turbines
                                              in the science classroom.








Students begin to test the independent variable
from which they constructed an experimental hypothesis.
The catapult are utilized as an experimental apparatus for the testing of mass and applied tension.






Newly constructed Pitsco catapults made ready for launch!



An electric fan is employed to create a consistent stream of air striking the wind turbine.
  

Wind turbine blades are fashioned out of balsa wood.



Pitsco Wind Turbines are utilized to test the performance of new wind turbine blade designs