What You Can Do To Prepare For The Uncertainties Of Next School Year

A common problem I see with online teaching resources is avoiding the “teaching as telling” trap. I know, it’s so hard to do.

I’ve seen some beautiful digital resources that walk students through science ideas with texts and videos — beautiful design, neat drag-and-drop features, things to click and read and watch. The problem? Despite the beauty and everything to click, it’s still teaching as telling. It’s still passively delivering information to our students instead of giving them the opportunity to figure it out for themselves.

While there is a place for those resources in our NGSS storylines, that cannot be the primary way our students are learning… Why? It’s simply not three dimensional instruction. These resources are NOT engaging students in the Science and Engineering Practices. 

(Side Note: It’s absolutely understandable we fell into this trap in the spring of 2020, given the short notice we have had to FLIP THE SWITCH to remote learning, but long term, this cannot be how we teach our three dimensional standards!)


Non-Negotiables In The New Normal In Science Education

What should we be doing then? Whether we are relegated to online instruction or not, our students need high quality exploration and discovery. And yes, you can still do that online. Not sure how? Check out Online Learning: 3 Strategies For Online Exploration here. 

Beyond that, students still need INTERACTION.  Think: Zoom or Google Meet, Flipgrid asynchronous discussions, written discussion boards, and so on. Our students need to interact with us and each other around their science ideas. They need to give voice to their developing understandings. We know this is true in the traditional classroom – it’s true for remote learning as well.

The great thing is – while it may not be ideal, discussions don’t have to take place in person. Look at the examples of scientists working right now – sharing their research in writing, in videos in Zoom meetings, collaborating and working together ACROSS THE GLOBE. We might not have students in our classrooms, but we can engage them in these same practices that REAL SCIENTISTS are doing. We have the tools to accomplish all of this engagement – it’s our job as educators draw our students in. (Relationships are key here.) 


Big Dreams For The Future Of Science Education

Sure, maybe these are pipe dreams… but this is a crisis. We have a problem, and it is time to dream and dream big. Things don’t change until they are forced to change.

“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”

We haven’t had a reason to change (well, nothing compelling enough to force change) before now. Our system had no reason to change. It “kind of worked,” so it continued to “kind of work.” 

Well now it’s NOT working. The world changed, and our system is now forced to change. 

People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them. – Jean Monnet

So now we can embrace this change and use it to create a BETTER system that serves our students, makes OUR lives more enjoyable, gets back to the HEART of teaching… or we can be ‘dinos’ and maintain the struggling status quo. 

So what can we dream? I don’t know, I don’t have all the answers!

But just off the top of my head, I can see opportunities for more personalized, flexible learning. I can see mastery-based learning taking root. I can see a more responsive science curriculum.

And hey, if we want to provide education in this new reality (which I hope we can all agree on!), we’re going to need to provide some resources for students, right? So states and districts – and maybe even the federal government, I don’t know! – may need to step up and provide some equitable access to tech resources and internet access and these learning tools that our students need! 

I know these are big ideas and that change isn’t going to come easy… but hey, why dream if it isn’t BIG?