Competencies, today I am a believer.

Competency-based initiatives have been around a while now, and to be honest they were sort of something I treated like new math.  I’ve been waiting them out.  They require a design process change, the require policy change, they require change in the machine…

I was never really against them, but I wasn’t really for them either.  Until today.  I sort of had an epiphany really about the disservice we do kids when we focus on credits and course descriptions instead of learning targets and goals for competency.

Part of it is probably that I found I was giving some teachers too much credit, assuming they had the same end goals as I did, and so competency basis was happening anyway.  Instead today I learned that at least some teachers still think they are teaching subject matter that can and should only be assessed once on a specific day in a high stakes manner.  No opportunities for growth and redemption is a punitive system which sows the seeds of hopelessness and fruitless endeavour in our kids.

Competencies offer instead endless hope.  Teaching and reteaching opportunities, and a attitude that outcomes matter over methods.  They offer a way out of a nightmare for our kids who are most at risk.

So now that I get it, really get it, the question is, how can I help get others off the fence?


Best of Con #NSTA15 – My Day 1

Disruptive science teachers (are there any other kinds) came in droves this week to Chicago to see and hear their colleagues at the National Science Teacher’s convention, some of the most amazing people I know. They talked about what worked, what didn’t and we all made it through the day .

20 years ago I attended my first NSTA in Philadelphia with a group of pre-service science teachers from Miami U (of Ohio) and that road trip is still amongst my favorite memories of college. I was a kid in a candy store, and it was all candy. But this year, it’s different. First, SWAG has a negative side now. As travel restrictions grow tighter my ability to lug a complete set of anything anywhere has evaporated. Secondly, I don’t work face to face, and even if I did, I’m digitally native, so that pile of copies I had my first year( and loved and used extensively) has given way to links, CD’s, Flashdrive, Google drives and all manner of digital share sites.  Not only that my vendor needs are distinctive, when before I wanted it all.  Third, I understand the value of developing a personal learning network (PLN) now.  So I’m spending more time being social IRL and social media style which didn’t even exist at my first NSTA.

As a way of organizing myself after an exhausting day of McCormick place hiking, this out-a-shape gal is going to do a recap of everything fabulous and disruptive (or disrupt assistive) I saw today along with a grade for how well it fits in with the digital learning I need. This list includes only the ones I thought would lend to a digital, blended or online, environment but a low grade may mean its simply not the blended option I’m looking for.  So ignore the scores (they’re for me :)).  So while I saw many many many worthwhile things, this will not be exhaustive.  It will link to items and notes which I personally plan to peruse when my feet and my back heal from conference lag.  Without further ado, in no particular order, NSTA15 Day 1


Bridge: K-12 Ocean Resources My trusty partner presenter knew of them already and is even using on of the lessons in our session on Sat.

  1. Bridge DATA: Sea Level Trends
  2. Bridge DATA: Buoyancy – Don’t even sink about it
  3. New Views on Sand
  4. Sea Turtle Science

Grade A+

Sea Coast Science Center – Distance Learning Options

Custom webinar field trips

Grade F for asynchronous online, B for blended or synchronous online

HHMI Biointeractive Stunning short films, virtual labs, apps for science ed.  Free to have, download, stream.

Grade A+

It’s About Time – specifically their eBooks and Einstein CMS

Grade B

Essential Physics The level of interactivity and device compatibility in this eBook is undeniable. The quality of the computational thinking app WOW.  A little worried about fully online implementation, so needs more due diligence on my part before I can grade it.  But  hey if you want to try it with me email Eleanor for a trial (

Brain Facts – Society for Neuroscience The brain explained.

Grade A+

IRIS Earthquake Browser Access and explore earthquake data, web-based ***

This one says web-based, but also mentions software.  I have yet to give it my patented device compatibility showdown test.  Scoring to come.

Amplify Science -A new core digital curriculum for grades 6-8. GAME BASED.  Pretty wow looking. Can’t wait to play.

Score A

Science News for Students Very very good NGSS aligned readings that also meet the CCSS and are just plain cool science.  This is part of a free program by the Society for Science and The Public

Score A

Royal Society For Chemistry – Learn Chemistry Resource Library Probably my favorite resource library of the day, you name it in chemistry, they have it. Scoll down the page though- the banner is awfully large

Backyard Brains I you would like to mentally control your friends, (literally with electrodes) or perhaps a roboroach.  This is sick (by which I mean both gross and cool) neuroscience

Grade D for online blended But A for awesome.

SparkFun Robotics and software engineering curriculum.  Tune in tomorrow for my recap of day 2 when I tell you how their “Internet of Things” works out for me.

Journal of Chem Ed – Classroom Activities Likable librarie of activities, they can be digital with effort.

Grade D for prep time to get ready for digital uses. A for activities in the in class part of blended.

Late Nite Labs  I expect too much.  Or they expect too little.  This looked cool, but its only suitable for pre-labs and students don’t do anything they couldn’t do with a calculator.  It’s just more visual.  But hey, if that’s your thing or if you are just looking for pre-lab warm ups…The visuals are cool.

Grade C

Science, Biostatistics and Cancer Education Applied case studies, Amazing data Real problems and and interface which students can use for other problems of my design. Bio, Chem and Physics teachers this is a super cool online SEE-IT tool for graphical analysis that is out of this world.  If you’ve been struggling for interactive statistical data analysis.  Check this one out

Grade A+

Let’s Get Healthy – Epigenetics the game  and UV Radical Rampage Game Gaming and data in a browser friendly environment covering epigenetics.  Front lines science of genes and what’s going on with them.  Great graphing and computational thinking.  ❤

Grade A+