I started the day with Eli Meir’s (from SimBio) Mitosis Explored and Meiosis Explored, new tutorial/simulation products that lead students through videos, text, and animations to learn about mitosis and meiosis and then allows them to experiment with simulations where they determine the steps, intervene with chemical agents, investigate mechanisms, and assess themselves. They also showed their EcoBeaker simulations and talked about new ones in the works – very robust and interesting teaching tools.
From there I divided my time between a Diane Sweeney/Eileen Gregory session on Assigning Online Homework and an interesting session on integrating sustainability questions into STEM teaching, with Susan Musante from AIBS. Eileen and Diane did a great job of talking about the way that they use the MasteringBiology online homework system (from Pearson) with their students. They stressed the importance of tweaking the system so that students get points for their effort, points taken away for late submissions, and extra credit to urge them along with the assignments get tough. Since Eileen teaches a college biology course and Diane teaches AP Biology, it was particularly interesting to see them present together and note similarities between their experiences and insights.
After lunch I sat in on the College Board Symposium where Sharon Radford, Gordon Uno and Mitch Price (from ETS) talked about the new curriculum, how to write questions for the new exam, and how to design instruction for the revised course. It was interesting and helpful – particularly to see the way assessment items are being/will be written. If I have it right, it basically boils down to identifying a Science Practice, select an Essential Knowledge that you are working with, and then find an appropriate Learning Objective that maps with those two up. The key is that students will be tested on what they can do, to infer what they understand. Mitch Price showed this excel spreadsheet that maps the SPs, EKs and LOs in a handy way:
Next up was a fabulous session called How Do We Know? from Kirstin Milks and Stephen Traphagen (both new-to-teaching). They led us on a wild and exuberant ride through a Claim-Evidence-Reasoning framework. We worked in small groups to evaluate actual students responses to assessment items, identifying the students’ answers as “claim”, “evidence” or “reasoning” and then comparing our determinations with those from the other groups. Interesting to see the variation and how important it was to clearly define what we mean by these terms. A “claim” being what is this about. “Evidence” is how do you believe it and why? “Reasoning” is about interpreting what does the evidence mean, connecting the dots, and tying the claim to the evidence. Very interesting and, I would think, helpful to do with students.
Then a terrific session from BSCS called Understanding the Science of Type 2 Diabetes. Good activities, great data, and lots of good discussion with April Gardner and Anne Westbrook.
At 4:00 the exhibit hall opened and there was lots of chaos and fun as we prowled the booths, tasted appetizers, and enjoyed a few free drinks on the NABT. Highlights of the cocktail hour? Two young biology teachers, one showing the other how to work a lasso and a biology teacher who had Charles Darwin’s “I think…” diagram tattooed on her lower leg. Wow. Now that’s dedication.