Autumn bits and pieces

Yesterday afternoon was one of those beautiful fall days here in the Northeast—clear blue skies, low humidity, a cool breeze, and leaves starting to change color. So what was I doing? I was logged in to a webinar that was a joint presentation by NSTA and ISTE: Planning for Technology Integration in the Science Classroom with the School 2.0 E-toolkit and Other Resources. (But I was on the porch with my laptop.)
Chris O’Neal gave a guided tour of the U.S. Department of Education’s School 2.0 eToolkit, which has a wealth of free resources to help teachers, principals, and tech coordinators with technology integration in the classroom. I’ve explored a small portion, and it looks like a useful tool to start conversations about the kind of lifelong education that is part of the 21st century. Then Flavio Mendez from NSTA showed participants how to navigate and explore NSTA’s Learning Center with tools and resources that are designed to help educators identify content knowledge gaps and document their professional growth. This Center is just getting bigger and better.  Mike Odell from Texas shared his experiences using the Learning Center with a group of teachers as part of a professional development project. It gave me some ideas for PD projects with which I’m currently involved.

This fall is also a great time to experience astronomical phenomena. The beginning of autumn coincides with a full moon, producing the legendary Harvest Moon. And we have our Closest Encounter with Jupiter Until 2022. I was outside the other evening with my binoculars and saw four of Jupiter’s moons! I brought out my spotting scope (repurposed from birdwatching) for a closer look, and we soon had an impromptu “Jupiter Party” with some neighbors.
NSTA’s Science Scope journal takes a monthly look at topics in astronomy in the “Scope on the Skies” feature. This might also be a good time to review the concept of equinoxes and the “reasons for the seasons” (and clear up some misconceptions). For more information on these topics and others related to astronomy, check out a special set of websites in SciLinks. One of my favorites here is NASA Quest, which has many learning activities in astronomy and the atmospheric sciences for grades K-12. One of my morning rituals is listening to StarDate program on my local public radio station. At the website, you can listen to the daily program, download podcasts of the programs, read current astronomy news, and get lesson plans, classroom activities, and lots of visuals. Of course, if you have particular topics in mind related to astronomy, you can log into SciLinks and search for particular keywords.
I’d also suggest two other sources. One of my favorite sites is Windows to the Universe. This site (many sections of which are in the SciLinks database) takes a comprehensive look at the universe and Earth’s place in it. There are many graphics, lesson plan ideas, and the site is available in Spanish, too. Another good source is Teachers’ Domain. Use the index to get multimedia resources and lesson plan ideas on the topic of “Earth in the Universe.”
Speaking of technology, ASCD’s blog is taking a trip down memory lane with a reprint of the 1980 article Potential and Limits of Computers in Schools. Considering the advancements in technology over the past 30 years  (many teachers were not even born when this article was published), it makes fascinating reading.
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/drumsnwhistles/262106452/sizes/z/in/photostream/

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