NSTA conferences as professional development

The 2012 NSTA conference season is over, concluding with the last sessions in Phoenix this morning. The variety of presentations and workshops had something for everyone–some addressed specific content topics and others related to teaching and learning in science. And the vendors provided “up close and personal” experiences with their products, helping teachers make informed decisions about what is needed for the classrooms (I also picked up lots of resources to share!).
I hope that attendees put down the smart phones and other devices once in a while and took time to talk with each other. These informal conversations are wonderful opportunities to learn. For example, I shared a lunch table in the food court with Connie Walker, an astronomer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson. She shared information about the Globe at Night project, an “international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure their night sky brightness and submit their observations to a website from a computer or smart phone.” Without this chance meeting, I might not have known about this project, which  aligns with the theme of the November Science Scope and the December Science Teacher.

I also attended several sessions on “flipped” learning in science classes. This strategy is getting a lot of attention (Google “flipped classroom), and the teacher-presenters were very honest about their experiences, including successes and things they are doing differently based on their successes and challenges. Their enthusiasm was contagious.
Another NSTA conference highlight is the lineup of speakers for the general sessions. Here in Phoenix, the first general session featured Colonel Eileen Collins, the first woman to pilot and command an American spacecraft. She noted that her success had several components: know the job, know the people, act with integrity, and have a passion for the mission. Would success in teaching have similar components? She also noted that as a commander, she wanted her crew to “make mistakes” during training. She wanted to see how they would deal with unexpected circumstances and learn from the experience so they would know how to handle unforeseen events during the mission. She described four steps: admit that a mistake was made, recover from it, learn from it and develop an action or policy to prevent it from happening again, and then put it behind you and continue the mission with a positive attitude. Again, good advice for the classroom.
Thanks to the conference planners, vendors, and presenters for making this a great learning and professional development event!

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