On the final day of the NSTA conference in San Francisco, I woke early and packed up, then went to find breakfast. I ran into Julie and Gary Taylor at the Hilton and we ate together at Mel’s Diner. Nancy Takashima (also of SSEP) joined us later. I then went to the last two sessions. All of today’s sessions were at the Moscone Center since the conference was winding down and only a few sessions were left. I wondered how many people would be left and felt a bit sorry for those sessions who’s fortune it was to be selected for Sunday morning, but actually the attendance was fairly good, since these sessions were the only thing going on (the dealer’s hall had closed the night before).
The first session I attended was on the Chemical Education Digital Library, a series of chemistry resources available for educators online, with everything from the American Chemical Society to 360 ° models of molecules to living textbooks. It looks like a great resource, and when I have the time I plan on exploring it more thoroughly and perhaps submitting some of our videos and materials. Here’s the link: http://www.chemeddl.org/
The final session I attended was on digital storytelling through student video projects. The presenter (Roger Pence) gave some great rationale for using student-created video projects and also showed some of the handouts and other resources he uses with his students. He does this with sixth graders, and so the level of sophistication is lower, but they do research, write a script, record narration, and then chain images and videos into a final short project. Many of his tips will be useful for me as my students get deeper into creating their own videos next year.
I returned to my hotel and finished packing and checked out. The shuttle van picked me up and after we collected a few more passengers, we drove out to San Francisco International Airport. As I was waiting in line, I saw Martin Horejsi in line ahead of me, and we discovered we were on the same flight to Salt Lake. He would then connect with his flight to Missoula. We arranged seats next to each other and waited to board. Martin writes a column for The Science Teacher along with Eric Brunsell on Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom, and Martin was finishing a blog post for the NSTA site that included video clips he’d taken with his iPad of the dealer floor, including the robotic arm that was solving a Rubik’s Cube. It was fun to see him applying the very technologies he was writing about to create the blog. You can check out his post at: http://nstacommunities.org/blog/2011/03/13/high-tech-highlights-nsta-2011/
On the flight, I used Martin’s iPad to play a flight simulator game, but had to stop because I was getting a bit motion sick. Apparently trying to fly an SR-71 while flying on a commercial jet is just too much for my inner ear. Now that I have the award money from Explore Mars, I plan on using part of it to purchase an iPad 2 over the summer and use it to both explore and create apps and eBooks. One course I hope to teach next year is on game development using the Apple SDK and have students create small games for the iPad that would be useful for chemistry teachers to use for review of units.
I said goodbye to Martin at Salt Lake and my wife and kids picked me up. While waiting, I watched an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise on my MacBook Pro, which I had downloaded from iTunes. I remember a time when I taught with Mac Classics with 9 inch black and white monitors and dot matrix printers, and I was the only teacher at my school with any experience on computers. Times have changed – now we all must teach to digital natives who grew up with these tools. I am still amazed that I can sit in my classroom or a hotel room without any physical connections or books and find almost any information I need (including the two screen shots I’ve used in this post). I am literally pulling data and images out of thin air. It seems like magic to me.
If I were to summarize my visit to San Francisco and what I got from it, I would have to say that I especially focused on programs to get my students involved in authentic science projects (such as MESDT, GAVRT, and the Mt. Pisgah stellar spectra project) and project-based learning; on new technologies such as the iPad and how it can be used in science education; and on ways of teaching chemistry and doing demonstrations and science night activities. I made good contacts, met interesting people, saw some old friends, and came home re-charged and excited to continue teaching.