Sunday, 5 May 2019

Experiments - more than just Edu-Play

All science teachers want their students to see the science and the elegance of how the experiment show the science in the experiments done in class.  Not all students see experiment time as an opportunity for learning.  A colleague just tweeted this and it made me think "What DO I do?" and "What should I do?"

An internal conversation I do have is...
  • Is this experiment to show a scientific theory? - If yes, then it better blimmin' work every time. I don't want any odd results and I don't want to have to say "Oh - you should have seen …". If this happens, I have lost them and all sorts of misconceptions get reinforced, or created or worse, they might think science is stupid!
    • Will the students see what I need them to see if they do the experiment? Or would it be better to do a Demo or even use an Animation or Video
  • Is this experiment to show the process of doing a scientific investigation? - If yes, then it is better to get some unusual answers, then I can have conversations about reliability or variables, or comparisons.
  • I never do both these bullet points in the same experiment. - To me, they seem mutually exclusive for the age and cognitive development of the students I teach (high school aged)
The second bullet point is easy to go with, it involves the teacher asking a bunch of open and dialogic questions during the activity to get students thinking.

The first bullet point is really the sticky one - let's talk about that more

How do I get the students to link the experiment to the scientific theory? 

I think of it this way... The experiment is a model of the scientific theory or scientific idea and so if I sit it within the Nature of Science: Communicating in Science rather than in the Investigating in Science sub-strand, it causes me to treat the learning experience in a different way.

  1. Teach the scientific theory or idea
  2. Introduce the experiment as a model of the theory
  3. Get the students to use their new knowledge of the theory and their existing knowledge and understandings of the natural world to predict their observations 
  4. Do the experiment. As I move around groups, I talk about the observations they made. I really encourage them to look closely. I might need to encourage them to do the experiment again if one team saw something another team didn't. I really encourage them to dig into the model (experiment)
  5. In discussion at the end I might ask questions like:
    1. How did this experiment represent the scientific theory we have been looking at?
    2. What observations did you notice that were representative of this theory?
    3. How did this experiment NOT represent the scientific theory we have been looking at?
    4. What questions do you have about this model or this theory?
    5. How can we design an investigation that helps answer those questions?
  6. How can we design a new model that does represents the missing parts of the theory we couldn't observe with this experiment? 
  7. I have a different representation of this theory for us to look into - let's see which parts of this theory it shows....

Sunday, 29 July 2018

NCEA review - for discussion

This conversation about the NCEA review if for parents, school students, grandparents, employers, tertiary students, employees, educators, politicians,...everyone.

NCEA was phased in between 2002 and 2004.  It replaced an exam system of percentage of one assessment opportunity of School Certificate and Bursary, and it replaced number system of many assessment assignments in Sixth Form Certificate.  The early 2000's was the first time in decades that major changes had been made to our qualification.  Now, 16 years on, we are having our first big review of it.  This review is about how NCEA works as a qualification.  At the end of the review some aspects of it will not have been for discussion at all.  Not up for discussion are the content of the standards themselves, that is for another time.  Whether or not we should have standards based the end of this review, we will still have standards based assessment and it will still be called NCEA - that is not up for discussion either.

So, what do you think?

This blog is about presenting some of the information to you and then give you ways to have conversations about it, and then have your say.

Attending a public meeting:

To find events near you, you can go to this website  is the best place to start if you're looking for information.  This year, I am on sabbatical from my school and so decided to dive into this conversation at a public meeting, since Im not part of the conversation at school.  I attended a public meeting in Christchurch last week, and even though most teachers are talking about this in their schools, I recommend going to a public meeting as well!  In the room were parents, students, primary teachers, secondary teachers, employers, university students, people with dyslexia, parents of dyslexic students, different ethnicities, grandparents..... We were put into groups and in my group was a retired learning support teacher, a parent with NCEA aged children adn younger, and another parent with children just out of NCEA plus me, a teacher, head of department, and parent of dyslexic pre-NCEA-children.  The perspective of the people in my team made me think wider than my own experience as head of a learning area in my school which is what I think would have dominated my thinking if I had only had this thinking at school.  It made me think about NCEA from the point of view than my own.

What works well about NCEA?

This was the first question of the night.  There is no point in throwing the baby out with the bath water and all that and, despite a lot of NCEA being a pain, upon reflection, most of 'the pain' was school systems, not NCEA itself.  It's great that there are a collection of standards I can choose to put against what my students learn.  That students can pick 'n' mix their qualification.  It is great that there is a balance between internally assessed and externally assessed standards for students, spreading out the work load.  80 credits per certificate was achievable for most students.  Internal assessment modes can reflect the learning process, giving students a better link from learning to assessment, this increases student grades.  Also, the short time after learning, before assessment also increases student grades for internal assessments.  There is already scope for students to do larger projects and have NCEA applied to it.  Internal assessment is not time limited (although a lot of schools do limit it - school system problem, not NCEA problem).  Most internal assessments can be sat when the student is ready - we recognised that only a few would have specified dates such as field trip based assessments.  Internal assessment could continue to be completed even, beyond the beginning of exam time (again, a school system limitation, not NCEA).

What needs changing about NCEA?

Well, there were a lot more post-it notes written and stuck to the A3 question page for this question.  Some of the ideas included... No alternative to reading and writing for external assessments which encourages dyslexic students to choose internal pathways only, and this limits their options beyond each level of NCEA and into tertiary options.... The read/write limiting factor of external assessment does not test the student's thinking or understanding, but their ability to read a question and then write a coherent, and concise answer which disadvantages dyslexic students a lot....The credits given for one standard of one learning area seem disparit to the credits given to another in a different learning area and physics compared to tourism where cited as examples....NCEA needs to be free, to everyone.  Lots of students don't have learning records because their families can't/dont pay.  Even though there is room for hardship, the students who come under this scheme still have to pay.  They shouldn't pay for it, and they shouldn't have to ask not to pay for it...Administration of NCEA assessment and moderation takes about 50% of my time as a head of learning area.  The other 50% of my time has to be divided amoungst other parts of my job: leadership within department, support of learning within my department, support of colleagues I am directly responsible for, support of students learning in my department, support of my senior leadership team, and contribution to the wider learning and teaching of the school....
These two are the biggest for me....
  1. The flexibility already inherent in NCEA is not promoted widely at any level, shared, or explained deeply.  If it were, then students and parents would be in a better position to drive their own learning pathways and demand that school systems change.  This year I am working with a number of schools over NZ, many secondary, and most of them are not aware of the inherent flexibility within NCEA already available.  
  2. Schools need to be strongly encouraged to provide NCEA flexibility and it needs to be reviewed.  Students earning 180+ credits at Merit and Excellence is not healthy for students and is part of the huge NCEA workload of teachers and heads of learning areas.

The Big Opportunities:

There are 6 Big Opportunities.  They are 6 "What if..." ideas that came out of the Ministarial Advisory Group.  They are not the ideas we have to choose out of but ideas to get us thinking.  you might like some of them, you might have other ideas that are better.  Nothing is set yet, the Ministry of Ed is still consulting all of us.

What do you think of these big opportunities?  Do they make you think of other ideas, that might be better?

Getting more information:

The Conversations.Education wesbite is the best place to get the information you need and you can find that here  Please be aware that there are other reviews about our education system going on at the same time as the NCEA review and this website gives information about them all, so select the NCEA discussion

If you want to join in on discussions with other people before you have your say then you can.  There are public meetings and online forum.  You can also just strike up a conversation with your family and friends, or colleagues.
Online forum that have this conversation going are: Facebook, Neighbourly, Twitter, and Instagram, follow these hashtags
  • #NCEAReview
  • #NCEAHaveYourSay
  • #EdConvo18
  • #NCEAMakeYourMark
When you are ready to make your comment formally you can have your thoughts recorded in a number of ways:  via a public meeting, you can complete a survey, you can make a detailed submission, or you can make a video and submit it in a competition.  This page as the links to ways you can contribute your ideas

The most important thing is to think, chat about it, and have your say.

NZ MIEexpert hui 2018 - leading change

Workshop By Jarrod Aberhart (Twitter: @JarrodAberhart)
Jarrod lead us through a collection of change processes.  He uses bits from each of them as they suit the situation in his school.

He brought in the idea of ‘The Power of Constraint’ and suggested that we are more creative when we are constrained in our thinking in some way.  This was illustrated by a $50 bet between 2 men in 1960…”you can’t write a book using only 50 different words”.  Out of that bet came Green Eggs and Ham, one of the most iconic Dr Seuss books of all time.
Jarrod uses ’30 Circles’ (explanation to help people warm up their creative brains.  When they move on to brainstorming, they are better at getting a lot of ideas down on the page (for Brainstorming rules ).

I really liked the design thinking and agile models because they both have mana enhancing qualities that help us put people at the heart of the thinking.
He uses a lot of post-it notes and I immediately gelled with that.  An example of a good use of them is in this Learning Backlog he creates.  Each idea goes on a post-it note, and then you move them along the chart as you progress.

You can change the headings of this chart to better reflect the goal.
He tries to link all change in the school to this rubric model (below).  That way everyone knows what is going on, and how it fits in with what they are already doing.
Now the challenge for me is to develop a leading change plan that suits me, the people at my school, to develop digital capability in staff and students.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

NZ MIEexpert Hui 2018 - Digital inking in Windows 10

Why use digital ink?

Digital ink has transformed my teaching practice as a chemistry and biology teacher over the last 3 years or so.  But a lot of new tech has come into digital ink over the last 12 months and I knew I wasn't up with it anymore, so I elected to go to the workshop by Becky Keene (Twitter: @BeckyKeene) about digital ink at the recent hui we had in Auckland.

There are 3 reasons for using digital ink:
  1. Sketching - drawing, diagrams, doodling
  2. Reducing cognitive overload - often we ask students to learn an app AND we ask them to learn some kind of content at the same ink enables them to just do it
  3. Marking up - this is annotating text which brings understanding to the text and introduces colour with meaning to the text.
I definitely use digital ink for reasons 1 and 3, but hadn't thought about reason 2 before at all.  When I think about it, I should consider it.  Cognitive over load occurs when there is too much to learn before the learning that is intended can happen.  

Then, there are some activities and thinking that just can't be typed, they are better drawn.  What if you are in a digital learning environment?  Do you switch to paper and draw...leaving all the students' learning in two systems - digital and paper?  You could use digital ink, then the drawing is digital, and kept all in one place.

Features of Digital Ink

While this is not all digital ink can do, it is all the ideas I heard that are new to me.  Please note that I am using Windows10, OneNote app for Windows (not OneNote 2016), and Edge to demonstrate these features.  Here is a link explaining the difference between OneNote 2016 and OneNote Windows app.

Ink to Shape:

In OneNote you can draw a shape with your digital pen or finger and you get a recognisable shape, but it's a bit wonky.  If you select Draw - Ink to Shape and draw another shape, it will snap into the perfect intended shape.  In this picture below you can see my wonky rectangle beside the Ink to Shape rectangle.  Sure, I can Insert a shape, just like we have been able to do in windows apps for a long time, but if I am already inking with my pen, it's a pain to go back to the mouse.

Ink to Text:

You can write in digital ink in OneNote and turn it into typed text.  You write the text in ink and then lasso the text with the lasso selection tool.  Only once you have lassoed the ink, will the Ink to Text option become available.


OneNote has a ruler.  The ruler can enable you to draw straight lines and measure angles.  It doesn't yet have a scale on it.  This is because the touch screen has the ability to be resized and it's hard for software engineers to make the scale resize accurately...but they're working on it.  To show the ruler, select the Draw tab and then select Ruler.

Maths function:

This was my favourite new feature.  When you select the Maths function in the Draw tab it opens up a side window with a guide in it explaining how to use it and what your options are at this stage in the mathematical process.  This is definitely something I want to explore more.  As a science teacher, being able to ink my maths and have it turned into something formal looking are both useful to me.  Typing maths equations out for science and chemistry is tricky and fiddly but this function means I can write them in ink, and use the function to make it look professional.  But this function does more than make your mathematical sentences look pretty and is definitely something I encourage you to explore.
When I lasso the ink I want to use in the maths function, and click on the Maths function to activate it, this is what I see....
The explanation window gives me some options, checking to make sure my ink was interpreted correctly, and if any fixes are needed.  There are also actions that can be chosen from the drop down box.  These possible actions change depending on what you have put into the equation and next possible actions appear after you have chosen the first one.  This short video shows the scope of this maths function.


The Edge browser also has digital ink capabilities.  You can activate it by selecting the Pen icon at the top right of the tool bar.  When you hover your mouse over this pen, the pen is labeled as 'Add Notes'.

When you activate this feature it overlays a drawing environment onto the webpage that is similar to draw feature OneNote app.

You can draw all over the webpage, write notes, and then save it.  You can use the draw feature in Edge for capturing content that is too long for a screen shot.  Once you've captured the content by using the lasso function, you can send it to OneNote where you can further alter it.  Another good use of the Edge draw function is in class.  You can have the webpage open and draw on the parts you want to make obvious to your students and project that for them all to see.

Learning for yourself:

The biggest part of being digitally confident is taking your learning into your own hands.  There is a lot of information online about digital ink within Windows10, and any other digital tools.  I get most of my digital learning from other Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts, You Tube, and the Microsoft Educator Community
If you aren't confident and worry about destroying what you have created so far, then create yourself a Digital Learning folder and save a copy of what you're creating there.  Once you have played with it and created your ideal resource, then you can shift it back into a working folder.  If you function in the cloud on something like OneDrive, there is versioning available, where you can recall a previous version of a file.  Above all, play around with stuff.  You can't break much, so just give it a go.

NZ MIEexpert hui 2018 - creativity


That famous TED talk by Ken Robinson, in 2006, "Do schools kill creativity?" was all about this idea.  A lot of people took notice of that talk, I certainly did.  I am a science teacher.  I teach science, biology, and chemistry and I am constantly being told by people that there is no creativity in science, it's all about facts and information.  According to the online dictionary Creativity is....
the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.

I think education is very creative now and becoming more and more creative as teachers start to explore their practice.  I think science is one of the most creative ways of thinking there is.  I think it is important that we strive to offer that creative thinking and opportunities to our students as often as we can, in any learning area.  They are all creative.  This definition harks back to my last blog NZ MIEexpert hui 2018 - curriculum ideas when I talk about Becky Keene's keynote and she states that ideas, not products, are the most important thing that separates us from computers.   Creativity is what enables us to use our imaginations and to come up with original ideas.  This doesn't happen like a lightening bolt idea, it comes from playing about, tinkering, exploring, thinking about ideas, testing ideas out, and explaining ideas to other people.

Creative Science

You have to be creative to think like a scientist.  You have to be creative to think about science ideas.
To get your head around ideas that are too big to see, too small to see, too far away to see, too complicated to see all at the same time, you have to be creative.  You have to have an imagination that can mull the idea over in your mind so you can develop your own meaning.  Then scientists who imagine these science ideas which are big, or small, or far away, or complex; they have to explain them to other people so other people also understand them.  Scientists use many tools to explain their ideas, their imagination to other people.  Tools like diagrams, animations, videos, words, pictures, analogies, graphs, symbols, data tables, and models.  In science education, these forms of explanation are call representations and interpreting representations is one of the 5 science capabilities.
At the #NZMIEEhui18 I attended a workshop about Paint 3D.  Paint 3D is a native application with Windows 10.  That means the app is automatically part of the Windows 10 package, you don't need to download it separately.  You can create 2 and 3 dimensional images using Paint 3D.  Plus you can embed a 3D image into reality creating a mixed reality situation.  Plus you can use a 3D image and send it to a 3D printer to realise your 3D image in physical form.  I see Paint 3D being really useful in science.  It will give the students a chance to interpret representations and to create their own.  One of the challenges of scientific diagrams on a flat 2 dimensional piece of paper, is that the real thing is 3 dimensional.  Providing students with a variety of different kinds of representations of the same thing which they critique, helps them to build their own understanding.  So teachers can use Paint 3D to create a different kind of representation to the flat paper diagram and students can use Paint 3D to create their own.
This video is a basic guide to create something in Paint 3D.  There are a lot of Paint 3D videos showing 'how to' use Paint 3D on You Tube if you'd like to see more.

So, while this artist is good at what he does, this is really achievable in a short time.  Here is a picture of a wee Kiwi I drew in Paint 3D using the 3D shapes.  Then I put her into mixed reality and took a picture of her on my hand.

Then I made a little movie of her jumping all over the desk, in mixed reality.

All this was achieved in a 30min workshop during a 20 min play period with the help of the amazing MIEexpert leading the workshop, Donna Golightly!  (Twitter: @donnagolightly1)  She took 10 minutes to show us what Paint 3D could do, and then we were all into it.  One of the criteria I have for deciding if a digital tool is worth giving a go in class, is that if I can achieve something productive in 1 hour, then it is probably going to work in class too.  Sure, I usually have to practice a bit more before I test it out in class, but that is my guide and it generally works out.

So how can Paint 3D fit in with learning?

Well, you could build a huge number of objects in Paint 3D....
Volcanoes....Cells....Atoms....Molecules....Viruses....Bones....Digestive system...this is only limited by your imagination.
What I found in the workshop was that once we began to play and explore Paint 3D we quickly began to spark off each other for ideas.  Once we had a play with it and created something so quickly, we began to imagine all the links to learning in our subjects we could make.
If you do nothing else, then I recommend that you play with Paint 3D.  If you do decide to introduce it to a class, then give some time for play. Not only is it really fun, it is through that playing and exploring that your students will create new ways of using Paint 3D that I haven't thought of.  I will definitely be using it to add more detail to the usual 2 dimensional diagrams in science and I will be offering students Paint 3D as a way of showing me how their understanding has developed around the ideas we have been exploring.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

NZ MIEexpert Hui 2018 - curriculum Ideas

What is an MIE-E?

On a weekend in the July school holidays, all the teachers in the NZ Microsoft Innovators Educator Expert programme (MIE-E) came together for the first time ever.  MIE-E teachers are super keen on using technology as tools to advance learning and learning experiences for our students and they are some of the most creative, innovative, and critical thinking teachers I know.  This programme in NZ is part of a global MIE-E programme supported by Microsoft.  It was awesome meeting people I'd come to know on Twitter, though our Yammer thread, and during our monthly Skype calls.  This gathering was funded by the Ministry of Education via the Networks of Expertise programme.   
The whole weekend was put together by our MIE-E Fellows.  The Fellows are the gurus of the MIE-E programme in NZ.  Like all educators conferences in NZ, we had Keynote speakers plus a collection of teachers volunteer to share their knowledge in seminars and workshops.  Anyone interested in becoming an MIE-expert should check out this website

Curriculum Speak

In 2018, the Ministry of Education released the new Digital Technology within the New Zealand currciulum and Hangarau Matihiko within Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.  These sit within the existing Technology and Hangarau learning areas, it is only the digital technology area that has changed.
MIE-E teachers are well skilled in helping to bring in the english Digital Technology and/or Māori medium Hangarau Matihiko currciula into schools and kura, and so there were a number of sessions to help them understand the intended curricula.
The timeline for implementing this new learning into schools and kura is as follows:
  • 2018 - Introduce the documents and support teachers and kaiako to get their heads around the new learning and build their confidence with incorporating these learning experiences into their programmes.  
  • 2019 - Continue to support teachers to gain confidence and understanding plus investigate how students might demonstrate their learning
  • 2020 - Teachers will report on student outcomes and digital technology and/or hangarau matihiko will be an intrgrated part of the learning programme Y1-10

Computational Thinking

Speaker = Becky Keene - Twitter: @BeckyKeene 

Becky was the first keynote speaker.  She is a Microsoft Trainer and came out to NZ from USA to attend the hui.  Computational thinking is part of the new DT & HM curricula.  It is a way of thinking and although it can be used to programme a computer, it is also really useful for solving the complex problems of the world.  Our lives are full of ubiquitous computing...air-con, watches, pace makers, traffic lights....the list is long. This kind of computing automates stuff and does the menial tasks of the world.  She suggested the following read "Class of 2030" I'll still be teaching in 2030...just 11.5 years from now.  How will I change between now and then to make sure I better support the social and emotional development of my students.  How can I show value for soft skills like team work and innovation when our school reporting system is about content and grades?  The article shows that there is a disparity between the perceived relationship between students and teachers.

This relationship isn't as functional if the student doesn't percieve a strong relationship.  Why do they think that?  What is it about this relationship that they see as important that isn't happening?

She also talked about the need for learning to be focused on ideas, not projects and while "passion projects" in schools went a long way to engaging students in learning, we really needed to promote the learning of, thinking with, and inventing ideas.  It is our ability to come up with ideas, new ideas, different ways of thinking about ideas that make us stand out from computers which automate processess.  This made me think about David Perkins.  He is an educational professor and talks about 'thinking with what you know'.  He believes that content and knowing stuff is important, but not the only think that is improtant.  He describes education as having 'about-itis'...we learn about fish, or about the combustion engine, or about poetry. He says the curriculum is too full of about-itis and that we need to give time to thinking with what we know.
About-itis - David Perkins

Becky outlined the 4 components of computational thinking:
  • Abstraction - what is necessary and unnecessary information?
  • Algorithms - what are the steps of the solution?
  • Decomposition - What are the component parts of the problem?
  • Pattern recognition - What patterns are occuring within this problem?
Then she got us thinking...
Activity 1 - Abstraction = what is necessary; what is unnecessary information?
I have a 2 m x 12 m hole in my fence that needs to be patched immediately so my dog doesn't get out!  I only have one cedar board, and it is 3 m x 8 mHow can I cut the board to make it fit the hole in the fence?
The green highlighting shows what I thought was necessary and unnecessary.  I abstracted the important information I needed to solve the problem.  If you go on to solve this problem, you will be using more of the components of computational thinking.

The next activity was from a workshop Becky ran which highlighted the uses of thinking with digital ink and that some types of thinking can't be done by typing.  While this activity demonstrated this point beautifully, it also highlighted the computational thinking components of pattern recognition and algorithms.
Activity 2 - Boats
There are 8 children, and 3 adults on one side of the river.  They all need to travel to the other side of the river.  The boat will take 2 children, or one adult, but it can't take 2 adults.  How many trips will it take for everyone to get over the river?  Once I recognised the pattern it was only a matter of repeating it until everyone was over the river. This picture is a part of my solution...

Getting support for your school

There are a number of places you can get support to implement the digital technology and/or hangarau matihiko into your school or kura.  Below there are a collection of links you might find useful....

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Scientific Literacy

SciCon 2018 is the biennial conference of science educators across New Zealand and it was held in Christchurch in the first week of the July school holidays this year.  I love that teachers all over the country spend their term break time going to conferences to learn and share their ideas, to create new and strengthen old networks, and have conversations with each other about learning.  SciCon 2018 was just like this.  One of the kaupapa that seemed to play out over the 4 days was scientific literacy and it's importance in learning experiences for our students.  This is a kaupapa I am passionate about too, so I went to all the keynote speakers and many of the workshops who had this theme in their kōrero.
Johnathan Osborne said in his keynote:

Two years of high school science has more new words in it than learning a new language.

While I knew there was a lot of language in science, and learning it was a key part for students to be successful, I had never really thought about the volume of new words there might be for a student to learn.  It is important that students go beyond just learning vocabulary; vocabulary alone is not enough.  Scientific literacy does need vocab, but students also need to explore and understand how scientific information is created and communicated.  They need to know which examples belong to particular scientific ideas and which examples do not belong.  They need to talk about ideas using learning strategies that promote oral use of language so they can make their own meaning of ideas, before they are required to write about ideas.  They need to hear the language being used and then try using it for themselves.  If we want our students of science to understand science concepts, understand them deeply and not just regurgitate it, we need to let them explore those ideas and what they mean for themselves and what they don't mean too.

Over time, our ideas in science have changed, but some people in society don't believe this is the case, they have not engaged with new information, or didn't understand it when they did engage with it and so old ideas prevail.

  • Earth is flat ….changing to …. Earth is spherical
  • Earth is stationary ….changing to....Earth spins on its axis and moves around the Sun in an elliptical orbit

We also have some crazy ideas in science.  Ideas that take some imagination to explain to someone else and for that person to believe.  How do we explain this to our students when their observations of the world around them is likely to suggest otherwise?  The observation of these ideas can't be viewed from here on Earth in our life time.  The arguments people come up with are based on their on-Earth experiences.  How do we offer experiences that enable people to disassemble their ideas and make new meanings?
  • The continents were once all grouped together
  • We evolved from other species over a long period of time
  • The Earth spins to create day and night

All of what we call "knowledge" is actually language, which means that the key to understanding this subject is to understand the language.

 So, how can we go about supporting the learning of the scientific language which is beyond learning vocabulary?

Being aware of the scientific discourse

Teachers need to be aware of the unique features of scientific language and how scientific knowledge is created, used, and communicated.  Some of this is covered by the overarching and unifying strand of the Nature of Science (NZC, 2007).  The Nature of Science (NOS) has a component call "Communicating in Science".  Most of what I share here sits within that part of NOS.

People acquire language as todlers by listening, mimicing, and experimenting orally.  They then begin to connect language visually and finally they read and then write.  We need to offer science students opportunities to follow this pathway too.
Science texts are:
  • Lexically dense - lots of academic and science jargon words per sentence
  • Polysemy - words that have different meanings in different contexts
  • Nominalisations - condensing ideas into one word, sometimes called the "-tion-ification" of words Eg. Pollination, absorption, radiation, deforestation etc. It has the effect of increasing the lexical density too
  • Passive voice - where the emphasis is on the object, not the scientist or person
  • Multimodal - lots of information is also in charts, graphs, diagrams, chemical and mathematical symbols as well as in text
Osborne had an idea that students "read to learn in science, and learn to read in science".  His wesbite is open source, deliberately, and has a collection of strategies that support students to increase their scientific literacy (  He thinks it is important that actively teach and provide opportunities for students to do all these aspects of developing their literacy in science.  he has a host of activities that support pre-reading, during reading, and post reading thinking and discussion between students.

To help teachers understand the technical language in a piece of text, he recommends using WordSift (  You add a piece of text to the website and it gives you information about the lexical density.  WordSift is cloud based and free. It presents its information in a wordle style and you can select for various features of the text to be highlighted a different colour. If a text is lexically dense, then you will know that you need to provide strategies to support understanding before, during and post reading.

Osborne also discussed the argument from students that they "need the notes" and had this quote about that which I loved:
Copying notes is the process of giving information from the lecturer to the student without going through the minds of either.
On his website, he has a host of strategies you could offer your students for them to make their own notes including Frayer's Model ( and Cornell Notes (

So, I hear you wondering out loud to yourself "how can I fit this in, I don't have time with some much in the curriculum".  I agree, you can't fit it in.  You will need to justify some things.  I have found that when I began focusing on literacy in science ten years ago, students remembered ideas easier because they had developed their own meaning and their understanding was deeper.  I saved time in my programme because I didn't have to spend as much time on re-teaching ideas and revision at assessment time.  I also began to save time the following year because I didn't have to re-teach as much of the previous year's learning before I moved on to the new learning.  And yes, I did have to leave out a little content in my planning, but I found I was covering it anyway because students felt confident as learners in science and so became more engaged in their learning, asking questions and wanting to take their learning on to that new idea.  Now I don't worry about "not being able to fit" literacy and all the topics in my programme.  These strategies that support literacy are useful regardless of the topic, and so students become fluent in using them.  If you haven't yet taken the leap into deeply supporting scientific literacy, then please do.  Your students will learn deeply, and your programme will be richer, not less.

For all resources shared by keynote speakers and workshop facilitators at SciCon 2018 please go to this website.  I believe it will be available until about September, 2018.

Experiments - more than just Edu-Play

All science teachers want their students to see the science and the elegance of how the experiment show the science in the experiments done ...