NSTA Learning Center by Linda Smith
What do you do if you’re asked to teach some science topic that you’re not really sure about? Do you go to the internet to try to find ideas? If you do find ideas, how do you know the science behind them is not critically flawed? NSTA has a resource to help you through those difficult times. They have created the NSTA Learning Center to help teachers insure their students get top notch, accurate information in their classrooms.
The primary goal of NSTA’s Learning Center is to enhance the personal learning for teachers by providing a suite of tools, resources and opportunities to support their individual long-term professional growth based on their unique learning needs and preferences. This is facilitated in conjunction with a moderated professional learning community and an innovative badge system to recognize teachers’ contributions.
The NSTA Learning Center is helping tens of thousands of educators improve their confidence and competence in the science subjects they are charged to teach. From across the United States teachers spend hours each week working through self-directed interactive web modules, attending live web seminars, reading e-books, and completing in-depth online courses for graduate credit. Free online advisors provide live chat support assisting educators with their resource requests and pedagogical needs. Over 165,000+ educators to date are participating in the NSTA community, adding over 1,500,000 resources across their personal libraries from the more than 12,000 available. Through the NSTA Learning Center Community teachers around the country create forums, share resources, collections, and best practices, and discuss teaching ideas with like-minded colleagues.
Start your journey by accessing the Learning center at http://learningcenter.nsta.org/. You don’t have to be a member of NSTA to belong to the learning center, although you do get a discount for their premium services if you are. Once you’ve set up your profile you can test your content knowledge using the Professional Development Indexer. A series of 3 tests, the PD Indexer helps you diagnose your needs in specific science content areas and provide suggestions of NSTA e-PD resources and opportunities you may want to consider as you plan your professional development (PD). The Indexer does not assign a grade or present a score to the questions you answer, but saves a list of recommended resources for later review.
You have two options for indexing your PD needs. First, you may review all of the content areas across any of the three science disciplines provided: physical, life, or earth and space science by clicking the “Diagnose All Subjects” button with a specific discipline. This will present you with five questions randomly selected from each content area for that discipline. Or, you may select one or more content areas within a discipline by checking the appropriate boxes and then selecting the “Diagnose Selected Subjects” button. This will present 10 questions from each science content area selected.
Once you have identified your weaknesses you can strengthen them by participating in a SciPack, which is a 10 hour online learning experiences that you can use to help you better understand the content you teach. SciPacks are aligned with the national science education standards. Each SciPack contains:
- Up to five self-paced interactive online learning experiences called Science Objects that use an inquiry-based approach with engaging simulations and embedded questions.
- An email content Mentor to address your individual questions; these knowledgeable content experts respond via email within 48 hours.
- A pedagogical component to assist you in translating the content for your classroom.
- The opportunity to pass a final assessment and print a certificate from NSTA demonstrating your understanding of the content addressed within the SciPack.
Don’t have 10 hours to look for answers? There are thousands of resources stored in the learning center. Type your search topic in the search bar and many different kinds of resources will become available to you. Those resources include journal entries from Science Scope, Science Teacher and Science and Children magazines along with things called Science Objects that focus on a particular content, provides animations, documents, and misconceptions about that content. There are also webinars and podcasts you can participate in, most at no cost to you.
In addition there are over 6699 forums, called communities, on specific topics of science, from preschool science to middle school science to physics. You can search for one that meets your needs and ask questions of the members, such as “Do you have a good way to teach the water cycle to kindergarten students” or “Are there any inquiry based lessons to teach photosynthesis?” The forums are monitored by NSTA as to content and discipline to insure that information found there is scientifically accurate.
This is just a very basic description as to what the Learning Center has to offer.
Check it out! To start your adventure, go to https://learningcenter.nsta.org/
You might even find a new friend or mentor while you surf.
Hope to see you there!