NGSS with Paul Anderson

Last weekend I was fortunate to attend a 2-day NGSS workshop with Paul Anderson at International School Manila. The weekend was packed with rich sessions that covered the fundamentals of the NGSS and Three-Dimensional Instruction (Science & Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas and Crosscutting Concepts).

The Three Dimensions of Science Learning:

The workshop kicked off with Paul’s famous Wonder Tube activity in which he modelled how to apply scientific phenomena and questioning techniques to engage students in constructing an inquiry. The first stage of the activity is a rapid brainstorm of as many different student questions about the Wonder Tube as possible – without the teacher providing any answers – that seeks to involve all students and flesh out the most useful or important questions from which to drive further inquiry.  Students’ questions can be recorded in the form of a “wonder wall” for later reference. Once students have narrowed their list of questions to a shortlist (group or individual), they should begin to visualise their growing understanding of the phenomenon in the form of labeled sketches (models). By making their thinking visible, students can unpack their knowledge and capture it to guide the teachers next steps. All of this resonates with me as an educator and designer because it’s a very close fit with the design process.

We then repeated this sequence, working in table groups to explore the phenomenon of the drinking bird – this time working in the shoes of the student by designing our own experiments. My group was keen to look at the relationship between the bird’s dipping and ambient temperature, so we gathered data on the different patterns of the bird dipping in different temperatures around the school and presented our findings as a large poster.

It was at this time that Paul revealed to us that our initial brainstorm of questions was largely focused on the structure and function of the dipping bird. He had kept a tally of the group’s questions relative to the various crosscutting concepts as an illustration of how the CCCs can be used to explicitly guide student questioning – essentially how to think and question like a scientist. This practical application of the CCCs was definitely a breakthrough moment for me!

Later on the first day we formed Grade level groups and identified NGSS standards from which to build a unit of inquiry. I worked with the ISM Grade 3 team to create a draft of an anchor chart to guide students through a unit on biological systems.

The focus of day two of the workshop was unit design. Paul directed us to his excellent (as yet unfinished) website The Wonder of Science, the goal of which is to clearly illustrate Three Dimensional Instruction and the NGSS standards. Additionally, the site captures examples from the many teacher workshops Paul leads all over the world. It’s worth noting that Paul openly acknowledges aspects of NGSS and his understanding/direction that has changed and improved over time – a refreshingly transparent approach.

Working with the ISM Grade 2 team, we applied the 3D Planning Protocol to the development of the Matter & Materials unit. The protocol is a framework that allows teams oversight of the ways in which practices, crosscutting concepts and ideas can effectively address the standards. The protocol works a bit like this:

  1. Teams brainstorm as many different phenomena as possible that could link to the standards, then review them based on criteria: does the phenomenon address the standard; could it be done effectively, and; does it have “wow” factor? This should leave several phenomena from which to build learning engagements.
  2. The team then creates numerous performance expectations that apply a broad range of different practices, crosscutting concepts and ideas that address the standards, linking to the different phenomena. Performance expectations could occur in part of a lesson or an entire lesson. From here, teachers can plan out the specific stimuli, prompts etc required for students to complete each performance expectation.
  3. Now, the teams use storyboarding to map out the pacing of the different performance expectations throughout the unit.
  4. The unit is hopefully now ready to be piloted – with an expectation of further refinement and improvement over time.

I was pleased with how our Matter & Materials unit came together, we decided to begin with the phenomenon of slime, working over the course of a few weeks towards a STEAM “desert island” boatbuilding challenge where students analysed various materials for their suitability in overcoming the design problem.

After an immensely productive workshop I now feel better equipped to work with teams in the ES to develop and co-teach various Science and Social Studies units using the Three Dimensional Instruction framework. There is still a huge amount for me to learn but I definitely feel like I’m on the right path. Thanks to Paul for his expertise and resources and the Office of Learning for getting me there!


A word from Paul:

2016 E21LE Symposium: “What’s Working?


On Friday I was able to attend the 2016 Evaluating 21st Century Learning Environments symposium, “What’s Working?”. The full day forum allowed various educators, architects and academics the opportunity to present and discuss their study of innovative learning spaces.


The day sought to answer the question: ‘What is working in learning environment design and occupation, and how does this success inform future best practices?’

Around 15 current and recently completed research higher degree students presented a range of evaluation tools and shared their findings of how the new generation of learning environments can enhance teaching and learning.


There was a strong contingent of architects including representatives from Hayball (designers of the Learning Project) with some excellent discussions around the role and benefits of prototyping of new generation learning environments as is the case at CGS. This is pertinent as in Term 3, E21LE will be working with Hayball and CGS to evaluate the Learning Project space.

I also got to have a good look at the new School of Design at the University of Melbourne, it’s an impressive building especially the fabrication lab (FabLab).


Dr. Ruben Puentedura

On Tuesday 24th May, Laura Brown and I attended an Apple ADE event hosting Dr. Ruben Puentedura. Dr. Puentedura designed the seminal SAMR model, a system for effective integration of technology to enhance learning. SAMR defines the levels of technology integration as Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition. The SAMR model was only a part of this presentation and the focus was more so on the TPACK model (Technical, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge) and how the two are aligned.


Expert teachers are those who can bring together knowledge of subject matter, what is good for learning, and technology (ICT). The combination is described as Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK). It is more than simply adding ICT to traditional approaches. It depends upon deep knowledge of how ICT can be used to access and process subject matter (TCK) and understanding how ICT can support and enhance learning (TPK) in combination with PCK. Dr. Puentedura’s presentation provided examples of a learning task at each rung on the SAMR ladder and discussed the relationship between this and the TPACK model. The following slides demonstrate these relationships.


Following the presentation, we had the opportunity to work in small groups to develop of own SAMR ladder for Dr. Puentedura to critique. The various SAMR ladders can be viewed here. See the Circulatory System for our ladder. Dr. Puentedura provided a table listing the practices associated with the fundamental domains of human activity; social, mobility, visualisation, story telling, and gaming. We were encouraged to consider these practices in the development of our SAMR ladder. The ideal is to incorporate between 2 and 4 of these practices into any one learning task.

EdTech Quintet

One of the most interesting elements of the presentation was an analysis of multiple credible studies looking the use of technology by students and the associated impact on learning when referenced against the SAMR model. It was fascinating to see the magnitude of the effect, in favour of learning, when tasks assigned to students involved modification and redefinition. Even when tasks are at the augmentation level, there is no negative impact on student learning. Only when the task is at the substitution level is there an opportunity for that task to have an overall negative effect on student learning. Essentially, this is suggesting that when we are concerned about the use of technology and the associated distractions, we need to ask ourselves – where does this task sit on the SAMR ladder? It is a known fact that when students are engaged, they learn better and develop a deeper and more meaningful understanding. If we consider the SAMR model, I would imagine we would also see a direct correlation between engagement and the associated position on the SAMR ladder the particular task holds. Substitution, less engaged, more distracted. Modification and redefinition, more engaged, less distracted.

“Tables for teaching and learning: a systematic review and meta-analysis” Commonwealth of Learning (2015)

At the conclusion of the presentation we had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Puentedura about our recent roll out of Staff Professional Learning Blogs and the use of the Student Digital Learning Portfolios at Caulfield Grammar School. This was pertinent as several times during the workshop Ruben had mentioned the effectiveness of blogs as learning portfolios to move tasks to reach modification and redefinition on the SAMR ladder. It also supports the associated practices of learning through Social, Mobility and Storytelling. So if you’re not currently using DigiMe in your classes, give it a go!

Sulfate etching & printmaking workshop

In the Visual Arts learning area we have a strong commitment to strengthening our art making practice through a rich ongoing internal PD program. During Terms 1 and 2 we were involved in a series of workshops to learn about creating and working with etching plates for printmaking.


In the first session, our presenter, printmaker Antonietta Covino-Beehre took us through the technique of using saline sulfate to etch onto zinc, aluminium or steel plates. The plates are then inked up and put through the press to create the printed image.

We began by looking at the different types of metal plates available to etch onto. There are a range of different plates available and it is important to understand how each metal (aluminium, steel or copper) needs to be prepared and how it will react to the etching and printing process.



Once the plate has been selected and prepared, it is time to etch onto it. When etching, it is important to first understand how the etch will transfer as a print. For example, the printed image will be the reverse of what is etched – this is especially important if there is any text on the print as it should be etched in reverse.



I selected an image of Kyoto Palace to etch onto my plate from a recent trip to Japan:


Once the etch is complete, the plate can be placed in a bath of saline sulfate which corrodes the etched surface to expand the worked lines. The advantage of this is that with the increased surface area, more ink will be held in the plate and bolder lines will be transferred onto the final print.

Following a couple of baths in the sulphate and a good clean and dry, the plate is then covered in ink and put through the press.




I was really pleased with the result. Keep an eye out for some Visual Art teachers’ prints in the upcoming staff art exhibition later in Term 2.