Tag Archives: NGSS

In the Midst…

Yes! We have started our new NGSS unit, Systems and System Models with our grade 9 students, and so far, so good! I want to use this next blog post to organize my thoughts and get some feedback from you before I get too deep in this unit and project.

My Ideas


My idea for the organization of my video is to highlight each part of the SAMR Model and demonstrate, through a variety of means, how I am achieving each part of the model with my students and how it is impacting their learning. So, the idea is to spend about two minutes on areas of my unit plan that involve 1) no tech, (and the following parts of the SAMR model) 2) substitution, 3) augmentation, 4) modification, and 5) redefinition. Below you will find some of my examples for each area.

No Tech

There will be certain aspects of this unit that involve absolutely no technology. One example of this that I may showcase is the “carbon cycle discussion and poster.” This activity will represent the “before” picture of what our students understand about the carbon cycle before doing any research or getting any kind of instruction on the concept. I am choosing to include this in my final project video, even though it doesn’t represent how I am incorporating technology into my lessons, because I wanted to get student feedback on the use of technology vs. no technology for certain classroom activities. Now on to some tech talk…

By Lefflerd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This part of the SAMR model is when “technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change.” There are some aspects of this unit that definitely exemplify this part of the model. One example is posting a case study and lab handout that we used in class to Moodle (our online learning forum). Instead of printing out the case study and lab handout for each student, we, essentially, posted it online so that all students had access to those documents. Another example would be using a Google Doc as their “notebook” for this unit. Instead of doing their classwork in a notebook, my students are using a single Google Doc to house all of their information and resources (data collection, images, links, etc.) pertaining to this unit. And the best part is they can’t exactly “lose” it!


This part of the SAMR model is when “technology acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement.” One example of augmentation from this unit is a Socrative “Space Race” quiz. We used this activity as a diagnostic quiz at the beginning of this unit. Instead of printing a quiz and handing it out to each student individually, we allowed them to work in small groups on their computer to answer the questions. On the screen in the front of the room, students could visualize how many questions each group had answered and how many questions each group had gotten correct. It created a bit of competition among the groups, and our students were WAY more engaged 🙂


This part of the SAMR model is when “technology allows for significant task redesign.” Now that I know about the SAMR model, I am constantly thinking about how I can improve my classroom practice so that I am striving to use technology in a manner more indicative of the modification (and redefinition) stage of the SAMR model. For this unit, we have included the use of The Carbon Cycle Game. It is an online “game,” where you travel through the carbon cycle as a carbon atom based on your answers to each question. This is definitely not something that the students would be able to do without their computers. We haven’t used it yet, but it is planned for this unit. And I am very excited to see how it works out!


And last but not least, this part of the SAMR model is when “technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.” I believe that we have two clear examples of redefinition in this unit. The first example is not only using Google Docs as their “notebook” for this unit, but the fact that it is shared with me so that I have access to all of the students’ “notes.” I have the ability to comment, chat, and edit their work in real time, as well as the ability to check their revision history. Such functions were unheard of not so long ago. The second example is a product that we are having the students complete toward the end of the unit, which is to create a documentary. They will be creating a documentary on the relationships among the Earth’s systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity. Without their computers and certain software, there is no way that my students would be able to take on a task such as this one!

Now What?


Well…now that I am in the midst of it, that’s what I have so far! I believe that we have a pretty solid plan for this unit that successfully incorporates a variety of technology in a meaningful way for our students. But I want to know what you think! What do you think of my categorizing of the planned activities? Is any of my categorizing mislabeled? What could I add/delete/modify to make this unit plan better? Luckily the unit has just started, and I have a bit of wiggle room if needed! I warmly welcome your comments below 🙂

Taking the Plunge!

All Too Quick!

Course 5 is already upon us, and I am SO ready to take the plunge into our Final Project! I have thought A LOT about this project since the beginning of Course 4, and now, I am finally going to put it into practice 🙂

Photo Credit: Mstraite Flickr via Compfight cc

The Planning Began

My unit planner has changed quite a bit since the end of Course 4, and it will continue to change as my team and I work through this unit. I am a member of the three-teacher grade 9 science team at my school, so I had to make sure that what I had originally planned for our upcoming unit was acceptable and feasible for the other members of our team.

The Unit

The unit I will be using for my Final Project is called Systems and System Models, which is a cross-cutting concept of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Our high school adopted these standards this year, and they are first being implemented into grade 9 science. Each of our units is based upon a different cross-cutting concept, and we explore the standards that relate to each of these concepts within life science, physical science, and earth and space science. Below is a picture of the NGSS that will be explored in this particular unit.

Screenshot by: P. Rampley

The unit description for our Systems and System Models unit is as follows:

Students will investigate the various systems and system models present in the different scientific disciplines. In life science, students will investigate the interacting systems within multicellular organisms and the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the carbon cycle. In physical science, students will investigate how a change in energy in one component of a system may affect other components. And in earth and space science, students will investigate the relationships among Earth systems and how they’re being modified due to human activity.

The Planning Continues

This is a completely new unit for my team and I. The structure and the standards for our units this year are very different than what it has looked like in previous years. For this Final Project, I hope to plan a unit that is student-centered and abundant with scientific exploration, as well as technology that’s meaningfully embedded into our curriculum. Some of the ideas/strategies that we plan to incorporate into this unit and that I have learned about through COETAIL are: identifying technology standards and using interactive games, infographics, videos and video creation, and reflection. I hope to implement my new learning through careful planning of the unit and through the support of my team.

Why These Strategies?

The above ideas/strategies that I mentioned seem to have a natural fit into this unit, and I believe that they will further promote student learning. Identifying technology standards is important to me because it keeps me focused on what technology I plan to embed and why. Our grade 9 students really get into using interactive games like Kahoot and Socrative, and those types of games seem to be really engaging for them. Creating infographics will get my students using, not only their science knowledge and understanding, but also their artistic and creative skills, which they don’t seem to get to do in science as often as we’d like. And as for the video creation, we are planning on having the students create a short documentary about how Earth’s systems are being modified due to human activity. Creating a documentary would be a very difficult task for a ninth grader without the aid of a computer and/or editing software 😉  Earlier this school year, during our Cause and Effect unit, the students watched the documentary, Before the Flood, and they were very intrigued by the concept of a documentary and what it had to offer!

Photo Credit: latestthoughts Flickr via Compfight cc

Getting Ahead

It’s a lot to consider and include into a single unit, but that is the tentative plan as of right now. I think we can get there with careful planning and implementation. During this unit, I am hoping to see our students more excited about science while using technology in a productive and meaningful way. Time to get started! I warmly welcome your comments below 🙂

Course 4 Final Project: Models & Systems

Wow! The end of Course 4 is here 🙂 As usual, these courses seem to fly right on by! I really can’t believe that our final course, Course 5, is upon us in the very near future.


The unit you see embedded below is a great possibility for my Course 5 project because I have never done this unit before EVER!  At our school, we are in the midst of switching to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), AND we are continuing to create science units that are truly integrated. We are not going to teach just chemistry, just physics, and just biology separately in the same academic year, but we are going to teach all of the scientific disciplines, including earth and space science, in the same unit, at the same time, in a more meaningful and seamless fashion. Instead of breaking up the scientific disciplines into their neat little categories, we are attempting to fuse them together, which is much more representative of how science actually works in the real world. So, not only have we never done this unit before, it seemed like a good unit to incorporate many of the concepts and ideas that we have learned throughout our Coetail journey. For this unit, I will be specifically focusing on incorporating project-based learning (PBL) and incorporating technology in a more effective manner.

CC0 Public Domain: https://pixabay.com/p-1364673/?no_redirect


Honestly, I don’t have any concerns about redesigning this particular unit as all of our units this year are due for review and redesign. I do have some reservations about how I can begin to achieve the Modification and Redefinition phases of the SAMR model in this unit and in my general teaching practice. I have completed a basic plan for this unit (embedded below), but I still think there’s a lot of room for improvement. I still, sometimes, feel that certain tasks are better off without incorporating technology. Or, I could achieve similar goals without the use of technology. Of course, that is not always the case, but I do have my doubts about making this unit “tech-y” enough.

YouTube Preview Image


There are 2 main shifts in pedagogy that this new unit will require from me. The first is a shift from a content-focused unit to an almost completely concept- and skills-based unit. The second is a shift from incorporating tech as it suited me, as the teacher to incorporating tech in a more meaningful student-centered way. Moving to a more concept- and skills-based approach to learning will come easy for me. I have been thinking about and wanting to move in this direction for a longtime coming, and now the switch is finally happening, and my team is completely on board with this, which is AMAZING! But moving to a classroom where there is more Modification and/or Redefinition phases of the SAMR model happening, that’s going to be a challenge. I understand the benefits, but I am not completely sold on the fact that I am capable of doing this well.

CC by https://www.flickr.com/photos/walkn/


Because I don’t use tech ALL of the time and because, to be honest, tech is, sometimes, a bit superficially incorporated into my classroom practice, I’m not really sure what skills and/or attributes this new unit will require from my students. It’s pretty tough to say. My students will, oftentimes, surprise me with what they already know about incorporating technology into our learning. My plan, for this first time around, with my newly redesigned unit, is to keep an open mind. Some things won’t take as long, whereas other things may take much longer than I originally anticipated because I made a certain assumption.

In the end, I am really excited to finally devote some more time to incorporating tech into my classroom in a much more meaningful way. I’d love for you to take a glance at my unit plan and offer any advice/feedback/suggestions/etc. that you may have for making it my best unit yet. I warmly welcome your comments below 🙂