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CSCS OpenHouse Announced

posted Dec 17, 2013, 4:31 PM by Brian Foley

We will host our 3rd annual Computer Supported Collaborative Science open house on February 8th 2014 (later this year).  As before we invite all science teachers to come out to CSUN to learn about techniques for improving science instruction via cloud computing tools. This year we have added workshops on the NGSS (and new CA science teaching standards) and how to get the most out of iPads in the classroom. For more information see the  2014 OpenHouse page.

NGSS Guide Taking Shape

posted Dec 17, 2013, 4:26 PM by Brian Foley

In order to help teachers get to know the new CA Science Standards based on the NGSS we are in the process of creating a website that allows the CDIs and the performance expectations to be cross listed by grade level.  You can see the work in progress at https://sites.google.com/site/csunngssguide/

If you are interested in helping put the site together contact Brian Foley (brian.foley@csun.edu)

NGSS One page summary

posted Aug 24, 2013, 11:38 PM by Matthew d'Alessio   [ updated Aug 24, 2013, 11:41 PM ]

I wanted to give pre-service teachers in my classes a short introduction to the Next Generation Science Standards and the Framework on which they are based. These are undergraduate students who are totally new to science instruction. I searched around the web for a good 1 page summary but couldn't really find one. So, I created my own, lifting language from various longer documents (hopefully in the spirit of academic fair use!). Download the file, attached to this page:

Have parents subscribe to your daily announcements post via email.

posted Jul 11, 2013, 3:57 PM by Matthew d'Alessio   [ updated Jul 11, 2013, 4:19 PM ]

One of the benefits of a website is that it allows you to keep in touch with parents and students alike. Our teachers often make a Google Site announcements page to post their daily homework assignments. Parents can then automatically subscribe to these posts in their email box. Here's how to make it work.

Step 1: Create an announcements page.
Step 2: Copy the URL of your announcements page. (Example: "https://sites.google.com/site/csuncscs/home/blog")
Step 3: You'll need to make two changes to the URL of your page. Change https to http (delete the s) and then add /posts.xml (Example revised URL: "http://sites.google.com/site/csuncscs/home/blog/posts.xml"). The revised URL is a valid RSS feed URL you can subscribe to.
Step 4: Paste the feed URL into an RSS-to-email website. I like https://blogtrottr.com/. The email is not instant -- it takes up to 1-2 hours after you post the announcement for the email to get sent. Parents should also be aware that the email may end up in their junk or spam folder.
Step 5: Add a button to your Google Site to allow people to subscribe to email announcements.
  • Edit the page where you want the button to appear
  • Insert menu... HTML box
  • Paste in the following code "<form method='post' action='http://blogtrottr.com'> Your email: <input type='text' name='btr_email' /><br /> <input type='hidden' name='btr_url' value='http://YOUR_RSS_URL_FROM_STEP3' /> <input type='hidden' name='schedule_type' value='0' /> <input type='submit' value='Follow this feed via email' /> </form>"
  • Hit Save for the HTML Box. Then save the edits to the web page.
Your website should look something like this:
Your email:

New NGSS standards in CA mean changes for middle school teachers

posted Jun 30, 2013, 1:16 PM by Matthew d'Alessio   [ updated Jun 30, 2013, 1:35 PM ]

California has posted the first official draft of the statewide science standards based on NGSS. In addition to the familiar dimension, disciplinary core ideas in science (the 'key concepts' in life, physical, and Earth & space sciences), the biggest innovations of NGSS will be 1) the focus on science and engineering practices and 2) an attempt to tie things together with cross-cutting themes. We've already been gearing up to help teachers gain fuller appreciation for these second two dimenions.But there is one wrinkle in the new state version of the standards that means some middle school will need extra support with their science content. In the latest draft of the NGSS-CA, the grade-level themes of Earth (6th), Life (7th), and Physical (8th) from our old standards are blurred or erased. That means that a long-time 7th grade teacher who is an expert in life science may all of a sudden be responsible for teaching a lot more of the core ideas from physical and Earth science.

You can find the draft standards at this link, but I summarized the disciplinary topics in the grade-level tables below. Some higlights: 
  • The core of Earth science involving plate tectonics, formerly addressed in detail in 6th grade, moves to 7th grade while some of the fundamentals of biology including discussions of cells and simple genetics get moved down to 6th grade. 
  • But it's not a simple switch, as photosynthesis and energy in organisms stays in 7th grade while weather and climate remain a part of sixth grade. 
  • I feel that eighth grade remains the most focused on physical science, but even that teacher will find him or herself teaching about mutations, evolution, and the fossil record.  

In refining the middle school sequence, the expert panel wanted to ensure that the concepts were developmentally appropriate and build properly throughout the middle school grades, along with other issues like alignment to ELA and math standards (They explain the rationale on page 3 of this link). In the long term, I think this will work out well. But in the short term, this sequencing means that we have a lot of professional development to do in all three dimensions of the NGSS for middle school.

 6th Grade   NGSS-CACA-1998



Thermal Energy

Kinetic Molecular Theory

Heat flow 
 Earth & Space


Climate & Global Warming

Water Cycle 
 Plate tectonics

Earth surface processes


Define problems

Design solutions

Design tests to compare solutions

Evaluate test results

Iteratively improve design 

 7th Grade   NGSS-CACA-1998

Photosynthesis / Energy in Organism

Ecosystems (energy flow, population dynamics, biodiversity)




Fossil Record

Structure & Function


Atoms & Molecules

More kinetic Molecular Theory

Chemical Reactions (conservation of matter & energy)



 Earth & Space

Plate Tectonics

Rock Cycle

Mitigation of Natural Hazards

Fossil Record

Geologic Time & Relative Dating


Define problems

Design solutions

Design tests to compare solutions

Evaluate test results

Iteratively improve design 

 8th Grade   NGSS-CACA-1998


Evolution & the Fossil Record

Natural Selection

Selective breeding / Genetic engineering


Newton’s laws, forces, & motion

Magnetic & Electric fields


Kinetic & Potential Energy


Newton’s laws, forces, & motion

Atoms & Molecules

Periodic table

Kinetic Molecular Theory

Chemical Reactions

Density & Bouyancy

 Earth & Space

Solar System

Gravity & planetary motion

Geologic time (specifically relative dating)

Impact of population growth on Earth resources

Solar System



Define problems

Design solutions

Design tests to compare solutions

Evaluate test results

Iteratively improve design 

CSCS Mythbusters Returns

posted Jun 11, 2013, 11:33 AM by Brian Foley   [ updated Jun 11, 2013, 11:35 AM ]

A new version of our Mythbusters class has been developed for the ProjectGradLA summer institute. Students in the PGLA program will be able to do Mythbusting science at CSUN this summer. CSCS Mythbusters challenges students to find the truth behind several myths like adding mentos to soda and escaping from Alcatraz Island. Students will use Google docs to record their data and prepare online reports using out HP netbooks. This will also provide a great opportunity for teachers to learn to use these tools in their classroom. Twenty science teachers will collaborate on the Mythbusters class creating a group of digital science teachers ready for the district iPad initiative.

Summer Institute for Science Teachers

posted Jun 11, 2013, 11:25 AM by Brian Foley

CSCS will host 25 science teachers for our annual summer institute. The institute is full but if you would like to be on the waiting list (or to receive future announcements) fill out the application form. Teachers will develop their class website and learn how to turn their current lessons into collaborative online activities.

Next Generation Science Standards have arrived!

posted Apr 10, 2013, 2:42 PM by Matthew d'Alessio

It's fun to start doing comparisons of the existing California Science Content Standards and the NGSS. Below are a few simple examples. In many cases, NGSS simply reframes a similar content standard. But that reframing is very powerful and emphasizes skills and processes that are potentially important for teaching students to think scientifically.

OLD California Science Content Standards

NEW Next Generation Science Standards

6.7.f.  Read a topographic map and a geologic map for evidence provided on the maps and construct and interpret a simple scale map.  4-ESS2-2. Analyze and interpret data from maps to describe patterns of Earth’s features. [Clarification Statement: Maps can include
topographic maps of Earth’s land and ocean floor, as well as maps of the locations of mountains, continental boundaries, volcanoes, and earthquakes.]
5.1.f. Students know differences in chemical and physical properties of substances are used to separate mixtures and identify compounds.

 5-PS1-4. Conduct an investigation to determine whether the mixing of two or more substances results in new substances.
6.4.e. Students know differences in pressure, heat, air movement, and humidity result in changes of weather.
MS-ESS2-5.    Collect data to provide evidence for how the motions and complex interactions of air masses results in changes in weather conditions. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on how air masses flow from regions of high pressure to low pressure, causing weather (defined by temperature, pressure, humidity, precipitation, and wind) at a fixed location to change over time, and how sudden changes in weather can result when different air masses collide. Emphasis is on how weather can be predicted within probabilistic ranges. Examples of data can be provided to students (such as weather maps, diagrams, and visualizations) or obtained through laboratory experiments (such as with condensation).] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include recalling the names of cloud types or weather symbols used on weather maps or the reported diagrams from weather stations.]
 5. Waves, wind, water, and ice shape and reshape Earth’s land surface. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know some changes in the earth are due to slow processes, such as ero­sion, and some changes are due to rapid processes, such as landslides, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.
b. Students know natural processes, including freezing and thawing and the growth of roots, cause rocks to break down into smaller pieces.
c. Students know moving water erodes landforms, reshaping the land by taking it away from some places and depositing it as pebbles, sand, silt, and mud in other places (weathering, transport, and deposition).
 4-ESS2-1. Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion
by water, ice, wind, or vegetation. [Clarification Statement: Examples of variables to test could include angle of slope in the downhill movement of water, amount of vegetation, speed of wind, relative rate of deposition, cycles of freezing and thawing of water, cycles of heating and cooling, and volume of water flow.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to a single form of weathering or erosion.]

HP Catalyst Selects CSCS as a STEM Education Leadership Project

posted Jan 3, 2013, 12:38 AM by Brian Foley   [ updated Jan 3, 2013, 12:47 AM ]

For the 2nd time in two years, HP Catalyst has decided to support the efforts of the CSCS group to enable 21st Century science teaching in Los Angeles. Last year HP provide an initial Catalyst award of equipment for the project.  After a year of following our efforts, HP decided to award CSCS as one of ten Leadership programs for STEM innovation.  As HP describes "Each institution will receive $100,000 to support “going deeper” with their Catalyst innovations, expanding their footprint of impact in the years ahead."

HP Catalyst logo
CSCS on HP Catalyst

CSCS Featured in HP Catalyst

HPCat bannerCSCS is partners with the HP Catalyst project.  You can check us out on the CSCS poster page (vote for us!)

CSCS Open House Attracts Dozens of Science Teachers

posted Jan 2, 2013, 11:47 PM by Brian Foley

On December 8th over 50 teachers met at CSUN to learn about teaching science with collaborative technology. Four different workshops provided plenty of opportunities to learn 21st Century teaching skills.

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