Taking both of these together, one might fear for the future of NGSS implementation, but I have reasons for hope. This is the first time in the history of science reforms that science teachers can easily connect with colleagues not just across the hall, but also across the district, state, nation, and the world through social media. Earlier reform efforts were forced to rely on conventions, mailings, journals, etc. to spread best practices. Today, we have the power of the Internet. Obviously, you know this because you're reading my blog, but let me take some space here to share how being connected makes us stronger and smarter.
I am part of a state network for the implementation of the NGSS. As such, we meet monthly to explore the standards and to develop as teacher leaders. This network method has its strengths. It gathers teachers together and ensures that representatives from every district across the state (and Kentucky has a lot of districts) hear the same message. It also has some negatives. Only a limited number of science teachers can attend (3 per district plus one special education teacher). It is also limited in its focus. The facilitators (and the participants) aren't completely free to explore their own needs with NGSS implementation because the network has its own agenda. Still, this has been one support for my in my NGSS implementation journey.
The second connection that supports NGSS implementation in my classroom is the teacher next door. I am lucky enough to teach in a school where three teachers split the 7th grade science classes. This means that I always have a partner to plan with and someone to bounce ideas off of. Together, we take my vision of NGSS and translate it into classroom instruction that works in middle school. Obviously, we're not perfect, but working together we are stronger than working alone. The negative of this is that we are only three people and we're still figuring out the NGSS.
Probably my favorite network exists virtually. It's one one that I've developed through social media. Using Twitter, I've connected with great science teachers across Kentucky and across the United States. I've been able to ask questions, share experiences, offer advice, and have lengthy discussions with science teachers I've never met. All of us benefit from these, even when we don't exactly agree with what we hear.
The #CER4Sci summer book club was born out of connections made on Twitter. You can see the archives of our summer book club using the link above. Through this experience, middle school science teachers from across the US were able to dig into the CER framework and help each other figure out how to use it in the classroom.
Twitter is also useful for connecting to other science teachers' blogs. A group of us post blogs on a regular basis and promote them on Twitter via the hashtag #NGSSblogs. This allows other science teachers to easily find out what's going on in NGSS classrooms.
Through Twitter and blogging, I have also connected with some amazing Kentucky NGSS educators who are working hard on a vision of developing NGSS teacher leaders. This is organized around the Multi Tools Online Community.
I could keep talking about virtual professional learning communities, but instead, I'll encourage you to go get connected (if you aren't' already). It's only through these connections that we can really reach the vision of The Framework and the NGSS. Find those around you (virtually or in real life) who make you smarter and stronger. Together we are better. Come learn with us. (You can find me on Twitter @tksicguy.)