Using the NSTA Learning Center as an Online Textbook for Teaching Science Pre-service Teachers

ASTE members: Learn how to integrate your planned instruction for science pre-service teachers with a customized and interactive online textbook that leverages the resources, tools, and online community available via the NSTA Learning Center (NSTA LC).

The inputs:
What if you could select from existing interactive teacher-focused web modules with simulations of science phenomena, NGSS lesson activities, pedagogical e-chapters focused on areas such as formative assessment and how to teach difficult science concepts, and dozens NGSS themed web seminar archives to create an engaging and coherent suite of content–all embedded within an online community for social learning discourse where teacher participation and sharing is moderated and tracked via an innovative point and badge system tied to individual user profiles to engage and enhance learning?

The outputs:
1. What if your students could create and share a PDF report from a digital portfolio with reflections and artifacts documenting their learning experiences over the length of your course?

2. What if your students could continue to access their selected learning resources for life and enjoy life-time access to an online learning community of over 200,000 professional educators?

3. What if you could document your students’ learning via pre/post assessments tightly coupled to web modules that highlight disciplinary core ideas in the physical, life, and Earth and space sciences?

4. What if you could have access to your students’ usage of the NSTA Learning Center tools and experiences within the NSTA Learning Center online community?

Introducing the NSTA Learning Center!

Important note: Users of the NSTA Learning Center do not have to be members of the NSTA to create an account and use the resources, tools, and online community.

About NSTA and the NSTA Learning Center:
The mission of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning. The NSTA LC supports blended learning experiences for science educators and those who teach them. Launched in 2008, the NSTA LC is designed to enhance and support educators’ long-term professional growth by providing them with a suite of tools, resources, and opportunities based on their unique learning needs and preferences within a professional learning community. The portal has over 200,000 active users engaged in self-directed web modules, live web seminars, and online communities. Teachers also connect and discuss pedagogical strategies, such as the NGSS, as they review, create, and share collections of digital resources. To date, users have added more than 1.9 million resources to their personal libraries. They also have uploaded thousands of personal resources and created more than 28,000 collections. The Learning Center’s web-accessible activity reports, coupled with badges, points, and local leader boards can assist professors in affirming the online learning efforts of their students.

The Learning Center has thousands of resources that cater to different learning preferences. Many of the resources highlight the Next Generation Science Standards, (NGSS), including journal articles from NSTA’s four award-winning journals, and e-chapters from NSTA Press books. In addition, dozens of web seminar archives on the Science and Engineering Practices, Cross Cutting Concepts, and the Disciplinary Core Ideas can be found in the NSTA Learning Center. When teacher candidates identify resources of interest they add them to their library alongside their own uploaded resources. Users may also identify personal learning goals and communicate successful goal completions through dynamically generated PDF reports from the My Learning Plan tool. Teachers are awarded badges and certificates as they complete different tasks. The NSTA LC also provides a tool designed to help teachers identify areas of subject matter growth.

The My PD Indexer is a diagnostic tool where users select general areas of content and answer related questions. The PD Indexer tracks results for each diagnostic assessment and recommends specific resources based on the results. These resources may be added to the teacher’s library. The PD Indexer can be used as the pre- and post-assessment instrument to document knowledge gain after completing a learning experience that may include a web module found in the Learning Center called SciPack (Byers, Koba, Sherman, Scheppke, & Bolus, 2011). Four independent third-party evaluations have found significant gains in teacher learning and self-efficacy when SciPacks are used as part of the teacher learning endeavors (

The latest NSTA LC innovation involved the first ideation of integrated community forums coupled closely with a badge and recognition system that leverages “gamification” strategies to help build and stimulate meaningful online learning. One of the fourteen public forums available is dedicated exclusively to NGSS-related discourse. The recognition system facilitates deeper and more meaningful engagement with the resources as users help curate the content that is shared. Badge requirements suggest paths for learning and are linked to teachers’ individual profiles. These strategies seek to recognize teachers’ online efforts and provide mechanisms for rewards.

NSTA has a history of collaboration with institutions of higher education. Currently, dozens of professors use the NSTA LC as their online textbook in their courses for teaching science pre-service teachers.

With the NSTA LC, your students can:
• Create a library of digital resources to use and share
• Participate in online communities’ rich discussions
• Build a profile with sample posts, reviews, collections, activity points, and badges as recognition of their work

As the professor, you can:
• Track your students’ activities via the instructor’s dashboard
• Customize your class landing page with your own text and university banner
• Join in discussion with other professors who are using the NSTA LC as their online textbook

The NSTA Learning Center Workshop at ASTE in Baltimore:
The workshop is designed for science education professors who teach science elementary or secondary methods courses and for those who teach science content courses to science pre-service teachers. Participants will learn and ask questions about how the Learning Center can be used as their online textbook to enhance and extend pre-service teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge.

Using the Learning Center as an online textbook is better than using a traditional textbook for a number of reasons:
• The students gain access to thousands of high quality resources to enhance their content and pedagogical knowledge.
• Students can engage with other professional educators online from around the country.
• Students learn about their professional organization – NSTA.
• It is forever. Since the NSTA LC accounts never expire, students may continue to use the NSTA Learning Center portal and their resources for life.

Learning Objectives of the Workshop:
• Using a slide deck with NSTA Learning Center screen-shots, professors will learn about the NSTA Learning Center, its resources, tools, and online community.
• Professors will ask questions and discuss different ways professors from different universities are using the NSTA LC with their students. Professors who are using the NSTA Learning Center with their students will participate as panel members.
• Professors will work with colleagues in small groups to identify concrete ways of integrating the NSTA LC in their courses. They will share their ideas with the larger group.

Outline of the Workshop:
Part 1: All you need to know about the NSTA Learning Center by NSTA staff (25 min)
Part 2: How are other professors using the NSTA Learning Center? Q&A with panel of professors (40 min)
Part 3: Integrating the NSTA Learning Center in my course (30 min)
Part 4: Share out and final Q&A with NSTA staff and panel of professors (25 min)

The effectiveness of the workshop will be judged by the number and quality of the questions asked by the professors to the panel members and their ideas for how to integrate the NSTA LC in their courses. A follow-up, online survey will be distributed for additional feedback to the presenters. NSTA staff will be present for the duration of the conference after the workshop to answer additional questions and will collect participants’ contact information for follow-up conversations and implementation support.

Workshop Presenters:
Flavio Mendez is the Assistant Executive Director for the Learning Center at NSTA. He works directly with professors using the portal in support of their courses and students. Mendez is an ASTE member and guest presenter of the Methods for Elementary Science class at University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
The following professors have experience using the NSTA LC and will be available to answer questions:
• Susan Blunck, Ph.D., University of Maryland, Baltimore County
• Michael Odell, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Tyler
• Nate Carnes, Ph.D., University of South Carolina
• Donna Governor, Ph.D., University of North Georgia
• S. Maxwell Hines, Ph.D., Winston-Salem State University

Workshop Handouts/Online Information and Cost:
There is no charge for attending this workshop. Attendance limit is determined by the size of the room. The use of computer equipment and/or internet access is not required for this workshop. NSTA will share the NSTA Learning Center “1-sheet” with the participants and an electronic collection (a URL) with resources.