Brine shrimp
Dec 26th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.


My children and I had an exciting visit to the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium today. The girls enjoyed the seal feeding, shark tank, jellyfish tank (on of my personal favorites), and, of course, the festival of lights – lighthouse exhibit. However, I was drawn to the jellyfish work room. The room is equipped with a number of customized gear made of PVC pipes, customized tanks, and pump systems. I was drawn to a 5-gallon blue Crystal Rock water cooler bottle that was modified with a cut-off top and a huge air stone set upon a PVC structure/table. This “tank” was growing brine shrimp, sometimes in the common vernacular referred to as sea monkeys. These small macroscopic shrimp are used as planktonic food for the jellies.

I was excited to see this set up, because about 10 years ago when I was teaching marine biology, I had a similar setup in my classroom. The students and I used to construct devices and strategize ways to take care of our 55-gallon tanks. It was experiential learning at its best. We did our regular “curricular” things in that semester class, but my fondest memories were working side-by-side with the students finding ways to make our catches from Long Island Sound – our crabs, snails, mummichog fish, mussels, clams, and even the red beard sponge come alive in our classroom environment.

What was important was that we created the environment and made the tools to keep it running. Sure, we had pre-purchased some materials, but the art of the process was determining how we could build devices that made it our own.

The Digital “Textbook”
Dec 22nd, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

from: cuesta.edu

David Wees’ Blog: 21st Century Educator had an interesting post on Nov 15, 2010 (OK – I’m behind the times . . .).  Here’s a (big) excerpt:

Here are the features I think every textbook should have.

  • The textbook should be 100% searchable. No more wondering where eukaryotic appears in the text. You’ll just be able to quickly type in a search term and find all of the places it appears.
  • Key words in the text should be linked to explanations of these key terms. Click on the word, find out what it means in this context and what other resources exist to understand it.
  • The readability of the text should be individually customizable. Want to challenge yourself and improve your vocabulary? There’s a setting for that. Feel like taking it easy on the reading? There’s a setting for that too.
  • Everything in the textbook should allow annotations which should appear as a user generated summary of the textbook itself in another location.
  • Users should be able to add bookmarks and tag parts of the textbook with terms so they can self-classify the information. These tags should optionally appear for other users of the same textbook.
  • You should be able to comment on any part of the textbook. This could be used to flag out-of-date content or just to ask questions. Each user of a textbook should optionally be able to see everyone else’s comments on various sections of the text. These comments should happen in real time so that users can chat in real time about what they are examining.
  • Videos and other multimedia should be included in the textbook where appropriate. Want to talk about MLK’s I have a dream speech? You can include the entire video of his speech as part of the book.
  • The textbook should be customizable. Users should be able to edit the content of the textbook and share the updated version of the textbook with other users. When a customization occurs, the original author(s) of the textbook could optionally be notified so they can either accept or reject the changes to the original work.
  • The textbook needs to be open source and free. No longer bound by restrictive and antiquated licenses, institutions can create their textbooks and share them with the world.
  • Textbooks need to be translatable if they are really going to be free to use for everyone. No longer would the language learners in your class be forced to struggle in your subject just because of a lack of knowledge of the language of instruction. Optionally you could have the textbook display in the language of instruction and have real-time translation services available for any section on demand.
  • For any section of the text, real time search of other resources or references needs to be available. Instead of relying on just the opinion of the author(s) of the text, now you can look at other (optionally screened) resources that could help understand some perspective on the subject of the textbook.
  • The textbook should be device agnostic and mobile-ready. It shouldn’t matter if the person is reading it on an ereader, a netbook, an iPad, or a cell phone, the textbook should be available anytime, anywhere to anyone.
  • The textbook should be built with multiple models of pedagogy in mind. Instead of flatly stating the “facts” for the student reading the textbook, there should be opportunities for experiments, simulations, 3rd virtual worlds, or whatever other alternate forms of representation are available. Inquiry should be built into these textbooks.
  • Students should be able to click anywhere in the book and ask the question, “where is this used in the real world?” No more students asking why they are learning this stuff, because the entire learning process would be transparent.
  • You should be able to ask an expert on the topic from your textbook. Need more help with the topic than the textbook is providing, or have some more questions? You can call someone for help and ask for advice right through your textbook.
  • Your textbook could be a centre of a community of people who are all learning the same material. Not all of you need to be in exactly the same class, but as you work through the textbook and make comments, the textbook learns from you about your learning habits, strengths, and weaknesses, and connects you to the people and resources that you need to understand.
  • Any practice or other tasks that need to be done through the textbook should be included, if appropriate, and immediately assessed. No more waiting for feedback.

Funny thing is, I don’t think this is a textbook, because it is not just a system of “delivering” knowledge – there’s so much more all based on engagement and interaction.  I think if we are truly reforming and changing education we really should consider the word textbook carefully.  We are evolving past that and digital learning resources are so much more.  Why hinder progress with antiquated vocabulary?

Edublog Awards 2011
Dec 18th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I am pleased to report that this blog, “In Search of Scientific Creativity” was recognized as one of the top 5 finalists in the 2011 Edublog Awards.

I also want to congratulate the other finalists in my category:

. Brunswick Acres Art Blog 665http://baart.weebly.com/
. allatc 343http://allatc.wordpress.com/
. Teacher Tom 315http://teachertomsblog.blogspot.com/
. Ms Mac’s Website 185http://kmcfadzen.wordpress.com/
. In Search of Scientific Creativity 155http://problemfinding.labanca.net/
Learning Knowledge and Skills
Dec 12th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

I was recently listening to a presentation by one of my students on the topic of implementing a 21st century skill-based instructional philosophy.  It was a very thought provoking presentation; one of the most interesting comments was that in order to achieve success, there needs to be “a corporate change of disposition.”  How poignant.  When we look at examples of 21st century skills we quickly realize that we’re not talking about technology skills – we are talking about job ready skills:

  • Information literacy
  • Communication (spoken and written)
  • Self-Directed and Collaborative Work Ethic
  • Problem Solving
  • Innovation/Creativity
  • Responsible Citizenship

How we teach and measure these skills is the essence of high quality education.  They don’t exist in isolation, and they can’t exist without foundational knowledge and skills in literacy (reading/writing) and numeracy (mathematics).  The 3 “R”s are the bedrock while 21st century skills are the authentic application of them.

Creativity in a cookie
Dec 5th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Isn’t it the truth? Sometimes, there’s just no need to write more . . .  It was a nice meal with family too!

Who are your Partners?
Dec 1st, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Note: This article is cross-posted in the Connecticut Science Supervisors Association September Newsletter.  I typically post on my blog when it is published, but neglected to do it back then. No time like the present!  Be a part of the discussion, join my personal learning network, and leave a comment on its contents there.



y network of colleagues working in Science Education in Connecticut has always amazed me.  The diverse expertise has always made it possible for me to find the resources necessary for improving the quality of programs by increasing student engagement and achievement.   In my (fairly) new role as the Director of the Center for 21st Century Skills at EDUCATION CONNECTION, I have found the network is more important than ever.  Partnering with schools and districts, other science education organizations (both nationally and in-state) are a regular part of my daily activities.  If I want to create the highest quality STEM programs possible, I recognize that I can’t do it alone – I need my partners.  And those partners come from a wide swath – business partners, industry partners, higher education partners, State department partners, foundation partners, and federal partners, to name a few.



 think it is so important that I don’t operate in isolation.   It would be a waste of resources and time if I “siloed.” I don’t want to operate in isolation doing the exact same thing my peers are doing, creating the same product. Yet I find that siloing effect happening too often.  Although we absolutely do need to customize for our own program needs, we really should try to utilize each other’s expertise.  That might be the best use of our time.  Anyone looking for a partner?

2011 Edublog Awards
Dec 1st, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Creating that personal learning network is so important in the field of education.  Having other professionals that are engaged, pushing the envelope, and challenging the status quo are necessary for me to become a better educator.  I love sharing my ideas, but I also love hearing about others who give me new thoughts or challenge my preconceived notions.

I salute the EDUBLOG AWARDS for recognizing those in education who use Web 2.0 technology to improve their craft and share their ideas with others.  To that end, I nominate the following sites for their contribution to the educational enterprise.

 Best New Blog:  http://teachdigital.org Matthew Worwood, an Apple Distinguished Educator, shares his innovative approaches to digital media instruction and inspiring ideas centered around creativity.

 Best Group Blog:  http://blogcea.org  The Connecticut Education Association not only keeps us abreast of political/legislative action in Connecticut, but they share the positive stories that show the power of education and those who have dedicated their lives to the profession.

Best Educational Use of a Social Network http://www.facebook.com/TheQualitativeReport The Qualitative Report has become one of my favorite qualitative research journals because it is so practical for educational researchers and those engaging in qualitative research.  TQR does a great job with its social network via Facebook, email blasts, and websites. Best of all, this peer-reviewed journal is online and open access.

Best Free Web Tool.  http://wordle.net  Wordle, unquestionably, is a tool that has so many practical applications for literacy, research, summarizing, and big ideas.  Best of all IT IS REALLY ENGAGING for students.  If you haven’t used this tool with your students to examine writing, communicate ideas, and share learning, you’ve missed a great opportunity.

 Lifetime Achievement.  http://speedofcreativity.org  Wesley Fryer really is an amazing individual and I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from him over the years.  I had the pleasure to speak on a panel with him in 2006 for the Discovery E-School News Blog Awards and I continue to learn from him every day.  He is a prolific writer – always sharing new ideas and thoughts.

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