Alabama Partners with NASA and ASTA to Support New Online Science Resources
Another in an occasional series of guest posts, we are pleased to feature the work and voices of state leaders. Richard O. Murphy, Ed.D. is the State Administrator of Alabama’s ALEX Web Portal for the Alabama Department of Education.
The Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX), a project of the Alabama Department of Education, is designed to index and share many types of educational materials and information through a time-saving, one-stop resource for educators, parents, and students. ALEX resources are free and open to the public. The majority of these rich resources (lesson plans, Web links, and interactive activities) are located and connected to the Alabama Courses of Study by National Board Certified Teachers. ALEX has partnered with NASA and the Alabama Science Teacher’s Association (ASTA) to create lesson plans for the new Alabama science standards. Although many have already been added to the ALEX database, it is expected that over 200 plans will be approved by August 2016 to support teachers in implementing the new Alabama Science Course of Study, supplemented by the Alabama College- and Career-Ready standards.
During the months of January through March, NASA’s EPD Specialist, John F. Weis hosted the NASA STEM Standards of Practice Project for nearly 100 science teachers from across Alabama at the Marshall Space Flight Center. Four sessions including about 25 teachers each were facilitated according to grade range including K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Teachers were immersed in a plethora of free NASA resources that included engaging, inquiry-based learning activities and materials for classroom use, and are expected to redeliver that training in their own schools. Of the event, Mr. Weis said, “These teachers have done a phenomenal job taking existing NASA resources and embedding them directly into ALEX lesson plans to support the new Alabama standards for science. We have enjoyed working with them and look forward to continuing to support the turn-around trainings that they will conduct in their regions.” In addition to taking the training back to their schools, teachers were expected to submit lessons with NASA-embedded resources to the ALEX website. Over 40 lessons have been submitted, and more than 30 have been approved for viewing. Click here to view approved NASA/ALEX plans.
In addition, the ALEX Team planned events in partnership with ASTA, involving nearly 50 Alabama science teachers from all grade levels. ASTA’s involvement in the success of the lesson plan summits has been crucial. ALEX leaders asked ASTA to select participants based upon science teachers’ application submissions, and they did not disappoint. The lesson plan quality is outstanding, and should be of great benefit to science teachers at all experience levels. The first summit resulted in nearly 70 lesson plan submissions, all of which go through a rigorous review process before being approved for viewing on the ALEX website. The second summit will occur in June, where it is expected that a similar number of plans will be submitted. Click here to view approved ASTA/ALEX plans.
Dr. Richard Murphy started his career as an educator in grades 7-12, teaching language arts and computer applications for fifteen years. He concurrently did contract work for businesses, universities, and the Alabama Department of Education including tasks such as curriculum development, instructional design, database design, web design, graphics design, video production, and training. Dr. Murphy currently works full time for the Alabama Department of Education and serves as the state administrator for the Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX) web portal.