We learned about Paul Eyler, a Tyler ISD Science Facilitator, through an impressive Prezi (take a look here) and poster set he made to help his teachers understand how to use STEMscopes. Intrigued, we were eager to meet the tech-superhero behind the video and have him share his love of learning and teaching with us. As you start your school year, we hope you can take a page from Paul's ideas to start the school year off right.
A fearless educator: Paul shares a moment with a pet tarantula as it crawls across his head. After all, teaching quality hands-on science does take some bravery.
What motivated you to pursue a career in education?
I have always had a love of learning and I’ve spent my life helping and ministering to children. Whether it is overseas teaching university students or down at a pond with elementary students, seeing the faces of young people who learn something new is invaluable. On top of that, teaching science, which of course is the coolest subject in school, is almost always exciting to learn about and teach.
What do you do as a Science Facilitator at Tyler ISD?
When students ask me this same question I always respond with the opinion that I have one of the coolest jobs in the world because I get to do science all day every day.
My primary function is making sure that teachers know how to teach their standards and to provide them with effective training and engaging resources that will help students be more successful. I work with an awesome team of professionals such as our district science coordinator, secondary science facilitator, Instructional Coaches and a great majority of teachers that work hard even past the normal work hours.
Teachers have a lot on their plates at any moment; do you have any advice for them to teach science while decreasing their load yet continuing to be successful with their students?
In order for teachers to have successful students, classroom instruction needs to be engaging and relevant. Teachers have to be competent about the standards and the specific content that is addressed. They also need to have some great resources in their tool belt as well such as fun and effective learning strategies and engaging material such as STEMscopes.
I am personally trying to put some things together on my own time that would enhance my teachers’ and students’ understanding of the standards by using graphical concept maps and short engaging explainer videos for each SE that will be available for them at TEKSvideo.com. I hope they can utilize this upcoming resource to complement all the great things found on STEMscopes.
Lastly, sometimes teachers forget that the students are the ones who need to do the work…we teachers will do everything for them. So give them reasons to investigate. Equip them with the ability to observe and analyze the world around them. But make them do the work.
What is the biggest issue facing education today?
I think the biggest issue facing us today is split between two things actually. First is the digital divide and second is nature deficit disorder.
The digital divide is occurring because our schools are trying to keep up with the pace of tech innovation yet many families do not have the resources necessary to provide their children with an internet device / computer at home.
Now on the other side of the spectrum is the nature deficit disorder where many of our children are staying inside stuck in front of mind-numbing TV programming or immersed in virtual escapades of digital gaming. I’m not saying that either thing is bad in moderation or in good content, however, much of it is violent junk and too many young people are in front of it for too much of the day. They have less and less understanding of nature and the amazing things that are going on right outside.
What can individual teachers do to address this problem?
Concerning the digital divide, teachers can help lead efforts to encourage communities (or private companies) to provide low cost computers/tablets with free city-wide wifi. Writing grants is also a great way to provide funding for such efforts.
Concerning the nature deficit disorder, teachers need to get students outside more often during their science instruction. I did this a lot as a teacher and my students were heavily engaged in learning (teachers do need to have procedures in place to keep students safe and engaged though). I always tell my teachers that there is more science outside than inside. We can’t control what they do when they go home but we can help promote awareness with parents on what they can do to help get kids off the TV and game consoles and outside having fun.
PBLs are notoriously hard to implement but profoundly impactful on student learning. What advice would you give to new teachers on using PBLs to their fullest?
As a former I.B. science teacher, I utilized the PBL approach extensively with my students. PBL provides an in-depth relevance to student learning as well as embedded process skills that teachers are required to implement.
First, always make sure that what is being done with the lessons/activities is aligned to the standards.
Next, try to start off in the shallow end before swimming in the deep end. Train students on how to be self-directed in bits and pieces of the PBL process before dumping an entire project on them. Have clear instructions and rubrics that students can follow and use.
Finally, let students know that you are not going to give answers but to facilitate them in finding solutions.
What impact has STEMscopes™ had in your experience with helping teachers?
A few years ago when our district was looking at supplemental science resources, we were sold on STEMscopes after Reid Whitaker showed us all the capabilities and great instructional resources that the program offers.
For the past few years, my 5th grade teachers and secondary teachers have been using STEMscopes and have completely loved it. It is their main science resource. This year we have purchased it for all grade levels and my K-4 teachers are super excited about having a great tool to help them teach science. I would say that the teachers who extensively use STEMscopes have seen improvements in their students’ science content knowledge and assessment performance.
Thanks, Paul! We hope you have a great year!