Podcast Episode 3: Twig Education On… EdTech with Dr. Monica Burns

In episode 3 of Twig Education On…, Dr. Kim Mueller talks to Dr. Monica Burns from classtechtips.com about digital learning, open-ended creation tools, and moving from learning loss to learning recovery.

Dr. Monica Burns runs the popular EdTech blog ClassTechTips, bringing you teaching strategies, tips, and activity ideas.

She also presents the Easy EdTech Podcast, which focuses on how to make EdTech integration easy, with shout-outs to favorite EdTech tools for classrooms.

Monica provides actionable, relevant tips for teachers that help take the stress out of integrating education technology into your classroom.

When Monica talks about open-ended creation tools, she means learning environments that give students the freedom to express themselves and a space to demonstrate their understanding, such as our own easy-to-use video-making experience, Twig Create. 

We’re currently running a Twig Create Summer Challenge. All you need to do to take part is use Twig Create to make and submit a short video about your local area. The best videos we receive can win a range of pretty special prizes—including an Apple iPad or AirTag, and the unique opportunity for your class to work with the producers of Twig Science Reporter to make its very own episode!

Science and Engineering Practices: Beyond Hands-On

Brother helping sister with homework

Historically, Science Education Has Over-Emphasized Hands-On Experiments

In the past, for many educators, the indicator of a “good” science program was the number of experiments involved. These hands-on experiments would follow the scientific method: posing a question, testing a hypothesis, and drawing a conclusion.

These old assumptions were overturned when the National Research Council, in its “Framework for K–12 Science Education,”(1) described this focus on the scientific method as “overemphasiz[ing] experimental investigation at the expense of other practices, such as modeling, critique, and communication.”

Real-World Scientists and Engineers Use a Wide Range of Practices—NOT Just Hands-On Experiments

Instead, the Framework set out eight important science and engineering practices—including modeling, developing explanations, and engaging in critique and evaluation—that it described as having been “too often been underemphasized in the context of science education.”(2) These practices are “derived from those that scientists and engineers actually engage in as part of their work”(3) and they reflect the way that, in real life, scientists and engineers move fluidly between three “spheres” of activity:

In seeking to understand our world and deliver better design solutions, “scientists and engineers try to use the best available tools to support the task at hand.”(4) They do not focus solely on investigations and empirical inquiry, running repeated lab experiments. In fact, technology and computing is integral to virtually all aspects of their work.

Programs that do NOT reflect the working practices of scientists and engineers also do NOT meet the requirements of modern science standards such as the NGSS.

21st Century Science Uses the Best Practices for the Task at Hand

Once we understand the thinking behind this shift—moving the focus of science education from an over-reliance on experimentation to a more fluid approach, applying the practices most relevant to a given task—it becomes easier to identify genuine NGSS programs.

The NGSS requires students to investigate phenomena that can range from weather patterns in Grade 1 to the cycling of matter in Grade 5. Looking at the eight SEPs, we can see that certain SEPs are better fitted to some phenomena than others.

In short, a genuine NGSS program like Twig Science can be identified by the way it uses SEPs in investigations:

  • It will unpack phenomena in varied and fluid ways—just like real-world scientists and engineers—using appropriate SEPs at each stage.
  • The range of SEPs used to unpack each phenomenon will be driven by the phenomenon itself. Some phenomena are more suited to being unpacked via data analysis, research, or observation than by experiment.
  • Similarly, it will NOT employ a rigid lesson structure that adheres, for example, to the “explore” phase always involving an experiment and the “explain” phase always involving reading a text.

It is critical that the nature of the phenomenon being investigated drives the use of SEPs, and not the other way round. This is because “when [experimental investigations] are taught in isolation from science content, they become the aims of instruction in of themselves rather than a means of developing a deeper understanding of the concepts and purposes of science.”(5)

We call science programs that fall into this trap “random acts of science”—a series of experiments, rather than a cohesive, phenomena-driven program.

Need a genuine NGSS program? Check out Twig Science.


(1) National Research Council (2012) p.43. “A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas.” H. Quinn, H. Schweingruber, and T. Keller (eds.), Committee on Conceptual Framework for the New K-12 Science Education Standards.
(2) National Research Council (2012) p.44
(3) National Research Council (2012) p.49
(4) National Research Council (2012) p.45
(5) National Research Council (2012) p.43

Podcast Episode 2: Twig Education On… Digital Storytelling

In episode 2 of Twig Education On…, Lisa Larsgaard talks to Michael Hernandez, an award-winning cinema and broadcast journalism educator. They discuss how video creation in the classroom (and outside of it) can empower students to become digital storytellers, equipping them with transferable skills they can use in future careers. Hit the play button above to start listening!

Michael Hernandez is an author, teacher, and conference speaker who specializes in film production and digital storytelling.

His awards include Apple Distinguished Educator, Google For Education Certified Innovator, PBS Digital Innovator, and JEA National Broadcast Adviser of the Year.

Twig Create is an easy-to-use video-making experience for K–12 that gives students the chance to explore their creativity and build vocabulary and knowledge across all subject areas. Students actively engage in reading, writing, listening, and speaking through video-making experiences, accelerating progress toward language proficiency. Ready-made media templates activate engagement in any subject area as students build knowledge and digital literacy.

You can sign up for a free teacher account and begin using Twig Create today. Just click here to get started.

3 Must-Have Hybrid Benefits of Twig Science Next Gen

At Twig Science Next Gen, we’re constantly listening to what teachers say are the key challenges they’re facing—and devising creative solutions that are adaptable, easy to use, and genuinely inspiring.

Here are some of the important features that help to make the Twig Science Next Gen experience great for setting students on the path to long-term STEM success—even while we’re still in a period where usual learning patterns are being disrupted.

1. Remote and/or Hybrid Learning

Many of the distance learning resources available at the peak of the pandemic were stopgap solutions. Right now, as we edge closer to the end of the pandemic but while schools are still operating with some remote and/or hybrid instruction in place, teachers need solutions that deliver long-term, standards-based learning.

Twig Science Next Gen does this by combining synchronous and asynchronous learning—and, uniquely, being equally strong at both. In a synchronous session, teachers are able to walk through a Digital Twig Book live with students or present to students via a split-screen. Asynchronously, teachers can assign students the same sections from their Twig Books and use feedback tools to check on students’ progress. We’ve made sure that no matter what approach is being used, teachers can switch between using Twig Science Next Gen synchronously or asynchronously and the content and standards covered will blend seamlessly with what was taught before and what’s coming up next. This adaptability is bringing bring real peace of mind to teachers, students, and parents in these transitional months.

2. 3,000+ Twig Coach/Video Labs Lessons

Our 3,000 Twig Coach and Video Labs lesson videos are what really makes Twig Science Next Gen the strongest hybrid and/or remote solution out there.

Our team of Twig Coaches is made up of virtual teachers who appear in bite-sized studio-quality coaching videos. They’re all experienced teachers, who specialize in teaching science at particular grades. The lessons Twig Coaches present are designed to fit right into your students’ full program of science learning—they’re not bonus lessons to fill in when the teacher is not available. They hit exactly the same learning standards as teachers would be expected to cover in the classroom. Likewise, they’re not simply presenter-led videos that students passively watch—Twig Coaches encourage participation and engagement.

Video Labs allow students to take part in experiments from home, which helps to support the teaching of hands-on science—a crucial part of getting students engaged in science. Video Labs are carried out by engaging presenters from different backgrounds, and all of the experiments are shot in HD from start to finish in the Twig Science Next Gen studio.

Just as with the Twig Coach videos, Video Labs aren’t just random fun experiments. They’re carefully designed to teach important standards—including science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas—as stepping stones on students’ paths towards STEM success at school and, much later, in college and careers.

3. Culturally Relevant Content

The Twig Science Next Gen program is committed to bringing the wonder of science learning to every student, no matter their background. Twig Science Next Gen features immersive story-based investigations full of theater-quality videos, interactives, and imagery, and in all of it we’ve tried to be sensitive to the need to represent the realities of the diversity of student experience.

In this respect, we’ve gone way beyond what is legally and socially compliant. We want absolutely every student to get the same level of opportunity to succeed in STEM. And we firmly believe that students get excited about science careers when they understand that scientists are regular people just like them. We’ve made sure to include representation of different genders and races in our learning materials—including in our Twig Coaches and Video Labs—and the program includes examples of a wide range of STEM professionals from all backgrounds to inspire students, including interviews with real-world scientists who talk in a relatable way about what they do, how they got started, and the tools they use.

Twig Science Next Gen pilots are being rolled out right now—so get in touch today to apply to have your school try out the entire program.

How Do You Know You’re Looking at a Real CA NGSS Program?

Don’t Be Fooled by “Frankenstein” Programs that Just Bolt On the CA NGSS

Twig Science was built from the ground up for the CA NGSS, with every detail designed to deliver investigation-based, phenomena-centered learning.

Other programs claim to be CA NGSS, but too often, beneath the surface, they’re Frankenstein products—legacy programs with bits of the CA NGSS bolted on.

So how do you know you’re getting the real deal?You’ve got to look at the instructional shifts required by the CA NGSS (link).

Here are three key things to watch out for:

1. Units Build to Unpack Anchor Phenomena


A program in which “Students engage in the CA NGSS practices to build deeper understanding of science and engineering content and make sense of phenomena and design solutions” (CA NGSS instructional shift).

Genuine CA NGSS units embed anchor phenomena to inspire students to observe and make sense of phenomena for themselves through a series of investigations that build understanding—until students can unpack the anchor phenomena themselves.


Programs that simply “bolt on” phenomena on top of content—where information is front-loaded rather than discovered. They’re often rigidly divided into life, earth, and physical sciences—rather than integrated across all science disciplines.

See how Twig Science has been built to support the CA NGSS from the foundations up: Evaluation Rubric—Foundations video

2. Fully Integrated Engineering Design Process


A program in which “Engineering is integrated into all science disciplines” (CA NGSS instructional shift) Genuine CA NGSS programs have students use the engineering design process as a fully integrated part of how students investigate phenomena or design problems.


Programs where “Engineering is treated as an add-on.” The addition of engineering practices is new to the CA NGSS, so it’s easy to recognize programs that are just superficially adapted to it. They can’t integrate the engineering design process into legacy materials, so they’re forced to create special “STEM” or “Engineering Challenges” and—once again—bolt them on top.

See a preview of a Twig Science module and its series of true real-world engineering investigations:
BioTech Systems Worldwide teacher trailer video

3. Student-Driven Investigation


Programs in which “engaging in science and engineering practices allows students to revise their
thinking and understanding”
(CA NGSS instructional shift).

Students should lead the discovery using the full range of science and engineering practices (SEPs)—asking
and answering their own questions, carrying out their own collaborative investigations, and coming to their own
evidence-based conclusions.


Rather than using the SEPs to explore a phenomenon, some programs use the “scientific method”
to lead students through investigations to “prove” or “demonstrate” what they’ve already been told.
See how the structure of Twig Science modules encourages students to lead their own discovery:
Twig Science program structure video

If you’re not looking at Twig Science, you’re looking at old science.

Planning Inspiring Lessons in Twig Science Next Gen

Twig Science Next Gen makes it easy to plan great STEAM sessions, with easy-to-use guides to standards and resources, step-by-step supports, and built-in differentiation.

Each module is focused on an Anchor Phenomenon or Engineering Design Challenge. Students gather evidence to make sense of these these while connecting them to Driving Questions and Investigative Phenomena.

Twig Science Next Gen is based on an inquiry-driven instruction model and a 5E lesson design to engage and motivate your students through active learning.

Here’s what you see when you start a new Twig Science Next Gen lesson:

And here’s a typical lesson page, with discussion prompts, clearly marked session and assessment types, and differentiated instruction:

Interested in finding out more about Twig Science Next Gen? Get in touch with us today.