It’s Not Just about Science, the Internet, or Basic Literacy Skills!

Yesterday, I reported on recent findings from the Pew Internet & American Life Project about where people get their science information, and I was thrilled by the conversation that this blog entry provoked, even on a Black Friday, after Thanksgiving. To be fair, not all respondents live in the United States and observe our Thanksgiving or our shopping psychoses. But I did feel that the fact that so many adults in the U.S. are going to the Internet for news and information about science, significantly applies to what and how we are teaching in our classrooms.

Cherrie, in New Zealand, said,

The Internet itself isn’t the issue is it? It’s where you get the information and what skills you have to interpret it. So you know, it’sbetter to grab it from multiple sources and the more skeptical a piece of information is, the more sources you probably should go to for confirmation of “fact”.

Judy O’Connell said,

What the PEW report presents is superficial, obvious confirmation of what we already know about kids use of the Internet. Our responsibility as educators is to show them how to be effective searchers for information, analysts of idea, and where to ‘keep digging’ effectively to help them in their formulations..

And then there’s Corturnix, who says,

..what is the role of science blogs in all this? After all, if the latest science news has something to do with circadian clocks or sleep, people expect me to explain the new study and feel free to ask further questions in the comments on my blog, so it is a conversation. While it is a dialogue between an expert and a lay-person, it is also a friendlydialogue with mutual respect, not a top-down lecture.

Gary Stager cut closer to my own thinking when he said,

Scientific knowledge is a consequence of experience – of doing science, not merely reading about it.

It is about so much more than science, the Internet, CNN, and even the basic skills. After reading these comments, my thoughts go more to how the nature of science changes as a body of study and as an ongoing issue of critical interest for adults — as our information environment becomes far more participatory. What we are learning is that science, and the social studies, and mathematics, and even what we know about health — is also participatory.

Scientists, historians, health professionals, and virtually all disciplines practice their crafts in conversation, constantly expressing, challenging, and changing what they believe and know about their world. It is teachers and students who act as if science is a settled collection of facts. It’s what is so terribly wrong with much of the “testing” that happens today. It has so much faith in the value of facts, while there is so little that is certain. It’s part of living in such an information driven, technology-rich time. We are learning so much, and that constant learning forces us to constantly question what we already knew.

So, what are we talking about here, with regard to science, the Internet, and basic literacy skills? What is the question we should be asking ourselves? How do we Stay Ahead of the Curve, the theme of next week’s NC Educational Technology Conference. I think that the question is is:

Should we be teaching what scientists know (or believe),


Should we be teaching what scientists do?

And if we are to teach students to be scientists (observers, researchers, experimenters — master questioners), then can we test it? Well, certainly not in a way that can show up in a table in the state newspapers. But, if we are coming to rely on the Internet more for our information and multimedia for expression, then might it become more possible for us to demonstrate practice, rather than just demonstrate our mastery of facts?

What do you think?

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Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.