The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) will be holding a conference this week in Charlotte, The Queen City of North Carolina. It is both ironic and opportune for science teachers, from around the country, to converge on my state to celebrate science education and to learn more about their chosen passion and techniques conveying it to their students.
I had planned to explain this event’s importance as part of my address to the audience. But, alas, I’ll have only 45 minutes, so will be getting right to business. Instead, I’ll explain it all here, sitting in a Raleigh coffee shop, and proud to be a citizen of this state that owes so much of its recent success to science and education – and a state that desperately needs to be snapped out of its stupor.
Dazed by $80,000,000 worth of campaigning in 2012 (“Follow the money,” 2012), we have witnessed an arrogant government, in effect, vilify science and education. Helping to spur this backward thinking is John Droz, a retired real-estate investor and fellow with the American Tradition Institute (which is tied to fossil fuel interests). In a recent presentation [a Droz slidedeck] to the General Assembly, he called smart meters “fascism in a box” and environmentalism a “new world religion backed by the United Nations.” Among his cited sources were,
Whistleblower, the monthly magazine companion of WorldNetDaily a website that promotes conspiracy theories about topics such as President Obama’s citizenship; Quadrant, a conservative Australian magazine that was involved in a scandal over publishing fraudulent science and the Institute for Creation Research a Texas outfit that rejects evolution and promotes Biblical creationism and the notion that “All things in the universe were created and made by God in the six literal days of the Creation Week.” (Surgis, 2013)
Also carrying some influence is John Skvarla, the newly appointed Secretary for the state’s Department of the Environment and Natural Resources. He apparently believes that oil is a renewable resource, saying “The Russians for instance have always drilled oil as if it’s a renewable resource, and so far they haven’t been proven wrong.“
And then there are the legislators of 20 coastal counties, where developers have been stifled by the notion of sea level rise. So to make things better for developers, They introduced a bill that outlaws the rise of the sea, or at least how it’s measured. From House Bill 819, Section 2.
This whole business prompted comedian, Stephen Colbert to say on the air, “If your science gives you a result you don’t like, pass a law saying the result is illegal. Problem solved.“
The dramatic decline in Tobacco farming in North Carolina, illustrated in this graphic (North Carolina Department of Agriculture), has meant an enormous hardship for rural NC. As part of Raleigh’s efforts to find a new cash crop, the Biofuels Center of North Carolina was established five years ago, researching, developing and testing a variety of crops biomass crops.
|The now defunct Biofuels Center of North Carolina web site|
The center closed its doors last week. The General Assembly cut the center’s entire $4.3 million budget. In the words of Steven Burke, the centers CEO,
“The center, a growing biofuels community statewide, and companies considering new facilities here share dismay that North Carolina has visibly pulled back from the nation’s lead state biofuels agency and from long-term commitment to comprehensive biofuels development.” “No longer pursuing advanced biofuels with a focused, comprehensive strategy will lessen opportunity to create rural jobs, strengthen agriculture, and create an enormous biofuels and biomaterials sector.”
There’s not much that a few thousand science teachers can do, except to be mindful that science is neither fact nor theology. It’s a way of looking at the world, observing, hypothesizing, predicting, testing, evaluating and adapting. It is both personal and social, and following someone else’s standards for what’s to know (to be taught) is as repudiating to what science is as outlawing the results.
I look forward to seeing many of you at the NSTA conference this week in Charlotte. I’ll be inBallrooms C&D at 2:00 on Friday afternoon.
Follow the money. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.followthemoney.org/database/state_overview.phtml?s=NC&y=2012
Surgis, S. (2013, February 7). Climate conspiracy theorist returns to NC legislature, warns of threat from science ‘elite’. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.southernstudies.org/2013/02/climate-conspiracy-theorist-returns-to-nc-legislature-warns-of-threat-from-science-elite.htm
(2011). Coastal management policies (House Bill 819). Retrieved from North Carolina General Assembly website: http://www.nccoast.org/uploads/documents/CRO/2012-5/SLR-bill.pdf
North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, North Carolina Agricultural Statistics. (n.d.). Crops: Highs & lows, stocks & storage, biotech, varieties, floriculture, county estimates, fruits & vegetables. Retrieved from website: http://www.ncagr.gov/stats/2012AgStat/Page061_098.pdf
In honor of the day, I thought I'd add a little something about Halloween costums. This is originally from Spirit Halloween, purveyors of all things Halloween dress-up. This is thirty years of culture, as manifest by what our children (not to mention many of us) identify with. It might be worth a discussion in the teachers' lounge (Ya'll still do have teachers' lounges?) about what you dressed up as, way back when. Anyone ever dress up as a hobo? Does anyone in your lounge know what a hobo is?
MasterCard has just released its Top 20 Global Destination Cities for 2013. Many will not surprise you, but some, perhaps, may. Here is an infographic that shows the top ten.
It might be useful to ask students to research one of the top cities, and/or the tourist attractions that draw people. Why do we go there? What interests us about them? Is it leisure, interest, adventure, or something else? An interesting research and report project with practical value, producing infographics to convince community members to visit their destination of choice.
There are a few things that are really difficult to convey to students. I remember how hard it was to help my social studies students understand what caused the seasons. Yes, I taught a lot of science while teaching social studies. Distance and time, on the outset, seem simple. But comprehending the vastness of time, when looking at history, and distance, when looking at science (or visa-versa), are hard for us to comprehend. In the words of the source blog for this infographic,
Humans are good at a lot of things, but putting time in perspective is not one of them. It’s not our fault – the span of time in human history, and even more so in natural history, are so vast compared to the span of our life and recent history that it’s almost impossible to get a handle on it.
There are lots of great infographics and visualizations that help to compare all manner of vastness, and here’s one.
We know why we became teachers. If it wasn’t the reason, then it’s why we remained teachers. It’s..
Seeing the light bulb go off. I think that’s why any teacher gets into teaching, because that’s the best feeling, seeing them so interested and engaged and finally getting it … and knowing that you made a difference. (Stancill, 2013)
“Seeing the light bulb go off.”
That’s how Haley Brown describes it. She’s a seven-year elementary school teacher in Raleigh, who has just accepted an administrative position – with a homebuilder. According to the October 24 Raleigh News & Observer article, Haley says that testing has not only robbed her of her emotional and professional energy, but also robbed her students of meaningful learning. Teacher assistants have been laid-off (state legislation), the workload keeps growing, and she has received only one raise and a 1% cost of living increase in her seven years.
It’s not an uncommon story, but one that has gained traction because of the note her husband, Matt, handed her, when she’d made her decision. Haley was so thankful for her husband’s support that she posted the note on her blog, earning 1,200 likes on Facebook. As the letter continued to resonate with some many people, Matt sent it to the N&O, and they published it as an opinion piece. As of this week, it is the most popular story page on the paper’s web site for 2013. It’s been read more than a half million times.
Does this really matter. Is anyone noticing? North Carolina is a right-to-work state, so there’s no teachers union and teachers don’t strike. They just slip away. Who cares?
|Pictures to come|
There is a new story out there. It’s made up of lots of characters, plots and sub-plots, but it’s not been assembled yet.
This weekend, I’ll be attending the ReinventEd Unconference at Black Mountain SOLE, in Black Mountain, North Carolina. It’s going to be one of those learning events that’s driven by questions, not authorities, and no small part of its appeal comes from the fact that its organizer is Steve Hargadon.
My greatest wish is for a new narrative about education – a new and complete story that will resonate not only with passionate educators, but also with anyone else,
..who’s willing to listen.
Here’s a nice little video that gives us a peek in to the world of electrons. I was surprised to find out how much mystery there is behind such a basic element of chemistry. The video also manages to paint an almost flirtatious relationship between electrons and scientists which I found pretty funny.
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Red Bull released this video earlier this week. What you’re seeing is the famous record-breaking jump a year ago from all captured angles along with some real time data. This was just a mind-blowing event and I think this video captures the whole thing pretty perfectly. What an amazing record of human history.
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If I could get my hands on one of these I’m sure I could play with it for hours. Apparently these are Neodymium magnets passing through thick copper tubes. What happens is a pretty astounding lowered gravity effect.
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Panelists included Will Richardson, Kathy Cassidy, Darren Cambridge, Jessie Woolley-Wilson & David Warlick. Other kickoff panels include: 21st Century Classroom Management, Making It Count-Integrating Formal and Informal PD, From Connection to Collaboration & Connected Leadership.
I had the honor of being part of one of Connected Educators Month‘s kickoff panels last week, one called “Personalized Learning Kickoff.” I strike through the ized part of the title, because parts of our conversation suggested a difference between personal learning and personalized learn. I went into a deeper discussion of this distinction in “Individualized Instruction Vs. Personal Learning”.
I don’t particularly look forward to these things because my hearing is so poor. It takes me a majority of brain’s computing cycles to translate the mess that I hear and the tiny facial and body cues from Collaborate’s video screen into a semblance of what the speaker actually said.
Because this leaves me less than confident, I try to have lots of notes that I can readily call on without too much difficulty. ..and since I put so much time and thought into notes, I thought I’d post it all here.
What is the difference between personal and personalized learning?
- The problem with professional idioms is that the phrase becomes an entity until itself.
- People can hang on them what ever notions they have of its meaning.
- They can say “personalized learning” and “personal learning,” and
- ? think they’re talking about the same thing,
- ? because the phrase has come to mean more than the words that make it.
- My opinion: A distinction needs to be made between ? learning that happens because of what’s done to the learner (personalized/individualized), and ? learning that happens because of what the learner deliberately and resourcefully does (personal)
- “Personalized” describes to me something that is done to, designed or produced for, or imposed on the student.
- Reference Blog Posts: ? Individualized Instruction Vs. Personalized Learning ? Are They Students or Learners
Individualized instruction? Differentiated Instruction? Passion-based?
- Individualized and differentiated instruction are a personalization of instruction by the teacher.
- It’s top-down
- Its targets are external standards that often mean little to learners.
- Not to say that instruction doesn’t not have its place. A good lecture, educational game or even drill and practice activity are wonderful things, when appropriate – when needed!
- Personal, passion-based learning starts with the learner, not a set of external standards.
- It comes from the learner’s frame of reference, personal goals and passions; and it is future-oriented. Too many “standards” are past-oriented.
- However, we, educators, need to learn to inspire learner passions that are relevant to-, or create a healthy context for- our children’s culture, environment and their time.
How can we create the conditions for personal learning to flourish in classrooms and schools?
- It’s something that has to start small because it’s about generating school & classroom culture
- It’s mostly a shift in the prevailing conversation from teaching & instruction to curiosity & learning.
- “I learned this yesterday!“
- “How did you learn that?“
- “This is how I learn something new every day!“
- Turn the workload over to the learner. Learning becomes more active and teaching more passive
- Stop asking for the right answer, and instead, ask for an answer that works – and then ask the learner, “Why does that work?”
- Invite the use of
- Blogs & Twitter
- As long as the learner can defend his answers
- Chris Lehmann talks about a powerful question we educators don’t ask enough:
- “So, what do you think?“
What roles do networks play in personal learning?
- Personal learning is not new. It comes from observing, thinking and playing – with intent.
- Networks have expanded what we can observe, changed our point of view, and created an astoundingly more interactive board on which to play.
- Growing up, I had…
- Some books, Life magazine and Boys Life magazine.
- A set of Compton’s encyclopedias (black & white) (1961)
- A small public library.
- Limited TV & Radio programming.
- Today I have
- The World Wide Web
- My aggregators
- ..and it’s in my pocket!
- It’s a time of no unanswered questions…
- The work is finding the answers that work!
- My context has exploded
- Because of networks
- How I learn has changed, and
- Why I learn has changed (bigger context)
How can we help teachers and students move from just being connected to experiencing meaningful and productive connections?
- We make them responsible (not for the learning so much as what they can do with their learning)
- We cut-off the paper and ask teachers to produce more and more of their own digital teaching materials, and we facilitate sharing.
- We provide real audiences for our children’s learning.
- We ask children and even their teachers to publish and demo
- We use our school and classroom websites to invite the community into our classrooms, to see
- What and
- How their children are learning and
- What they are learning to do with they’re learning.
- We give them permission to “Get it wrong” by asking them “Why they think that’s right?”
- By asking them to defend their learning
- We ask children (and teachers) to surprise us, to show us something we’ve never seen before.
What are appropriate roles for social media?
- We start off by saying that there should not be a list of appropriate uses for social media.
- It depends entirely on
- what’s being learned,
- how it’s being learned,
- who’s learning it and
- and who’s facilitating it.
- Social media’s like any other kind of media. It has to be
- Resourcefully identified,
- Judged, and ? Utilized,
- ..to answer a question, solve a problem or accomplish a goal. If it leads to success, then it’s appropriate.
- The Question should be,
- “Is the answer appropriate to the question?”
- “Is the solution appropriate to the problem?”
- Not, “Is that the appropriate source?”
How do you encourage students to invest in their own “personal learning?”
- You help them to understand that learning is empowering.
- This is partly a result of passion-building.
- But more, it’s about helping them to own their learning
- To write and publish a book that gets placed in the school & local public library
- To produce a video essay that’s posted on the school web site, uploaded to YouTube, and picked up by the local Cable TV Channel
- To interview the children of recent history (The Great Depression, WWII, the race to the moon, a world without Nintendo) and teach (enlighten) the rest of the class.
- To create playlists of students compositions, slideshows of their art work, and ask them to talk about the science, mathematics, social studies and healthful living involved in them.
- You dare them to surprise us.
How important is it to have educators and leaders modeling personal learning?
- It’s not a learning culture, unless everyone’s learning.
- Students should know us by “What we’re learning!”
We speak of education in the language of individual learning and personal growth, but schooling as it is largely practiced is about conformity and external assessment. Are there larger pedagogical shifts that ultimately will need to precede true personalized learning?
- End this obsession with measuring learning and comparing schools. It will lead to the death of public education.
- Embrace the fact that today
- It isn’t what we know that’s the same as everyone else that brings value to the endeavor.
- Innovative accomplishment comes from what we know and can do that’s different.
- We, as educators, need to think about the learning that we do and have done since we stopped being students.
- What have we learned?
- How have we learned it?
- and Why?
- and invent ways to make classroom learning mirror real-world learning. It takes skills that all our children will need.
- In a time of rapid change, being a learner has become more important than being leaned!
- In a school that practices learning culture
- Teachers model learning,
- Students learn to teach themselves, and
- The School educates the community
Here’s a video that shows a good representation of how different lands changed hands during World War II. Even if you don’t get the whole story it’s interesting to get a broad view of how things played out throughout Europe.