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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Where do you Learn about Science

A new Pew Internet and American Life Project report (The Internet as a Resource for News and Information about Science)indicates that increasingly, Americans learn about science on the Internet. According to the report, 40 million citizens “..rely on the Internet as their primary source for news and information about science.” Among broadband users, 34% said that they get most of their science news and information from the Internet. Slightly fewer get it from TV.

Far more U.S. online users research about science on the Internet:

  • 70% have used the Internet to look up the meaning of scientific terms.
  • 68% have gone online to look up an answer to a question.
  • 65% have used the Internet to learn more about a science story
  • 55% have used the Internet to complete a science assignment.
  • 52% have used the Internet to check the accuracy of a scientific fact
  • 43% have downloaded scientific data
  • 37% have used the Internet to compare different or opposing scientific theories.

This added up to 87% (128 million adults) of online users who have accessed scientific information from the Internet.

These results provoke several questions to me, as an educator:

  1. If adult society is relying increasingly on the Internet for information about science, to what degree should science students be relying on (learning to use) the Internet?
  2. Are Internet researchers engaging in practices that help to assure the accuracy, reliability, and validity of the information that they find? Where should they be learning these basic literacy skills?
  3. Is there a fundamental difference between accessing the Internet for scientific information and reading it in a newspaper or watching a science program on TV.

Another interesting conclusion from the report was that:

Those who seek out science news or information on the Internet are more likely than others to believe that scientific pursuits have a positive impact on society.

I wonder why this is. Perhaps it goes back to question three above. I wonder if people see Net-based information as coming more from the conversation of that society, whereas newspapers, science news programming, and textbooks are more packaged — and sanitized?

What do you think?

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Google Earth: Educator Perspectives

Killing a little time before going to bed, I ran across this captivating video presentation mixed together by that Teaching Hacker and Toronto educator Quentin D’Souza. His blog constantly reminds me how exciting it is to be an educator on the cusp of change. Give it a watch, and check out his blog and his boo, Web 2.0 Ideas for Educators, a free download.

I opened up the open weekend with this presentation that I remixed from Alan Parkinson SAGT presentation opening. Perhaps a little teaser for you to look at Google Earth again if you haven’t done so already (Be sure to look to look at the often missed new Featured Content layer – the Rumsey Historical Maps, as well as the other content is awesome).

Teaching with Technology | Teaching

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Blogging NCETC

For those of you who will be attending the North Carolina Educational Technology Conference, blogging your sessions will be a great way to expand the impact of the great presenters who will be sharing their knowledge and experience there.

Technorati is a blogging search engine. Hitchhikr uses Technorati’s API to generate its list of conference blogs.

A Hitchhikr page has been set up to track the blogs and the photos taken at the conference. The suggested tags are “ncetc” and “ncetc06”. One way to tag your blogs so that Technorati is to use this tag code generator, which is part of Hitchhikr. Note that this page will automatically resize itself, which may represent a bit of a nuisance. the single-line text box near the top, the two NCETC tags have already been posted, so the code in the larger, multi-line textbox will work for tagging your blog. However, if you have been taking notes on one of Tammy Worcester’s presentations, and want to include at tag for her in your blog, then just add worcester to to single link textbox and click submit. This will rewrite the code in the multi-line textbox to reflect the new tag. Simply highlight and copy this code from the textbox, and then paste it at the bottom of your blog. Make sure that your blogging engine or blogging tool is set to take HTML. You may need to click an HTML button from your tool bar to do this.

Finally, to get Technorati to index your blog, type its URL in the “Ping Technorati” section, and then click Ping! To scan through other blogs about the conference, either go to the NCETC Hitchhikr page or go to Technorati and search for ncetc or ncetc06.

Print Handouts
• Setting up a Blog (EduBlogs)
• Setting up a Blog (Blogger)
• Setting up Bloglines Account
• Setting up a Account
• Setting up a flickr Account
• Uploading Photos to flickr

If you will be taking pictures at the conference, you can upload them to a flickr account and have them available through the Hitchhikr page as well. If you are using a camera phone to take pictures, then can be uploaded directly to flickr via phone messaging (MMS) and applied directly to the conference.

Instructions for doing this are a bit more involved, so the links to the right for pdf handouts might be helpful.

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NCETC — and Some New Material

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Next week is my state’s biggest ed tech conference, North Carolina Educational Technology Conference. They’ve set me up with a room, and I’ll be presenting there just about the entire conference, except for the four pre-conference workshops I’ll be doing. They’ll be in another room 😉 Fortunately, that will end my traveling for 2006. Snoooooze!

Before mentioning some of my new presentations, here is a Web 2.0 counting for NCETC:

Following are the number of times that these new web terms are mentioned in the general conference program (concurrent sessions).

Blog — 17

Podcast — 43

Wiki — 17

RSS — 5

Social Bookmarks — 1

I will be doing a preconference (3-hr) workshop on wikis. This is a first. I have done Web 2.0 workshops that include wikis, but this one will help participants to understand more deeply what wikis are about, how to care and feed them, how to operate them, and their applications for teaching, learning, and classroom management.

I’m also putting together a new presentation on video games. The material available for this topic is much deeper than I originally believed, and I am getting to know, through my research, some of the main champions. I’ve been especially impressed with the insights of Henry Jenkins, at MIT. The challenge here, will be to take all of this material and sequence it in a meaningful way.

Finally, the folks at NCETC are allowing me to try some experimenting with more open-ended sessions. One will be an EduBloggerCon, which will last for an hour and a half. This will basically be an open discussion about issues of blogging and other new-web collaborative tools. So if you are already blogging or podcasting, or interested in blogging or podcasting, and will be attending the NCETC, please come on over to Auditorium III from 12:00 to 1:30 on Wednesday.

We’ll also be doing something called a Web 2.0 Conversation. This will be a show and tell of Web 2.0 tools. I’ll show a few of my favorite Web 2.0 tools, but anyone in the audience who has something to share can come up, demo, and take a bow.

This is a week that I always look forward to, seeing old friends, making new ones, and working a conference I didn’t have to fly to 😉 — and working off some of that turkey…

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Scare Em!

Yesterday, I wrote about and pointed to the eSchool New pages with articles about the new literacies. With a new government, and the atmosphere of change that such events can inspire, I suspect that we will be hearing more about new visions of teaching a learning. We may even get some relief from the debilitating demands of NCLB, at it may be altered to reflect a more contemporary reality, rather than just preparing children for the 1950s.

That said, there will continue to be resistance from some educators and education leaders who are simply comfortable with teaching and classroom styles that have been successfully used for decades. Several times, during my online and event presentations that I have delivered over the past couple of weeks, I have been asked questions just like this one, commented yesterday on the Digital Communication Skills blog yesterday, by Bill Ferriter.

My greatest struggles, however, are in trying to justify my work to colleagues who are still very traditional in their thinking and committed to delivering the content in our curriculum and preparing students for standardized tests. While I know that I can meet those goals using the technology of the Read/Write Web, there are doubts among peers who are unaware of or uncomfortable with technology.

2 Cents Worth » About Building Digital Communication Skills…

Several days ago, I was delivering an online presentation for the Discovery Educator Network, and at the end someone asked, “How do we convince other educators that these changes need to take place?”

I was tired. It had been a long day of travel, and I’d just been talking into the computer for nearly an hour. I was exhausted, and I flippantly said, “Scare Em!”

So what do you think? Is this a legitimate avenue for affecting change? Does fear motivate people to change? Might it motivate reluctant teachers to modernize their practices?

Is there reason to be afraid?

What do you think?

Allow me to ellaborate: When I suggest using fear, what I am talking about is a fear that we are not doing our jobs. Are we adequately preparing our children for a rapidly changing world, or just teaching them how to be taught to — not so much how to continue to adapt?

I think that another angle is, should we be afraid that we are so missing the boat in terms of our students and their on sense of need, that they may just switch us off, and just stop paying attention, stop taking tests, stop doing our worksheets — stop playing school. I must admit some fear myself, about the future of my country. Can we possibly continue our economic security in the much more global 21st century, when we’re still preparing our children for the 1950s?

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About Building Digital Communication Skills…

eSchool News has announced a resource page for “Building Digital Communication Skills for the 21st-Century Workforce.”

Educators, economists, and forecasters all agree on the growing importance of so-called “21st-century skills” in the workplace. While reading, writing, and arithmetic will always form the foundation of any solid education, digital communication and media literacy are on the verge of being elevated to the same level of importance. In addition to requiring advanced skills in reading and math, the employers of tomorrow are going to require a high degree of digital and multimedia fluency.

eSchool News online

As little as we know about the future for which we are preparing our students, it is clear that it will be a place that is governed by information. Accessing, processing, building with, and communicating that information will be a major part of our daily personal and professional tasks.

Being literate in this future will certainly involve the ability to read, write, and do basic arithmetic. However, the concept of literacy in the 21st century will be far richer and more comprehensive than the 3 Rs of the one room school house.

Well, it’s not just about workforce, but I found the first paragraph of their page a bit of an echo for the description of a keynote address that I’ve been presenting for over five years. Better late than never,and certainly better now than later.

There is some good reading here that I’ve started, and will come back to later this week. I was especially happy to hear about Voc-Ed monies being funneled back into education, despite efforts by the Bush administration to send the money elsewhere. There are also some words from David Thornburg..

The main thing that’s holding technology back is … a fear–a well-placed fear,I might add–that if technology becomes ubiquitous, it will totally transform the practice of education. There are a lot of people who don’t want the practice of education transformed, because they’re very comfortable with it.

It appears to be a collection of writings and reports about efforts to bend schools toward 21st century teaching and learning. This is a very good conversation for us to be witnessing.

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An Artist and Natural Born Teacher

When I graduated from high school, I was deeply frustrated and resentful, as most teenagers were in those times. A particular point of contention for me and my parents, was the fact that, with three younger brothers behind me, it was impossible for my parents to send me to a “real” college. The plan was to send each of us to the local community college for two years and then a four-year school after that. I was ready for college, not some two-bit technical school.

The Sunday after my graduation, the family drove over to Gaston College (our local 2-year community college) to attend their open-house. I tried very hard not to let on that I was not entirely unimpressed by the school, its library, student union, and even the technical school, which specialized in mechanical engineering. But there was this little old house on the outskirts of the campus that kept drawing my attention. So finally, I suggested that we walk down to the house and see what it was.

Approaching the building, in much need of painting, we saw a rather elaborately sculptured sign, Art Department. Art was not one of my interests. I was much more drawn to music as an avenue of expression, but we walked on in and found two young and highly enthusiastic men, taking a couple of families on a tour of their facility and the courses that they taught. I was captivated by the tools, materials, the junk pile they had in the back, including a dilapidated old Volvo. I was most captivated by the teachers, Frank Creech and Dexter Benedict. I turned to my Dad and said, I want to sign up tomorrow. So I started Gaston College that summer semester, and for the next two years, went non-stop, taking, along with college parallel, almost every art class they offered, and some of them twice, enjoying the sculpture the most.

Frank Creech taught most of my classes, and what I remember most about this teacher was that he seemed to spend as much time listening as talking. It didn’t matter what sort of something you brought in to work with, or what tools you selected to reshape it and mix it with other stuff. He would listen to you talk about it and help you to discover the art in it.

I haven’t seen him since I left Gaston in 1972, though I continued to hear of his work as an artist and teacher. Frank Creech died this week. The world is a little less interesting without him.

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Black Friday Shopping

Shopping for technology. Look for the ads in Thursday’s papers, and then plan. David Thornburg reveals his team strategy in the Pulse blog.

Thursday is Thanksgiving — a time of reflection as we plan for the major high-tech sales event of the year: Black Friday. The thought of 100 blank DVD’s for $5, or laptops for $299, brings joy and excitement to thousands each year.If you’ve ever shown up at 9AM to purchase a specially discounted item on Friday after Thanksgiving, you probably found it was out of stock. Success requires planning.

Normally the Thornburg Plan is a closely guarded secret. However since few of you live nearby (and thus competes for limited items) we gladly share strategies developed over years of Black Friday practice.

David Thornburg : Black Friday

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