Winter Storms

The weather is an area of science that has only recently been fully understood. For centuries, people have known the difference between rain and snow, have recognized the change in temperature throughout the year, and have even realized the impact of air pressure on weather. However, only since modern satellites and other weather surveillance has […]

WinterStormsbyWeatherUnderground_52aa95fb5aa0dThe weather is an area of science that has only recently been fully understood. For centuries, people have known the difference between rain and snow, have recognized the change in temperature throughout the year, and have even realized the impact of air pressure on weather. However, only since modern satellites and other weather surveillance has the ability to predict the weather and further understand it been made possible.

This infographic goes into some of the advanced information on weather patters, specifically winter storms. Arguably, winter storms can be some of the most destructive due to the period of time their effects reside. Hurricanes are very destructive as well, and especially on islands can cause a great deal of destruction, however, the affects of winter storms (the snow and ice) can last for days if not weeks, while the affects of other storms (rain and wind), only last for a matter of hours. For this reason, it takes longer to be able to recover from such a storm.

What do your students think about this statement? What have they learned from this infographic?

Blog: http://visual.ly/winter-storms

Superbugs

There is a growing problem in the United States, and that is the increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. For several decades nearly every concerned parent has brought their children to the doctor for every cough, sneeze, and minor infection. Antibiotics are among the most prescribed category of medications (this information is based on experience […]

Superbugs_52b5e064389f0There is a growing problem in the United States, and that is the increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. For several decades nearly every concerned parent has brought their children to the doctor for every cough, sneeze, and minor infection. Antibiotics are among the most prescribed category of medications (this information is based on experience in a pharmacy a few years ago).

Because of this overmedication, an increasing number of bacteria are resistant to common antibiotics. New medications are having to be created, but some bacteria seem to be adapting faster than the new medications can be developed.

This infographic goes into the science behind the the resistance of bacteria, and what can be done about it. Poll your class about whether this is a problem that needs to be addressed, or if it is simply a hiccup in human existence. Also, what can be done to help this problem? What do your students already do that is suggested, and can your students come up with any other solutions?

Blog: http://visual.ly/superbugs-0

When water flows uphill.

I love it when people use science to create things that don’t seem physically possible. I think we all do. Using something called the Leidenfrost Effect, these students have been experimenting with ways to make liquids move up inclines. It’s really not that magical when they explain it but it still doesn’t fail to mesmerize. […]

When water flows uphill

I love it when people use science to create things that don’t seem physically possible. I think we all do. Using something called the Leidenfrost Effect, these students have been experimenting with ways to make liquids move up inclines. It’s really not that magical when they explain it but it still doesn’t fail to mesmerize.

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Why I’m Speaking to Science Teachers

Yesterday, Tim Holt wrote “Why I am At a Science Conference,” describing his work at this week’s Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST), and why it is so important that we edubloggers and techspeakers should be sharing our messages into other communities of interest, science teachers for instance. I agree. I’ve tried, for years, to get into social studies conferences. When I succeed, it’s to do a concurrent session, and only 12 teachers showed up. It’s part of the nature of the profession, that we owe our professional identity to our particular area of specialty.

I have keynoted foreign language conferences, library conferences, administrator, and even book publisher, real-estate developer and farmer conferences. Perhaps the most receptive to my particular message are school boards conferences. But Tim is right. Little of this actually makes it into classrooms, especially the “Common Core” classrooms.

Part of my Kerbal Space Program Diary
One of my early attempts into orbit, achieving a spectacular fall after a 35 meter ascent.
At about 26 Kilometers, my Kerban pilot decided to do a space walk. Alas he locked his keys in the capsule and burned up during the descent.
These three Kerbans made it into an orbit whose apogee was around 1.4 million kilometers and perigee was somebody’s basement on the far side of Kerbal.

Holt referred to the fact that I too will also be speaking to Science teachers this week, in Charlotte, at one of the regional conferences of the National Science Teachers Association – and my efforts to tailor my presentation to that audience. I admit some concern about speaking to science teachers, because I taught social studies, and my examples tend to be more social studies oriented – though I would maintain that any good social studies teacher is also teaching science, math, health, literature, and everything else. It’s all societal.

Tim mentioned me because of a string of posts I made to Facebook and Twitter yesterday, reporting my progress in playing with Kerbal Space Program, a sandbox-style game that has the player designing, building, and flying space craft, on missions from the planet Kerbal. It’s been fun, regardless of my immigrant clumsiness with video games – though I am experiencing some pride in finally getting a manned (well a Kerban-piloted) space craft into orbit. It cost the lives of 12 fellow kerbans and several billion $kerbols worth of hardware. 😉

Holt writes,

And although (David’s) message is VERY general, it is at least a start. He is trying to tailor the message to the audience by demoing the Kerbal Space Program online game (https://kerbalspaceprogram.com) so good for him. But those opportunities are few and far between.

These opportunities rare and priceless. ..and forgive me if I seem overly sensitive and even defensive, but there is nothing general about this. The message is singular and it is revolutionary. It has nothing to do with, “Look, here’s something that you can do in your classroom with technology.” It is,

Look, here’s what many of your students are doing outside your classroom. It’s fun, but it’s work. It’s hard work. And it is entirely about learning. The energy of our students’ youth culture is not based on how high you can jump or fast you can run. It is neither wit nor the appealing symmetry of your face. The energy of their culture is the ability to skillfully and resourcefully learn and to inventively employ that learning.”

My message is that children are entering our classrooms with learning skills that, although based on long understood pedagogies, they are skills that we are too often ignoring and sometimes even handicapping. When I say that we “chop their tentacles off,” it’s not about cutting them off from technology. We’re amputating their access to the learning skills that they are so effectively developing outside our classrooms – their avenues to personally meaningful accomplishment.

Perhaps those of us who have chosen to pursue education technology or have been seduced by its potentials are in a unique position to notice our children’s ’native’ learning skills – more so than science or social studies teachers. But we all must be careful to shed the glow of tech, and get right down to the point of being educated in this time of rapid change.

It’s not about being taught.

It’s about becoming a learner.

 

Science Teachers come to North Carolina

National Science Teachers Association

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.

10 (e) The Division of Coastal Management shall be the only State agency authorized to
11 develop rates of sea-level rise and shall do so only at the request of the Commission.
12 These rates shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be
13 limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of sea-level rise may be
14 extrapolated linearly to estimate future rates of rise but shall not include scenarios
15 of accelerated rates of sea-level rise. Rates of sea-level rise shall not be one rate
16 for the entire coast but, rather, the Division shall consider separately oceanfront and
17 estuarine shorelines. (“Coastal management policies,” 2011)

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 in Convention Center, Ballrooms 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

The Whizzpopping World of Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl had quite an imagination. Reading through this list of books that Dahl wrote, it would be interesting to see what was going through his brain. What this infographic also shares is the inspiration behind his book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and some facts related to his book, James and the Giant Peach. Choose a […]

Roald Dahl had quite an imagination. Reading through this list of books that Dahl wrote, it would be interesting to see what was going through his brain. What this infographic also shares is the inspiration behind his book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and some facts related to his book, James and the Giant Peach.

Choose a book that you are reading, or a favorite of a student, and try to find out the inspiration for the book. Is it based on an event, something that happened in to the author, or something they wish would happen? Using math and science, try to discover something factual about a book. How far do they travel in the Lord of the Rings?

Create an infographic based on this data, especially information discovered by science and math. This infographic shows the heigh of Roald Dahl next to his giant peach.

Blog: http://visual.ly/whizzpopping-world-roald-dahl

The first step towards cyborgs?

The man in this video had to have his leg amputated after a motorcycle accident, and is apparently the first person to have a robotic limb replacement that is controlled by their mind. This is obviously a huge medical breakthrough but also exciting for any science fiction fan as human-robot hybrids are an often visited […]

vidaday10-1-13The man in this video had to have his leg amputated after a motorcycle accident, and is apparently the first person to have a robotic limb replacement that is controlled by their mind. This is obviously a huge medical breakthrough but also exciting for any science fiction fan as human-robot hybrids are an often visited subject in the genre.

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Why is the Sky Blue?

Ask people in different parts of the country this question and you will get different answers. Ask people where I am from, and the most common answer will be “Because God prefers UNC.” Others will say it is a reflection of the ocean. But then why is the ocean blue? Because it is a reflection […]

Ask people in different parts of the country this question and you will get different answers. Ask people where I am from, and the most common answer will be “Because God prefers UNC.” Others will say it is a reflection of the ocean. But then why is the ocean blue? Because it is a reflection of the sky. Excuse me?

Well here is the truth as portrayed by an infographic created by designers at Visual.ly. This infographic is fairly scientific, and I will admit I do not completely understand it. I understand that wavelengths affect the color we see out of all the colors that are available, but the rest went over my head. I went to school to study history and not science.

Before producing this infographic, have your students discuss why the sky is blue. Have each student produce a short hypothesis, share it in small groups, and discuss the merit behind each. Then share this infographic and see how close students came to the truth.

Blog: http://visual.ly/why-sky-blue

One More Thing about Bobby

I found my lab coat! SCIENCE!!!
(CC) Photo by Jake Fudge
Some of the comments that my last two blog posts have incited lead me to write one more thing about Bobby. I have no issue with anything that has been said in those comments. I feel, though, that a big part of the point of my story has been overlooked.

I will say here that I became a teacher because I wanted to help children and watch them grow and become more capable, compassionate and respectful of the culture and society of their community and their world. That said, I believe that teaching has become way to clinical. In our misguided efforts to establish success by being able to measure learning, we have fabricated a system of complex and rigid classifications with symptoms, diagnoses and prescribed treatments.  We have tried to make teaching a science, and it is not.  Teaching is an art.

In the early days of NCLB, being an educator was compared to being a pharmacist, where less than successful learners could be treated with scientifically proven best practices and the application of big data.  

Of course this clinical approach does describe part of what it is to teach.  I call this the teacher-technician.  However, what Bobby’d learned, that enabled him to diagnose my car’s problem from the telling of my entertaining story, did not result from an elaborate construct of scientifically proven best practices.  It happened because of a family or close-knit community that talked about cars; what made them work and what made them work better.  They valued good cars that could be made faster than they were off the showroom floor, and they valued the folks who could accomplish it.  They worked on cars.  They fixed them. ..and sometimes it didn’t work, and they talked about it – and they learned from what went wrong.

Bobby’s story is not  meant to promote classrooms that are shaped by established and described differentiations and toolboxes of prescribed remedies.  What I would rather see are teacher-philosophers who are skilled, knowledgeable and can facilitate a learning community that:

  • Values what is being learned
  • Respects the learning that comes from success
  • Respects the learning that comes from failure and
  • Celebrates what learners can do with what they have learned.

It is a classroom where students can turn around and look back at the concrete and public results of their learning.

 

Watch thermal tile in action.

This kind of material is a perfect example of our ability to adapt in the name of science. Many people would view the problem of burning up due to high speeds while re-entering the atmosphere as an unsolvable problem. It would seem as if some things just aren’t meant to be or can’t be achieved. […]

Watch thermal tile in actionThis kind of material is a perfect example of our ability to adapt in the name of science. Many people would view the problem of burning up due to high speeds while re-entering the atmosphere as an unsolvable problem. It would seem as if some things just aren’t meant to be or can’t be achieved.

But no, we invented mind-blowing material that absorbs and re-disperses the heat so it can stay structurally intact. This is the kind of thing that a lot of people would categorize as an alien technology if they didn’t know any better.

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