Category Archives: Education

Is education what journalists do?

We had a great discussion this afternoon on Twitter, about the way journalists strenuously deny they have an educational role, while everyone else sees them as essential pieces of the educational ecosystem: sources of information and explanation missing from schools, or for information that is too new for older people to have seen in school when they were young. Also as sources of judgement in disputes over facts.

While journalists strongly deny their educational role, as part of their false objectivity and ‘savvy’, everyone else perceives them as educators – people who should know and then tell, what is true and what is false, who is lying and who is not. People rely, as they cannot be in school all their lives, on the media for continuing education, especially on topics that are new. And people are then disappointed when, as usually happens, journalists fail in that role by indulging in false balance, He-Said-She-Said reporting, passionately avoiding to assign the truth-value to any statement, or self-indulgent enjoyment of their own “skill with words” in place of explaining the facts.

Fortunately for you all, you do not have to wade through all the tweets to see the entire discussion, as Adrian Ebsary has collected it all using Storify – read the whole thing (keep clicking “Load more” on the bottom of the page until you get to the end):

Informer or Educator: Defining the Journalist’s Role

As you can see, while there is some snark and oversimplification here and there due to short format, the discussion was pretty interesting and constructive. This is also a demonstration that useful discussions can be had on Twitter.

Whenever someone says “you cannot say anything in 140 characters” I respond with “who ever said that you only have 140 characters?”. To their quizzical look, I add “You are not limited to one tweet per lifetime – if you need 14,000 characters, you can write 100 tweets”. But, by writing 100 tweets, and making sure that each tweet – not just the collection of 100 – makes sense, has punch to it, and is hard to misunderstand or misquote out of context, one has to write and edit each tweet with great care. Twitter does not allow for sloppy writing!

Picking a theme for a few hours or days, and tweeting a whole lot about it during that period, is usually called ‘mindcasting‘. But it is even better when a bunch of other people join in and mindcast together – everyone learns something from the experience.

Now read the Storify and, if you have time and energy, respond with an essay on your own blog, as a continuation of the mindcasting process.

Update: And the first responses are in:

Whose Job is Public Science Education?

Are Journalists Educators? Does It Even Matter?

Seven Questions….with Yours Truly

Last week, my SciBling Jason Goldman interviewed me for his blog. The questions were not so much about blogging, journalism, Open Access and PLoS (except a little bit at the end) but more about science – how I got into it, what are my grad school experiences, what I think about doing research on animals, and such stuff. Jason posted the interview here, on his blog, on Friday, and he also let me repost it here on my blog as well, under the fold:

Continue reading

Visualizing educational data

A couple of days ago, I had a very pleasant conversation with Brian Bedrick whose Charlotte NC based Interactive Data Partners turns massive amounts of data into visualizations, particularly in education. They take all sorts of metrics, e.g., on educational outcomes, and make them instantly obvious through visualizations. Those kinds of things are important to administrators, but there are other potential uses. For example, instead of giving a student a single grade, the work can be divided into several categories and visualization can immediately show in which areas does a student show strengths and in which there is a need for more work – very useful information for the teacher, but also for the students and parents. Finally, this kind of presentation of the data, if informed by research on what works and what does not in education, can be used to persuade parents, community, school boards and legislatures to pursue effective educational strategies and abandon those that may sound great in campaign sound-bytes but are proven not to work in practice.
What Brian really wants – apart from the obvious: getting more work to do for schools and school systems – is feedback. What kinds of visualizations work? Why? What are the minefields to avoid?
So look at their samples on the website and hit “Contact Us” is you have ideas.

Why can’t they do this on Meet The Press? (video)

Republican candidate for Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction and current State Senator John Huppenthal gets schooled by Tempe’s Corona del Sol High School student journalist Keith Wagner during an interview about the state legislature’s vote to cut career and technical education funding by 99.9%.


Serious Gaming at Sigma Xi

Last week I went to this season’s last American Scientist pizza lunch at Sigma Xi featuring Phaedra Boinodiris (Twitter, blog), Serious Games Product Manager at IBM.
I first saw Phaedra Boinodiris speak as the opening speaker at TEDxRTP (my review) back in March, but this was a different kind of talk, geared more towards scientists and science communicators.
I remember playing Pong when it first came out. I remember spending many hours back in 1980 or so playing The Hobbit on Sinclair ZX Spectrum. And I played many games at arcades (still not knowing which games started out as arcade games adapted to computers and which the other way round). Then I quit playing games for a couple of decades until my kids were ready for them. I loved Zoombinis – an amazing game of logic and a brilliant preparation for taking IQ tests! I loved Richard Scarry’s Busytown – the one and only game I know about infrastructure, where players build stuff and deliver it to others for the good of the town – from baking bread to paving roads – learning along the way how those things are done.
And sure, Phaedra Boinodiris started with a slide depicting Pong (to the chuckle of the audience) but soon got into the real stuff – the serious gaming and the story of how she got involved in developing such games, as well as about studies of gaming and how different kinds of games help develop different real-work skills, from eye-hand coordination to leadership to cooperation. Her first game – INNOV8 – was developed as a prototype, a proof of concept, in only three months and instantly became a huge hit. It is used by businesses and business schools around the world to teach Business Process Management. It is essentially a first person shooter game (without guns) in which the player is brought as an outside consultant into a company where s/he has to figure out the flow, the bottlenecks, etc. (including by interviewing employees, as well as data-sheets) and experiment in making it more efficient. The 2.0 version came soon after, adding such problems as traffic, customer service and supply chains.

The next game, recently announced and coming out in October 2010, will be a Sim-City-like serious game CityOne, designed to help city planners, town councils, citizens, and engineers plan better, more efficient infrastructure for their cities. Put in your city’s specs and start building new infrastructure, see how much it will cost, see what problems will arise, see what solutions are available – probably something you could not have thought of yourself and may be surprised.
As I am currently reading ‘On The Grid’ it occured to me that the developers of CityOne should read that book, and that Scott Huler should be given a test-run of the game, perhaps for him to review for Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News&Observer and the local NPR station. And for Science In The Triangle, of course.
Cross-posted from Science In The Triangle

Serious Gaming at Sigma Xi

Last week I went to this season’s last American Scientist pizza lunch at Sigma Xi featuring Phaedra Boinodiris, Serious Games Product Manager at IBM, and I filed my report over on Science In The Triangle blog.

ScienceOnline2010 – interview with Alex, Staten Island Academy student

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. See all the interviews in this series here. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.
Today, I asked Alex from Miss Baker’s Biology class at Staten Island Academy to answer a few questions. You can read about Alex’s experience at ScienceOnline2010 here.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you from?
Thank you! I’m Alex and I’m a freshman at Staten Island Academy in New York. I’ve lived in New York all my life and dream of living in Paris (though learning French might be necessary for that…). I’m completely invested in literature and music (I’ve played violin all my life), but now I am really embarrassingly involved in the online current events world. I’m beginning to become more reliable than Anderson Cooper.
As a freshman, I am really looking forward to taking Psych as soon as it’s available. I really just find perception, brain functioning, and behavior fascinating. But right now, I’m really enjoying biology where we’re doing a lab about genetics.
What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?
I’ve always been really into writing, but I’ve lately been looking more into journalism over creative writing. Science journalism for the New York Times or Scientific American would be amazing. My main passion has always been and will probably always remain music, art and theater, but I’ve started to spread my horizons after Science Online. I was completely taken by Michael Specter’s speech. He really made science seem more personal, instead of a scary and distant compilation of numbers and statistics.
What particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?
Being perhaps the world’s biggest YouTube fanatic, I really enjoy the by Hank Green of the VlogBrothers. I’m also of course always on Ms. Baker’s site for updates and notes. has a lot of cool sections for kids who wouldn’t expect to like science (aka me pre-9th grade when science was just math with a different name). They have some sports related articles, but my personal favorite is 3D Makes a Comeback where they look into the engineering of 3D hits like “Avatar”. A site that merges science and breathtaking photography is my newest addiction There are some truly beautiful images on that site.
How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work and school? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do and want to accomplish?
I really think that online education is the new frontier. There are still a lot of people that need convincing, but I find it hard to believe that with all of the great innovations popping up every day that education would stay restricted to a piece of white chalk and a blackboard. A lot of kids aren’t into Twitter in my class (as some visitors to the Extreme Biology session at Sci Online may remember, 14-16 year-olds don’t see the importance), but I believe it’s mainly because Facebook seems to have all of the factors of Twitter along with a better layout. But I think it is most important to remember that kids like what other kids like. If these sites are introduced to students, it’s only a matter of time before FriendFeed is the new Facebook.
As Miss Baker, when teaching the Biology class, gives you a lot of creative freedom, how does that affect your own interest in the subject? Do you think you learn better this way? What would you suggest to do differently to make it even better? What are some of your own projects you did for the class?
Definitely! As someone who considers myself as a bit of a “free spirit”, I really think the entire class in general is really flourishing with this teaching style. This generation has a lower tolerance for traditional teaching methods. I think giving us freedom within the curriculum is liberating and effective. When the 9th grade went on a trip to London, we took 50 science related photos each and did descriptions and recorded our information. And then, of course, is the infamous blog project. After picking out topic, we wrote blog posts, and now most of them are on the website now. Instead of just writing and handing in an essay, it was so different from anything I’ve ever done in school. We got to comment on each other’s post and get involved in conversations/ debates about the topic at hand.
Do you read science blogs? If so, when and how did you first discover them? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any cool ones?
I’m guilty of being unimpressed by blogs. There are a lot of truly fascinating blogs, but I can’t find a way to get invested. I can’t help but feeling that answer was a cop out, so I feel I should mention my involvement in the world of podcasts! I’m trying to recruit some people for my own, but until then I love listening! ITunesU has some great podcasts from Universities like Cornell and MIT if you’re interested in those. Those are more recorded lectures, but are still really informative. Science Magazine Podcast is probably one of my favorites, but Science Podcast is also cool. As I mentioned before, Ecogeek is amazing for new green technology and has the best science podcast I’ve found so far. But my all time favorite is SmartMouths podcast. Although mostly political, they do venture into science sometimes. Plus, it’s guaranteed fun and information filled. They do some amazing debates too.
What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?
My favorite part was definitely presenting! The only suggestion I have for next year (besides an irrelevant request to bring back the same burger truck) is maybe to have a few more sample lectures. There were a few where instead of focusing on one general topic, there were about 3 presenters. I preferred this format, but overall it was such an incredible experience! And as I think I mentioned, my scientific enlightenment was Michael Specter’s speech, and the scientific journalism session. I can definitely see scientific journalism as a genre in its own right, and not just a boring collection of facts.
It was so nice to meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.
Alex pic.jpg

Tech in Education at #140conf (videos)

This week in NYC, at #140 conf, I was most impressed by the talks and panels about education, and the use of online technologies, Web, and particularly social networks like Twitter in the classroom. You know I am interested in this – just search my blog for names like “David Warlick” and “Stacy Baker”, or dig through my “Education” and “Science Education” categories. These videos are all short – 10 or 20 minutes long, so I strongly recommend you watch all four clips:
Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann) – Social Media + Education:

Real Time Communication and Education: Aparna Vashisht (@Parentella) – Founder, Parentella (moderator) Kevin Jarrett (@kjarrett) – K-4 Technology Teacher Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) – Educational Technologist – NYC Dept of Ed Mary Beth Hertz (@mbteach) – K-6 Computer Teacher and Technology Teacher Leader in Philadelphia:

Twitter and Animal Farm (and some 8th graders) – George Haines (@oline73) – Technology Teacher, Sts. Philip and James School, and his students:

Real-time web and Education #2: Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal) – Principal of New Milford HS (NJ) Kyle B. Pace (@kylepace) – Teaching K-12 teachers about technology infusion Steven W. Anderson (@web20classroom) – Technology Educator, Blogger, Co-Creator of #edchat Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) – Professor of English in Secondary Education:

Related posts:
ScienceOnline’09: Interview with Stacy Baker
ScienceOnline’09 – Saturday 10:15am
There is no need for a ‘Creepy Treehouse’ in using the Web in the classroom
Removing the Bricks from the Classroom Walls: Interview with David Warlick
Is our children learning?
This is bullshit: TEDxNYED talk by Jeff Jarvis (video)
Education 2.0
ScienceOnline’09 – interview with Erica Tsai
Podcastercon2006 – the Teaching Session
ScienceOnline’09 – interview with Elissa Hoffman
Teacher-philosophers in a fast-changing world
Using Blogs to Promote Science Literacy
Very young people blogging about science
Very young people blogging about science – let’s welcome them
Making it real: People and Books and Web and Science at ScienceOnline2010

This is bullshit: TEDxNYED talk by Jeff Jarvis (video)

And here are the notes – rethinking the classroom. Completely.

Very young people blogging about science

Mason Posner is a professor of Biology at Ashland University in Ohio. He also blogs on A Fish Eye View (though I notice he did not update it in a while). About a year ago, and inspired by some discussions emanating from ScienceOnline’09, he decided to try using blogs in his teaching. He did it last spring. And he is doing it again this spring.
You can check out his Marine Biology Course class blog, where he and the students are all posting in one place.
But also check out his Senior Capstone course in Biology and its class blog – he is the only one blogging there – the students are required to start and run their own blogs.
Now look at the Class Blogroll on the margin – take a look at last year’s (2009) student blogs – wonderful writing on all of them, good stuff. But! One of them is already deleted. There are four other blogs that stopped posting around early May of last year, probably at the time the course ended. Only one of the blogs is still running today. Why did they stop?
Now check out this year’s blogs – very, very nice stuff: The Difference between Ignorance and Apathy, SexyScience, Thirsty Pandas and Successors of Solomon. Lovely blogs. But will they last past May?
Now, you may remember a similar experiment at Duke – see this and this and especially experiences of Erica Tsai who ran the program. Why did all the Duke student blogs end once the class was over?
There is always a lot of chatter online (see the most recent commentary about a Pew study here, here, here and here) about teens and college students not blogging. No, the kids are not naturally Web-savvy – they also need to learn.
They use Twitter much more than the stats usually show, but mostly keep their profiles private and only talk to each other. They use it instead of texting because it is cheaper and platform-agnostic. Of course, they are all on Facebook (or MySpace, depending on socio-economic status), where they also interact with each other. The artistically inclined may connect with each other on DeviantArt. And yes, there are many who blog (though they may have predominantly chosen a more social blogging platform like LiveJournal).
All of the above are social uses, which is quite age-appropriate. Some of them (certainly not all) will, just like their elders, pick up blogging later, when they find a need to express themselves in long-form writing. Teaching them how to blog is part of their education, or at least should be.
But none of this really applies to the cases I started this post with – these are young people who have been taught how to blog, have done it well, probably got positive feedback for it from the instructor and peers, and obviously have something to say. So, why do they quit?
Is it because they see it as homework? Something that needs to be done for class, and can be stopped once the final grades are in?
Or is it because all the feedback they get comes only from the instructor and classmates? The class is a small community which formally and automatically dissolves the moment the semester is over. If the community is gone, who are you writing for?
Would they continue blogging if they felt they were a part of a larger community and, more importantly, a continuous community, one that has no expiration date? If we all sent them traffic by linking to their posts from our blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook etc., would they see that kind of feedback as a motivation to keep writing? If we posted comments on their blogs, would they feel like members of a broader community and would gladly continue engaging with it?
The same goes for even younger bloggers. Duke summer program had high schoolers blogging as well. How about Miss Baker’s students? Would comments on their posts be felt as intrusive or would they be seen as welcoming to a broader community and motivating to keep writing?
Are one-off events, e.g., attendance at ScienceOnline conferences, sufficient to give students enough momentum to continue long-term?

Photosynthesis Rap (video)

Jeff Polish’s students at Cary Academy.

DonorsChoose – double your impact!

You heard of HP, didn’t you? It’s a person (or company, perhaps Hewlett Packard for all I know) who donated to every single challenge on Social Media Challenge Giving Pages on DonorsChoose!
And now I hear that HP wants to give even more – but there is a method to that madness: you have to donate first! More anyone raises by Sunday, more that person’s Challenge gets from HP:

HP has been tracking the competition closely and has already made a $50 contribution to your page, as a result of all of your hard work. The good news? HP wants to make yet another contribution to your Giving Page. The more you raise by this Sunday, October 25, the more HP will contribute!
Next week, we will distribute $200,000, the rest of HP’s contribution, to all Social Media Challenge Giving Pages. But this time, your share will be calculated on a pro-rata basis based on the amount you’ve raised by Sunday. What does that mean? Now is the time to motivate your readers, followers, friends, fam and fans to donate to your page, so you can claim a larger share of the funds!
And there’s yet another bonus: after the Challenge is over, everyone who donated to your Giving Page will get a Giving Card, courtesy of HP. Those donors will get to decide which projects are supported with HP’s $200,000 in funds.

See – that’s easy. Now all you need to do is click riiiiiight here….

DonorsChoose update

As you are likely aware, the DonorsChoose campaign is in full swing here on
What you may not be aware is that Seed Media Group is in, with some nice prizes to the donors:

You can forward the donation receipt to for a chance to win some Swag Bags from ScienceBlogs, complete with Seed moleskin notebooks and tote bags, ScienceBlogs mugs and USB drives, and books from Yale University Press and Oxford University Press – we’ll draw a winner or winners every week in October.

Check out all the Sciblings’ challenges and pick some to give – a little bit by many people will go a long way.
As you can see, our challenges are currently in second place overall, behind a large group of “General Blogs”, leaving Twitter, Discover Blogs, Fashion Blogs, Gawker Media, Tech Blogs, BlogHer and others behind. Can we get to the #1 spot by the end of the month?
Of course, I would love it the best, if you donate to one of my challenges.
So far, two donors have given three donations to my challenges, with the total of $204.
Challenges The Joy Of Science!!!!!, Headline: Worms Tutor First Graders!, Alternative Energy and Conservation, The Lights In The Sky Are Stars, No Books Go Notebooks and Biology Games to Make Level 3’s and 4’s have been fully funded – all this week, and thanks to, among other, my donors.
How do you choose where to give?
You can take a look at those challenges that have very little time left:
First Graders Flip Over the Video on Their Blog has only 5 days left to go. Kinder-Garden has 10 and Flip For Learning! has 18 days to go. If not funded in time, those projects will not happen this year!
Or you can see which challenges require only a little bit of money to get fully funded:
Space and Beyond is missing only $58 to get fully funded. 1,2,3 – Look at Me (Learning Math) needs only $94 and Tick Tock : Time to Tell Time needs $102.
Or see which challenges work double, i.e., with various corporate sponsors doubling your contributions.
And if all of my challenges get funded soon, I’ll add some more. We have a whole month to help as many children and teachers as possible. Thank you.


ScienceBlogs campaign is kicking some behind – we are ahead of the Fashion Blogs, Twitter and Gawker challenges!!!

DonorsChoose – Classroom Science Around The Clock

As regular readers of already know, October is the month when a bunch of us raises challenges to fund science, math and technology projects in schools.
Several of my Sciblings have already set up their challenges and a few more will add theirs soon, I know. There will be a healthy competition with some other blogging networks, of course 😉
You can find my challenges at Classroom Science Around The Clock, look at the projects – all coming from ‘High Poverty’ schools in North Carolina – and donate whatever you can. If many people pitch in a little bit each, these projects will get funded and kids will get supplies they need to learn science and math.
The widget, below, will be on my left sidebar throughout the month of October, so take a look there every time you visit my blog, see how the challenges are doing, and add a little where needed.

Also, many of my SciBlings explain this better than I do, so check their intro posts out: Janet (and more Janet), Chad, Sciencewomen, Razib, DrugMonkey, Dr.Isis, Grrlscientist, Pal MD and a geobloggers collective, comprised of Erik, Kim and Chris.

Video, video, video (video)

Of course the Course description for JOMC 449 – Virtual Communities, Smart Mobs, Citizen Journalism and Participatory Culture is made in video. All the ‘readings’ are viewings of video, all assignments are video-making. So cool!

Fall 2009 MW 3:30 – 4:45, UNC Chapel Hill, Instructor: Paul Jones

Innovation in education

A sixth of a GCSE in 60 minutes?:

Later this year, pupils from Monkseaton high school will file into their new lozenge-shaped school and take their seats before a giant video wall in a multipurpose hall. Here, they will receive a unique lesson: an intense PowerPoint presentation, repeated three times, and interspersed with 10-minute breaks of juggling or spinning plates. After one hour of this study, the pupils will be primed for one sixth of a GCSE. In theory, following this “spaced learning” method, a teenager could sit a GCSE after just three days’ work.
It is a vision of the future that may horrify many parents, teachers and the educational establishment. It challenges how we teach our children and casts doubt on GCSEs and, perhaps, the validity of our entire school system. But teachers and thinkers from around the world are making a pilgrimage to Monkseaton to investigate spaced learning, which has been devised and tested in this tatty state comprehensive over the last four years.
A series of careful trials yielded fascinating results: 48 year 9 pupils who had not covered any part of the GCSE science syllabus were given a complete biology module in a 90-minute spaced learning lesson. A week later, they took the relevant GCSE multiple-choice exam (a year earlier than normal). Twelve months on, the same set of pupils took another GCSE science paper after a conventional four months of study. While average scores for the second paper were higher (68% versus 58%), more than a quarter of the pupils scored higher after spaced learning than through conventional study. Despite studying for just 90 minutes with spaced learning, 80% of the class of 13- and 14-year-olds got at least a D grade.
Monkseaton’s futuristic new school opens in September. It will be where Kelley hopes to expand spaced learning, in classrooms that won’t be square (“We don’t have to have schools built in squares,” he says) and will feature special intensive lighting to boost teenagers’ concentration and wakefulness. Kelley has studied research on teenagers’ circadian rhythms that shows they get going later in the day than adults – hence those epic teenage lie-ins – and hopes to start lessons at the more teen-friendly hour of 10.30am.
I’m inclined to believe that there must be more to making memories stick than findings derived from dissecting a rat’s hippocampus. Scientists would probably say that is because – despite my GCSE refresher – I don’t fully understand the complex advances in neuroscience. Whatever the truth of it, something special is happening at Monkseaton. And if other teachers and academics open their minds to it, this may be just the beginning of a revolution in our classrooms.

Great advice for incoming college freshmen

From a current freshman:

In college, one lecture class has about 250 students in it and the information goes by really fast. We would cover about 3 chapters in an hour, about three days a week. At first it took me a while to get used to the speed and the way the professors taught. In high school, the teachers are very careful about making sure the students understand and take in the subject but in college, the professors don’t really care whether you’re in class or not. This realization hit me like a ton of bricks because finally, after years of supervision from teachers and parents, it was all up to me (and only me) to make sure I do well.
The freedom to do whatever I wanted was quite overwhelming. I had to learn to discipline myself to keep up with the readings and to make sure that I knew the information and to not spend too much time playing. However, if you go to lecture and take good notes, it’s not that hard (Duh). At first the fact that the responsibility is ALL yours scares the heck out of you, but eventually you’ll learn to deal with it and have fun in the process.

Useful for college professors to know how freshmen feel! While many faculty are experimenting with better methods, the typical large class, one-to-many lecture is still the dominant mode of interaction between faculty and freshmen, who could easily fall through the cracks without anyone noticing.
Read the rest of the post as well for some fun, and more positive stuff, including the appearance of a researcher I know and whose research I value highly….

Education 2.0

At the Western RCAC Symposium last week:
Rodd Lucier: Fertilizing the Grass Roots:

My personal suspicions are that most attendees will fail to make effective use of any of the many tools introduced today. Even with everyone recognizing that we have a long way to go: A significant knowing-doing gap will remain!

David Warlick: So Now What Do We Do?:

Then Rodd listed some comments that he overheard during the conference, that support his concern. I’m listing them here and will try to make some suggestions that may be useful. My suggestions are indented just a bit to better distinguish them from the overheard statements.

Doug Pete: How I Saw It:

David Warlick went first with his presentation “Our Students – Our Worlds”. Eyes were opened for many as David took us inside the minds and lives of today’s youth. His famous tentacles diagram affirmed that students aren’t “human” by a traditional view! It does drive home the message that they are indeed connected at levels that we suspect but don’t totally know. (at least until the texting bill comes in…) Rather than ask folks to turn off electronic devices, David let me know before the event that he would welcome a back channel through his presentation. Gulp! What to do?

Amber MacArthur: Talking about social media – A year on the road:

But what I’ve realized over time is that it’s critical for me to update my slides based on the audience that will sit in front of me. Sounds like a pretty obvious concept, one that becomes more apparent over time (also, in the web world, trends change too quickly to rely on one deck). Since I’ve spoken to such varied groups, from teams of probiotic scientists, oil engineers, and all-grades educators, I strive to find specific social media examples that will be relevant to each crowd. This usually means I spend a lot of time researching new Web 2.0 trends, videos, articles, and tips online.

Community, Collaboration & Conversation with Amber MacArthur – listen to the podcast.

2008 EduBlog Awards winners have been announced

It is rare that I pick the winners in any contest, but this time I picked three! Congratulations to all the winners of the 2008 EduBlog Awards, but especially to my friend David Warlick who led the session on ‘blogs in science education’ at the last year’s Science Blogging Conference, and to Miss Baker’s students who will lead a ScienceOnline09 session on Science online – middle/high school perspective (or: ‘how the Facebook generation does it’?).

Future of the University

Food for thought:
Bill Farren: Insulat-Ed:

Opening up the institution may seem like a counter-intuitive way of protecting it, but in an era where tremendous value is being created by informal and self-organized groups, sharing becomes the simplest and most powerful way of connecting with external learning opportunities. Why limit students to one teacher when a large number of them exist outside the institution? Why limit students to a truncated classroom conversation when a much larger one is taking place all over the world? Why not give students real-world opportunities to learn how to manage and benefit from networked sources? Institutions that are opening up are betting that the benefits obtained by sharing their resources will outweigh the expenses incurred in their creation. These institutions understand that larger and richer sources of knowledge and wisdom are to be found outside their walls. They understand that allowing students to access these sources, sharing their own, and helping students learn how to manage and understand all of it, will add value to what it is that they do as institutions. They appreciate that the costs of trying to match the quality and quantity of resources/expertise found on the network would be prohibitive. The most practial solution is to become a participatory member of the network. In the end, providing access to these resources and teaching students how to benefit from them not only serves the students, but also keeps the institution from becoming irrelevant, although admittedly, institutional influence will most likely be diminished as more learners self-organize.

Robert Paterson: The Rise of the Old Academy from the ashes of the University?:

So what about the “credential”? Will a student miss out by being taught by me or someone like me?
First of all, in the post industrial world. I suspect that having a meaningless credential that really says that all you did was attended a school, may not have much value. But I think that if you showed that you learned math from an acknowledged great math teacher, this would mean something. If you learned how to write code from a player in the field – that would mean more than a computer science degree. If John Robb taught you about global security that would mean something. If Stuart Baker taught you abut how values really work in society, that would mean something. You would also be part of the network of real teachers and there would not be that gulf between university and life You would show that because you had been accepted by a leader in your filed as a pupil that you were indeed special..

Will Richardson: So What is the Future of Schools?:

I think I’m finally getting to the root of my continued frustration with my kids’ education which is the system’s inability to help them find and nurture the areas they truly have passion for. It would be nice if the institution were the place that connected my kids to the experts they desired and needed to support their learning, wouldn’t it?
Nothing in these conversations changed my view that to really change what we do in schools we have to first change our understanding of what it means to teach in this moment. That doesn’t mean than we throw out all of the good pedagogy that we’ve developed over the years and make everything about technology. But it does mean, I think, that technology has to be a part of the way we do our learning business these days.

Kinesthetic learning online?

Tina writes – Kinesthetic Learners: Why Old Media Should Never Die:

…..Many classrooms, however, don’t offer this type of kinesthetic learning. The hands-on learner is left to fend for themselves and more often than not the only physical interaction they get is with the learning material itself.
You’ve seen them before. Sometimes, it’s a student whose fingers trace the words as they read them. Or the highlighter: the student who makes a colored mosaic of their text as they try to physically interact with the material. Even note-taking is a kinesthetic activity. In a variety of subtle ways, the kinesthetic learner can physically interact with their learning material.
Now, imagine these same students trying to physically interact with ‘new’ media. The method of consuming learning material is physically no different than consuming entertainment material. Your fingers and eyes make the same motions, there is no easy way to physically differentiate material, much less to physically interact with it.
Obviously, there are ways that new media can be superior. Video offers the best chance to reach all learning types. For example, a step-by-step video of a science experiment caters to visual and auditory senses while leaving the hands free to actually perform the experiment.
But for straight information consumption, new media leaves the kinesthetic learner out in the cold.

Videos. Like JoVE and
What about joysticks and Wii?

Networked Student

The Networked Student was inspired by CCK08, a Connectivism course offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes during fall 2008. It depicts an actual project completed by Wendy Drexler’s high school students. The Networked Student concept map was inspired by Alec Couros’ Networked Teacher. I hope that teachers will use it to help their colleagues, parents, and students understand networked learning in the 21st century.


2008 Edublog Awards – time to vote

Nomination for 2008 Edublog Awards is now closed and you can now go and vote.
Go and check them all out – there are some great edublogs there I was not aware of from before. This is how I voted:
1. Best individual blog
Using Blogs in Science Education
2. Best group blog
3. Best new blog
Teaching in Second Life
4. Best resource sharing blog
Discovering Biology in a Digital World
5. Most influential blog post
6. Best teacher blog
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
7. Best librarian / library blog
Blue Skunk Blog
8. Best educational tech support blog
9. Best elearning / corporate education blog
Presentation Zen
10. Best educational use of audio
Project Xiphos
11. Best educational use of video / visual
Steve Spangler blog
12. Best educational wiki
Miss Baker’s Biology Class Wiki
13. Best educational use of a social networking service
Principles of Biology
14. Best educational use of a virtual world
Drexel Island on Second Life
15. Best class blog
Extreme Biology
16. Lifetime achievement
David Warlick
Now go and do the same thing – check them all out and vote for your picks.

2008 Edublog Awards – time to start nominations

This is what you need to do:

2008 Nominations Contact Form
In order to nominate blogs for the 2008 Edublog Awards you have to link to them first!
So, follow these two simple steps to nominate (nominations made without links or without correct submission will not be counted)
1. Write a post on your blog linking to a. The 2008 Nomination page & b The blogs & sites that you want to nominate (must be linked to!)
You can nominate for as many categories as you like, but only one nomination per category, and not yourself 🙂 You can nominate a blog (or site) for more than one category)
2. Use the form below to contact us, please include a genuine email address (spam free, just in case we need to confirm identity) and the link to your nominations post.

1. Best individual blog
Using Blogs in Science Education
2. Best group blog
Extreme Biology
3. Best new blog
4. Best resource sharing blog
Discovering Biology in a Digital World
5. Most influential blog post
6. Best teacher blog
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
7. Best librarian / library blog
Confessions of a Science Librarian
8. Best educational tech support blog
Class Blogmeister
9. Best elearning / corporate education blog
10. Best educational use of audio
Connect Learning, with David Warlick
11. Best educational use of video / visual
B(io)log(y) Videos & Slideshows
12. Best educational wiki
Miss Baker’s Biology Class Wiki
13. Best educational use of a social networking service
Principles of Biology
14. Best educational use of a virtual world
Drexel Island on Second Life
15. Best class blog
Extreme Biology
16. Lifetime achievement
David Warlick
I can’t suggest my own blog, and I don’t think it is that great (mostly a way to get my notes up online and students can add comments, links, questions….) – but if you are interested, here it is.
Now go and do the same thing.

If you share something, is it useful and educational?

Hmmm, juxtaposing these three posts is thought-provoking….what is education all about? Is the ‘coolness’ factor overpowering the ‘usefulness’ factor? Thoughts?
Planning to Share versus Just Sharing:

But inevitably, with a very few exceptions, these projects spend an enormous amount of time defining what is to be shared, figuring out how to share it, setting up the mechanisms to share it, and then…not really sharing much. Or sharing once but costing so much time, effort or money that they do not get sustained. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? I don’t feel like this phenomenon is isolated to me or somehow occurs because of my own personal ineptitude, but you never know.


It seems that neither Tony Hirst, the person who set this operation into motion, nor any of those who are blithely praising his work, bothered to think about the data itself or what it meant. That, indeed, as Hirst himself has repeatedly stated in response to my comments, “wasn’t the point.” But if someone can advocate, and others can gasp at, such mangling of data without even thinking about what happens to that data in the process, believing it to be somehow beside the point… well, that’s a textbook case of data illiteracy as far as I’m concerned.

Am I missing the point on open educational resources?:

In the early brainstorming discussions, I staked out something of a confrontational stance… that higher education is still conducting its business as if information is scarce when we now live in an era of unprecedented information abundance. That we in the institutions can endlessly discuss what content we deign to share via our clunky platforms, while Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, TED Talks, the blogs and other networked media just get on with it… That I might not be able to legally reproduce much of the copyrighted media on the web, but I can link to it, maybe embed it, or simply tell students to search for it. This is not to suggest that sharing more of the presumably high quality content that higher education produces would not enrich the store of available information… but that the world is not waiting for us to get our act together and become a relevant force on the web. The world is moving on without us.
One of the other participants asked a question that resonated with me: if we live in an era of information abundance, why is the primary drive around OERs the publication of more content? And what other activities around the open education movement might be an effective use of our energies? What other needs have to be met?

Then read this: The Digital Youth Project – Kids Need Time to ‘Hang Out,’ ‘Mess Around’ and ‘Geek Out’:

The report notes the similarities between community norms and what educators might call “learning goals” but it clearly denotes a new position for the adult who serves as an educator. Simply stated, schools are not known for allowing “plenty of unstructured time for kids to tinker and explore without being dominated by direct instruction.”
Instead of classroom teachers, there would be lab teachers or leaders who would have a different responsibility, one that does not focus on assessing kids’ for competence. Instead, these adults would be “co-conspirators” practicing a “pedagogy of collegiality.”

Imagine a paperless world (and all the saved trees)!

Will Richardson is noticing an addiction to paper and he looks at himself:

Now I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of no paper as exciting, necessarily, but I continue to find myself more and more eschewing paper of just about any kind in my life. My newspaper/magazine intake is down to nearly zero, every note I take is stored somewhere in the cloud via my computer or iPhone, I rarely write checks, pay paper bills or even carry cash money any longer, and I swear I could live without a printer except for the times when someone demands a signed copy of something or other. (Admittedly, I still read lots of paper books, but I’m working on that.)
Yet just about everywhere I go where groups of educators are in the room, paper abounds. Notebooks, legal pads, sticky notes, index cards…it’s everywhere. We are, as Alan November so often says, “paper trained,” and the worst part is it shows no signs of abating.

Me, too, to a great extent.
But how close we are to a paperless society, really?
Remember my question about the ‘paperless house’?
Speaking of educational settings, we went to a parent-teacher conference last night and, when there was a question of how to coordinate some information among a larg-ish number of people – the first suggestion (immediatelly agreed on by all in the room) was, of course, a Google Doc. What else?
There’s hope.

DonorsChoose – the final day!

Today is the last day! I know most of my readers are donating to Obama this year, but still, my challenge is on the very bottom of the list….


Just three more days…

DonorsChoose – the final stretch!

Just five days left to go in our DonorsChoose drive! We are ending on Friday! And my chellenges are going really slow….
Seed will match some of your donations. Seed Overlords are also pitching in some cool prizes for people who donate to any of the SciBlings DonorsChoose challenges, including mine.
And don’t forget that you can win one of my prizes as well. Just click here….

DonorsChoose – prizes

Hmmm my DonorsChoose projects seem to attract more people from the outside than my own readers….
So, let me sweeten it up for you a little and offer prizes!
Two people – one who gives a single largest one-time donation, and the other who gives the most over the month (the end of October) will be able to choose a special prize: either an item from the A Blog Around The Clock CafePress store, or a copy of the Open Laboratory – either OpenLab 2006, or OpenLab 2007, or if you are prepared to wait a couple of months – the OpenLab 2008.
It is just one click away…

DonorsChoose 2008 Challenge – SciBlings need some urgent help

Perhaps you are still waiting on contributing to my projects, but these projects of my SciBlings cannot wait much longer!

ScienceOnline’09 – Education sessions

Today, instead of introducing people, I will introduce a session, or two or three.
Feedback from participants of the last two conferences indicated a lot of interest in sessions relevant to science educators at all levels. At both the 1st and the 2nd conference, we had one session on using blogs in the classroom. But this time, we want to heed the calls and provide, if possible, three such sessions, each targeting a somewhat different audience.
So, if you go to the conference wiki and check the Program page, you will see the following three sessions listed there:
Online science for the kids (and parents) — moderated by Janet Stemwedel:

Even little kids are online these days. They are curious about the world. What kind of scientific information is there on the Web that is suitable for the littlest ones? How does one find the good stuff? What works and what doesn’t for that age group? What can one do to add quality science material for kids and parents? How to write blog posts with little kids in mind?

And also:
Using the Web in teaching college science — moderated by Andrea Novicki and Brian Switek:

What are the strategies, methods and pitfalls of using the online technologies in science education in college? The importance of Open Access to primary research. The willingness of students to post on blogs. Text-messaging as communication. The problem of the “creepy treehouse”.

And finally – and I am really excited about this:
Science online – middle/high school perspective (or: “how the Facebook generation does it”?) — moderated by Stacey Baker and her students:

How does middle/high school science education differ from that in college? There are also institutional problems: a) Most US pub. school networks firewall out major sources of info, such as all of, all of, all of youtube, etc. A teacher who finds something on a blog can’t use it directly in classroom. b) Conceptually linked posts and comment threads, ads, external links, etc. are often inappropriate for PS K-12 settings (which is perhaps why ‘a’ is true). c) yet, some bloggers want to have some of their work used in this setting. Are the younger kids different from college students in their use of online tools? Many school are experimenting with new technologies but do not have a clear idea how to do it – did they ask the kids themselves for advice? If not, we’ll ask the students in this session.

And if you look at the list of registered participants so far, you will see quite a lot of teachers and education specialists, as well as a few high school and college students, e.g., Kim Gainer and her duaghter Patti, John Dupuis’ son Sam, Elissa Hoffman and a number of others. We are also expecting some teachers and students from the Zoo School and from the Duke’s summer student research blogging program. Keep checking the wiki for more information….

DonorsChoose 2008 Challenge – where are my readers?

Wow! Six of my DonorsChoose projects – Science Laboratory Kits, Who Gives A Hoot!, No More Worksheets!, Vroom! Vroom! Forces and Motion, What’s the weather for today? and Math Mania have now been fully funded!
Unfortunately, not by my readers…. (pout)
If this keeps happening I’ll add some more projects. All for science/math teaching projects in schools in low-income areas of North Carolina.
Your turn…

DonorsChoose 2008 Challenge – rocks!

You may have noticed, all around, that we have started our traditional annual fundraiser – helping fund science and math projects in schools around the country, mainly focusing on schools in low-income areas where most of the students get free lunches and there is not much support for “extras” which should be normal part of every school – the basic supplies for math and science instruction.
I am right now having a technical problem with my side-bar widget, which I will install as soon as I can. But in the meantime, check out the leaderboard, and pick some of the projects from my list. Then click on “Fund this project” button and make some kids very happy:

Ouz Nouz! Fear at Cape Fear!

Not in my back yard!
It appears that some people are, erm, a little behind the times down in Brunswick County. That dog will not hunt, though, as it has no legal legs to run on, as PZ explains – it’s even less sophisticated than what the Dover board tried to do.

Assault on (Higher) Education – a Lakoffian Perspective

Assault on (Higher) Education - a Lakoffian PerspectiveThis post was first written on October 28, 2004 on Science And Politics, then it was republished on December 05, 2005 on The Magic School Bus. The Village vs. The University – all in your mind.

Continue reading

Open Access and science blogs in the Anglo-American School in Belgrade

Vedran continues to spread the Openness in Serbia:

Anglo-American School Belgrade, a small private school in Belgrade, started its academic year with an opening ceremony celebrating the joy of learning.
Teachers who gathered on the first day of school learned about the intention of the school management to offer them a number of links to Open Access repositories and Open Access RSS feed aggregators for use in educational practice. Teachers learned about the freedom of knowledge and, with great enthusiasm, started to explore a variety of resources of information in order to enrich lectures and to train the students to seek the information and knowledge on the Internet by using Open Access repositories, scientific blogs, open notebook and other methods of disseminating freedom of information and knowledge.
PLoS and scientific blogs were found very attractive due to possibility to communicate with scientists directly. The parents supported the school’s intentions to offer more resources of information and knowledge and to follow efforts of scientists worldwide to share their experiences, thought and knowledge.”

What are teachers for?

Just as I posted this clip about the way kids use blogs and social networks, David Warlick posted this intriguing analysis of the way kids use online technologies. Dave posted an interesting graph that shows that kids assess that they acquire various skills equally in school and in off-school online environments.
Yes, there used to be a time when you went to school to learn A, B and C: facts, learning skills, social skills with peers, and then went home to learn skills D, E and F: how to deal with adults, perform acts of personal hygiene, and learn to do household chores.
But today, the distinction between school and off-school is blurring. With the increasing use of the Web in teaching, the kids go to school to learn how to learn (including how to find information online), not to sponge-up facts as recited by the teacher. The font of knowledge used to be the teacher, but today that same knowledge is at everyone’s fingertips, it just needs to be sought, understood, processed and connected to other pieces of knowledge.
The killer quote for me is this one:

I’d have to say, though, that the most interesting question that came from one of the teachers was something like, “If I gave you an assignment to make a video, would it bother you that I don’t know how to make a video and can’t teach you how?” The students glanced at each other and then shrugged in unison, each saying, “We’d just ask each other.” One of the boys said, “I’d probably ask someone else anyway.”

So, the teacher, apart from not being the source of information, is not even regarded as a source of skills on how to find information.
So, what will the role of teacher be in the future?
Not reciting facts. Not teaching technology. But managing the learning process: teaching critical skills – how to find, evaluate, connect and build upon the information that exists out there, how to determine what is important and what not, how to figure out what source is trusted and which one is suspicious.
The teacher of the future will be someone who coaches kids in the skills of media use and criticism. Instead of teaching facts, teaching how to evaluate facts. Instead of teaching this generation’s ideas and biases, enabling them to form their own. Schooling as a ‘subversive activity’ at its best.
Which is good.

Why teaching evolution is dangerous

It is so nice teaching biology to adults when there are no (obvious) Creationists in the classroom. It does not always happen that way – I have had a couple of cases in the past – but this time it was really nice as I could freely cover all topics deeply within an evolutionary framework (not always seen in my public notes, though, as I try to gauge the class first and then decide how overtly to talk ebout everything in evolutionary terms). It is always a conundrum. If there is a potential resentment of my lectures, I have to thread carefully. I have to remember that I am not trying to turn them into biologists, but that I am trying to make them think for themselves and to understand evolution even if they do not want to ‘believe’ it for religious reasons. Thus, I first teach about cell, heredity and development, which gives them (and me) tools for coverage of evolution. Then I explain evolution using insects as an example before ending with a “humans, of course” as well. Then I cover Origin of Life, evolution of diversity and current diversity. But I do not leave evolution behind when I move on to ecology, behavior and physiology either. More easily this time, but sometimes a little more ‘sneakily’ if I know I have Creationists in class.
So, I know exactly how difficult it is to teach even younger students – they are more likely to act rebelliously (adults will go along in order to get the grade and move on) and they are still more under the influence of parents and do not have enough world experiences. I admire high school teachers who teach Biology in areas of the country in which Creationism is rampant and most of the kids are likely to be a priori biased against it.
A week after the nice column by Olivia Judson about the necessity of teaching evolution in school, NYTimes once again visits this question, with a very nice article about Mr.Campbell, a biology teacher in Florida, one of the people who was involved in the latest science curriculum battles in that state this year.
Like a game of whack-a-mole, Creationist get defeated in court in one state, just to resurface in another state and start the process all over again. As they keep losing in courts, they are forced to dilute their message, and adopt the language that may, on the surface, seem OK, unless you know exactly what THEY mean by that language and how that language is supposed to be a wedge that lets religious instruction into public school science classes.
The NYTimes article was brought to my attention by Jonathan Eisen, Tom Levenson, Kent and Mike Dunford and then I saw that many other bloggers have picked up on it since.
Ed Darrell points out the competitive advantage this gives the rest of the world and how local the problem of Creationism is.
David Rea sees that the NCSE responses to Well’s “Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution” (also accessible at the NYT site next to the article) are far too nuanced and likely to go over the heads of most Americans, and suggests to use them to teach the meaning of words, and the meaning of evolutionary concepts – they cannot stand for themselves but can be useful as a starting point for a classroom discussion.
Peter Dawson Buckland responds to one of the frequent misrepresentations of evolution that shows up in the article (voiced by a Creationist teacher in the same school as Campbell) and gives a vote to pragmatism over philosophical accuracy. PZ Myers disagrees and insists on absolute accuracy. John Hawks points out that the Mickey Mouse is not an example of evolution – with which I agree: like Pokemon (and perhaps Spore), it is an example of gradual metamorphosis, in this case exacerbated by the fact that change is not induced by the natural environment but by human marketers.
As of this writing, the article has 342 comments on the NYTimes site, mainly by people who liked it and who – some clumsily, others with more expertise – try to explain the difference between scientific and colloquial usages of “theory” and other answers to those age-old questions that Creationists have been asking for a century or more already (and bored everyone to death, including myself, as the answers are readily available online, in books, etc.).
One comment that I particularly liked was this one:

I second comment #3. Bless Mr. Campbell. He was my high school biology teacher, and this article only begins to illustrate all the ways in which he is an amazing teacher. He constantly challenges his students to think for themselves, to analyze, and to test hypotheses rather than simply accept things at face value. He was the first teacher who ever taught me how, not what, to think, and Mr. Campbell is the reason I am now a biologist, studying evolutionary biology. Thank you, Mr. Campbell, and all biology teachers like you, who, in teaching evolution well, nurture the natural curiosity in young minds.
— Natalie Wright, Gainesville, FL

But some of the best commentary is right there in the article – words of Campbell himself. See this:

“If I do this wrong,” Mr. Campbell remembers thinking on that humid spring morning, “I’ll lose him.”

Mr. Campbell knows how tricky this process is. You cannot bludgeon kids with truth (or insult their religion, i.e., their parents and friends) and hope they will smile and believe you. Yes, NOMA is wrong, but is a good first tool for gaining trust. You have to bring them over to your side, gain their trust, and then hold their hands and help them step by step. And on that slow journey, which will be painful for many of them, it is OK to use some inaccuracies temporarily if they help you reach the students. If a student, like Natalie Wright who I quoted above, goes on to study biology, then he or she will unlearn the inaccuracies in time. If most of the students do not, but those cutesy examples help them accept evolution, then it is OK if they keep some of those little inaccuracies for the rest of their lives. It is perfectly fine if they keep thinking that Mickey Mouse evolved as long as they think evolution is fine and dandy overall. Without Mickey, they may have become Creationist activists instead. Without belief in NOMA they would have never accepted anything, and well, so be it. Better NOMA-believers than Creationists, don’t you think?
But for me, the key quote of the article is this one:

“If you see something you don’t understand, you have to ask ‘why?’ or ‘how?’ ” Mr. Campbell often admonished his students at Ridgeview High School.

Education is a subversive activity that is implicitly in place in order to counter the prevailing culture. And the prevailing culture in the case of Campbell’s school, and many other schools in the country, is a deeply conservative religious culture.
There are many ideals or “values” that conservatives and liberals share. Freedom, strength, honesty, generosity, courage, responsibility, etc. are equally valued by people of all ideologies. The conservatives and liberals may define or understand them a little differently, they may order them differently according to importance, and they may deduce some very different policy proposals out of them, but in general they all agree that these are good human values.
But there is one human trait where the two ideologies differ. That is Obedience. For conservatives, this is a positive human trait. For liberals, it is viewed quite negatively. Why?
Because the two ideologies view time and history differently.
Conservatives see history as a story of decline from some mythical Golden Age which, depends who you ask, may be the Garden of Eden, or middle ages when Church and State were one and the same, or late 19th century USA with robber barons in charge, or 1930s Italy and Germany when Business and State were one and the same (and kept all the “Others” down), or 1950s when women were sent to the kitchen. They feel like the future is bleak and that their duty is to slow down and stop the decline, or reverse it if they can.
Their belief that world is dangerous is a part of this mindset – they always think that the world is more to be feared now than it was in the mystical past. Corporate media help them in this – switch off the TV and tell me: how many violent crimes, tragic accidents, horrific natural disasters, and war terrors, have you personally witnessed today in real life? Yesterday, the day before, throughout your life? How come you are still alive? Oh, but the media wants to deliver you to the advertising so you will buy whatever will alleviate your fears today and make life worth living yet another day.
For us (liberals), the history is seen as an arrow of progress: every generation has a better life than the previous one, every generation puts some work and effort, and if needed fight, to make the world a better place for the next generation. We want to foster and continue this trend. For this to happen, each generation needs to break with the parents’ worldview to some extent. What is considered “normal” part of life for one’s elders, may not be so for the youngsters who take a serious look at it. Most importantly, each generation brings in another level of equality, bringing up a group that was institutionally pushed down during history, be it women, gays, blacks, etc.
Now, the word “equality” is understood differently by the two ideologies. It does not mean handicapping everyone to have the same no matter what their talents and hard work should earn them. It does not mean preventing people from attaining success. It means allowing people to go to the top regardless of who their parents were. If you made it, your kids should not get a leg-up because of that – they need to start from zero and try to make it as well. Or fail. But more importantly, it does not matter if your parents are rich or poor, white or black, US-born or foreign-born, religious or not, if you are male or female, straight or gay – you should have the exact same social and instititutional support in your strivings toward success.
Also, the measure of success in dollars is a pretty conservative notion – you can be dirt-poor yet be successful, consider yourself successful and be regarded by others as successful along other criteria, e.g., generosity, skill, talent. And the accidents of your birth should not be a factor.
In a worldview which sees everything as a zero-sum game, equality is anathema. If one goes up, this means someone else is going down. If women are gaining, this means men are losing. If Blacks are gaining equality, this means Whites are losing. If you see the world as hierarchical this is the inevitable outcome of your worldview.
Thus, the most essential thing that conservatives want to conserve is the social organization, including all of its power relationships, with the white, American, Christian, (officially) straight, rich, adult, male humans on top of everyone else. If that is your worldview, of course what normal people consider progress will look like doom to you. After all, we measure progress by how big strides we have made in eliminating the old power structures that used to subdue groups of people under others.
Another way to call this is authoritarianism, in which one group asserts authority over others and does whatever it takes to keep it that way.
An important aspect of the conservative hierarchy is the authority of old over the young. The stereotype of an Old Wise Man Who Remembers The Golden Age of Yore. He who can bring that Golden Age back. The top of the hierarchy. Thus, obedience to His authority is essential for preservation of the hierarchical power structure. Thus, conservatives do not like education, they prefer “training”. They start early by training little kids, by methods bordering on abuse, to unquestioningly obey their elders.
The school should be a place to instill obedience (measure of success in rolling back progress) as well as to train for jobs that bring in the money (monetary measure of success). Thus, conservatives tend to fight against the liberal academia and hate to be told that Reality has a Liberal Bias. And most importantly, they fight against science education as it directly undermines the obedience.
See what Mr.Campbell is doing? Kids who were taught obedience know they are supposed to unquestioningly obey their elders, which includes their parents, priests and teachers. But Campbell puts them in a mental bind – they want to obey him but he is telling them things opposite from what their parents and priests are saying. Who to listen to? As a result of this exercise, they unlearn obedience. A red-flag danger for the conservatives. Their kids have been corrupted – they were, gasp, taught to think for themselves. And we all know what independent thinking brings about – progress! We can’t have that, can we?!
This is why Creationism is such an important plank in the conservative political strategy – it undermines the teaching of independent thinking. The asking of How and Why questions. All the stuff that each generation needs in order to analyze and reject their parent’s generation’s regressive worldview. Doom!

There is no need for a ‘Creepy Treehouse’ in using the Web in the classroom

I love the way Web works! So, I was on FriendFeed earlier today and I saw through this link there that Paul Jones posted a note on Pownce (on which I am registered but never check) about this article in Raleigh N&O:
An iPod Touch for each student?

A Chapel Hill middle school could become the first in the country to give an iPod to every teacher and student, an experiment that would challenge teachers and administrators to ensure the hand-held devices are used as learning tools, not toys.
It’s still not clear how the iPod Touches would be used at Culbreth Middle School. And school officials know that students may use the iPod Touches more to download the new Jonas Brothers single than to tap the riches of human knowledge. But Principal Susan Wells says that to dismiss the technology as a distraction or a gimmick ignores today’s tech-driven world.
“It’s a world we better figure out, because we can’t ask our students to come into a classroom, put those things aside and sit in a row and think we’re interesting,” she said.
“We’re just not that interesting.”
Mountain View High School in Meridian, Idaho, banned the use of all iPods last year when they suspected students were using them to cheat. Principal Aaron Maybon said some students would record audio of them saying answers to test questions. Then they’d wear a baggy sweater with the iPod concealed underneath and run the ear buds through the sleeve to their wrist. When they needed an answer, they would rest their head on their hand.
“We did have to take a hard-line approach to that,” Maybon said. “You can restrict all kinds of stuff and you can drive yourself nuts trying to police all of it. They [Culbreth] are probably kind of opening themselves up to something.”
Wells said Culbreth teachers are eager to start using iPods in class.
“These teachers say this pilot signals their commitment to our students to meet them where they are, as opposed to where the teachers are comfortable,” Wells said.
“They state their commitment to teach 21st-century skills, because technology is the future for students and teachers.”

Yup, this year, when both of my kids are out of Culbreth school!
A couple of days before, John Dupuis posted (check a long comment thread on FriendFeed) a link to When Professors Create Social Networks for Classes, Some Students See a ‘Creepy Treehouse’

A growing number of professors are experimenting with Facebook, Twitter, and other social-networking tools for their courses, but some students greet an invitation to join professors’ personal networks with horror, seeing faculty members as intruders in their private online spaces. Recognizing that, some professors have coined the term “creepy treehouse” to describe technological innovations by faculty members that make students’ skin crawl.

The ‘Creepy Treehouse’ is defined as, among else:

n. A situation in which an authority figure or an institutional power forces those below him/her into social or quasi-social situations.
With respect to education, Utah Valley University student Tyrel Kelsey describes, “creepy treehouse is what a professor can create by requiring his students to interact with him on a medium other than the class room tools. [E.g.] requiring students to follow him/her on peer networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook.”

So, which is it? Good or bad? I think a lot of people (including many teachers and administrators) are not familiar with the Web sufficiently enough to see it is more than one fuzzy big Scary Place. Thus they get confused when they hear Good News and Bad News one after another – which is it? If you think that Web is a single thing, you will not understand the distinctions between different parts of it and different ways of using it. Thus, either you dedicate yourself to learn more about it, or you pick one side (Good or Bad) and stick to it.
There is a difference between using online techologies in teaching and teachers inviting students to friend them on Facebook. The former is acknowledgment that kids today have a very different worldview and behavior and we need to learn it and use it for education. The latter is personal intrusiveness.
Not using the Web in teaching these days is a criminal act of mis-education. It is preparing the 21st century kids for a 19th century world. FAIL.
Or, as David Warlick says:

I’m pretty sure that it was Alan Kay who said that, “Technology is anything that was invented after you were born.” Does it have to stay that way? At what point does it stop being the technology and become the medium — and become transparent?
This is a barrier for us, this sense that we’re striving to modernize classrooms by using more technology. I still do not think that the kids do this. When they go out and buy the latest game system, they are not buying the latest technology. They’re buying better games. They are buying better experiences.
Folks out there who are making valuable and sustainable uses of technology, do you still think of it as integrating technology? If not, when did that stop? When did it become sustainable?
I guess for me, it happened when I started thinking about my job as entirely about inventing and communicating, rather than helping people integrate technology.

Online publishing and networking tools for kids and their teachers

Classroom 2.0:

…the social networking site for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education.

NoodleTools: Basic Language Literacy:

Online Opportunities for Young Writers – Publications Which Accept Student Submissions

Is our children learning?

The NYTimes (also International Herald Tribune which I mentioned before) piece on book-reading, the Web and literacy of the new generation, has provoked quite a lot of interesting responses:

But this change in internet language has happened very quickly, almost as as fast an an invading force. Is it here to stay? Is I gonna haf 2 strt riteing all my posts liek this? And is this an acceptable change to the language? Are these new grammar and spelling rules that we should teach in the schools as evidence of language evolution?


My one issue with printed media is that I don’t like being immersed in the author’s bias for too long when it comes to contentious issues in religion, sexuality, gender/race issues, culture, philosophy, or even some scientific theories. I remember being frustrated with this in grade school, which is why I spent so much time on the internet reading articles and online discussions. There, my opinions could coalesce and shift in a more meaningful way because everything was being challenged in real time. I’d read something, and just when a hint of doubt or suspicion about an idea entered my mind, I’d find someone else had refuted the troubling point quite elegantly. In this way, and by way of several online primers on basic logic, I was able to hone my critical thinking skills. I have always preferred any format where two or more sides of an issue are being presented, and quite frankly it’s difficult for me to find that in a book. I often use online reviews to let me know which books are even worth my time because this stuff pisses me off so much.

Geeky Mom:

I get the feeling that we’re trying to pidgeonhole, to say that learning is this or that, that literacy is this or that, instead of looking at what’s out there for people to engage with and figure out how to leverage that for learning.

Chad Orzel:

Look, I’m as big a fan of books as anyone– I’m writing one, and I do it sitting in a room with several hundred hardcovers (the paperbacks are upstairs). But this is idiotic. Reading is reading, even if it’s done on a computer. Even if it’s done on

Update – there’s more:

David Warlick:

What struck me as I read through the article on my phone, was something that somebody said to me many weeks ago, about today’s dramatic generation gap. I dismissed the notion because I was part of the highly contentious generation gap of the late ’60s and early ’70s. By comparison, our relationship with our children across all endeavors is fine and friendly.
Yet, as I read through the Times article, It seemed to be pointing at a vast gap between my generation’s notions of education and literacy, and that which our children practice as part of their millennial culture?
What struck me as ludicrice was the conviction that test scores are the true indication of whether our children are being appropriately prepared for their future, or even that government test scores are any better at predicting future prosperity than establishing a successful presence on a social network, garnering a readership on FanFiction, or earning a respectable number of experience points in World of Warcraft. I do not think we even know.

Jessica Palmer:

Yes. . . the salient thing about this NYT article is that, although it’s a well-written discussion of a controversial question, it also shows how little data is out there to feed this important conversation. There’s a serious need for measurable benchmarks and well-defined criteria. What exactly is that clear difference between reading online and on paper? And what learning outcomes can we use to objectively determine, anecdotes aside, if one is “better” than the other? (Presumably neither will be better – each will have different strengths).

Will Richardson:

I think that we have to help our kids navigate online reading spaces and provide an appropriate balance between print and digital environments. I think we have to help kids process and track and organized the things that they read, teach them to respond in effective ways, teach them to interact and become participants in the process in ways that don’t restrict their passion and creativity but also give them some context for what they are doing.

He’s read all the Great Books at Yale:


Like we did the last two years, SciBlings will have a month-long fundraising drive for educational projects via DonorsChoose. More info soon.
For now, check out Janet’s first teaser for some info.
Also checkk out the DonorsChoose blog for their information.
For the locals – there is an exciting NC part of this all:

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund, an independent private foundation in North Carolina, will support $25,000 in inquiry-based science and mathematics projects through during the 2008 / 2009 school year.
These funds are only available to North Carolina teachers, so take advantage of this opportunity and submit your project today! All eligible projects will automatically be considered. See the sticky-notes below for a few project ideas that would qualify for Burroughs Wellcome Fund support.

Web-literacy – essential for 21st century?

Literacy debate: Online, r u really reading?:

As teenagers’ scores on standardized reading tests have declined or stagnated, some argue that the hours spent prowling the Internet are the enemy of reading — diminishing literacy, wrecking attention spans and destroying a precious common culture that exists only through the reading of books.
But others say the Internet has created a new kind of reading, one that schools and society should not discount. The Web inspires a teenager like Nadia, who might otherwise spend most of her leisure time watching television, to read and write.

Evolution: Education and Outreach

The third issue of the Open Access journal ‘Evolution: Education and Outreach’ has been published, and it is again full of good, thought-provoking articles. You can see them (for free, of course) if you click here.

Web 2.0 and education

What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for education by Paul Anderson:

The report establishes that Web 2.0 is more than a set of ‘cool’ and new technologies and services, important though some of these are. It has, at its heart, a set of at least six powerful ideas that are changing the way some people interact. Secondly, it is also important to acknowledge that these ideas are not necessarily the preserve of ‘Web 2.0’, but are, in fact, direct or indirect reflections of the power of the network: the strange effects and topologies at the micro and macro level that a billion Internet users produce. This might well be why Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, maintains that Web 2.0 is really just an extension of the original ideals of the Web that does not warrant a special moniker. However, business concerns are increasingly shaping the way in which we are being led to think and potentially act on the Web and this has implications for the control of public and private data. Indeed, Tim O’Reilly’s original attempt to articulate the key ideas behind Web 2.0 was focused on a desire to be able to benchmark and therefore identify a set of new, innovative companies that were potentially ripe for investment. The UK HE sector should debate whether this is a long-term issue and maybe delineating Web from Web 2.0 will help us to do that.

Open Textbooks

Georgia Harper saw an interesting article in USA Today about Open textbooks and, among else, says:

Open access is just one part of a much bigger and more complex picture. I am very optimistic that open access will find its way into the book market (or what we call books today), but again, it’s not like that will cut off the flow of revenues. Quite the contrary. It just makes it possible for a lot more people to benefit from the work of authors while authors and those who help them ready their works for public consumption still reap sufficient financial rewards to make creating worthwhile. Maybe the biggest stumbling block is understanding that as a copyright owner, you don’t have to appropriate every cent of public benefit from your work. There’s viability in skimming off the top and letting some of the benefit go to those who never would have been able to buy your book anyway. That concept seems really counter-intuitive to many authors and publishers, but I think it’s what makes open access a successful competitor — authors and publishers can still get paid (if that’s what they want) but people who would not have had access also derive benefit.
So, back to copyright law: we make and distribute copies of others’ works; we license others’ works; we buy others’ works. We (educators) are very big consumers of and producers of educational, research and scholarly materials. This is big, big business. And it’s got copyright as a major component of its engine. But a bundle of copyrights, no matter how big, becomes worth less and less over time. New works get created every single day. And every single new author has choices today about how to distribute, market and benefit from his or her work that were simply not available even a decade ago. That’s what makes authoring and creating so exciting today: the chance to reach an audience of any size is within reach for many more of us than in the past. How will you handle your copyrights? Open access has an awful lot to recommend it. Look into it! Creative Commons licensing is a good example of how you can make your work widely and freely available while still maintaining the degree of control that fits with your overall goals in writing or creating in the first place.

Hat-tip: Gavin Baker

Educational Benefits Of Social Networking

This should be interesting to all of us, be it people who study capabilities of online education or people who study teen online behavior. It also appears to be a part of gradual shift from media scares about “online predators” to a more serious look at what the Web is bringing to the new generations and how it changed the world:
Educational Benefits Of Social Networking Sites Uncovered:

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered the educational benefits of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. The same study found that low-income students are in many ways just as technologically proficient as their counterparts, going against what results from previous studies have suggested.
The study found that, of the students observed, 94 percent used the Internet, 82 percent go online at home and 77 percent had a profile on a social networking site. When asked what they learn from using social networking sites, the students listed technology skills as the top lesson, followed by creativity, being open to new or diverse views and communication skills.
“What we found was that students using social networking sites are actually practicing the kinds of 21st century skills we want them to develop to be successful today,” said Christine Greenhow, a learning technologies researcher in the university’s College of Education and Human Development and principal investigator of the study. “Students are developing a positive attitude towards using technology systems, editing and customizing content and thinking about online design and layout. They’re also sharing creative original work like poetry and film and practicing safe and responsible use of information and technology. The Web sites offer tremendous educational potential.”
Interestingly, researchers found that very few students in the study were actually aware of the academic and professional networking opportunities that the Web sites provide. Making this opportunity more known to students, Greenhow said, is just one way that educators can work with students and their experiences on social networking sites.

Whither recess?

Whatever happened to recess? I can’t imagine a school day without one! This is a crime.