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Category Archives: Education
Earlier this year, during the National Sleep Awareness Week, I wrote a series of posts about the changes in sleep schedules in adolescents. Over the next 3-4 hours, I will repost them all, starting with this one from March 26, 2006. Also check my more recent posts on the subject here and here…
This kind of ignorant bleating makes me froth at the mouth every time – I guess it is because this is my own blogging “turf”.
One of the recurring themes of my blog is the disdain I have for people who equate sleep with laziness out of their Puritan core of understanding of the world, their “work ethic” which is a smokescreen for power-play, their vicious disrespect for everyone who is not like them, and the nasty feeling of superiority they have towards the teenagers just because they are older, bigger, stronger and more powerful than the kids. Not to forget the idiotic notions that kids need to be “hardened”, or that, just because they managed to survive some hardships when they were teens, all the future generations have to be sentenced to the same types of hardships, just to make it even. This is bullying behavior, and disregarding and/or twisting science in the search for personal triumphalism irks me to no end.
The fifth annual Museum Night in Belgrade and other Serbian cities will be held this Saturday, May 17th:
More than 130 museums and galleries in 23 towns in Serbia will be open just for you, so the only decision you have to make is to choose a good company. We hope you are in good shape because there will be so many interesting exhibitions, concerts and performances that you will literally have the whole Belgrade under your feet!
What a great idea – pick a day, have special exhibits, events and concerts, all for free, and get the entire town to come out and enjoy.
David Warlick is a local blogger and educator. We first met at the Podcastercon a couple of years ago, then at several blogger meetups, and finally last January at the second Science Blogging Conference where David moderated a session on Science Education.
Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your background? What is your Real Life job?
I’ve been an educator for more than 30 years, starting as a middle school social studies, science, and math teacher. Every once in a while, I have to remind myself that when I entered the classroom, desktop computers didn’t exist. It constantly astounds me what has been happing around us.
I remained in the classroom for almost 10 years, after which I moved to a central office position supporting instructional technology for a rural school district in NC. I’d been seduced by computers (Radio Shack Model III), and taught myself how to program them, since there wasn’t much instructional software available. After that, I moved to the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction where I wrote and supported curriculum for the state, ran a state-wide bulletin board service (FrEdMail) and finally built the nation’s first state department of education web site.
I left the state in 1995, and started consulting, doing business as The Landmark Project. the Internet was still a wilderness, and I wanted to build landmarks for teachers and learners. I maintain a number of web sites which, combined, receive more than a half-million page views a day. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit educators across the U.S. and Canada, and even in Europe, Asia, and South America.
It seems that I should be near the end of my career. But it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
What do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?
I always wanted to be Johnny Quest’s father, Dr. Benton Quest (1960s cartoon series). Wikipedia describes him as: “…’one of the three top scientists in the world,’ and apparently something of a Renaissance man; his scientific and technical know-how spans many fields.” I wanted to travel the world, have great toys to play with, and solve problems for people. I got part of it, in that I get to travel the world and play with great toys, and there’s some adventure, thought it has more to do with navigating exotic airports than defeating evil despots.
But now that all the travel is starting to wear me down, I’m thinking I’d like to settle back to one or two interests, and study/work the hell out of them. Digital photography has always appealed to me. I also enjoy composing music with a computer. I’d also like to find some topic and set up a web site/blog/social network around that topic. No idea, though, what it might be.
You are quite an evangelist for the use of online tools in the classroom. You used to teach with a blackboard and chalk – how and when did you get to embrace the modern tools in education?
My main subject was History. It’s what I had studied in college. But I always taught about History from the perspective of technology, focusing in on the invention of the bow & arrow, agriculture, paper, the steam engine and explore how these technologies affected and changed our cultures. The first time I saw a Radio Shack Model I computer operate, I knew, at that moment, that this was one of those technologies that was going to change everything. Here was a machine that you operated by communicating with it. I was thunder-struck. I was seduced.
However, it was sometime later that I started to learn, and am continued to learn that it isn’t the fact that we have a machine that we can communicate that makes computers so important. It’s that they give us new ways of communicating with each other. This, I’ve learned as an educator — not as a technologist.
One of the important concepts you write about is the Flat Classroom. Can you, please, explain it to my readers?
It’s simple. According to a recent PEW Internet & American Life study, 64% of American teenagers have produced original digital content and published it to a global audience. How many of their teachers are published authors, artists, musicians, composers, or film makers? From the perspective of our children’s information experience, they are more literate than many of their teachers. Our classrooms are flat.
The central question that we should be asking today is, “How do we drive learning if we can no longer rely on gravity?” Where do we get the energy. It’s a sobering and threatening idea for most educators. However, I think that once we can get to the other side of this problem, we, teachers and learners, will be much happier. Here are just a few ideas:
* We need to redefine literacy to reflect today’s information landscape and not just teach it as skills, but to instill it as habit.
* We, as teachers, need to model learning, not just inflict it. We need to practice new literacy in front of our students.
* What students learn has become less important. The answers are all changing. It as important today to be able to invent answers to brand new questions. What’s become more important is how students are learning.
* We need to understand our students information experience and learn to harness the energy that comes from it, to replace the vanishing energy of gravity.
“Please turn off your cell-phones, i-Pods and other electronic devices, kids” – why is this sentence, spoken at the beginning of a class period, wrong? What should a teacher say instead?
This is wrong on so many levels. But principally, we have to recognize, accept, and respect our students out-side-the classroom information experiences. For the first time in history, we are preparing our children for a future we can not clearly describe. So much is changing and so fast. I think that there are clues in our students information experience that we can use to better prepare them for that future.
I recently read about six schools in New York City (where they’ve banned cell phones) that are giving cell phones to all of their students (2,500 of them), preloaded with 130 minutes of talk time. More minutes are added based on test scores, good behavior, and other activities. The teachers are starting to use text messaging to share homework assignments, remind them of upcoming tests, and other activities. What I’d love to see is text-messaging become a platform for doing homework assignment in collaboration.
I know that this may seem weird to some, but no less (NO LESS) weird than many of the applications we use every day would have seemed 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.
What is your basic advice to teachers who are not themselves Internet-savvy, yet want to take a plunge and get their students to produce online content, be it blogs, podcasts or videos? How do you explain the pros and cons and the usual traps some teachers fall into?
Be a good teacher, and pay attention to your students information experiences. Your students can teach you a lot about these new tools, and what better way to model yourself as a lifelong learner.
Become 21st century literate. Once you’ve accomplished that, then you can teach yourself what ever you need to know. Most of the teachers who are doing extraordinary things in their classrooms didn’t learn it in a workshop. They learned it by engaging on online conversations with other innovative educators.
When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?
I have to plead the 5th on this one. I do not read any science blogs regularly, though SEED may well take the place of WIRED as my favorite magazine. I’m fascinated by science, all areas of science. Science constantly reminds me of the frontiers we have yet to chart.
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?
It thrills me to see that part of learning science is learning how to talk about science. And this is what the Science Bloggers conference is about. It’s about the softer side of our explorations, bringing them home, and making them a part of the everyday conversations of the rest of us. I think that, deep down, we all crave frontiers.
It was so nice to see you again at the Conference and thank you for the interview.
Check out all the interviews in this series.
So, this post is almost ten days old, but I just now found some time to actually read the 35 comments on it as well as what others wrote about it on their blogs. I guess it is time to continue that conversation now.
First, let me be clear about the origin of that rant: I’ve been teaching for quite a long time now and always graded individuals without ever thinking about that assumption. The Facebook scandal triggered the new thought that perhaps all grades should be group grades. As a blogger, I put up a rant, spiced it up with strong language to elicit commentary (which bland stuff cannot do) and waited for the feedback.
The entire idea is new to me and I wanted to see how others felt about it. They did not disappoint and, with a couple of exceptions, both the pro-folks and the con-folks offered thoughtful arguments. The couple of exceptions are the usual stuff of blogs, the short “you are an idiot” comments that add nothing to the discussion.
What did disappoint me to some extent is the unwillingness (I sure hope it was not inability to do so) of some to even try to do the proposed thought-experiment. But perhaps it was my fault – the form and style of my post did not make it clear it was a thought experiment and some people assume that everything written online is an argumentative attack that has to be, knee-jerkily, responded to by a counter-attack to the opposite extreme.
Did the comments change my mind? Yes and no. As the idea is new to me, there was not much mind to change to begin with. It was hard to say I was right or wrong as the post was designed as a question (and yes, it was right to ASK the question). I am certainly not, like some bloggers, stubborn and digging in my heels and never ever saying I was wrong. But in this case I do not see the question even close to being settled yet and I would like to continue this conversation.
So, let me restate, very clearly, what the thought experiment was and lets go from there:
“How would the world be affected if all the grades in all the classes (K-PhD) in all the educational institutions in the world were assigned to groups instead of individuals?”
On details, I think the best way for me to proceed is to respond directly to the comments (under the fold):
[rant]So, if you organize a study-group online instead of in meat-space, the old fogies who still remember dinosaurs go all berserk. A student is threatened by expulsion for organizing a Facebook group for studying chemistry. Moreover, as each student got different questions, nobody did the work for others, they only exchanged tips and strategies. See the responses:
Yet students argue Facebook groups are simply the new study hall for the wired generation.
Yes, they are.
How much of this is a matter of administrative fear of the internet?
Today, that sense of “honor” seems horribly old-fashioned. To most students it will not seem like cheating if they ask their friends for help with the assignments and share information. That’s what happened on the Facebook study group.
Old-fashioned is too nice a term. It is outdated and anachronistic.
Honestly, do you not see the difference between studying together and exchanging answers on a graded assignment?
The problem is in a stupid professor who thinks in terms of “graded assignments” in the 21st century.
This all stems from the old German universities of a couple of centuries ago, where getting a degree was essentially a hazing process. Toughening the individual. For what? For replicating and preserving the hierarchy, both within the academia and in society as a whole. The educational systems around the world, at all levels, are still based on such outrageous ideas.
No individual can know everything needed knowing. No individual can make the necessary societal changes on one’s own. So why teach them as if it is all up to an individual? Both learning and social change are communal processes. What we need to be teaching is how to be a member of a community, how to network, how to contribute, how to share, how to pull together in order to increase the global knowledge and, by using this knowledge, to increase the global welfare.
Science is supposed to be a collaborative activity. Why is it organized (and taught) as if it was a competitive activity? How does that affect science? Negatively, by increasing secretiveness and sometimes outright fraud.
The Web is changing all this. The teenagers already grok that the old selfish notions of intellectual property are going by the way of the dodo. They naturally think in terms of networks, not individuals. And thinking in term of newtorks as opposed to a linear, hierarchical, individualistic focus, is necessary for speeding up the advancement of knowledge and societal good.
In other words, it is not important what each individual knows or does, it is important what the interactions between individuals can do, and how the group or community (or global community) learns and acts upon the knowledge.
Thus, education, especially science education, from Kindergarden through post-doc and beyond, should be organized around collaborations, teaching people and letting them practice the networking skills and collaborative learning and action. Individuals will make mistakes and get punished by the group (sometimes as harshly as excommunication). They will learn from that experience and become more collaborative next time. The biggest sin would be selfish non-sharing of information.
If I could, I would not give individual students grades on their individual performance at all. I would give a common grade for the entire class. Each individual will then get that same grade. If the last semester’s cohort got an A, do you think that this semester’s group would settle for anything less? And how do they get an A? By pooling their resources, sharing all the information, closely collaborating on all assigned projects, and coaxing/teaching/punishing individuals who are not pulling their weight. Neither the reward nor the punishment would be meted out by some outside self-appointed ‘authority’, but by peers – the people who matter the most.
Then, they would take this approach to the Real World, where such things really matter, where sucess is that of a community, not that of any individual.
So, if you do not get this, if you are not mentally ready for the 21st century, if you still harbor the outdated competition-based, individualistic mindset, you should not be in the teaching business. Quit today. Save yourself the embarassment of being laughed at by your students. Save your students from having to deal with an authoritarian. Save the society from promulgating the counter-productive, anti-social methods of knowledge-acquisition and knowledge-use.[/rant]
Regular readers must be familiar by now with the ZooSchool in Asheboro, NC. Today’s news from the school – their students have put up the first issue of their online newspaper, the ZSX-Press. Go check it out!
In related news, and also at the Asheboro Zoo and related to education, The NC Zoo and NC Zoo Society will be hosting the No Child Left Inside Conference Thursday (today), March 6th, which will be held in the MPR [multi-purpose room] of the Stedman Education Building. I wish I could go. Perhaps someone there will write about it and post something online.
In 1986, 22-year-old Boston Celtics forward Len Bias died of a cocaine overdose. This week, DrugMonkey argued that Bias’ death–as opposed to educational programs like DARE–was the major reason why self-reported rates of cocaine use by 20-year-olds dropped from 20% in the mid-1980s to 7% in the early 1990s.
Now go and do the survey and check back in a week for the results.
There are three interesting, thought-provoking articles on Open Education today:
The Digital Commons – Left Unregulated, Are We Destined for Tragedy?
An Interview with Ahrash Bissell of the Creative Commons
The Open Digital Commons – A Truly Endless Array of Success Stories
Worth your time and effort.
Wow! Al Upton teaches kids aged 8 and 9 and he is teaching them how to run their own blogs. Each young blogger also gets an adult mentor and you can sign up to be a mentor if you want. Sue Waters, who provides some good tips on classroom blogging, provides more detail about Upton’s work and points to two of his good posts: Class blogs – management, moderation and protection and Class blogs – personalise your blog, a sequence of settings, which are full of good information and advice for any age students.
Wow! Al Upton teaches kids aged 8 and 9 and he is teaching them how to run their own blogs. Each young blogger also gets an adult mentor and you can sign up to be a mentor if you want. Sue Waters, who provides some good tips on classroom blogging, provides more detail about Upton’s work and points to two of his good posts: Class blogs – management, moderation and protection and Class blogs – personalise your blog, a sequence of settings, which are full of good information and advice for any age students.
Science Cafe on Teenage Brains :
Teenagers sometimes act as though they were from a different planet. On Tuesday February 19, the Museum of Natural Sciences will host a science cafe entitled “Altered States: Inside the Teenage Brain” at Tir Na Nog in Raleigh at 6:30p.m. The session will be led by Wilkie Wilson, Duke professor and director of BrainWorks, a program for brain research and education. Wilson studies the effects of drugs on learning and memory, and has helped write several books on teenage drug use. RSVP to Katey Ahmann by Monday, February 18.
As I promised the other day, I went to Carrboro Century Center this afternoon (right after meeting with Anton around the corner) to see the Island Projects designed by the Chapel Hill High School students of Rob Greenberg.
I did not see all of them – they were doing this in “shifts” throughout the afternoon and I could only stay for an hour – but I saw several of the projects and talked to a number of students (and to Rob himself). I have to say I was really, truly impressed with their work, as well as with their enthusiasm as they explained the details of their projects to me and other visitors. They really did their homework!
Their assignment was to design an island – this means inventing an island that does not really exist but is very geologically similar to the islands that truly exist in the same geographical location. They had to do the research on this – what kind of soil is there, what are the sources of water, energy, what kind of climate is there throughout the year, etc.
Then, they had to design a human habitation on the island in such a way as to leave the least intrusive environmental foot-stamp, i.e., to make the island economy as self-sustained and energy-independent as possible. Not surprisingly, most of the students picked the tropics, for two obvious reasons: lots of sunshine (so they could load their buildings with solar panels and have no expenditure on heating) and the possibility of (eco)tourism as a source of island income.
Some of the groups also had some wind-power sources, though they readily admitted this was supplemental as there is not going to be much wind on such islands except during typhoon seasons (during which they hope the wind-turbines will not get broken).
One group located their island in the Ryukyu archipelago south of Japan and nicely incorporated Buddhist and Shinto religion and martial arts into their tourist offerings, paying attention to the local culture (karate was invented there).
In order to keep the environmental stamp low, the off-season population has to bee quite small, e.g., 500-1000 people, doubling or tripling when the tourists are on the island as well. The food production was probably the most difficult obstacle for them, with only some of the islands having fertile enough soil for tilling instead of letting it just grow a forest.
I have to admit I gave several groups a “third degree”, but they handled it quite well. I would start by asking about the size of the island. The smallest I saw was only about 3 miles in diameter. The largest was about 14 miles from tip to tip of a horseshoe shape. This was my starting point for the questioning about transportation (especially for the tourists): a tiny island can be walked, but what about a bigger island? Bicycles, monorail and electrical cars/buses were the most frequent solutions they offered. But then, the next question: where does the electricity for electric buses come from? Sun and wind, mostly, as well as some garbage incineration.
Interestingly, not a single group thought of horses as a means of transportation for tourists! No pony-crazed kids in that bunch, I guess. Horses may not be good for the smallest of these islands, but for bigger ones they would be an excellent alternative. Bikes need pre-built bike-trails. Horses beat their own trails in a matter of a few months (and those trails are smart, as horses will find the most efficient ways to negotiate the landscape). Trail-ride horses need very little in terms of space and food. Most people who see horses only on TV have this idea that horses need vast expanses of space to run around and enormous quantities of food. But a horse that works several hours a day carrying tourists around (walk, occasional slow trot) prefers to sleep in a stall – protected from heat, insects, snakes, predators, and bullying by other horses. A few small paddocks can be rotated in the off-season. Such a horse also needs only some grass, hay and a handful of grain (which can be raised by using horse droppings as a fertilizer and horsepower for ploughing) – this is not a racehorse or an Olympic showjumper with huge energy requirements – trail riding takes surprisingly little effort from the horses and overfeeding them (which some people do) makes them nervous, dangerous and unhappy. And those super-modern tourists who are afraid of horses can use golf-carts, I guess, and stick to the less wild parts of the island.
I know it is impossible for the school to organize such a trip for all the students, but perhaps they can, on their own, make an appointment to visit the Smart House at Duke and get additional ideas about the ways to make buildings environmentally friendly and energy-efficient.
In any case, I was really impressed by the students and the quality of their work. They have learned a lot about the way to do research, about the Earth, and about the trade-offs one needs to deal with when designing environmentally friendly human habitats – something that, I hope, many of them will bring to their lives and careers later on. Kudos to their teacher, Rob Greenberg, for pulling this off – what a great example of science education that is really meaningful for the students’ lives.
I hope that some of their projects will be made available online as well, so other teachers around the world can use Rob’s experience and replicate this in some manner in the future.
Some pictures under the fold…
If you read my blog you must be aware how enchanted I am with the ZooSchool in Asheboro, NC. Unfortunately, at the last moment something came up, so the delegation of two teachers and six students could not make it to the Conference three weeks ago. I intend to go and visit there some time soon and I hope they can make it to the Conference next year.
But in the meantime, they need something that WE can help with – some lab coats. They have placed a proposal on DonorsChoose (read it carefully to understand why they need these) and I hope you feel generous today and help them get funded. I just did.
On the heels of David Warlick’s session on using online tools in the science classroom and the student blogging panel comes the announcement that SPARC has declared the winners of the first SPARKY Awards for student-generated videos on the theme of openess of information. The winner is Habib Yazdi, a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the video entitled “Share.” The three winning videos are under the fold:
Teachers, Students, Web Gurus, and Foundations Launch Campaign to Transform Education, Call for Free, Adaptable Learning Materials Online
Cape Town, January 22nd, 2008–A coalition of educators, foundations, and internet pioneers today urged governments and publishers to make publicly-funded educational materials available freely over the internet.
The Cape Town Open Education Declaration, launched today, is part of a dynamic effort to make learning and teaching materials available to everyone online, regardless of income or geographic location. It encourages teachers and students around the world to join a growing movement and use the web to share, remix and translate classroom materials to make education more accessible, effective, and flexible.
“Open education allows every person on earth to access and contribute to the vast pool of knowledge on the web,” said Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia and Wikia and one of the authors of the Declaration. “Everyone has something to teach and everyone has something to learn.”
According to the Declaration, teachers, students and communities would benefit if publishers and governments made publicly-funded educational materials freely available online. This will give students unlimited access to high quality, constantly improving course materials, just as Wikipedia has done in the world of reference materials.
Open education makes the link between teaching, learning and the collaborative culture of the Internet. It includes creating and sharing materials used in teaching as well as new approaches to learning where people create and shape knowledge together. These new practices promise to provide students with educational materials that are individually tailored to their learning style. There are already over 100,000 such open educational resources available on the Internet.
The Declaration is the result of a meeting of thirty open education leaders in Cape Town, South Africa, organized late last year by the Open Society Institute and the Shuttleworth Foundation. Participants identified key strategies for developing open education. They encourage others to join and sign the Declaration.
“Open sourcing education doesn’t just make learning more accessible, it makes it more collaborative, flexible and locally relevant,” said Linux Entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, who also recorded a video press briefing. “Linux is succeeding exactly because of this sort of adaptability. The same kind of success is possible for open education.”
Open education is of particular relevance in developing and emerging economies, creating the potential for affordable textbooks and learning materials. It opens the door to small scale, local content producers likely to create more diverse offerings than large multinational publishing houses.
“Cultural diversity and local knowledge are a critical part of open education,” said Eve Gray of the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town. “Countries like South Africa need to start producing and sharing educational materials built on their own diverse cultural heritage. Open education promises to make this kind of diverse publishing possible.”
The Declaration has already been translated into over 15 languages and the growing list of signatories includes: Jimmy Wales; Mark Shuttleworth; Thomas Alexander, former Director for Education at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Lawrence Lessig, founder and CEO of Creative Commons; Andrey Kortunov, President of the New Eurasia Foundation; and Yehuda Elkana, Rector of the Central European University. Organizations endorsing the Declaration include: Wikimedia Foundation; Public Library of Science; Scholary Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition; Canonical Ltd.; Centre for Open and Sustainable Learning; Open Society Institute; and Shuttleworth Foundation.
To read or sign the Cape Town Open Education Declaration, please visit: http://www.capetowndeclaration.org.
Go and sign the Declaration!
Update: David Wiley of the USU Center for Open and Sustainable Learning has more.
If you look at the Program page on the wiki for the Science Blogging Conference, you will see, for the Saturday program, there are 12 excellent sessions, a panel and a talk. Each has a discussion page which you should edit to add your own thoughts, ideas and questions.
One of the sessions I expect to have a big draw, particularly with so many science teachers at the conference, is the session on Teaching Science: using online tools in the science classroom, led by a real pro on the topic – David Warlick. David already has an ongoing discussion of the session on his own blog where you are encouraged to join in the conversation.
I would like to use this occasion to thank all the people, anonymous and otherwise, who donated to my challenge on DonorsChoose last month. You donated a total of $1,518 affecting the math and science education of 471 students in schools with high proportions of kids on free lunches.
Unlike some of my SciBlings who garnered lots of small donations, I am like Hillary – getting most of my funding from a few big donors (bundlers) 😉 Anyway, big or small, all your donations are greatly appreciated. Seed Media Group will add matching $15,000 and DonorsChoose will add 10% to each completed challenge. When it all adds up, scienceblogs.com collected more funds for kids education than the Stephen Colbert for President committee even though he is touting it on TV every day! Congratulations and Thanks to all.
Following my obscure rules for prizes, it is now time to announce the winners:
The Clock Around The Blog Around The Clock is on its way to Michelle.
The Blog Around The Clock Mug is on its way to The Ridger.
I am not at liberty to reveal the identity of the third winner (of the ABATC t-shirt) at this time.
Janet, Mike and Ginny, among others, have the scoop on this year’s drive as well as what you can keep doing now that the drive is officially over. My thermometer will remain on the sidebar for some time in the future (likely until the NEXT year’s drive) so you don’t need to stop now.
There is just a couple of more days left and my challenge is still at 50% (just 6 donors!) so I am panicking. There are several projects that are completely funded and several others that are still far away from the goal, but lots and lots of small donations can make it happen.
Every challenge that reaches its goal gets additional 10% from DonorsChoose. The chances of getting one of the Seed prizes, including the iPod Nano, are very, very good! Chances of getting a prize from me are even better! All the relevant information is here.
Just click here on the thermometer. Please! And this really will be my last call, I promise (I know you are sick of it). And just because tomorrow is the last day and the last time you can get prizes, does not mean you cannot donate later, when your paycheck comes in or some such event that makes you happy and solvent and in a sharing mood.
Don’t forget to forward me your DonorsChoose receipts so I can send you prizes!
There is less than one week left and my challenge is still at 45% (just 5 donors!). All the relevant information is here.
The other day, Janet and I participated in a silent auction at the ASIS&T meeting. You go around the tables and write down your bids. You offer a dollar or two. Someone else adds another dollear or two on top of your bid. You go back and add some more. Little by little, all the items were sold, and lots of money was collected for a worthy cause.
DonorsChoose is just like that. No need for you to throw hundreds of dollars for a single proposal there. Just add a few bucks. If enough people give just a little bit each, many proposals will be funded and many children in poor schools will be positively affected by your generosity.
Just click here:
I started teaching my BIO101 Lab this morning again. But this was the first: two of the students said: “Hey Mr.Z, we looked around the Web and learned a lot about you – A Blog Around The Clock, The Magic School Bus and now we have all the dirt on you!”
It was bound to happen – and it was fun, actually, a good ice-breaker for the beginning of the new class. Perhaps they will post comments here (please do). And I also pointed them to my classroom blog, as they are also taking the lecture portion with another faculty member at the same time.
The DonorsChoose fundraiser is in full swing here on Scienceblogs.com. As always, Janet’s blog is the Information Center for the drive, and you can also check Dave’s graphs as well.
As you know, Seed Media Group is matching $15,000 of your donations. The Scienceblogs.com Overlords have also announced some additional prizes!
* 21 “Seed Hearts Threadless” tee shirts
* 21 ScienceBlogs mugs
* 21 subscriptions to Seed magazine
* 9 copies of “The Best American Science Writing 2007”
These prizes will be divided into three thirds and each third will be given on one of the next three weeks for that week’s donors. In the end, all of the donors from the entire month will be eligible for the big prize:
* 1 fresh, new iPod nano
To be eligible for prizes, you need to donate to any of the scienceblogs challenges and turn in your receipts at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you donate through my challenge (currently 40% funded) and send me yoru receipts, you will be eligible for additional prizes, for instance this t-shirt sporting the beautiful banner of my blog:
Another thing I will also have to miss – the Inaugural Event of the 2007-2008 Pizza Lunch Season of the Science Communicators of North Carolina (SCONC), on October 24th at Sigma Xi Center (the same place where we’ll have the Science Blogging Conference). Organized by The American Scientist and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the first Pizza Lunch Session will feature Dr.Fred Gould, professor of Entomology and Genetics at NCSU (whose Insect Ecology class blows one’s mind – one of the best courses I have ever taken in my life). Fred recently received The George Bugliarello Prize for an interdisciplinary article Genetic Strategies for Controlling Mosquito-Borne Diseases. You can read an article about him in Raleigh News and Observer or, even better, listen to him on this podcast on State Of Things a few weeks ago. Notice with what disdain he utters the term “junk DNA” – only once in the entire hour – in order to explain it (away).
The news came from high above that the Seed Media Group Science Literacy Grants program will match your donations up to $15,000. So, at this point in the fundraiser, every dollar you donate is worth two!
So, check out my challenge and check out my SciBlings’ challenges as well.
And yes, don’t forget the prizes! I just got a mug and a t-shirt yesterday and they look good!
The first week of the DonorsChoose fund-drive is up and the donations are coming in rapidly to a variety of school projects via my SciBlings’ challenges.
You can check out all the projects picked by my SciBlings here and my own here.
You can get to my pledge also by clicking on the thermometer on my sidebar (scroll down a little bit) and watch how the mercury in all of our thermometers rise over time. As you can see, 37% of my challenge has already been funded!
Thank you so much! If you continue being so fast and generous and we reach our goal too soon, I will add more projects to the pledge. Remember, the drive lasts the entire month of October.
And now, let me introduce some special “bribes” for you. I have placed my beautiful banner (with the permission of the artist) on some merchandise on Cafe Press. There are coffee mugs, a wall clock (how appropriate!) and several styles of t-shirts. Send me your receipts from DonorsChoose to be eligible for prizes. One item of your choice will be sent to the following people (who, with their permission, will be announced here on November 1st):
– the reader who donates a single, one-time, largest donation to my challenge.
– the reader who donates the largest total amount over the month of October to my challenge.
– the reader who gives the largest number of times during October to my challenge.
– the reader who donates through the challenges of the largest number of my SciBlings (including mine).
So, if you want a mug, a clock or a t-shirt (or in your e-mail, if you are a winner, you can ask for something else that can be had at Cafe Press, e.g., baseball hat, baby bib, or, gasp, underwear!), pick your preferred strategy and get started. If you have already donated over the past week, you are still eligible. Thank you in advance!
So, I see that several of my sciblings are offering special incentives to their readers who donate through DonorsChoose. So, what could I offer? Should I place my beautiful banner on some Cafe Press merchandise? Give me some ideas.
The focus of this event was on the theme of challenges in contemporary pedagogy, including the use of new media tools, but also exploring institutional and cultural issues.
Perhaps you remember June last year when a bunch of us sciencebloggers held a fund drive for science education through DonorsChoose.
Well, we are doing it again this year, more of us, and for a longer period of time – throughout the month of October. As was the case last year, the central information place is Janet’s blog and she has just posted all the details so go and take a look.
You can check out all the projects picked by my SciBlings here and my own here. You can get to my pledge also by clicking on the thermometer on my sidebar (scroll down a little bit) and watch how the mercury in all of our thermometers rise over time. So far, I have picked only a few projects for poor schools in North Carolina. But, if you are fast and we reach our goal too soon, I will add more projects to the pledge, including those in other states.
This year, the challenge runs for the entire month of October. A number of ScienceBloggers have already put together challenges. Here’s who’s in so far:
A Blog Around the Clock (challenge here)
Adventures in Ethics and Science (challenge here)
Aetiology (challenge here)
Cognitive Daily (challenge here)
Deep Sea News (challenge here)
Evolgen (challenge here)
Gene Expression (challenge here)
Omni Brain (challenge here)
On Being a Scientist and a Woman (challenge here)
The Questionable Authority (challenge here)
Retrospectacle (challenge here)
The Scientific Activist (challenge here)
Stranger Fruit (challenge here)
Terra Sigillata (challenge here)
Thoughts From Kansas (challenge here)
Thus Spake Zuska (challenge here)
Uncertain Principles (challenge here)
How It Works:
Follow the links above to the DonorsChoose website.
Pick a project from the slate the blogger has selected (or more than one project, if you just can’t choose).
(If you’re the loyal reader of multiple participating blogs and you don’t want to play favorites, you can, of course, donate to multiple challenges!)
DonorsChoose will send you a confirmation email. Hold onto it; our benevolent overlords at Seed will be randomly selecting some donors to receive nifty prizes. Details about the prizes and how to get entered will be posted here soon!
Sit back and watch the little donation thermometers inch towards 100 percent, and check the ScienceBlogs leaderboard to see how many students will be impacted by your generosity.
If anyone shows this to my son, he’ll lead a revolution. Like those wonderful, patriotic, thinking students at Boulder High School, who penned their own, most excellent version of the Pledge of Allegiance:
I pledge allegiance to the flag and my constitutional rights with which it comes. And to the diversity, in which our nation stands, one nation, part of one planet, with liberty, freedom, choice and justice for all.
Kudos to them! Watch the movie:
Janet and Abel alert me that Six Apart (yup, those folks who made MoveableType on which I am typing right now) are supporting DonorsChoose, by issuing a bloggers challenge: “You can request a gift certificate worth $30 at email@example.com. Request your code now — they’re available until noon on Monday.” What a great way to support good teachers and their students, especially in poor schools.
From the Independent:
The head has identified research which says that teenagers would be more likely to take in what they are learning if they started school two hours later. He is considering changing the school timetable for sixth-formers as a result.
“We have always assumed that learning early in the morning is best, probably because it is best for young children and adults,” he writes. ” Unfortunately, it is not true for teenagers. When teenagers are woken up at our morning time, their brain tells them they should be asleep. So they use stimulants such as coffee and cigarettes to get themselves awake. But at night, when we go to sleep, their neurological clock tells them it’s not time to sleep so they drink alcohol or take drugs to get them to sleep.
“Schools and universities only make it worse, he adds. The importance of neurological patterns of time as a factor in our learning and our lives has largely been ignored. We need to fit learning to these patterns of times. ”
There have been a couple of recent posts about textbooks lately. Jim Fiore started it all with a look at the textbook business from the perspective of the authors and students, looking primarily at the problem of money. One sentence really hit me, though:
The problem with a large, institutionalized used book market is that it completely cuts out the publisher and the author.
In a larger economy, it is called ‘stock market’. When you buy stocks, most often you will be buying them from a broker, not directly from the company. In other words, you are entering the used-stocks market. You are investing, but not into the company. Yet, the worth of a company is measured by the way its stocks are doing on this second-hand stock market. Only about 6% of the stocks in any given year are sold by the businesses themselves, i.e., the money invested in those stocks go back to the company which can then use it for R&D or for PR or for salaries, etc. Many old, well-established companies have not sold any new stocks in decades. This is as if the performance of, for instance, Ford is measured not in the sales of new cars, but in the re-sale value of the second-hand cars. Ford does not get a penny out of any of those transactions, can do very little to influence that market, yet it is required to do whatever it takes to increase the worth of its stock despite of no money coming in. The stockowners demand it, without ever giving back anything to the company. So, the CEOs slash and cut left and right, trying to get growth without having anything coming back in with which to water the plant. This is much better explained in this book (written by a small business owner and no enemy of capitalism) by Marjorie Kelly.
But, back to the textbooks. PZ Myers looks at the business from the perspective of a teacher:
It makes it difficult for students to sell off their used textbooks, it gives faculty the headache of having to constantly update their assignments, and if you allow your students to use older editions, it means we have to maintain multiple assignments. It’s extraordinarily annoying, and to no good purpose at the university (to great purpose at the publisher, though).
In the arena of science and engineering there are issues with the fairly narrow audience and resultant low volume, and some difficulties with the used book market. There is, of course, the issue of the publishers. I am going to risk having my snout slapped by biting the hand that feeds me, but hey, I noticed something the other day that has my head spinning anyway.
But David Warlick goes further. If you decide to abandon or downgrade the textbooks for your classes, and start using the Web instead, you cannot just let the students go on a wild hunt. They will come up with stuff of questionable quality. With a textbook, it’s easy – it is a text that is approved by you as a teacher and by your colleagues who wrote it, edited it, and promoted it to institutions and school districts. Students know that the textbook is to be trusted, thus they do not need to learn the skills of critically evaluating it. But if they have to find their own sources, they need to learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff:
We teach from textbooks, from reference books, from journals, online databases, and from our own educated expertise. It’s part of our arsenal, as teachers, to help us instill confidence in the sources of that which we are teaching. I’m not saying that textbooks, reference books, and commercial databases are bad, and that we shouldn’t use them. They are enormously valuable. But we’re missing something that’s very important when we rely so exclusively on carefully packaged content and then lament that our students and children rely so readily on Google.
We have to practice what we preach, and we have to practice it out loud!
At the same time that we continue to use our textbooks (or what ever they evolve into), reference works, databases, and our own expertise, we should also bring in, at every opportunity, content and resources that we have found, evaluated, processed, and prepared for teaching and learning, and that we should include conversations about how we found it, evaluated, and processed it. If the are seeing us, every day, asking the questions that are core to being literate today, then perhaps they will not only develop the skills of critical evaluation, but also the habits.
The discussion in the comments is quite contentious there, actually. What do you think?
It will be on October 9-11, 2007 in Indianapolis:
The Open Minds Conference is the first national K-12 gathering for teachers, technicians and educational leaders to share and explore the benefits of open source in education. Virtual Learning Environments that provide 24X7 access to teaching and learning resources, cutting-edge and easy-to-use desktop applications, coupled with powerful management tools and low-cost computer strategies make the classroom of tomorrow available today!
A few days ago I wrote about the Zoo School in Asheboro, NC. It is even better than I thought – I got in touch with their lead teacher and she told me that all of their students have laptops in the classroom with wireless access. Their classrooms also have Smartboards and other cool technology. And they are very interested in their students utilizing the Web in a variety of ways, including blogging.
And obviously, some of them already are, as one of the students discovered the post on her own and posted this comment that I want to promote to the front page:
I am a Senior at the North Carolina Zoo School and it is a wonderful experience. You get to work with some of the latest technology, work on projects by yourself, and also work on research papers that will take you inside the Zoo. I would recommend the Zoo School to everyone who lives near one of the four Zoo Schools in the U.S. -Anne Mayberry
I invited the teachers and students to the Science Blogging Conference – Asheboro is barely an hour away from RTP. There, they can schmooze with other students, scientists, science blogging stars, publishers, science teachers, science writers and journalists and participate in all the sessions, including the two education-focused sessions, the first about using the Web in teaching led by David Warlick, a nationally recognized expert on the use of online technologies in teaching, and the other one on ‘Student Blogging: K to PhD’, moderated by a group of undergraduate and graduate students, but we certainly hope that the students from K-12 will also participate in the discussion.
A few days ago PZ Myers announced he will have some special guest bloggers on Pharyngula soon. While the first commenters were guessing Big Names, like Dawkins, my comment was: “I am hoping for your students….”. A little later, PZ Myers updated his post to announce that yes, indeed, it will be his Neuroscience students who will be guest-blogging this semester.
And today, they started. They were thrown into a lions’ den, but they are doing great, holding their own against the famously ruthless Pharynguloids who call them ‘kids’ and then slam them anyway in many, many comments (they are all among the ‘most active posts’ on scienceblogs.com today!). Talk about Baptism By Fire (or is it Counter-Baptism?)! It’s nice that PZ Myers is protective of them (and ruthless with the commenters who cross the line), but it seems the students are doing just fine on their own so far.
Anyway, check their first posts and keep an eye on them the next few weeks or so – they are bright young people :
New kid on the block by Bright Lights
An Introduction by Blue Expo
I’ll give this a shot… by Lua Yar
A Very new kid on the block! by Bright Lights
Hey folks by Mark Antimony
In the news today, I received a link to this press release:
Open education resource site HippoCampus launches:
The Monterey Institute for Technology and Education has launched an interactive homework help Web site funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The Monterey-based institution said late Thursday that open education resource site HippoCampus provides comprehensive high school, advanced placement, and college general education course content.
You can now go to the HippoCampus site and test it out and start using it.
Unfortunately, due to the Murphy’s Law of conference dates, I will have to miss this fantastic meeting, because I will at the time be at another fantastic meeting, but if you can come, please do – registration will be open online in a few days.
The conference theme is about bringing scientists and humanities scholars to talk about ways that science is changing human life.
November 8th, 9th, and 10th, the National Humanities Center will host the second ASC conference.
And the program features a Who’s Who list:
Thursday, November 8th
Frans de Waal
Friday, November 9th
Frans de Waal
Evelyn Fox Keller
Saturday, November 10th
Of those, I have seen Sapolsky, Fox Keller and Deacon speak before, and I know Alex Rosenberg, and for each one of them alone, it is worth showing up!
If you were here last June, you’ll remember the scienceblogs.com-wide action to fund science and math teaching projects in underfunded schools through DonorsChoose.
This year, we’ll do it again. There is twice as much of us, and we will also challenge bloggers outside of scienceblogs.com to join us in this. And we’ll try to do even more than that, but you will have to wait a few days and keep monitoring Janet’s blog and other blogs for more information. Stay tuned.
I rarely wish to be 14 again, but I certainly did when I read this news today, that N.C. Zoo and the Asheboro City Schools have just started something called AHS Zoo School. As Russ Williams explains:
“Students have unprecedented access to a 1500-acre, world-class facility ideal for environmental and biological exploration. Beyond routine science, the zoo offers relevant experiences in zoology, horticulture, marketing, retail, hospitality and art as well as wildlife and plant conservation and research. The AHS program is only the fourth zoo school in the country with similar schools located in Nebraska, Ohio, and Minnesota. The first 100 AHS students officially began classes August 27th.”
“Based on a model from Lincoln, Nebraska, students in the AHS Zoo School attend one morning class at the AHS campus in Asheboro then travel to classrooms and lab facilities at the N.C. Zoo for the remainder of their classes in science, English, mathematics and social studies. Students become actively involved in learning through problem solving and using the zoo as their classroom.”
“AHS Zoo School teachers collaborate with N.C. Zoo educators and other zoo staff to allow students to experience science on a daily basis.”
“The AHS Zoo School is a science-focused program for…students in grades 10, 11 and 12 to experience high school in a completely different way.”
Now how cool is that!?
Key findings of a new study by the National School Boards Association and Grunwald Associates LLC exploring the online behaviors of U.S. teens and ‘tweens show:
* 96 percent of students with online access use social networking technologies, such as chatting, text messaging, blogging, and visiting online communities such as Facebook, MySpace, and Webkinz. Further, students report that one of the most common topics of conversation on the social networking scene is education.
* Nearly 60 percent of online students report discussing education-related topics such as college or college planning, learning outside of school, and careers and 50 percent of online students say they talk specifically about schoolwork.
* Students report spending almost as much time using social network services and Web sites as they spend watching television. Among teens who use social networking sites, that amounts to about 9 hours a week online, compared to 10 hours a week watching television.
* 96 percent of school districts say that at least some of their teachers assign homework requiring Internet use.
The study is this one: Creating & Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social and Educational Networking (PDF):
A new study by the National School Boards Association and Grunwald Associates LLC exploring the online behaviors of U.S. teens and ‘tweens shows that 96 percent of students with online access use social networking technologies, such as chatting, text messaging, blogging, and visiting online communities such as Facebook, MySpace, and Webkinz. Further, students report that one of the most common topics of conversation on the social networking scene is education.
Nearly 60 percent of online students report discussing education-related topics such as college or college planning, learning outside of school, and careers. And 50 percent of online students say they talk specifically about schoolwork.
“There is no doubt that these online teen hangouts are having a huge influence on how kids today are creatively thinking and behaving,” said Anne L. Bryant, executive director of the National School Boards Association. “The challenge for school boards and educators is that they have to keep pace with how students are using these tools in positive ways and consider how they might incorporate this technology into the school setting.”
Students report they are engaging in highly creative activities on social networking internet sites including writing, art, and contributing to collaborative online projects whether or not these activities are related to schoolwork. Almost half of students (49 percent) say that they have uploaded pictures they have made or photos they have taken, and more than one in five students (22 percent) report that they have uploaded video they have created.
Today, students report that they are spending almost as much time using social networking services and Web sites as they spend watching television. Among teens who use social networking sites, that amounts to about 9 hours a week online, compared to 10 hours a week watching television.
“Our study showed that 96 percent of school districts say that at least some of their teachers assign homework requiring Internet use,” said Peter Grunwald of Grunwald Associates. “What this means is that schools may be starting to use the Internet and other technologies more effectively. In the future, schools that incorporate social networking tools in education can help engage kids and move them toward the center of the learning process.”
While most schools have rules against social networking activities, almost 70 percent of districts report having student Web site programs, and nearly half report their schools participate in online collaborative projects with other schools and in online pen pal or other international programs. Further, more than a third say their schools and/or students have blogs, either officially or in the context of instruction.
The report, “Creating & Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social and Educational Networking,” is based on three surveys: an online survey of nearly 1,300 9- to 17-year-olds, an online survey of more than 1,000 parents, and telephone interviews with 250 school districts leaders who make decisions on Internet policy. The study was carried out with support from Microsoft, News Corporation, and Verizon.
SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) today announced the launch of the first annual SPARC Discovery Awards, a contest to promote the open exchange of information. Mind Mashup, the theme of the 2007 contest, calls on entrants to illustrate in a short video the importance of sharing ideas and information of all kinds. Mashup is an expression referring to a song, video, Web site or software application that combines content from more than one source.
Consistent with SPARC’s mission as an international alliance of academic and research libraries promoting the benefits of information sharing, the contest encourages new voices to join the public discussion of information policy in the Internet age. Designed for adoption as a college or high school class assignment, the SPARC Discovery Awards are open to anyone over the age of 15.
Contestants are asked to submit videos of two minutes or less that imaginatively show the benefits of bringing down barriers to the open exchange of information. Submissions will be judged by a panel that includes:
• Aaron Delwiche, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas
• José-Marie Griffiths, Professor & Dean at the School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
• Rick Johnson, communications consultant and founding director of SPARC
• Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC
• Karen Rustad, president of Free Culture 5C and a senior at Scripps College majoring in media studies
• Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia
• Peter Wintonick, award-winning documentary filmmaker and principal of Necessary Illusions Productions Inc.
“I’m very proud to be judging this contest,” said Karen Rustad. “When it comes to debates over Internet information policy, students are usually subjects for study or an object for concern. I can’t wait to see what my contemporaries have to say about mashup culture and open access to information once they’re given the mike — or, rather, the camera.”
The contest takes as its inspiration a quote from George Bernard Shaw: “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”
Submissions must be received by December 2, 2007. Winners – including a first-place winner and two runners up – will be announced in January 2008. The winner will receive $1,000 and a “Sparky Award.” The runners up will each receive $500. Winning entries will be publicly screened at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in January 2008 in Philadelphia and will be prominently featured in SPARC’s international advocacy and campus education activities.
I had a great pleasure recently to be able to interview Senator – and now Democratic Presidential candidate – John Edwards for my blog. The interview was conducted by e-mail last week.
As I am at work and unable to moderate comments, the comment section is closed on this post, but will be open on the previous post (here) where I hope you will remain civil and stay on topic. You are also welcome to comment on this interview at several other places (e.g,. DailyKos, MyDD, TPMCafe, Science And Politics, Liberal Coalition, the Edwards campaign blog as well as, hopefully, your own blogs).
I cannot answer any additional questions for Senator Edwards, of course, but there are likely to be other opportunities in the future where your questions can be answered so feel free to post them in the comments thread on the other post and I’ll make sure he gets them. The interview is under the fold:
Books: “Rainbows End” by Vernor Vinge.
It’s 2025 – What happened to science, politics and journalism? Well, you know I’d be intrigued. After all, a person whose taste in science fiction I trust (my brother) told me to read this and particularly to read it just before my interview with PLoS. So, of course I did (I know, it’s been two months, I am slow, but I get there in the end).
‘Rainbows End’ is a novel-length expansion of the short story “Fast Times at Fairmont High” which he finished in August 2001 and first published in “The Collected Stories of Vernor Vinge“. The novel was written in 2005 (published in 2006) and the book happens in 2025, so it is a “near-future SF”, always more difficult to write than another episode of Star Trek.
Checking (after I have read the book) the reviews on Amazon.com, I was really taken aback and it made me think about science fiction, what it is and what people expect from it. So, what follows is simultaneously a book review and my own thoughts about the genre.
“Fine in practice, but how does it work in theory?”
This headline (in a French paper, of course), prompted Sally Green to pen a fine, fine post – an Obligatory Reading of the Day – about class, education, the psychology of class, the difference between academia and the real world, the difference between theory and practice, and the difference between the people who fight for the equality of opportunity and the people who oppose it (and their rhetoric).