Category: education

Interesting points:

1. lecturing very ineffective for most students [we have known this for a long time]

2. peer instruction as a form of student engagement is much more effective.

3. therefore students come to class with the information and concepts but use class time to engage the application.

4. difficulties arise with the scope of the content covered [amount – which in science is vast]

5. Q. does this matter? Can we dilute the ‘curriculum’ away from the memorization aspect [which is ineffective anyway] and move towards the big picture process parts.

6. Essentially: 1. find information 2. comprehend information 3. apply/use information

7. In other words: Learn how to Learn

Please listen to the podcast.


Simon Sinek on how great leaders inspire. Clue: Why!

I just made a new list of science education, nature of science websites, that detail how science works, used in politics and misrepresented by industry. This is commonly known as FUDD.  Fear, Uncertainty, Distrust and Disinformation. It happens with any controversial scientific theorom. From effects of smoking, Erin Brokovitch, CFC’s, Bisphenol A, vaccines, evolution, and of course climate change.


This essay at the weather underground summarizes some of it.

This website also has a good amount of information and links to some book s I need to read – soon.

Below is the diigo, webslide:

science education and fudd.

I ran into this youtube video today. It starts with Richard Dawkins stating Jerry Coyne is the guru of evolutionary theory. Thats a HUGE endorsement. Having watched parts of it, it does a wonderful job describing basic science terminology and alternative theories of evolution that have been discarded. So lets watch and learn.


I been browsing, was reading an article at Climate Progress. [here]. Saw a link stating I could make my own comparative climate map. It allows me, you, our students to pick two time frames. The first is the time period we want to compare. The second is the time period we want to compare to.


I’m hyped for my grade ten climate change project later in the term.

Check it out here at the NASA – Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Gotta love NASA.


Its been march break and when I get a chance I tend to browse around looking for resources to use. Not just for what I teach now but what I may teach in the future. I also tend to like to learn something in the process. I ran into a few things that I would like to share with you.

First is an oldie but I want to offer it up. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute hosts a website called The HHMI has lecture series every Christmas holiday during which experts form the field invite high school students into a series of lectures on a chosen topic. The lectures have included AIDS/HIV, Evolution, stem cells and more. If you are unfamiliar with them I suggest you check them out. They have them in podcast format which are great for students to watch on long bus rides and they offer all the series FREE on DVD. Check iT!

Second: I would love to have a nature magazine subscription but the costs are restrictively high. And I’m cheap. But does allow you to register and get freebies. Many of the news articles are open access in html and pdf format. A recent example of an excellent freebie on water distribution on Earth can be seen here. The weekly podcast is also free but I find it less useful as a learning/teaching device. However, it could be used as an exemplar for student podcast productions. The Nature podcast index is here. More? Yep! Another nice set of freebies include a set of flash based animations and videos. Some topics include the Dikika hominid find in Ethiopia obviously having evolutionary content. Human gut microbes discusses our inner flora and thoughts on their evolution. There is a video on how the two moons of Pluto were discovered. You can check these out and more at the Nature videoarchive for free.

Third: I’m a huge fan of the open source movement and I poopoo proprietary software and science. Private science hinders the advancement of scientific progress for private financial gain. I’ll stop at that and plan to write something on it later. However, there is a movement afoot amoungst the scientific community to make science reporting open access. One of the journals on the forefront of this movement is the PLOSone, open access online journal. If you are looking for original science articles for students to use and learn from then it is a great resource. There are seven different journals to browse through. An interesting aspect of the journal is the facebook group that is available. I’m actually signing up right now! For more details you can watch this flash video.

Fourth: Proteopedia is a wiki site dedicated to offering 3D, pdb visuals using Jmol. There are many 3D manipulative molecule viewers [rasmol, Pymol +] that are great for higher level biology students to ‘see’ the shape and organization of protein primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary stucture. Often the interaction between cofactors can be viewed as well. One of my favorites is Hemoglobin which is available. An excellent dovetail to this site would be the RCSB molecule of the month site. I suggest you check them both out. I had students pick a molecule and had to provide the details of the molecule via in class presentation. We spread out the presentations throughout the year to remind students of the importance of proteins. So  the hemoglobin presentation occurred during our gas exchange unit. Acetylcholinesterase was presented during innervation. Photosystem I in the plant biology or energetics sections. Lots of great stuff. Oh I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention the BioMed Central open access provider.

This is getting long and I’m afraid I’m going to lose it. I’ll do another of these soon. It would be nice to get feedback and say thanks if you read this. If nothing else I suppose it will help me remember all the great resources available. Ciao

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Once again, very student oriented and perhaps not too techy, but important nonetheless and a very important points for science educators. If the below points are what scientists are looking for should we not be stressing them? I do. I’m not gonna link my rubric to prove it because I think most science teachers would say they do it. It is a good reminder though. Lets not loose sight of where we want them to get:

I generally agree with most of what he says, but I would raise one quibble about his list of criteria: What scientists are looking for when we evaluate a paper is whether the paper clearly addresses 3 points:
1) What is the question or issue being studied in this work?
2) What are the methods being used, and are they described in a sufficiently detailed manner so that somebody else can replicate the work? (Remember that replication is the real gold standard of scientific knowledge. Until we have independent replication of a result, it’s suspect. Hell, even after independent replication we’re still skeptical.)
3) Does the data presented support the conclusions that the author is drawing?

I think this leaves out one important question:

1.5) Is the result interesting?

Uncertain Principles: Inside Peer Review

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Right off the top, its tough to generate ideas on integrating tech into classes. Its a different mindset. I really believe its the main blockage in tech use because its the heart of the paradigm shift. Thinking differently.

I’m a natural lecturer. I think it comes from a lifetime of indoctrination. Especially in the sciences. We tend not to have the small seminar rooms with a grad student. Not until later years do you get smaller classes, and even then those classes are taught by PhD’s in science not education. Lecture , lecture, lecture —oh and a lab a week.

Off, the top. Sometimes a good lecture, by a good speaker can be the way to go. Its awfully difficult to get students to understand how to fill in an energy level diagram without some lecture methodology. Then again, maybe I haven’t tried hard enough. But enough of that.

My personal process:

I tend to use two different strategies. I’d like to use the second one most of the time, but the practical limitation – time, always rears its head.

1. Introduce the material and concepts to the students personally. Often lecture style but perhaps not. I usually do this for abstract concepts that are easily misunderstood by students. An example for the grade 9 Ontario curriculum is the Doppler effect and red shift/blue shift. Remember, science often fights what perception tells us. Perception misleads us in manner ways. Ex: The world is flat. The Earth is not moving. The sun moves around us. Etc etc.
This is then followed up with a project/assignment/creation – this is where the wiki/blog/movie maker comes in – of some sort to evaluate the students ability to apply the concepts correctly.
Summary: I teach the concept, they create something to show application of the concept.

  • I taught about absorption spectrums, Doppler effect, transit and triangulation.
  • Students pretended they were an amateur astronomer and had to provide the evidence to NASA claiming the composition, orbital period, size, and distance to an exosolar planet.
  • Only a little this time around, they could place their assignment in their wiki. Not a big deal. All I did was try and replace paper with a screen. Ho Hum. In the future I like the idea of using movie maker and they can present the data in a presentation manner. Ie. On the news type of thing.

2. The second approach requires the student to do the research. This breaks the paradigm to a greater degree. The students find the information, organize, reword, and present it in as diverse a way as possible. [Whats nice is that blogging is making me generate new ideas!]

So they find the information. They collate, organize and create the wiki. They choose how to link pages, embed videos and structure the design. Most of them have never done anything like this and so far they are doing reasonably well.
Summary: They do everything. I explain and smooth out difficulties be they content or tech related.

A recent reader – yes! I have at least one – asked how to apply to math classes. First it will be a tough sell. Math would seem to be a greater challenge than most classes. However I can provide some suggestions:

A wiki, perhaps video making project on past mathematicians and the history of math. It could incorporate the progression of geometric or algebraic [higher grades] development. Perhaps it could show how math evolved.

Perhaps a project on practical applications on mathematical concepts around us today.

Wikis can be easily structured as review vehicles. Students can provide questions and answers as a review package. It is exam time after all!

Gotta run – hope these were some helpful hints and ideas.

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Ok. I’m taking a big jump into the public world. Lets face it, the transparency issue is scary for we educators. Grades, pressure, college, expectations, its all a big mess and influences educators whether we are honest or not. Bias runs deep. I’m a science guy and even trying to be objective, as easy as it tends for me to be, its hard for me to tell students – too bad, go ahead and cry, no retakes!

Its crunch time for seniors in Canada. Their Christmas exam and term grades are the primary determinants of getting into the university of choice. Like the pressure or not, its there. And even though this is not the reason for this post [I’d like to point out 3 in one day!] that it must be prevalent for me to post so naturally about it.

Whats the point?

Well, its my turn to open up a bit of work my own students have been doing. Quickly(?) summarized, research climate science questions [provided by me] collect and reference data using diigo, correlate and create their own class wiki.

I have two classes going head to head on this.

Be aware – they are still building. The learning curve was HIGH. Diigo was new. Making their own wiki and its pages was new. Adding content was new. The content was new to them. Links, tags, webslides, embedding, anchors its all new. Wow, thats almost a recipe for disaster!
The sites under construction are:

I guess I’m looking for observers to make these public wikis truly public. I want my students to feel scrutinized by more humans than just me. [And they barely view me as human]

Feel free to comment here, or better yet on any of the pages you may happen to visit. the feedback would wake them up. Real world stuff.

I’m hoping to follow through with a project asking them to create a video of the expected effects of climate change on North America. No opinions, just the science. We’ll make an attempt to represent to science accurately and proportionately.

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The very first issue of Evolution: Education and Outreach has been published a few days ago. It is getting a lot of press in the science blogosphere. I wanted to pass it on simply because the science sphere and the education sphere don’t necessarily mix. If you are a science, specifically biology teacher, you really need to browse the biologists that are currently blogging. I currently teach space and chemistry. The pickings are more slim – at least for the high school crowd. The chemistry tends to be over their heads.

However, the biology is certainly excellent for the high school crowd. There are quite a few university professors willing to tend the flock of younger students. I applaud them. I have a number linked on the right side. Check them out.

I would like to include the site called Genomicron of T.R. Gregory. He’s a professor at my alma mater – the University of Guelph in Guelph Ontario. He writes some really good stuff. I cannot claim to be a great critical analyst of his writings. I leave that upto Larry and PZ but they have good things to say. Gregory must agree with them!

However, check out the new evolution and education journal. Thats what it is for. Educators. Thats us!

SpringerLink – Journal Issue

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