Tag science

“Why do we need to know this?” [Connecting the classroom to the real world]

This past week the rethinkED team participated in a day-long think tank on how to re-invent the American High School, in an effort to develop a proposal for the XQ Super School Project. While I am excited to share some of the ideas we had, today I thought I’d start by thinking about one really powerful idea that kept me thinking long after our session ended:

“Why do we need to know this?”

^ This question is one that often pops up in the classroom. Quite frankly, students often do not see a connection between the abstract and tedious work done in classroom and their lives outside of school, both future and present. This lack of connection is problematic for a number of reasons:

  1. Without this vital connection, we often encounter the “inert knowledge” problem; students learn something but they don’t know how to use it. This relates more broadly to issues of transfer: how can we help students to use something they have learned in one context, at one time, or on one type of task in a different context, time, or on a different task? I am currently taking a course about Transfer of Learning. While transfer is arguably a main goal of education, research has generally found weak support for transfer. Students often do not learn content in ways that facilitate applying knowledge later in life or in different situations (I hope to talk about this more in upcoming weeks!).
  2. A second issue is the lack of value assigned to content learned in school. Without understanding potential applications of a skill, students see little value in learning it in the first place. If I don’t value what I am learning, I am less motivated and engaged.

Connecting classroom and community through project and problem based learning…*

With this in mind, I loved hearing this TED talk by Cesar Harada: How I teach kids to love science. He connects science to real community problems, both local and abroad. From developing an invention to estimate plastic in polluted oceans to analyzing seabed radioactivity near the Fukushima nuclear power plant that was damaged in 2011, Harada’s students work on real and relevant work problems in their science classroom. This sort of problem and project-based experiential learning can help students see the relevance of science education. Furthermore, Harada is cultivating a generation of innovators and problem solvers. His classroom is a workshop. Through rapid prototyping with tools, his students have become scientists and inventors. As he says,

“So citizen scientists, makers, dreamers — we must prepare the next generation that cares about the environment and people, and that can actually do something about it.”

THE POWER OF CONNECTION

By connecting science skills to real-world issues, we can increase the relevance of school education and give our students much needed experience in using skills in a meaningful way. As illustrated by Cesar Harada, connecting schoolwork to real life problems has benefits beyond increasing value and transfer; we can empower students to be innovators and problem solvers.

This process of embedding learning in the community and in real, complex problems is something that we hope to include in our XQ proposal. By providing students with a variety of contexts in which their knowing can be directly applied, we can create a more engaging and useful education that has applicability far beyond the classroom…*

 

{ Exciting New Course For Educators …* } Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning

{ Exciting New Course For Educators ...* } Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning | rethinked.org - Photo: Elsa Fridman Randolph

Exciting new (and free) learning opportunity for educators and knowmads coming up later this summer: Coursera’s Tinkering Fundamentals: A Constructionist Approach to STEM Learning online course. The course starts July 22 and runs through September 3, 2015.

Tinkering activities provide a powerful way to inspire students’ interest, engagement, and understanding in science. The Tinkering Fundamentals course will help educators and enthusiasts develop a practice of tinkering and making. This course will focus on key design elements of high-quality, science-rich tinkering activities, effective facilitation strategies and environmental organization.

This is a hands-on workshop, so you will need to obtain or purchase course materials as soon as possible. Pre-bundled materials kits will be available from the Exploratorium online store after June 1, or you can start gathering your own things using our recommended materials list.

Head over to Coursera to register for the course and check out the syllabus.

learn, tinker & rethink …*

Teaching { skepticism }: Not All Scientific Studies Are Created Equal…*

There are many “21st century mindsets” that have gained traction in the education sphere. We want to instill in our students a as growth mindset, so that they believe their brains are muscles and through effort they can improve. We want to instill innovative mindsets, cultivating creative students who can synthesize information into novel ideas. However, one type of mindset that I think deserves a bit more press is the skeptical mindset.

I’m particularly interested in scientific skepticism, or the epistemological position in which one questions the veracity of claims unless they can be empirically tested. A student with a skeptical mindset should be taught to question what she is told and know how to evaluate that information. For example, if hears a “truth”, such as “Coffee can cure cancer!” – a headline that wouldn’t be all that unlikely in today’s sensational news – she would immediately ask herself “how do we know this is true? what information do I have to support this claim?”

Every day we are bombarded with headlines claiming that scientists have found a “new cure for aging” or “the banana diet that really works!”. Sometimes there isn’t even a pretend “scientist” backing up this claim. One role that our education system should fill is to teach students how to evaluate these claims. In order to do this, we need to teach the scientific method. The scientific method is a way to answer scientific questions. It involves experiments, variables, hypotheses and knowing how these fit together in a well-designed study.

A good scientific study supports a causal (A causes B) or correlational (A and B are related to one another, but I’m not sure what causes what) relationship between two things, with very few alternative explanations for your findings. While I took AP Science courses for 3 years of high school, I only really learned about science as a method in my first year of college, thanks to the phenomenal Scientific Inquiry core requirement at Colgate University. Recently, I took a Research Methods course in graduate school where many of my peers learned the entirety of this method for the first time. This is wildly problematic. Without a real understanding of science, it is very hard to use a skeptical mindset. If third year PhD students who are already conducting research have not been well versed in the method of science, how can we expect our high school students to be prepared to understand truth in a world full of misinformation and hyperbolic news broadcasts?

We can’t. Which is why science needs to be so much more than content about protons and rock formations. It needs to be focused on the method of evaluating claims and designing empirical studies.

Suzuki quote

 

And this is why this TED Ed lesson – Not all Scientific Studies are Created Equal – caught my eye. It is a great starting point for a conversation about using science to evaluate the veracity of claims.

A big buzz of 21st century education is teaching kids to “know how” rather than “know what.” This is somewhat identical to the “teach a man to fish” proverb. I propose we teach our students to fish. Let me know what you think.

 

 

Rethinking …* Process – Understanding & Embracing the Emotional & Subjective Aspects of Venturing Into the Unknown

“We’d all studied science as if it’s a series of logical steps between question and answer. But doing research is nothing like that. At the same time, I was also studying to be an improvisation theater actor. So physics by day and by night–laughing, jumping, singing, playing my guitar. Improvisation theater, just like science goes into the unknown because you have to make a scene on stage without a director, without a script, without having any idea what you’ll portray or what the other characters will do. But unlike science, improvisation theater, they tell you from day one what’s going to happen to you when you get on stage: you’re going to fail miserably. You’re going to get stuck, and we would practice staying creative inside that stuck place.” – Uri Alon

 

In this TED talk, systems biologist, Uri Alon, urges us to rethink our schema of science–not as a linear path from point A to point B–but as a courageous, often highly uncomfortable, uncharted flight into the unknown. Our cultural emphasis on answers over process often leads to discouragement and feelings of alienation for those willing to take a risk and venture into the fertile lands of the unknown. Uri drew from his work in improv theater to reframe and work through the discomfort of process in his scientific research and is now attempting to help other researchers name, accept, and understand the various emotional and subjective aspects of venturing into the unknown.

While Uri’s talk is centered primarily around the sciences, he provides some valuable insights on reframing, understanding and thriving within the discomfort of the unknown that can be translated to any field or experience that requires pushing past the known.

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Martin Seligman – An Overview of Positive Psychology …*

Taking a quick break from writing about my experiences with the Positive Psychology interventions given by Martin Seligman in his book, Authentic Happiness, to share this TED talk he gave in 2004, fittingly titled: The new era of positive psychology. In this talk, Seligman provides context for the development of Positive Psychology while sharing a compelling overview of many of the ideas discussed in his books.

watch, learn & rethink …* 

{ Sand Castles Etched On Actual Grains Of Sand } Making Reality Unknown To Question & Rethink Its Possibilities …*

“The interesting thing about projects that connect scientists and artists, I think, it comes down to the point where we feel that we are all looking for the same thing—we’re trying to understand the wold around us.” – Vik Muniz

Enjoy this wonderful video which explores the process behind photographer Vik Muniz and designer Marcelo Coelho’s sand castles drawn on actual grains of sand. Here at rethinked…* we believe in the power of transdisciplinary projects and teams to create objects, ideas and processes that have the capacity to truly make reality unknown so that we may rethink its possibilities. And this project does just that.

“When somebody tells you,”hey this is a grain of sand,” there’s this moment where the reality that you have in front of you sort of falls apart and you have to reconstruct it. You have to really take a step back and rethink what that image is and what it means.” – Marcelo Coelho

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“It is a great moment to be a photographer today because photography is completely obsolete in terms of its relation to reality. We’re pretty much at this point where painting was around 1839 when photography was invented. Painting was sort of released from its relation to the factual world. Painters had to think, what is painting? In a similar fashion, the relationship between photography and reality has changed significantly with the advent of digital imaging. It’s becoming as what Leonardo mentioned as cosa mentale – it’s something from the mind, which has always been.” – Vik Muniz

delight & rethink …*

Etching Sand Castles On A Single Grain Of Sand via The Creators Project, published March 27, 2014.

Michel Gondry on Animating Noam Chomsky & The Power Of Drawing To Move People …*

“I have this relationship with drawing because it’s a way to make people smile and do something a bit artistic and narrative. Well, let’s say, for instance, I wanted Audrey Tautou to play in my new movie–I draw it. So I draw myself writing a letter, and flying from America to France, dropping the letter, then I cut my arm…I mean it’s completely absurd but I do it because I think she’s going to be maybe a little moved or touched by the effort I put into it.”

Enjoy this whimsical behind the scenes, brought to you by The Creators Project, of Michel Gondry‘s process for his new documentary, Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?: An Animated Conversation With Noam Chomsky. The documentary, which is now available on iTunes, explores “the life of controversial MIT professor, philosopher, linguist, anti-war activist and political firebrand Noam Chomsky. Through complex, lively conversations with Chomsky and brilliant illustrations by Gondry himself, the film reveals the life and work of the father of modern linguistics while also exploring his theories on the emergence of language. The result is not only a dazzling, vital portrait of one of the foremost thinkers of modern times, but also a beautifully animated work of art.”  

As for this short behind the scenes doc, it’s a delightful peek into a creative  playful mind and what it takes to visualize ideas and make them more human…*

Animating Noam Chomsky | An Afternoon With Michel Gondry | via The Creators Project, published December 10, 2013.

[ H/T – Behind The Scenes of Michel Gondry’s Film “Is The Man Who IS Tall Happy?” via Booooooom, published December 12, 2013. ]

 

Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? Official Trailer (HD) Documentary, Michel Gondry | published October 28, 2013.

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest...* | rethinked.org | Photo by Elsa Fridman

“I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures… I divide the world into the learners and the nonlearners.” -Benjamin Barber

READ

Five Ways that Games are More than Just Fun ~ They make us more social; They empower us to be creative; They help us develop empathy; They make us act playful and silly; They force us to tinker.  via GOOD, published August 1, 2013.

How Your Morning Coffee Can Make You a Better Designer ~ Tim Brown on how conscious observation, followed by iterating and testing potential solutions, can transform activities we take for granted. via GOOD, published August 2, 2013.

Why Some Great Ideas Catch And Others Don’t ~ Anesthesia caught on overnight, while antiseptic took decades. Why? via FastCo.Design, published July 30, 2013.

Literature Therapy Program Delivers Personalized Reading Lists ~ Bibliotherapy is a prescription reading service from the London-based cultural enterprise The School of Life that offers curated reading lists tailored to an individual’s struggles or personal situation. Patrons of the service book one-hour assessments with The School of Life for an in-person, telephone or Skype session with a well-read advisory team composed of an artist, a novelist and an independent bookstore owner. Instant prescriptions of recommended fiction, poetry and creative non-fiction are given at the end of the consultation, with a full prescription following within a few days. via PSFK, published July 29, 2013.

A Do-It-Yourself MBA? This Guy Did It–and So Can You ~ Victor Saad wrote his own masters-level education plan before becoming an entrepreneur. Now, he has founded an institute, The Experience Institute, to help others do the same. via Inc., published July 29, 2013.

The Daily Routines of 12 Famous Writers ~ via James Clear, published July 29, 2013.

Five Ways to Ease Your Envy ~ Envy is a state of desiring something that someone else possesses. It’s a vicious emotion that can crush self-esteem, inspire efforts to undermine others’ successes, or even cause people to lash out violently. It also just feels horrible. So what can we do to disarm the green-eyed monster when it strikes? Here are five suggestions. via Greater Good Science Center, published August 1, 2013.

How to Kill Creativity ~ Teresa Amabile on the three components of creativity and the six general categories of managerial practices that affect creativity: challenge, freedom, resources, work-group, features, supervisory encouragement, and organizational support. via Sage Publications,  published July 12, 2006.

Unstoppable Learning ~ Learning is an integral part of human nature. But why do we — as adults — assume learning must be taught, tested and reinforced? Why do we put so much effort into making kids think and act like us? In this hour, TED speakers explore the ways babies and children learn, from the womb to the playground to the Web. via NPR TED Radio Hour.

Organize an Office Recess and Create Your Own Game ~  A toolkit to organize an office recess and create your own game. via GOOD, published August 1, 2013.

LOOK

Babilawn: Ornamental Air Conditioning Attachments ~ American designers Daniel Licalzi and Paul Genberg have developed a solution to help aid the visual pollution caused by air conditioners sticking out from one’s window. Influenced by the hanging garden’s of Babylon, ‘Babilawn‘, the faux grass mat attaches to the top of the A/C unit, giving users the opportunity to decorate their ‘lawn’ with miniature ornaments such as a white picket fence, yellow or blue daisies, and even a garden gnome. via designboom, published July 30, 2013.

“Uncarriable Carrier Bags” Remind Us, Cheekily, Not To Carry Bags ~ Mother London really wants you to stop carrying plastic bags, and the ad firm will shame you into compliance if necessary. Their yellow Uncarriable Carrier Bags are overlaid with pictures of objects that you wouldn’t want strangers on the street–let alone your own mama–to see you with. via FastCo.Create, published July 31, 2013.

Cakes Shaped Like Planets Have Scientifically Accurate Cross-Sections ~ via design taxi, published July 31, 2013. 

14 innovative & practical solutions to today’s most urgent education challenges ~ The 2013 WISE Awards Finalists from around the globe represent some of the best and most creative work being done in education by non-governmental organizations, charity groups, cultural institutions and the private sector. The 14 projects demonstrate practical solutions to today’s most urgent education challenges. Selected by a pre-Jury of international education experts, the project Finalists showcase unusual approaches to issues of access, quality, and employment needs. via WISE.

Could This Cardboard Furniture Replace Your Ikea Chairs And Bookshelves? Cardboard furniture for the urban nomad. Chairigami’s furniture is made from recycled cardboard and there’s no assembly required: They don’t use any glue or fasteners.~ via FastCo.Exist, published July 29, 2013.

Nobel Prize Winners Are Put to the Task of Drawing Their Discoveries ~ “The idea was, basically, to portray them in a way that was fun, personal and creative,” says Volker Steger. “I wanted to visually link them directly to their discoveries.” via Smithsonian Magazine, published July 23, 2013.

Look, No Grid! NYC Reimagined As A Circular Metropolis ~ Mapmaker Max Roberts‘ original designs aim to challenge conventional map dogma, a lot of which he says are outdated. Rather than emphasize straight lines, clean angles, and geographical accuracy, Roberts’ maps embody a more nuanced approach to mapping, one that combines aesthetics with usability. via FastCo.Design, published July 29, 2013.

WATCH

Find Your Creative Flow State ~ “Happiness is absorption.” – T.E. Lawrence. via Jason Silva’s Shots of Awe project, published July 30, 2013.

8 Things We Simply Don’t Understand About the Human Brain ~Despite all the recent advances in the cognitive and neurosciences, there’s still much about the human brain that we do not know. Here are 8 of the most baffling problems currently facing science. via io9, published July 29, 2013.

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest | rethinked.org | Photo by Elsa Fridman

READ

Welcome to the ‘Sharing Economy’ ~ “It used to be that corporations and brands had all the trust,” added Chesky, but now a total stranger, “can be trusted like a company and provide the services of a company. And once you unlock that idea, it is so much bigger than homes. … There is a whole generation of people that don’t want everything mass produced. They want things that are unique and personal.” via New York Times, published July 20, 2013.

The Mistake Smart People Make: Being In Motion vs. Taking Action~ Motion is when you’re busy doing something, but that task will never produce an outcome by itself. Action, on the other hand, is the type of behavior that will get you a result. via James Clear on Medium, published June 27, 2013.

Innovation Isn’t an Idea Problem ~In most organizations, innovation isn’t hampered by a lack of ideas, but rather a lack of noticing the good ideas already there. It’s not an idea problem; it’s a recognition problem. via Harvard Business Review, published July 23, 2013.

Encouraging Students to Imagine the Impossible ~ Dreams inspire learning, according to the founders of The Future Project, a venture for social entrepreneurship in high schools. via The Atlantic, published July 23, 2013.

Compassionate Mind, Healthy Body ~ Compassion research is at a tipping point: Overwhelming evidence suggests compassion is good for our health and good for the world. via Greater Good Science Center, published July 24, 2013.

Test the Rules Of Creativity ~ CEOs across the country are calling for more creativity from their workforces. Andrew Benedict-Nelson, of Insight Labs, talked with Matt Wallaert, a behavioral psychologist who has founded and advised several startups, to unpack what they really mean. via Insight Labs, published July 22, 2013.

Meet the 17-Year-Old Who Created A Brain-Powered Prosthetic Arm ~ “The educational system has boundaries, and you don’t have to work within the boundaries of systems. You can do things to achieve your own outcomes–that’s what I’m doing.” via FastCo.Design, published July 23, 2013.

How Diagrams Solve Problems ~ 3 common problems that trip up your creative process & how diagrams will help you solve them. Via Joe Ringenberg on Medium, published July 22, 2013.

Encouraging Connected Learning Means It’s Okay for Students to Opt-out ~ Facilitating Choice: Value & relevance around a learning approach must be something the child determines on their own. via Connected Learning Research Network, published July 23, 2013.

LOOK

A Tea Party That Encourages Random Acts Of Kindness ~ Clare Twomey sets up tea for 1,550–and an artful way to promote good deeds–at London’s Foundling Museum.via FastCoDesign, published July 18, 2013.

Free Comic Books Turns Kids Onto Physics: Start With the Adventures of Nikola Tesla ~ PhysicsCentral, a web site run by The American Physical Society (an organization representing 48,000 physicists), has created a series of comic books designed to get kids excited about physics. via Open Culture, published July 21, 2013.

20 Places to Educate Yourself Online for Free ~ via LifeHack, published July 22, 2013.

City in Sky / Mu Wei + Sam Cho + Yu Hui ~ 39 kids & their families explore the boundaries of architecture. Raises some brilliant questions…~ via ArchDaily, published July 17, 2013.

The Weirdest Typewriters You’ve Ever Seen ~ from the Mailing-Hansen Writing Ball, 1865 (Nietzsche’s favorite) to the Chromatic Typewriter, 2010, which paints with oils, these typewriters are sure to delight. via Flavorwire, published July 25, 2013.

Seven New Courses Coming from the School of Open: Sign Up Today ~The School of Open is offering its second round of free, facilitated, online courses. Through August 4, you can sign up for 7 courses on open science, collaborative workshop design, open educational resources, copyright for educators, Wikipedia, CC licenses, and more. Courses will start after the first week of August and run for 3 to 7 weeks, depending on the course topic and organizer.  via Open Culture, published July 24, 2013.

WATCH

How do you build a culture of innovation? ~ How does a successful company maintain a climate in which new ideas and risk-taking are encouraged? Tim Brown, CEO and president of the design consultancy IDEO, describes how he thinks about innovation and why empathy is an important part of the equation. via Yale Insights, published May 2013.

How An “Impossible” Aviation Challenge Led To An Innovation Breakthrough ~ { YES…* } Atlas won the Sikorsky prize by zeroing in on the right box to think inside–and then rigorously, intensely, and persistently analyzing it. “Achieving the so-called ‘impossible,'” he says, “is a matter of removing unnecessary constraints, and understanding what’s in the box.” via FastCo.Design, published July 23, 2013.

A Look At The Devastating Effects Of Food Waste ~ Data visualization video “Food Waste, A Story Of Excess” presents a quick look at food consumption in America. via PSFK, published July 24, 2013.

How to Teach Math as a Social Activity ~ A master teacher in Anchorage, Alaska, establishes a cooperative-learning environment in an upper-elementary classroom. via Edutopia, published February 8, 2013.

Shouldn’t Personalized Learning Be Personal? ~ “It’s not about actually finding the information anymore. So, I think the model we’re trying to develop with connected learning is to say, how can we use the capacity of these network resources, these social connections, to bring people together that want to learn together.” via Teach Thought, published July 26, 2013.

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday Link Fest...* | rethinked.org

READ

The Power of the Pen: How to Boost Happiness, Health, and Productivity via Adam Grant on LinkedIn, published May 28, 2013.

Enhance Your Resilience ~ Scientists have compiled evidence-based tactics for building resilience. Among them: rethink adversity, forge close friendships and tackle novel challenges. via Scientific American, published June 6, 2013.

Redefining Intelligence: Q&A With Scott Barry Kaufman~ via Big Think, published June 4, 2013.

Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes ~ via BBC, published June 4, 2013.

The Secret of Great Work: Play ~ via Tim Brown on LinkedIn, published June 4, 2013.

How A Guerrilla Art Project Gave Birth To NYC’s New Wheelchair Symbol ~ The Accessible Icon Project. via FastCoDesign, published June 6, 2013.

The Way to Produce a Person ~ via New York Times, published June 3, 2013.

The Importance of Play for Adults ~ via Psych Central, published November 15, 2012.

LOOK
Thoughtful Designer Creates A Comic Book For Blind People ~ ‘Life’ by Philipp Meyer. via Design Taxi, published June 1, 2013.

Kenyan Company Turns Old Sandals Into Colorful Toys ~ via Junkculture, published May 22, 2013.

IBM Turns Its Ads Into Useful Urban Furniture ~ The People For Smarter Cities Project. via FastCoDesign, published June 4, 2013.

Your mega summer reading list: 200 books recommended by TEDsters ~ via TED Blog, published May 31, 2013.

WATCH

Oprah Winfrey’s Harvard Commencement Speech: Failure is Just Part of Moving Through Life via Open Culture, published June 1, 2013.

The Creative Process of Ansel Adams Revealed in 1958 Documentary ~ via Open Culture, published February 20, 2013.

Biosphere 2 via The Avant/Garde Diaries, published May 9, 2013.

Toy helicopter guided by power of thought ~ via Nature, published June 5, 2013.

Bauhaus, Modernism & Other Design Movements Explained by New Animated Video Series ~ via Open Culture, published June 5, 2013.

What are the advantages of a multi-disciplinary approach to education?  via Discovery 

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