Big Idea #4: Problems and Creativity
Jun 20th, 2007 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Every person that I have had the fortune of interviewing reports that science and creativity are related. I’m glad to see that the authentic research process is promoting this idea. The question then becomes, “What is the essence of the creativity in science?”

I think we have a theme emerging . . .

Questioning and posing new problems seems to be the essence for the creative behaviors of the scientist. Coming up with the new idea – the problem finding. Knowing that there is something new, innovative, and novel to discover, create, or build.

Is this too simple? I think it is important to note that the subjects are not suggesting the problem solving as the creative aspect. We’re back to the Einstein quote holding so true . . . .

The formulation of a problem is often more important that its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires imagination and marks real advance in science.
Big Idea #3: Reverse Engineering
Jun 19th, 2007 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Wikipedia states:

Reverse engineering (RE) is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device or object or system through analysis of its structure, function and operation. It often involves taking something (e.g. a mechanical device, an electronic component, a software program) apart and analyzing its workings in detail, usually to try to make a new device or program that does the same thing without copying anything from the original.

I’ve heard this too many times now, not to take notice. Students are doing it freqently, based on what they want to do, the limited resources they have, and the limits of their expertise.

Is it possible that student innovation is the result of much reverse engineering because they are novices and gain their expertise via this process?
The disenfranchised student, the suspect counselor, and a reflection on an Ed Tech’s perspective
Jun 18th, 2007 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Last day of classes today before exams start. Could it possibly be a low key day? Doubtful when you go to your mailbox and get a form from guidance indicating that a student has been dropped from your class. Dropped from my class? But it’s the last day of classes. The student could have dropped any of 180 other days? Why is this happening?Moreover, how irresponsible of the counselor to drop a student without even a discussion with the teacher.
What does it mean? In the current district I work, the student has now upgraded his average from a 40 to a 50 for the year. He doesn’t have to take the final exam. So he prospectively has made out better than his classmates who still continue to work and try. What message are we, (no, let me rephrase: his parents and his counselor) sending to the student? Perhaps it goes something like “You don’t have to be responsible for your actions.” “You can blame circumstance instead of working hard.” “We’ll bail you out without teaching you the lessons of following through” “We’ll allow excuses to trump responsibility.” “We will irresponsible shelter you from learning lessons that will improve your character.” Whatever happened to: “It’s OK to stumble if you are willing to get back up and keep going.”

So I think back: did I do my job? I kept parents informed, and did that part. But I am forced to think about my instructional strategies. Recently, on Wesley Fryer’s Blog, there were some fictitious letters posted from students and teachers, which I frankly viewed as very anti teacher. I got the point: we have to think about education in different ways. The recent movement to think about gaming and education is smart because it states that the traditional paradigm doesn’t always work for all students.

This gets me thinking back to the Discovery/eSchool News blog awards panel discussion I did last year in Orlando at FETC. I, the science teacher, sat on a panel with some of the brightest and most innovative ed tech voices around. What I walked away with was that, as a science educator, instructional technology is ONE of many instructional paradigms that I employ in my classroom. Others? Inquiry laboratory work, Nick K’s test analysis procedures, debate, independent research . . . inquiry, inquiry, inquiry – in its many forms. To reach the disenfranchised, we must employ many models and address many learning styles. Gaming might work for one type of student, and it very well may fail miserably for another.

My point? I’m not so sure if it all ties together, but here goes: Education must be innovative, we must be willing to try new things and at the same time, we must expect that students meet their responsibilities by holding them to the highest standards.

The connection? Creativity and research are innovative ways that will work for some students. The model produces high success for those who buy into it. They succeed in ways they can’t in other settings: my Matt, and subject George are prime examples. For others? We need to find the fit – but they must be a part and take the responsibility to own their education.
Thank you Seniors!
Jun 12th, 2007 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Today was a special day. I didn’t realize it until it happened. I am graduating, what I perceive to be, my first NHS class. I’ve been here for 4 years, but it feels different this time. Maybe it’s because I’m leaving too, but I don’t think so. This is the first group that I have had a chance to see grow and mature.

These young men and women have influenced me as much as I hope I have influenced them. They have helped shaped my philosophy and are the true inspiration for my dissertation. Although I have already decided on my dedication, I can’t help but want to include them as well. We have accomplished great things together – most of all I hope we have established a bond that will connect us for many years to come.

Crystal, Scott, Allison – your first visit – but you believed in yourselves and me. Thank you for taking the journey with me. I hope you think about it in the future and let me know how it has influenced you.

Alex – a shy sophomore in my CPBio class, 2 year researcher – dedicated to a strong work ethic in spite of his challenges – has grown so much I can’t imagine the amazing changes. I hope he stays strong, passionate and dedicated.

Maricate – a crying junior who got kicked out of AP Bio for the wrong prereqs and got sent my way. So hard working, yet cautious – works so hard and is the CT Stockholm Junior Water Prize winner – wins me a trip to Atlanta too. I realize I am not alone in the universe when I meet all of the other amazing science research teachers. Where have you guys been hiding! This year – even more amazing work. She is my Type II error for the year. JSHS recognizes her amazing work. A bit of a snub at the CSF. Don’t let others put you down – be strong and confident. Ruth and I know what you have done.

Matt – failed my CPBio class, comes back and struggles to meet the expectations of the high school education expectations. He proves that he is worthy at the CSF – I know others are amazed. Matt will be on my mind for a long time to come – he is the disenfranchised. I’ve reached him at some level. How do we do more?

Drew – a freshman in a CPBio class – he’s got it – send him on to Honors Chem. Scoop him back junior year – win the Science Horizons – my first ISEFer. Continue the glory senior year. Drew there is so much to say – but I’ve said most of it in my ISEF letter last year. I meant every word. You very well may be the most influencial student in my life. Fly high cadet and remember your roots!

And even though they do not graduate – to my juniors – Dayton, Rebecca, Wesley, & Ivan – keep it up – you are Newtown’s finest.

So what does it all mean? Science research matters to me. It matters on so many more levels than the project. It is my legacy – these young men and women are my legacy. They are my Mr. Holland’s Opus. I must keep doing it strong and well – because it makes all the difference. These students are my research – they may not be my subjects – but they are the cause.

Oxford? Are you sure you’re ready?

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