We are all connected
Oct 29th, 2009 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

As a department chair, I am fortunate to have the opportunity (right now . . .) to be conducting a clinical observation of my physics teacher.  She started her class with a YouTube music video, which I must say is fantastic.  It really resonates with me on many levels.  I though it important to share it here.


Here are the lyrics from the website:

[deGrasse Tyson]
We are all connected;
To each other, biologically
To the earth, chemically
To the rest of the universe atomically[Feynman]
I think nature’s imagination
Is so much greater than man’s
She’s never going to let us relax

We live in an in-between universe
Where things change all right
But according to patterns, rules,
Or as we call them, laws of nature

I’m this guy standing on a planet
Really I’m just a speck
Compared with a star, the planet is just another speck
To think about all of this
To think about the vast emptiness of space
There’s billions and billions of stars
Billions and billions of specks

The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it
But the way those atoms are put together
The cosmos is also within us
We’re made of star stuff
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself

Across the sea of space
The stars are other suns
We have traveled this way before
And there is much to be learned

I find it elevating and exhilarating
To discover that we live in a universe
Which permits the evolution of molecular machines
As intricate and subtle as we

[deGrasse Tyson]
I know that the molecules in my body are traceable
To phenomena in the cosmos
That makes me want to grab people in the street
And say, have you heard this??

(Richard Feynman on hand drums and chanting)

There’s this tremendous mess
Of waves all over in space
Which is the light bouncing around the room
And going from one thing to the other

And it’s all really there
But you gotta stop and think about it
About the complexity to really get the pleasure
And it’s all really there
The inconceivable nature of nature

Why teachers shouldn’t waste time designing a webpage
Oct 19th, 2009 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

Working with my neophyte teachers, we had an interesting discussion regarding the role of technology in the science classroom.  I strongly subscribe to the idea that teachers should not waste time designing and coding webpages. The fact of the matter is that science teachers have expertise in scientific concepts, not in web design.   Most of the teacher-designed webpages are unimpressive, aesthetically ugly, and lacking the power to promote increased student learning.

That’s where Web 2.0 is so critical. Teacher web presence is incredibly important, but teachers need to focus on CONTENT, not FORM.  So interactive sites like blogs and wikis provide opportunities for bidirectional knowledge flow.  Both the teacher and the students can be contributors to knowledge.  Blogs and wikis (and other Web 2.0 tools – podcasts, chats, Moodle, Google Docs) allow for the social construction of knowledge where all constituents can become producers.  Even better, these tools are preconstruted, have great skins, and look so professional.  Teachers don’t have to waste time with the form, but spend the time where they should – high quality content.  The interactivity also allows ease for contribution from students.  So more and more it becomes about science ideas instead of web page dynamics.

The Machine is Us/ing Us is a strong reminder of these ideas.

Analysis of Data
Oct 5th, 2009 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

graphLast week in my graduate class I spent part of the class speaking about strategies for data analysis.  I found myself having the same conversation with my student teacher today trying to discuss using inquiry strategies as a method for analysis.  Many lab activities can have large quantities of data for examination.  The challenge, I think, is helping students discover their own inner voice for determining what to do with all of it.

Sure, I can precisely say what I expect them to do, but then I impose my values and attitudes, not to mention removing the critical thinking necessary to determine what is needed.  For example, this week my students are going to conduct an enzyme catalysis lab where they examine different environmental factors which influence enzyme activity over time, specifically: concentration, pH, and temperature.  Each group takes data every thirty seconds for 10 minutes (20 points per condition, ~8 conditions per group, ~ 10 groups = ~ 1600 data points)  Wow,  considering class data, that’s an awful lot of data.  But there is true value in it.  Over the years, students have consistently found the proper enzyme activity trends.

The challenge is determining what to do.  Students could certainly graph every point – but that would probably be a waste of time. Aren’t graphs supposed to show trends and summarize results?  Seeing everything probably would be of little value.  Ultimately, though I want my students to determine what is of value to them so they can draw the conclusions necessary to understand the scientific concepts.  Giving them the autonomy to make their own decisions ultimately gives the power to control their learning.

I think that’s a worthy goal!

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