Category Archives: science

"Science is dangerous…"

“Besides, we have our stability to think of. We don’t want to change. Every change is a menace to stability. That’s another reason why we’re so chary of applying new inventions. Every discovery in pure science is potentially subversive; even must sometimes be treated as a possible enemy. Yes, even science… Science is dangerous; we have to keep it most carefully chained and muzzled…


I was a pretty good physicist in my time. Too good–good enough to realize that all our science is just a cookery book, with an orthodox theory of cooking that nobody’s allowed to question, and a list of recipes that mustn’t be added to except by special permission from the head cook…I started doing a bit of cooking on my own. Unorthodox cooking, illicit cooking. A bit of real science, in fact. …


‘What happened?’ asked Helmholtz Watson.


‘I was on the point of being sent to an island.’ Mustapha Mond”

 p. 225-226 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.


Old quote (1932) but pretty telling of the state of not only science, but all learning in most schools today.

"Making Waves" Videos

This is a follow up post to my 7th grade Wave Video project. I want to put down my final thoughts evaluating it and how I can improve on it next time.

First of all it took much longer than I expected. We spent about three weeks on the project when I thought it would only take two. It also lacked a bit of focus in the beginning. I did not have any specific examples to show them and it was hard for them to visualize what they were supposed to do. I told them to think about a Bill Nye video how he jumps from talking to video back and forth to make it interesting. I also introduced too many new tools and options to them at once. I think they were overwhelmed by the openness of the project and needed less choices and more structure. That part is really hard for me because I want to challenge them to be as creative and give them as much choice as possible.

The original plan was for them to make a storyboard in PowerPoint as an outline of their presentation. This was not supposed to be their actual presentation. They had a hard time understanding this and did not want to make a second one. The science topic, waves, was also not a particular easy one for them and some of them picked sub-topics that were not really under the main topic such as microwaves and heat waves.

We also had multiple technological problems getting everything to work. I spent so much time on trouble-shooting software that I could not give enough feedback about their ideas and process as we went along.  Unfortunately many of them turned out as screencast slideshows of power point while they read facts from wikipedia that they did not even understand.

I will share two of the best ones, what I like about them, and how I will improve this project next time.

This group got the main purpose of using multiple tools to present the information in multiple ways to make it interesting. They used Powerpoint, Pivot, and a collaborative online whiteboard. They put everything into Camstasia Studio and edited it together in a smooth manner. I wished they would have recorded their narration in my closet so they did not have the back ground noise, but overall it is quality content and work.

Jeremy
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This group used my Pulse smartpen to create a video modeled after the work of RSA Animate such as seen here with Sir Ken Robinson. They wrote out their script and practiced the drawing ahead of time. Then they did it “live” in the hallway and recorded as they drew. On top of the presentation method they explained the topic well and used creative examples. They edited out mistakes in Camtasia for their final product.

One thing that stands out about both of these examples is the creativity of the presentations and using their own words. I plan to show these as examples the next time we do this project. I also am going to make my own storyboard for the first video in PowerPoint to show the students the difference between a storyboard and a finished product. A further thing that will save the students and myself alot of grief is that we will have google accounts and use Documents and Presentations to share work instead of email. Enough of the students did not have email accounts to make this a major pain.

We spent alot of time talking about plagiarism, especially of images. Next time we will also talk about plagiarizing of words and ideas also. I really believe that having student examples will help. I have worked out enough of the technological kinks that next time I should be able to spend more time helping students with ideas and design.

Wave videos

by Today is a Good Day

7th graders in my Tech. class are making videos. I am working with the science teachers in my building on this project. Each pair of students has picked a sub-topic under “Waves” which they are studying in science right now. They are making 2-4 minute videos to present back to their science classes.

The first task was for them to brainstorm by making powerpoint slides for each section of their videos. Although I showed some similar videos from mathtrain to give them ideas the students had a hard time understanding what I was asking them to do. I was throwing a lot of new stuff at them as I gave them multiple tools to use (my wikipage of resource for the students). We have Camtasia Studio 7 on all of the computers in my lab thanks to a great grant from TechSmith. So the students will put their end product together in Camtasia.But they have many options to make it with including screencasts of PowerPoint, my Pulse pen, online whiteboard, webcam, microphones, music, and even Stykz. I encouraged students to use multiple methods of presenting which they will combine in Camstasia. I will write more about some of these tools after students finish, but I will just mention the online whiteboard is a very nice tool that students can email to each other and both write on the same space at the same time.

We have used this opportunity to talk a lot about creative commons and open source. This topic is very foreign to them. For their entire school career they have gotten full credit for plagiarizing from their textbook by “cutting and pasting” the answers to the questions at the end of the chapter. Then teachers get mad at them when they do the same thing on-line. We spent considerable time talking about copyright and the rights of artists. I also demonstrated repeatedly how to use tools like Compfight.com and Flickrstorm to search Flickr for creative commons images. But Flickr is not a good source of pictures about many of the types of waves they were researching so I also taught them how to do a creative commons search in Google and used usa.gov and wikimedia commons which have more scientific images.

We also talked about slide design in Powerpoint. I showed them how to make a set of slides based on interesting pictures instead of text-heavy with bullet points, clip art, or animations. All of this took much longer to get started actually making the videos than I anticipated, but I think we have learned about many important principles along the way. This week they will get busy making them and hopefully have some great presentations by the end of the week.

Girls in Technology

I just finished a nine-week, 7th grade technology class. It was a great bunch of kids. They experimented with straw rockets, constructed polygons in Geometer’s Sketchpad,made pneumatic-powered devices, created egg drop vehicles, experimented with Lego Robotics, designed with Building Homes of Our Own, and ended with a GPS unit.

Often times my tech. classes are dominated by boys, but this class was about 50/50. In particular I had a group of girls who are model students as far as behavior and honor roll grades. They did every assignment with great attitudes. But when I asked the students at the end of the quarter about what their favorite and least favorite part of the class was,they did not like anything that we did. I got lots of “boring” comments. Now some of this could be chalked up to the end of the year, I just want to be out of here feelings, but it does bother me that my class seems to be loved by boys and only tolerated by girls. This is not the first time that I have received this kind of feedback from female students.

So what can I do differently? How can I get more girls (there are some who like my class) excited about technology, science, and engineering? Do I need a different kind of project or a different approach to my current ones?