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Posts Tagged ‘science

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Here is what I read into Hank Green’s rant about people either not trusting science or trusting science too much.

Being scientifically literate is not just knowing scientific information. Nor is it only about being able to read and understand published science.

Being scientifically literate is about the processes of thinking and iterating so that preliminary and testable facts emerge. It is about being comfortable that such facts can change over time as a result of such processes.

Science is not just about knowing what, it is also about knowing how. Being scientifically literate is about knowing why we need to think and act in ways that move us forward.

This news report defined deep tech as “a broad term describing the latest innovative technologies in fields such as biotechnology, computing and engineering”.

If I was still a biology educator, the tweet would add fuel to my fire for the subject. But I wonder if there is any substance to the premise.

The premise is the possibility that students will learn about genetic coding as a given. I pause with caution because I know that how it is substantively taught that will make the difference.

Specifically, will the science be represented as process and not just content to get through? How about the processes as ways of thinking and not just following formulae? 

The teaching and learning of deep tech should not just scratch the surface. For example, it is not enough to know how mRNA vaccines are made, or what the difference between vaccine efficacy and effectiveness is. 

It is also about attitude and belief system, i.e., a mindset. It is about mentoring and modelling. It is about a deep understanding of why science is not about proof and all about iteration.

We cannot run away from the fact the students need to learn science content. We also cannot forget how testing and high stakes exams tend to draw the focus away from deep science to surface knowledge.

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When I was a child, science was a series of one interesting fact after another. When I was a teacher of science, it was important information I had to relay to my students.

When I became an educator, I learnt that science is more about processes. Processes of thinking, testing, revising, and retrying. What I had previously thought of as science could be packaged like products in textbooks or CDs (yes, those old things).

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This video illustrates why science is not just a collection of facts. It is true that we have many more bones when were are in utero compared to when we are old. This is because bones fuse.

But the “established fact” that an adult human body has 206 bones is not true. Henry Gray arrived at that conclusion from dissecting cadavers of different age groups. Gray’s number was repeated in textbooks and that became fact.

We now challenge that number because of new information that we have found thanks to technology and critical thinking. Science is about habits of mind, challenging and testing information, and improving what we think we know. No bones about it.

I am a news junkie in that I consume a variety of information from reputable sources. I have noticed how much scientific and newsworthy nuggets are packaged in satire.

Valid and reliable scientific information and findings tend to be dry or boring. So this game show makes things interesting by involving comedians.

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The same could be said about the delivery and processing of news. Many talkshows in the USA helmed by comedians do this.

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It is tempting to take these shows as sources of information and news. We should not because they are designed first to entertain, not primarily to educate or inform.

If consuming these sources can be likened to a meal, then the comedic science and news are like dessert — appealing and easy to swallow. But we cannot subsist on just dessert.

We might start with these tempting treats, but not stop there. If there is something I hear from a non-news or science source that I do not know about, I seek authoritative sources. But I do not have to do this often because I start with the latter and enjoy the former when they are reprocessed in funny form.

Rising above, I see a parallel between this phenomenon and teachers are trying to adopt edtech. They might have observed a vendor’s demonstration, participated in a workshop, or watched a snazzy YouTube video. This is like the comedic version of edtech because it has been reprocessed.

It is harder and more important work to plan and implement edtech from the basics, i.e., the pedagogy, the technological and social affordances, and the relevance to content. Doing this is not glamorous or exciting, but it is the difference between clumsy tinkering and masterful execution.

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I love videos that showcase the talents of people who combine seemingly opposite fields of work. This one was about an artist who uses fractals to create massive but temporary pieces on beaches.

The video is worth the watch not least for the amazing patterns he created in tidal zones. That these art works only last as long as low tide might lead one to question if the effort is worth it.

The closest and least glamorous work I can compare this scientific art (or artistic science) to is teaching. If you think it about, teaching is also multidisciplinary and transient. But teachers keep at it anyway without any credit or appreciation.

Yes, I am still harping on how pedagogy is both a science and an art. Why? The videos I watched yesterday and today reminded me of that.

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Pedagogy is the science of teaching because it can be theorised, experimented, and repeated. It is also the art of teaching because it needs to be practised, refined, and reflected upon.

Pedagogy is not a balance of the art and science, but its embodied blending.

Or the science of art?

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That was my thought when I watched the mesmerising kinetic art of David Roy.

Though less glamorous and obvious, the same could be said about pedagogy. Is it the science of the art of teaching or the art of the science of teaching? I say that pedagogy is both.

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Art without science might be entertaining, but it breeds ignorance of how the world works.

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Science without art might provide explanations, but it removes what makes us human.

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You can read the title as a cheer or a sigh.

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Yesterday I heard a promoter at mall sell disinformation. This reminded me of the claim a student teacher made years ago.

The mall charlatan proclaimed the benefits of oxygenated water and a product that would allow you to put extra oxygen in tap water.

Only aquatic organisms would benefit from an infusion of oxygen in the water. Then again only up to a point because too much oxygen is harmful whether it is in water or air. That aside, humans are terrestrial animals and we do not gain from extra-oxygenated water except perhaps for ticklish bubbles.

If we were somehow able to absorb more oxygen from water like the way we do from our red blood cells, we would oxidise chemicals in our bodies. One physically overt effect of this is premature aging, which was something contrary to the promoter’s product.

The harm of buying into this non-scientifically-based sell hurts your pocket and helps perpetuate scientific ignorance. This is bad, but not as bad as what might happen in a classroom.

A few years ago, I reflected on a student teacher who told her students that it was important to drink water because it contained oxygen. Our bodies do not electrolyse water. If we did, we would produce two highly flammable and explosive gases (hydrogen and oxygen) in our bodies.

I pointed this out to the student teacher and urged her to rectify this at the next lesson. Misteaching science initiates or perpetuates falsehoods. Disinformation takes root and becomes unfounded knowledge. If left unchecked, this condition might develop into disdain for scientific literacy and critical thinking.

We should be nurturing kids who are scientifically literate and cheering, “Yeah, Science!” But if we do not correct bad teaching or ignorant sales pitches, we leave kids who think that ignorance is bliss.

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One thought that crossed my mind as I watched this video was how much science undergirds and enables the art. The same could be said about pedagogy.

I define pedagogy as the science and art of teaching. The science refers to the theoretical principles, experimentation, and research of what might be quantified about teaching. The art is the practice getting better with critical and reflective practice. Do one without the other, or favour one over the other, and we are unlikely to teach effectively.


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