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Posts Tagged ‘scishow

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.

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As we start to get vaccinated against SARS-CoV2, it is worth learning about this history of vaccines. This SciShow video tells a less common but no less important account.

When learning about vaccines, most will be taught about Edward Jenner. They will not likely be taught about how the ancient peoples of China and Africa practiced what Jenner “pioneered” (variolation).

I learnt that about 300 years ago, the Brits adopted this practice by observing variolation in Turkey. But they did this only after testing the process on prisoners and orphan children. This was about 30 years before Jenner was born. Jenner figured out a safer way to do this and coined the term vaccine.

Fast forward to today and here are two lessons that some have yet to learn (start at this point in the video). The first is about how we relate history: We oversimplify and forget nuance.

The second was put plainly in the video:

Power dynamics between white men and everyone else have historically minimised the contributions of anyone who was not a white man.

Might we be seeing evidence of these two unlearnt (or difficult to learn) lessons right now? The press seems to conflate vaccine efficacy with efficiency instead of explaining it to the masses. The mRNA vaccines are a technological marvel but there is still so much misinformation about them. Powerful and advanced countries like to pit the COVID-19 statistics of some countries in Asia and Africa while not embracing ideas, mindsets, and practices to control its spread.

This SciShow video should be compulsory viewing for teacher education or faculty preparation.

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Creating cognitive dissonance is a strategy for unlocking opportunities for learning. Why? You cannot learn if you do not first unlearn misconceptions, bad habits, or harmful beliefs.

It is just as important to recognise barriers to learning as it is to know what strategies to employ. This video identified at least three barriers to cognitive dissonance:

  1. Rationalising one’s behaviour
  2. Selecting exposure (information bubbles)
  3. Ignoring the facts

While some in the realms of schooling and education argue about fixed vs growth mindsets, we should not forget what neuroscience also tells us.

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The video above explains fluid and crystallised intelligence. These are not synonymous with growth and fixed mindsets respectively. Rather, they are states of the human brain based on age and brain function.

If I had to link mindset types and neuroscience, I would suggest that crystallised intelligence (a function of age) can contribute to fixed mindsets, i.e., how our nature affects our nurture. We cannot win that war — we literally become small-minded thanks to neurone loss as we age.

However, we might fight daily battles with social and physical activities to develop fluid intelligence. These are nurturing moves that might shape our nature. This is not growth in the strictest sense since we start losing neurones notably from age 40 onwards. But it shows a willingness to keep the strategic parts of thinking alive as long as possible.

Sleep — we all need it, but science does not really know why.

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We do know why sleep is beneficial though. In the realm of schooling, sleep is something that is not often actively prescribed as a learning strategy.

After watching the video above — specifically the part about brain plasticity and memory formation — I wonder if more schools will tell their students to sleep on it. If they do not, maybe tuition centres here will implement a compulsory 2-3pm nap time.

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In the first part of this SciShow video, Hank Green outlined a study that examined the link between social media use and ADHD symptoms.

Bottomline: No study is perfect and this one suffered from a reliance on self-reported data, reporting symptoms without prior baseline diagnoses, and correlational outcomes.

The last point was key. Green pointed out that the study could not prove that social media caused ADHD symptoms any more than the tendency of users with ADHD checking social media frequently. In his own words:

Using this study to say that smartphones and social media cause ADHD would be like looking at ER data and concluding that firefighters cause burn injuries.

Since some people would rather watch a video bite than read articles, I share SciShow’s Hank Green’s 2.5 minute critique of “learning styles”.

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From a review of research, Green highlighted how:

  • the only study that seemed to support learning styles was severely flawed
  • students with perceptions that they had one style over others actually benefitted from visual information regardless of their preference

This is just the tip of the iceberg of evidence against learning styles. I have a curated list here. If that list is too long to process, then at least take note of two excerpts from recent reviews:

From the National Center for Biotechnology Information, US National Library of Medicine:

… we found virtually no evidence for the interaction pattern mentioned above, which was judged to be a precondition for validating the educational applications of learning styles. Although the literature on learning styles is enormous, very few studies have even used an experimental methodology capable of testing the validity of learning styles applied to education. Moreover, of those that did use an appropriate method, several found results that flatly contradict the popular meshing hypothesis. We conclude therefore, that at present, there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice.

In their review of research on learning styles for the Association for Psychological Science, Pashler, McDaniel, Rohrer, and Bjork (2008) came to a stark conclusion: “If classification of students’ learning styles has practical utility, it remains to be demonstrated.” (p. 117)

In Deans for Impact, Dylan Wiliam noted:

Pashler et al pointed out that experiments designed to investigate the meshing hypothesis would have to satisfy three conditions:

1. Based on some assessment of their presumed learning style, learners would be allocated to two or more groups (e.g., visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners)

2. Learners within each of the learning-style groups would be randomly allocated to at least two different methods of instruction (e.g., visual and auditory based approaches)

3. All students in the study would be given the same final test of achievement.

In such experiments, the meshing hypothesis would be supported if the results showed that the learning method that optimizes test performance of one learning-style group is different than the learning method that optimizes the test performance of a second learning-style group.

In their review, Pashler et al found only one study that gave even partial support to the meshing hypothesis, and two that clearly contradicted it.

Look at it another way: We might have learning preferences, but we do not have styles that are either self-fulling prophecies or harmful labels that pigeonhole. If we do not have visual impairments, we are all visual learners.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

Learning is messy and teaching tries to bring order to what seems to be chaos. The problem with learning styles is that it provides the wrong kind of order. Learning styles has been perpetuated without being validated. A stop sign on learning styles is long overdue.


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