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Recently my "Teaching & Learning Concepts In Earth Sciences" students and I renovated one of my old data-using lab activities, from the days when I used to teach "Planet Earth" to non-science majors. The old version of the activity led students step-by-step through a series of manipulations of an on-line global data base, using a professional data visualization tool. The old directions provided a lot of scaffolding for how to make data displays of ocean salinity in and around the Mediterranean Sea, but little support for how to extract insights about earth processes from those displays. The new version assumes that students are already pretty adept at getting computer apps to do what they want, and refocuses the scaffolding on how to think like a geoscientist, how to think about the meaning of the data. More
Two years ago in this space, I wrote about "Turning Nature into Numbers," humanity's accomplishment of developing instruments and methodologies that can turn the fleeting qualitative impressions that we have of our surroundings into quantitative values--numbers--which can be readily stored, shared, transmitted and compared.
Numbers are great, but it seems to me that for developing an opinion or making a decision, humans often want categories rather than numbers. More
The most interesting thing I learned over Thanksgiving arrived during a pre-dinner walk along a rural Massachusetts road heavily impacted by the Halloween storm. Many tree limbs were shattered, fallen to the ground or dangling from their parent trees. My cousin's daughter's friend Mike pointed out that the broken limbs still had their leaves, browned and stiff but still connected, while the healthy trees had lost all their leaves. The rest of us looked more carefully, and sure enough, his observation was correct, tree after tree. More
In contrast, many of my colleagues concerned with the quality of science education in other disciplines moan and groan about how hard it is to get college faculty to pay attention to research on learning or to change their teaching practice. So how--by what mechanism--does the Cutting Edge approach work? Here's an idea. More
First, Dana discovered a fabulous cartoon, the exactly speaks to the topic of the post. Wonderously, the cartoon is published under a creative commons license, so I can reproduce it here for you: More