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Comment If the technical sets still existed... (Score 1) 425

I used to ask for LEGO sets for birthdays/Christmas, and essentially the more motors and gears and shafts and connectors there were, the better. The last set I have like that was the original Lego Mindstorms programmable set. Sure, there were instructions (like there always were), but it was a set filled with gears and shafts and blocks and connectors. I could make anything I wanted out of that (and I did, and I was in college).

If I could still get that kind of set, and not a "Star Wars X-Wing" set, I would STILL be buying LEGOS for MYSELF, as well as buying them for nephews and nieces.

Comment Embracing technological tools... (Score 1) 570

Schools should embrace the new technology available to them. We are now able to produce interactive educational experiences with portable devices, created by the very BEST teachers. Students are able to use the devices at their own pace, studying a concept over and over until they really "get" it. Why have students together, learning at an artificial pace, studying curriculum created by someone who is merely average?
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Of course, the technology I refer to is the Gutenberg Press (ca. 1440), and the interactive educational experiences are mass-produced "textbooks".

Or it is the postal service and correspondence courses (ca. 1900), Or radio and broadcast education (ca. 1940). Or television and televised courses (ca. 1960). Or mainframe computers and computer-based learning (ca. 1975). Etc. etc.

I think until we have artificial intelligences advanced enough to understand human thought, preconceptions, and learning as well as a well-educated human, actual human teachers with (real or virtual) classes will remain an essential part of education for most people in most subjects. While I am a teacher, I came into the profession through an alternative route, and held these opinions before I ever considered teaching.

Comment Re:And the unions are pissed... (Score 3, Informative) 575

About the only teachers that work any significant about beyond the 6-7 hour school day are teachers that must grade essays. So, your myth is already busted.

I teach physics. There are some problems with the statement I put in italics above. I recognize that the facts vary from district to district, but I have also never met a teacher in any district that had a regular 6 or 7 hour day.

Our contracted day is 8.5 hours long, which includes one 22 minute lunch. Technically, I'm finished at 3:45. Almost every day of the week, I am there at least one hour late, often two. There are labs to plan and setup, students who need help, and meetings to attend. If I average an hour and a half of extra time at school, that's already 10 hours per day. I also take work home if I can't get it done after school because, for example, students come in needing help or reassessment. Perhaps on average an extra half hour per night.

If I average 10 hours a day at work and a half hour a day at home, that's about 1880 hours per academic year. That's 90% of the 2080 hours a normal 8 hr/day full time job.

There are also the other professional activities and duties I participate in, such as continuing education, networking with other science teachers and scientists, and keeping current on research in physics and education. I take classes and attend workshops and conferences during the summers. For example, I have spent about four hours per week researching and planning, plus five full days on-site at workshops this summer.

I'm not complaining, I just prefer that people take a more factual look at teaching careers, not the mythical "6 hour day part time job" that many people would have you believe.

Comment Re:Bigger Problem (Score 1) 493

Heck, ideally I'd say hold a class-wide experiment once a month or so to figure something out - students work in small "research groups" attacking the problem from different angles, but by the end of the "research window" (days?, weeks?) everyone needs to reach a consensus on what the "real" answer is, with some sort of prize (pizza party? movie break?) if they're correct within a certain margin of error so that they actually care. Then, once everyone has agreed, bring in a professional who can provide a conclusive answer in an understandable manner to verify the results. Not only would that provide a taste of real science, but it would also provide a periodic reminder of the fact that in the face of an implacable universe the best speakers and most inspiring/popular/attractive students generally aren't the ones you want to be listening to if you want to get it right.

Your statement bears some relation to how Modeling Instruction works, although the research/lab experiences are usually a bit more frequent than once a month, at least if the class is keeping up with the expected pace. There is no pizza party, and usually no "professional" providing a conclusive answer. The 'answers' come from the students' analysis of their data and reaching a consensus through group-group interaction.

Comment Re:only a BS? (Score 1) 433

I'm going to assume you mean any other kind of bachelor's degree, and the answer is still "yes they do".

The Bachelor of Arts degree is also an option most places, and in some colleges it is the only option. "Arts" does not mean paint and clay (necessarily), it means it is a liberal arts degree, in which one can major in any of a number of areas, such as physics, mathematics, chemistry, history, foreign language, etc.

The degrees are usually seen as equivalent, although if you are choosing between the two at a university that offers both, it is typically the people who want to go on to graduate school in physics who opt for a B.S., and more often people who want to go on to a professional degree, teach, or work in industry who opt for the B.A..

Comment Non-lecture classes? (Score 2) 126

Also consider what to do for classes that do not use lecture much if at all. Many modern science classrooms use other methods, such as Modeling Physics. If you were to video my classroom, you would need to be prepared to video student whiteboard sessions, lab demonstrations and discussion sessions, experimental design, experiments, data analysis, lab whiteboard discussions, and extensions such as worksheets, challenge problems, computer simulations and programming.

I think you would need a live videographer to properly record something like my class in any sort of useful way.

Comment Hacking/hacker/hack (Score 1) 199

Phil Sadow, who was interviewed for the story: 'I don't like the term hacking because it's been portrayed by the media as something evil. To me, hacking is actually very American. Go out to the garage. Take it apart. Make it better.'"

I, on the other hand, love the term "hacking". News media have put a negative spin on the word, but I think we should take it back rather than let them have it. A hacker is nothing more than someone who gets into the guts of things to see how they work and to do cool things with them. Consequently, you can hack anything--computer hardware, software, engines, motors, locks, sewing, knitting, art, math...

Don't let negative reporting take away our words.

Comment Re:Research != learning (Score 2) 240

Teaching is not telling and repeating is not learning.

Half a century of physics education research is continuing to show that people need to learn the conceptual why just as they need to learn how to use the mathematical model. If they don't understand the concept, the math will be nothing more than a magic black box that spits out numbers for them. Engineers need to understand the concepts.

Science is not just a tool, it is one of humanity's primary methods of viewing and interpreting the universe, along with art and religion (and philosophy, and some other categories). If you do to art teaching what you propose we do to science teaching, people would learn to paint by numbers to reproduce versions of the great works, but would have no opportunity to learn line, or shadow, or structure, or perspective.

You would learn nothing significant about art that way, just as people learn nothing significant about science by learning to plug and chug equations.

Comment Re:Good lectures need done once. (Score 1) 240

I have spent the past two years implementing Modeling Physics in my high school classes. It is based on a solid few decades of ongoing physics education research and has been recognized as one of the most effective physics education methods yet developed. The Department of Education agrees.

What it does not include in any significant amount is lecture. And while I'm not a top level expert in modeling physics just yet, I do my best to keep students engaged in the learning cycle as we go through each physics phenomenon to model, from constant velocity motion through forces and energy and beyond.

I can honestly see using the Khan academy as an aide to students who need practice with the mathematical problem solving that comes after we study a physical phenomenon, but it can't substitute for the inquiry, investigation, experimentation, and construction of various types of models that have replaced lecture.

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