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Comments for Not In Kansas Anymore

Following the yellow brick road to the future

Last Build Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2018 07:57:46 +0000


Comment on Artificial Scientific Literacy by Warren Dew

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 07:57:46 +0000

Our school is pushing STEM in a program that makes science sound silly and stupid, which they think will attract kids. Don't they realize that this will turn off exactly the kids capable of excelling in science and technology?

Comment on Top Ten Most Played Songs, January 2006 by Not In Kansas Anymore » iTunes Statistics, 10 Years Later

Wed, 25 Nov 2015 18:17:25 +0000

[...] in early 2006, I made a series of posts (1, 2, 3, and 4) wherein I used Filemaker to do a bit of analysis on my iTunes database (which [...]

Comment on Tomorrowland is Good Fun by Tom Daddy

Mon, 05 Oct 2015 17:35:13 +0000

We did go see it on opening day, but I've been too lame to write up a review. Put simply: GO SEE IT! In the meantime I'll see if Dorothy is willing to write up a review. :-)

Comment on Tomorrowland is Good Fun by Uncle Tom

Mon, 05 Oct 2015 03:43:47 +0000

It is now Sunday October 4, and "The Martian" has been out for 48 hours. I for one would like to see a review of this film ... maybe with a guest film reviewer (not that Tom & Elizabeth aren't capable of wonderful film reviews).

Comment on 10+ Years in Seattle by Tom

Tue, 10 Mar 2015 10:41:53 +0000

11??!! Eleven??!! >>Shakes head and mutters something about growing old, walks away<<

Comment on Artificial Scientific Literacy by Tom

Sun, 21 Dec 2014 20:48:46 +0000

I can't help but agree .. and I wish I could say that I had faith this will get better. The new NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) standards that are being widely adopted as the "science answer to Common Core" look good on paper, but have a few problems: 1. The NGSS standards are heavily tied to Common Core (math and reading). In a lot of schools, the interest in NGSS is strictly in their tie in to those standards which are themselves tied to the high stakes PARCC test. Thus science (and a whole lot of other subjects) are being thrown under the bus except for how they can strictly help prepare students for these tests. 2. On the surface, NGSS does appear to emphasize process, which is a good thing. I think too often in the quest for content, the process of science is grossly overlooked. The problem is that NGSS is process-light. In other words, kids will be doing the same simple experiments they have done since the 1950s, with perhaps a keener eye on analysis ... but what is really still lacking is any in depth discussion about what makes science what it is and what makes quasi-science and pseudoscience different from real science: A. No discussion of the need for peer review .. what this entails, and why this is such a critical part of science. B. No movement away from the linear nature of "THE scientific method". Too many kids think the Scientific method is a series of 4-7 steps that occur in succession, and have no idea that this is not what occurs in reality. C. There is still no real discussion of what limits science. That is: the need to wait for technology to catch up with human thinking, the lack of/the need for financial resources, etc D. There is still no discussion about scientific failure. Students learn all about scientific success, but never get to see the trial and error part of science. We have one lab that is very difficult for students to get right, and it requires a certain amount of trial and error to get it right ... students just get frustrated and want to give up because they are so used to things going right the first time. This is not wholly the fault of teachers ... some teachers might want to do this, but are held back by needing to keep on schedule because of testing requirements. I think more students would be more willing to get involved n science if they realized that "things going wrong" is as much a part of science as anything. There really is a lot about putting the small number of real geniuses up on pedestals without discussing their professional failures, and not enough talking about why those failures are important (When we have talked about light and such, I make sure the kids read about Albert Michaelson and his failures in detecting the aether. I bring up that Einstein wasn't wholly correct about the quantum theory early on.

Comment on Conversation with a 1st grader by Unc Tom

Sat, 28 Jun 2014 01:53:43 +0000

When you say it, it all makes perfect sense.

Comment on Conversation with a 1st grader by Elizabeth

Fri, 27 Jun 2014 15:35:09 +0000

The catwalk. One of Howard's current favorite things to do is to tie stuff to it with yarn.

Comment on Conversation with a 1st grader by Unc. Tom

Fri, 27 Jun 2014 15:24:19 +0000

OK ..I'll ask. Where in your home do you have a catwalk? Have you all moved into an opera house or factory? And, unless you were teaching the kids how to defend the house ala "Home Alone", why were you hanging buckets from these catwalks which seem to have sprung up?

Comment on Learning Science in 4th Grade by Unc Tom

Wed, 16 Oct 2013 03:04:27 +0000

Sounds like a dose of problem based learning ... that is interesting. Doing something like this is not easy, and without knowing the makeup of the class, it is difficult to know to what degree this is operating at relative to the average student in the class. One of the criteria we look at when assessing "do we teach this" is "are we going to be able to present the material in the time allotted without oversimplifying." We are not wholly successful. For example, just today I was teaching about kinematics graphs. I know that our sophomore physics teachers specifically teach that "positive acceleration means you are speeding up, and negative acceleration means you re slowing down". We would much rather they stick to speaking about speeding up and avoid the lie, which we then must unteach (much harder than teaching). We get ignored, because they feel that dealing with slowing down is something that sophomores can deal with. I agree, but then they don't have the time to present the material properly, and frankly for that audience, dealing with direction is a bit above their heads. So, the senior teachers need to adjust our timing and presentation to directly confront a class-wide misconception. There is a lot that teachers need to deal with because of the teachers that come before them. I suspect there are college professors that swear under their breaths because of things I have taught, though I would like to think that my group of senior teachers is at least more conscientious about this.

Comment on Learning Science in 4th Grade by Elizabeth

Tue, 15 Oct 2013 18:37:49 +0000

I think it's a school-developed curriculum. The solutions-and-mixtures bit is sort of a prelude, as they will be going on to look at soil composition. I hear that last year, they had the students prepare a presentation to a (played by parents) condo board about building an expansion and the effect that it would have on the surrounding environment (the soil and the water). I don't have a problem with things mentioned at a high level of abstraction one year and then pursued with more detail in subsequent years. But I know that my own child is very literal and will remember exactly what was said on the topic the first time around. So I'd like the high level of abstraction to be correct.

Comment on Learning Science in 4th Grade by Unc Tom

Tue, 15 Oct 2013 06:39:43 +0000

"Solutions are groups of molecules that are mixed up in a completely even distribution." --No way that will lead to confusion among 4th graders ... I know that Dorothy is a very bright young lady, and perhaps as an individual, she could learn this. However ... this appears (and I emphasize "appears") that this is another example of teachers/schools trying to teach material that is far more advanced than their students should be learning because they can then advertise "looky what we teach!". I'm not there, and I freely admit that I don't know, but I have seen this in our local elementary and high schools. When this happens, teachers often have to vastly oversimplify things for kids. I'm not a chemistry expert, but it seems to me that the defining characteristics of solutions and mixtures is a pretty advanced topic, for the reasons that you have pointed out. It might be curious as to what the source of this lesson choice is ... purely teacher's? a school purchased curriculum?

Comment on Learning Science in 4th Grade by Elizabeth

Mon, 07 Oct 2013 02:47:59 +0000

Well, it's a web site found by the teacher, talking about the differences between mixtures and solutions. "Solutions are groups of molecules that are mixed up in a completely even distribution. Hmmm. Not the easiest way to say it. Scientists say that solutions are homogenous systems. Everything in a solution is evenly spread out and mixed together. Other types of mixtures can have a little more of one thing (higher concentration) on one side of the liquid when compared to the other side. Let's compare sugar in water (H2O) to sand in water. Sugar dissolves and is spread throughout the glass of water. The sand sinks to the bottom. The sugar-water could be considered a solution. The sand-water combination is a mixture." Homogeneity is not really the defining characteristic of a solution - you can easily have a solution with a concentration gradient from one side to the other (or, more likely, the top to the bottom). What makes it a solution is that the material is dissolved, not suspended. I also take issue with the statement that "Colloids are just solutions with much bigger particles." In fairness to her, she posted another one a day later that was much more accurate. I wonder if anyone else complained.

Comment on Learning Science in 4th Grade by Unc. Tom

Fri, 04 Oct 2013 14:52:34 +0000

As a science teacher: I really, really, really don't like science text books. Several years ago, our district mandated that each course use a textbook. We tried to find a decent one, but were barred from using the best book because another course was already using it. So we tried to find a cheap book, and then never used it. My colleague and I who co-teach the course have invested a couple of hundred hours coming up with our own readings that we give the kids. The end result was lots and lots of complaints from parents complaining that they spend $50 on a physics text that gathers dust. My department chair always tried her best to stick up for us, but it was tough. 2013-14 is the first year we were finally given a blessing to not use a text. It only took 14 years of convincing. Here is an example of one person making policy. The teacher tries to make the best pedagogical decision, and the teacher is made to look the bad guy, when it was the administrator who made the bad call in the first place. A good teacher should never resist allowing a student to be taught the undisputed true version of the subject. Any examples of what is being taught incorrectly?

Comment on Tom on Panel for MIT Alumni Club Thursday! by Unc. Tom

Sat, 15 Jun 2013 14:05:18 +0000

You are being introduced as "A pioneer in wireless power delivery systems." That's a pretty hefty intro when you are promoted from "founder" or "expert" to "pioneer".