History of Science

I’ve been learning about the History of Science courtesy of Crash Course. It’s really interesting.

I first found out that the history of science was fascinating from Connections by James Burke. This was a PBS series back in the day (the late 1970s) (and it’s not really PBS, since it came across the pond from the BBC), and each one traced a series of scientific and technological discoveries from ancient to modern times. The first episode traced the invention of the plough to modern power blackouts. While the show looks dated (hey, it’s over 40 years old!), if you can get past that, it really rewards viewing. You can watch it on YouTube here.

Anyway, the YouTube playlist for the Crash Course History of Science is 46 episodes long, so I have some watching ahead of me.

#crashcourse

4 different reading levels

Do you know how to read?

At this point, since you’re reading this, I expect so. But it turns out that there are different levels of reading, depending on your ability and what you’re trying to learn. Each level builds on the previous levell

Elementary Reading

This is the simplest level of reading, when you just want to know what this sentence says. This is what you’re doing when you’re learning a foreign language.

Inspectional Reading

This is used to find out what the book/article is about. It can be done with skimming or superficial reading.

Skimming is when you read the different headings to get a gist of the structure, then go back to the beginning and read the first few sentences in each paragraph. This will give you the overall idea of the article, but nothing like real understanding.

Superficial reading is when you just read. You read every word, one after another. This is what we usually do when reading for pleasure, so it’s probably what you’re most used to doing. But again, it isn’t really about understanding.

Analytical Reading

This is where we get into really thinking about what we’re reading, but it takes more time and effort. You ask questions about what you’re reading and organize your thoughts. You take notes on what you read; perhaps have a bit of debate with the author. You’ll understand the material much better.

But we’re still not done.

Syntopic Reading

Instead of reading just one book/article, read different ones from different points of view. You actively compare the different books, evaluating the evidence and analysis provided. This is the highest level, and the most demanding of both time and effort.

When reading in school, at least in middle school, it’s best to be doing Analytical Reading. Think about what is being said. What does it imply? Are there things that are missing or that you’re confused about? Write things down in your own words summarizing what the author said.

It turns out we’re teaching reading all wrong

Do you like to read? I love to. But many people don’t. It may just be that they weren’t taught properly how to read.

People are born wired to talk and communicate. But not to read.

Another big takeaway from decades of scientific research is that, while we use our eyes to read, the starting point for reading is sound. What a child must do to become a reader is to figure out how the words she hears and knows how to say connect to letters on the page. Writing is a code humans invented to represent speech sounds. Kids have to crack that code to become readers.

The best way to learn is to associate the sounds of words: phonics. When you know how to sound out a word, you can connect the written word to the word you already know. This makes it easier to read. But for a very long time, reading education was based on the belief that learning to read is natural. It’s not, and we have to change the way we teach kids how to read.

Teachers Sharing

Today we had a faculty meeting where we shared some of the special things we do. Some of the things that were mentioned were screencastify, quizizz, peardeck, and edulastic. I’ll be looking into using one or two of these in the future.

Self serving biases and your own knowledge

How much do you know? Really? That much? Are you sure?

It turns out that there are lots of ways to think that you know more than you really do. Here’s a good scischow youtube about it. One of my favorites is the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which I see lots of. Basically, the less you know about something, the more you think you know. As a teacher I see this when students think they understand the topic, but then proceed to bomb the test. It works like this: When you have a beginners knowledge of something, you don’t know the intricacies of it. You don’t know just how much more there is to know.

I teach middle school science, so the material has been simplified—there’s a lot more to it than what I teach. Some students don’t get the simplified version, and they think that what they’ve gotten (the very simplified) is easy. Then they have to take a test on what they should know, and they have trouble with it. And when they get to a question on higher-order thinking skills … watch out!

The thing is, I think they could do much better. But when they’re studying, they think they know it, so they don’t study much. If they understood how much more they need to know, I think they’d realize that they needed to study more.

Anyway, watch the video.

Smarts isn’t the most important thing

Being a student is all about being smart right? If you’re smart you’ll do better in school. If you’re smart you’ll be more successful in life. Right? Right?

Well, not really. The most important thing isn’t IQ, or being smart, or learning things fast. The most important thing is grit. Grit is being determined, and able to keep going despite mistakes. It would be great if teaching how to do this were part of teaching curriculum. Please watch the TED Ed video.

Two senators are trying to promote the use of open-source textbooks.

Back in the mists of time, when I was in college, my textbooks cost a lot of money. Upwards of $50 each. But that’s nothing now. Today’s college students can easily pay over $1000 on books a year. But two senators are trying to reduce the cost by encouraging colleges to use Open Source books. Books with an open license could be freely used by students. I hope these bills (S.1704 and H.R.3538) pass and students can have access to information for free.

This isn’t exactly new. The CK-12 foundation makes textbooks available at K-12 levels with an open license.