CNS Youth Science Challenge Draws Attention of U.S. and Russian Presidents

Masako Toki posts about students across 20 Russian and US universities to complete an online challenge to investigate solutions for managing the world’s spent nuclear fuel.

The students utilize online workshops, e-learning modules, and virtual classrooms to become familiar with unclassified information about the science and technology of nuclear weapons, nuclear reactors, the nuclear fuel cycle, and the risks posed by the key weapons materials of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Then, students focus on options for handling spent nuclear fuel, especially plutonium. This study requires scientific prowess, critical thinking, cross-cultural understanding, and cooperation. This investigation will require students to research not only the scientific options available for spent fuel management, but also the proliferation risks that different technologies pose and alternative solutions. At the final stage, all teams will come together and present their findings and proposed solutions in the Virtual Science Fair, in a format of their choosing

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“Algebra 1B Academy”: Mission Accomplished

Lorri Carroll reports about her class’s screencast project in Algebra 1.

Screencast-o-matic was very reliable and the students enjoyed choosing their own color/style/ background to write out their problems using Paint. It was like music to my ears hearing them explain how to add/ subtract/ multiply and divide radicals expressions. The students were completely engaged for all three days in the lab and the entire process forced them to think about how to simplify radical expressions. YAY!

She describes the process that her students followed to create the screencasts with a wonderful video of their contributions

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How hierarchies kill creativity

David Burkus mentions a common view about the behaviour of people in hierarchies and the role of ideas

Creative ideas that come from the middle or lower levels of a hierarchy have to work their way up through a series of managers, each with the power to veto but each lacking the power to implement. Supervisors often reject innovative ideas because the individuals who developed theses ideas understand the novelty and applicability of them better than supervisors. As an idea moves through the different levels, the likelihood of rejection increases, since those managers are further from the domain the idea applies to and less likely to understand its true value in that domain

He discusses a company where they had an internal stock market and invested in ideas

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The Educational Value of Creative Disobedience

Andrea Kuszewski describes her father as her walking encyclopaedia when she was a child and how she used watch him in his workshop and ask lots of random questions. One time he was unable to answer her question and she began a process of investigation and discovery for herself which changed her attitude to school

As much as I loved learning, school was uninspiring and left me hollow. I saw school as a necessary time commitment, but not much else. I ended up doing most of my learning and exploration on my own with whatever tools I had at my disposal—books, observation, watching people, and of course—my imagination.

Obviously my love for science and learning was not completely destroyed by my early school experience, or I wouldn’t be where I am today.

She is now looking at psychology and neuroscience for answers and has created some hypotheses about action sequences, direct instruction and problem solving.

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What happens to learning when school year ends?

Nina ponders

In an ideal situation?  Nothing – learning goes on because students are curious about their physical and social environment and want to keep on interacting with it.  Of course we don’t call it formally “learning” when they are exploring the shores, forests, parks, malls or streets of their hometown or holiday destination.  We call it free time or vacation. Yet, if your students have learned how appropriate and important the question Why? is, they will make the most of their free time as well and keep on learning while wondering and reflecting upon the things they notice

She mentions that current education systems have been killing curiosity and notes the importance of detaching learning from school.

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Enhanced Learning Conference – PELeCON 2012

Matt Lingard provides links and highlights from trip reports from some of this year’s conference attendees. There were student showcases with examples in primary and secondary learning ages including use of tablets, apps, Skype, google groups. Other highlights from keynotes and parallel sessions included examples of

  • 70,000 students involved in blogging projects across the world
  • being able to improve writing through a writing challenge involving peer interaction
  • questioning what reform and change mean for education
  • openness and barriers to open learning practices
  • engagement in alternate reality games
  • ‘future building’ education with digital architectures
  • conditions that allow creativity to flourish
  • educators sharing their top 100 tools for learning

There are also contributions from virtual participants via twitter, liveblogging, a crowdsourced wiki

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Vocational vs Elite Educations

Emeka Okafor reviews the lack of vocational education available and looks to other countries’ examples for how to improve economies.

Why don’t the products of our high schools, colleges and universities have a greater ability to create, manufacture or process things? Our educational systems seem to spit out those who can only barely administer and officiate. A general lack of critical thinking abounds with few exceptions. How can we systemizecuriosity-driven, startup, maker mentality? The roots of these failures to a degree stem from deficient foundations left by former colonial overlords. It would do us a measure of good to learn from Germany, Europe’s most successful economy and appropriate where we can

He posts some interesting videos that look at traditional and vocational education in African countries.

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Science Education: Where Values Go To Live

Pecier Decierdo from Filipino Free Thinkers, reflects on a decision made earlier in the year by the Filipino Education department to remove ‘Science’ from the first and second grade education, based on a view that Science is not child-friendly enough for young learners. He provides stories of where science has been taught well and badly. He reflects on whether things should be ‘taught’ to children or whether they are able to be curious and explore for themselves

Science is difficult, yes. Science does not end in being amazed and awed, indeed. Science is not all about the happy-happy-joy-joy, true. That is why when science is taught, you do not simply teach it as a body of knowledge and not even as a body of theories. When science is taught, it must be taught as a human activity. And like all human activities worth pursuing, it requires a certain set of attitudes.

Among the virtues required by science are curiosity, attentiveness to detail, ambition, and intellectual honesty, all of which can be taught to kids as early as possible. In fact, for many kids these virtues need not be taught but only encouraged and reinforced

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How Geniuses Think

Michael Michalko recounts a brief review of academic work to uncover what a genius is and the role of intelligence. He suggests different strategies that geniuses use including

  • Geniuses look at problems in many different ways
  • Geniuses make their thoughts visible
  • Geniuses produce
  • Geniuses make novel combinations
  • Geniuses force relationships

And several more.

Nobler than the Noble Profession

Angelo G Garcia reports from the Philippines and profiles Edgar Madlaing work as a teacher, encouraging students with voluntary activities too

He says the most challenging aspect of this profession is seeing former students who used to fail change their lives for the better.

I realize I can’t do everything for them. As their teacher, I get frustrated when I know I did my best and gave most of my time to the job. My take home pay cannot even take me home. Most teachers here in the Philippines can relate to this predicament,” he laments.

For Madlaing, the most rewarding part of being a teacher is the successes of his students, knowing well that he was somehow part of that success.

“It’s a great feeling to know that behind these stories of success, is a story that Iam part of. Many former students of mine who have become successful in their careers come back to say ‘thank you’. For example, former CAT Officers of who entered the PNPA(Philippine National Police Academy) and PMA are now successful officers. They claim that their dream to become ‘an officer and a gentleman’ started when we first met during their CAT days,” Madlaing shares.

In full