Tweetisms for the 21st Century: on Science, Education, and the Human Condition

 Posted by DrJeff on May 5th, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog

 

Photo caption: The Eyjafjallajökull Volcano erupting in Iceland as seen from NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite on May 2, 2010. How dare it interrupt the lives of all those folks on business travel.

 

This is a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffisms post.

 

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE.

 

OK, so I’m a regular on Twitter, and proud of it. I guess that makes me a Tweep, and if you aren’t, I’ve got something to tell you. There are lots of folks that think Twitter is where you go when you’ve got this intense need to broadcast to the world what you had for lunch. Mostly these are folks that stay away from Twitter ’cause they either don’t understand it or its power as a social medium. But there are also a whole bunch of Tweeps out there that do think I’m interested in their lunch today—let’s call them lunchies.

 

So to Twitter avoiders, and to the lunchies, I’d like to add my two cents. Twitter is a water cooler for the 21st century. At this cooler you can meet fellow human beings from across the planet, and share thoughts about life, our world, and our children—common thoughts that bind us all, regardless of nationality. In an age when as never before humanity faces a perfect storm of global problems, it’s precisely this kind of water cooler you’d like to see, and to frequent.

 

Read the rest of this entry

 

Dr. Jeff is Doing a Webcast for Challenger Center for Space Science Education – Tune in Thursday April 29 at 1:00 pm EDT

 Posted by DrJeff on April 27th, 2010

 Copyright 2010  |  About this blog

 

 

Photo caption: Dr. Jeff after a Family Science Night for 600 kids, parents, and teachers. Pretty cool—kids want an autograph …. from an astrophysicist.

 

Now this should be a blast! My friend Rita Karl, Director of Education at Challenger Center for Space Science Education invited me to do a live webcast. Thanks Rita! It will give me an opportunity to present directly to classes lots of the stuff I’ve been doing here at the Blog. We really hope students across the U.S. and beyond might be able to tune in and get a deeper sense of their world in a greater space. I’ve also written up ideas for teachers on how to leverage the webcast with activities and lessons in the classroom.

 

For a description of what I’ll be talking about, information on how to tune in, and how to put this webcast to work in your classroom (or at home if you homeschool) check out the latest NCESSE News at the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education website.

 

See you Thursday!

 

-dj

 

Let’s Ban English in School …. Except in English Class

 Posted by DrJeff on December 18th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

a.k.a.

Dr. Jeff on Mathematics Education

Mathematics

This is a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism and a Dr. Jeff Speaks Out.

 

 

Math is the language of nature. If you yearn to know

how she operates, you must speak her language.

—Dr. Jeff

 

I wrote this essay because I needed to get something off my chest. It first appeared as a foreword to a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge posted on June 15, 2009, but I think it’s so important that I decided to commit it to a formal Resource Page here at Blog on the Universe. My Resource Pages are all found in the right navigation column under the section titled “Pages” and under the subsection titled “Dr. Jeff on Stuff – The BotU Resource Pages” (take a look at right.) I dedicate the Resource Pages to essays on important topics like: the Nature of Our Existence, the Art of Teaching, Scientists and Engineers as Heros and Role Models, and the Crisis in Science and Technology Education. I felt that an important essay on mathematics and mathematics education should be a dedicated Resource Page.

 

So here now is my sure to be viewed as an outrageous essay:

 

Dr. Jeff on Mathematics Education


Let me know what you think by leaving a comment on that page. Also—you can read more about this Blog’s Resource Pages HERE.


 

Shuttle Atlantis Home! Prompts Me to Look to America’s Future … and I’m Troubled

 Posted by DrJeff on November 27th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

153212main_129_landing_better_1_425

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a Teachable Moment in the News and a Dr. Jeff Speaks Out.

 

This is crossposted at the Huffington Post HERE and at the Space Tweep Society Blog HERE.

 

I just watched space shuttle Atlantis land at Kennedy. I had lots and lots of mixed emotions. The shuttle is just a remarkable technological achievement, and watching it land can be a pretty emotional experience.


But the space shuttle was never supposed to be more than a space truck to low Earth orbit. I was left reflecting on my childhood when I watched Apollo astronauts walking on the Moon, and dreamed of what awaited us in the 21st century in terms of human spaceflight. It has definitely not come to pass. In fact, approaching 2010 we are now at a crossroads. Shuttle has just 5 more flights, and then the U.S. will need to rely on the Russians for years just to have astronaut access to the International Space Station. And that’s just keeping the status quo with humans continuing to travel no farther from the surface of Earth than a couple hundred miles. I drive farther than that visiting my mom just north of New York City from my home near Washington, DC. It’s called low Earth orbit, and we’ve been stuck here now for 37 YEARS. Is this the grand vision for human spaceflight we embraced 40 years ago when we saw Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the Moon?


Read the rest of this entry

 

Powerful New BotU Teaching Resource: Teachable Moments in the News QUICK LINKS

 Posted by DrJeff on October 5th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

 

Blog on the Universe is a rather unique science education blog. It is not a content aggregator. It is not a clearinghouse or listing for educational resources and products. It is not a science news outlet where posts are specifically dedicated to coverage of the latest news stories, and once the story is old, the post is no longer useable except as a matter of historical record. It’s true that one of the five flavors of posts here at the Blog is actually called Teachable Moments in the News. But I only use a news story as the “hook” and incentive to write a post that is enduring. For example, I used the space shuttle flight in May 2009 for the repair of the Hubble Space Telescope to ask the question: “Where is outer space?” (See The Business Trip.) It is a post that will never get old.

 

At BotU I’m working to create posts dedicated to the understanding of powerful concepts in the Earth and space sciences—concepts that are timeless, and are directly relevant to National Science Education Standards and AAAS Benchmarks for Science Literacy. My goal is to create a ‘library’ of ‘evergreen’ posts addressing a vast range of content—posts that will be as useable 5 years from now as they are today. I’ve even created a Teachers Lesson Planner where all the posts in this library are catalogued by subject, and a quick summary provides each post’s essential questions, concepts, learning objectives, required math skills, and special features. The idea is that each post can support a lesson in the classroom that powerfully addresses curricular requirements, and more importantly—helps teachers move science education away from the memorization of irrelevant facts, and toward: critical thinking, science as process owned by the student, and conceptual understanding. (For more on my goals for this Blog, read About this Blog. For more on science education in the classroom as a model of science, read The Power of Models.)

 

What’s very cool about creating such a library of posts is that whenever there is a high profile news story, I can pull posts off my library shelf to help teachers explain the concepts behind the story. The result is a means of bringing current science rapidly into the classroom—in a manner relevant to the curriculum. And instead of just reporting the “What, Why, When, and Where”, you can create a Teachable Moment in the News grounded in conceptual understanding at an emotional level.

 

So today I’m really happy to launch a powerful new capability at Blog on the Universe, with (as always) remarkable help from my friend Drew Roman at Decisive IT. You’ll notice the box at the top of the right column labeled “Teachable Moments in the News—Quick Links to Relevant BotU Posts” (TMN Quick Links). This is a place where I’ll list current stories in the news, or upcoming celebrations, along with the links to conceptually relevant Posts and also Resource Pages here at the Blog. The TMN Quick Links box is an easy way for you to put the library here at BotU to work for you and your students by leveraging—and in support of—exciting stories in the news!

 

For each BotU Post listed in the TMN Quick Links box, be sure to refer to its entry in the Teachers Lesson Planner for curricular connections, and how to put the Post to work for you.

 

Read the rest of this entry

 

Regular Updates: The Flight of MESSENGER to Mercury through Orbital Insertion, March 18, 2011

 Posted by DrJeff on October 4th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

Click Here to Skip the Overview of this Updates Page and Jump Directly to Updates Archive Below

 

 

Flyby 3 may be over, but MESSENGER’s mission continues. Bookmark this page for MESSENGER updates. Also note you can always access this page from the Teachable Moments in the News Quick Links box in the upper right column of this Blog, which includes the date of the latest update.


Teachers—place the mission in the greater context of human exploration, and exploration of the Solar System, using this Blog’s MESSENGER Ideas for Lessons in the Classroom, and Educational Resources page.

 

CN0162744214M_web

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

 

Photo Caption (click on image for zoom): Image taken September 29, 2009, by the MESSENGER spacecraft’s Narrow Angle Camera,15,400 km (9,600 miles) above the planet’s surface. The double-ring impact basin is approximately 100 miles (160 km) in diameter, with another large impact crater on its south-southwestern side. The image and caption was prepared by MESSENGER Educator Fellows Christina Dorr (Hilliard City School District, Hilliard, OH) and Julie Taylor (Adelanto School District, Adelanto, CA), at the MESSENGER Science Operations Center.

 

 

The September 2009 MESSENGER Special Post at Blog on the Universe, with live Web 2.0 coverage of the spacecraft’s third flyby of Mercury on September 29, generated significant interest in the NASA MESSENGER mission. Teachers and their classes were following along and posing questions to the six Voices of Mission Control via Twitter and email. I’ve created this page to provide ongoing MESSENGER mission updates through the date of orbital insertion on March 18, 2011.

 

Below you will find the Updates Archive. Also below are Blue Titled sections that provide an overview of the tense time in Mission Control when the signal from the spacecraft was unexpectedly lost during close approach on September 29, and a Twitter archive for the Voices of Mission Control—captured live during the flyby—so you can relive the experience.

 

Read the rest of this entry

 

SPECIAL POST: The Flight of MESSENGER to Mercury: Live Web 2.0 Coverage of the Final Flyby on September 29, 2009

 Posted by DrJeff on September 18th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

NEWS: For continued coverage of the MESSENGER mission through orbital insertion on March 18, 2011, please visit the MESSENGER Updates page on this blog.

 

 

Quick Navigation for this BotU Special Post

Click on Main Page to Ensure You’re at Special Post, not Blog Home Page


Sub-pages:

1. Schedule for MESSENGER Flyby Events and Web 2.0 Live Coverage

2. Ideas for Lessons in the Classroom, and Educational Resources

for leveraging the live events into a broader science education experience

3. The Mission Scientists, the Voices of Mission Control, and their Links

4. How to Participate—It’s Easy even if you have Twitter & Facebook blocked

5. Witness History: See Mercury Before Sunrise! Sept 29-Oct 1, 2009


MercuryImage

Photo caption: Part of Mercury’s never before seen surface, from MESSENGER spacecraft data obtained during the first flyby on January 14, 2008. Read the story behind this imageYou want to see spectacular? Click on the image.

Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/Arizona State University, 2008.

 

Every so often an upcoming event is compelling enough for me to put up a dedicated Special Post at Blog on the Universe. A good example is the Apollo 11 40th anniversary. Given my involvement for the last 10 years with the MESSENGER mission, I decided the upcoming encounter deserved a Special Post. The goal is to help facilitate public engagement with the event, and point followers of this Blog to the official web sites and relevant resources. I have also provided my own thoughts on MESSENGER. This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.

 

 

It is a historic mission to another world. It marks a dramatic end to the human race’s initial reconnaissance of the eight planets of our Solar System, and the beginning of detailed study of Mercury.

 

On September 29, 2009, at 5:55 pm EDT, the MESSENGER spacecraft will conduct the last of three flybys of the planet. Each flyby is gravitationally modifying the spacecraft’s orbit around the Sun to ready it for orbital insertion around Mercury on March 18, 2011. On September 29 through October 1, live Web 2.0 coverage from mission control at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Columbia, Maryland, will allow teachers, their students, and the public to experience this mission milestone, and through social networks … ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE in this great adventure. There will be 7 Voices of Mission Control—MESSENGER Educator Fellows and MESSENGER Education Team members—covering the flyby in real time on Twitter and Facebook. They will be able to interact with all of you through engaging conversations, and will answer your questions. Four MESSENGER Mission Scientists will be teaming with the Voices of Mission Control throughout the live coverage. Our goal is to capture the experiences and excitement of the events as they unfold, and to tell this very human story of exploration. We want to help inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, and promote scientists and engineers as heroes and role models to our children. We want to help teachers engage their students with a behind-the-scenes look at REAL science and engineering, and in this very moment of history.

 

Inspire … Then Educate: A Broader Commitment to Education

At this Special Post, I’ve also put together a sub-page that can serve as a one-stop-shop for information on MESSENGER and the science objectives for the flyby, and lists of activities, lessons, and educational resources. It’s meant to help you place the live coverage within a broader, richer science education experience that grows from National Science Education Standards, and offers deep curricular connections in the earth and space sciences. The idea is to inspire …then educate. The historic event provides the inspiration, and the resources leverage discussions on the nature of exploration, the nature of the Solar System, and MESSENGER and its mission at Mercury. Isn’t this precisely the curricular landscape in which MESSENGER resides?

 

Read the rest of this entry

 

Powerful New Resource For Teachers – A BotU Lesson Planner

 Posted by DrJeff on September 3rd, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

It’s a new school year, and teachers are going back to the classroom in tough times. I wanted to do something to help. I’ve missed some posts this week because I was concentrating on a new Blog on the Universe Resource Page titled Teacher’s Lesson Planner for BotU Posts.

 

I created this Blog with teachers and parents in mind. The goal for all Posts and Resource Pages is to provide a creative new way of looking at science—conceptual understanding at an emotional level. I write each post recognizing that if done well, teachers can use it as a lesson in the classroom.

 

The Lesson Planner is designed as a one-stop shop for teachers where they can look through a list of all posts, sorted by general category, e.g., climate change, or Solar System content, and for each post see the essential question, concepts addressed, learning objectives, math skills required, and any special features of that post. The Lesson Planner is designed to be a powerful entry point into the Blog’s content for all teachers—and parents. My hope is that it will allow the posts to be put to work to inspire and educate our children.

 

Here now is the Teacher’s Lesson Planner Page.  Let me know what you think!

 

Finally, our teachers need all the support we can give them. If you feel it appropriate, please pass on the following essay The Art of Teaching to teachers everywhere. I wrote it to inspire the new teacher, to reaffirm to the seasoned professional why we went into teaching in the first place … and to celebrate the joys and rewards of the teaching profession.

 

Teachers and parents are the link between the current generation and the next. Teaching is something that we as a species of explorers must cherish, for without it we could not stand on the shoulders of past generations and see to the current horizon of knowledge.

 

For hopefully a poetic view of how teaching fits within the larger landscape of human exploration, read the essay The Nature of Our Existence.

 

As always,

Dr. Jeff

 

An Apollo 11 Personal Story

 Posted by DrJeff on July 16th, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

279739main_moonwalk_lg

This post is a Teachable Moment in the News.


Photo caption: Buzz Aldrin on the Moon. Photo by Neil Armstrong.

 

I think it was August 1998. I got a call from Gina Ross, the principal of Buzz Aldrin Elementary School in Reston, VA. Her teachers were about to return to school for the new academic year, and before the kids returned she wanted me to come and visit. My mission? To inspire her teaching staff with an inter-disciplinary talk on the nature of human exploration, what we as a species of explorers are capable of achieving when we put our minds to it, and that teachers and parents are the link that binds each generation to the next, allowing us personally and collectively to aspire to new heights.

 

The presentation was going well. They were with me, and I could see them getting energized for the new year. Midway through, I was telling them about how I was inspired to be a space explorer when I was just 11. It was one of those singular moments that changes us forever. I was watching a black and white television and on the screen were Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking around … on the Moon! You just have to step back from that sentence and let it soak in.

 

Read the rest of this entry

 

THE SOLUTION TO Weekly Challenge 3: What Can You Do With a Humongous Piece of Xerox Paper?

 Posted by DrJeff on June 23rd, 2009

 Copyright 2009  |  About this blog

 

Read Original Challenge HERE.

Untitled-1

This post is a Dr. Jeff’s Weekly Challenge and a Dr. Jeff’s Jeffism.


Last week on BotU, your challenge was to take an imaginary, truly humongous piece of xerox paper—but with normal xerox paper thickness—and figure out how many times you’d need to fold it in half so the folded thickness is the height of you, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Mount Everest. For those that really wanted to challenge themselves, I invited you to keep folding so it would be thick enough to reach the Moon, the Sun, the nearest star, and beyond.


How’d you do?


BUT WAIT! If you haven’t yet read Weekly Challenge 3, DON’T LOOK AT THE SOLUTION HERE JUST YET! First read Weekly Challenge 3, or I’ll take back my paper.


First, a word from our sponsor—

You Want Me To Do What With a Bathroom Scale?

Weekly Challenge 4 to be posted Monday, June 29, 2009


Other Posts coming soon:

A Voyage in Corpus Christi

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, History Tells How Far You Are

Lessons of Earth

MESSENGER: Target Mercury


And now the answers—


Read the rest of this entry