I’m trying to get back into the habit of blogging.
I know I can do it. I just have to keep at it.
In a way, this experience is somewhat humorous to me. I find it funny that I am having to make myself take what spare minutes I can scavenge out of the day and write. There was a point in my life when composing a few lines for a blog was easy. In fact, at one point (about seven years ago), I was something of a blogging maniac. Of course, back then, I was in a magical place, a Camelot of sorts, where all manner of magical content seemed to appear before me and I had time to write.
These days, I have so many commitments vying for my attention that I feel guilty about stepping away to blog. Even so, I am going to do it. I know that reflecting upon what I am discovering and learning matters. Writing like this is akin to coming back to exercise after an absence from physical activity. Initially, there’s little pleasure in the process but over time that will change.
We can do better. We must do better. We need new scientists and it’s up to us to find them.
How would you describe a potential scientist? Could you spot one in your classroom? Are you doing all you can to nurture these rare individuals? Why are they so rare to begin? Can anyone be a scientist? If educators are going attempt to answer these questions and help budding researchers bloom, they’d be wise to follow the work of Sloan-Kettering Institute Chairman Emeritus, Richard Rifkind.
Two out of three people often continue to hold an unscientific belief even after it is disproven. When conflicts between faith and science arise in your classroom, school, district and community, how are they resolved? Do your students feel safe in asking such questions? Do they have sufficient intellectual freedom to explore potentially unsettling ideas? Are some questions considered “off-limits” to further inquiry?
Today, as I was coming into my office, I spotted an interesting critter in my path. It was a snail. Now I’ve seen snails before but I couldn’t recall seeing one similar to this organism. Hmmm, I thought, in the days before the internet, what would a person have done in order to identify a new or odd specimen? After all, people who lived and worked in the world before the internet became so ubiquitous were still able to discover new information and exchange ideas. Granted, the process wasn’t a rapid as it is today. Before the advent of the World Wide Web, people interested in identifying strange creatures could have:
reflected upon their own personal experiences with comparable living things,
made a note of the experience in a journal or diary,
made a sketch or snapped a photograph using an (old-school, film-based) camera, eventually gotten the image developed, and distributed the image among others, asking, “What the heck is this thing?“
asked other, well-informed people, “Hey, have you ever seen one of these things? Do you know what this thing is?“
consulted an encyclopedia,
gone to a local library and consulted books or periodicals related to the to topic (remember the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature? ) ,
interviewed a teacher from an elementary, middle, high school, or university who specialized in biology,
written to or contacted a society of individuals who study, investigate, or otherwise document accounts of such creatures (for example, in my case, the International Gastropod Society)
Clearly, there were a great deal of options open to curious people. All they had to do was
document what was encountered (i.e., draw a picture, take a photograph, make an entry in a log or journal),
travel to a place of knowledge and make use of reference materials/resources, and
contact someone in the know.
These days, curious people can find answers to all kinds of questions with unbelievable rapidity. They can do all of the things listed above and do them in record time. Technology allows practically anyone and every one who is willing to expend a minimum amount of energy the means to accessing an answer. Case in point: my unidentified snail. Here’s how I’ve used technology to seek information regarding the strange snail that literally crossed my path. To get some answers, I:
posted a question to Metafilter‘s ever useful AskMeFi section where millions of people can post ideas and comments.
The point is technology has helped me do in minutes what might have previously taken me hours, days, or possibly weeks to accomplish. Do students know how to use technology to answer their questions? Do they have administrators and teachers who allow them or encourage them to do so?
UPDATE 2: Dr. Fred G. Thompson responded! He wants to know if my mystery snail has an operculum ( Latin for “little lid”). It’s a structure that, if present, serves to close the opening of the shell when the snail is withdrawn into the shell. I haven’t seen one on my mystery snail.
If you’re looking for a way to track down experts/information about a specific topic (for example, reading comprehension) consider exploring the power of AuthorMapper. It’s an online tool that tracks down research and supplies the location of authors on geographic maps. Doing so allows users to:
manifest, discern, and investigate patterns in scientific research (i.e., why there’s a concentration of reading comprehension researchers in a given geographic location)
reveal new and/or historic trends in literature related to a given topic
Check this out: Need just the right picture to convey a concept? Chances are that you’ll turn to Flickr to see what you can find. If so, consider using FlickrStorm. It’s a nifty, quick way to search for Flickr images.