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Archive for the tag “science”

Creationism in the classroom

I have, at times discussed creationism in my science classroom because students have had questions about it.Although, I don’t typically address it as anything other than historical context for the origin of scientific theories if no student pushes to discuss it. What has your experience been? If you are a student, leave a comment about how this was addressed in your classes.

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A quick post that’s slightly off topic

I worry about writing anything on this topic because my goal is not to have some sort of focus for a creationist ‘debate’, but I recently saw an article about the construction of an Ark in the Netherlands. (http://xenophilius.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/modern-day-noah-opens-doors-of-ark-creation/) I don’t know what to make of this article – or more to the point, of the subject that the article addresses. There’s nothing I find objectionable about someone building whatever it is that they want to with their money. But I can’t overlook the statement that the “the Dutch creationist and millionaire building contractor Johan Huibers”. What can’t I overlook? “Creationist”

There it is, I’ve done it. I opened the door. What’s so objectionable about being a creationist? Well, it’s not the man himself that I care about. What I do care about is that the purpose of this thing is to serve as some sort of creationist ‘museum’. We already have one of those in the States. It’s located in Kentucky (where else?), but you can check it out right here: http://creationmuseum.org.

 

I’m not sure how I should phrase this in order to communicate my point best, but I find it to be a severe obstacle to education that these institutions are out there. I have no problem with the religious story of creation (any of them), but there is a problem with the relationship that Churches have with the rest of the world. That is, in order to be tolerant of all religions and to respect the distinction between religion and science, nothing can be said about any claim that has the word ‘religious’ tacked to it.  

I think most scientists are OK with the fact that religious questions are outside of the purview of science (most – not all). Whenever there is a discussion about something that cannot be tested scientifically, I’m happy to say, “well, science can’t address that question.” and let it go. 

But fundamentalist religions don’t respect that division any more than scientists like Richard Dawkins (Whom I respect greatly even when he is attacking religion – I just don’t think it’s a good idea). I’m talking about creationists that want to make claims about the real world that are testable, but they either don’t want to test these claims or don’t respect the power of a persuasive argument against their position. 

Scientists dislike this for several reasons. First, creationists approach the question with the answer in hand and don’t  give credence to any non-supporting evidence. Second, scientists think it’s not playing by the rules if you don’t give up a flawed argument (it’s the hardest thing to learn as a science student: you are not your argument. If your argument is wrong, let it go) Lastly, science isn’t going to admit “it’s in the bible” as evidence – and I think this offends fundamentalists.

Why don’t scientists accept biblical truth? Well, because there’s no reason to. Even if everything in the bible happened exactly as it was originally told, the fact that the bible was cobbled together from a handful of oral histories after floating around for a number of years makes that pretty hard to accept as evidence. A court won’t accept hearsay even if it’s only a couple of weeks old. The game ‘telephone’ has as its entire premise that people can’t repeat what they’ve heard just a second before.

OK, I’m ranting here – and it’s exactly what I didn’t want to do, but I teach biology and I have had students come to my class with ideas supported by creationists and creation museums before and it’s very difficult to navigate / remedy.

And one last thing – on a personal note: Just as the mathematicians and astronomers of the 17th century were in awe of the motion of the planets and how wonderfully sensible God’s creation appeared to them, there really are a lot of scientists who marvel at the beauty of God’s creation in setting life in motion to follow the elegant rules of evolution over time.

 

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Why Technology in the Classroom Anyway?

The AppCampus Blog is premised on the notion that technology in the classroom is a good thing that educators should embrace, but why?

Here, I argue that technology (and gaming in particular) is a central part of many people’s lives. Games are the most embraced part of technology by younger generations and, over time, older generations have accepted gaming into their lives as well. Leveraging this interest to teach STEM subjects is vital to engaging students and improving global competitiveness.

Game use has increased not only in absolute number of users, but also in penetration of older age-group markets and amongst female users. A Pew Foundation report on teens and video game-play found that “nearly one-third of all 12- to 17-year- olds report playing video games every day or multiple times each day, and three-fourths report playing at least once a week.” The reach of video games greatly outdistances the number of students graduating with STEM bachelor’s degrees and may thereby extend the penetration of science instruction outside of the classroom. 1,2          Further, the reach of videogames into the older demographics has climbed such that more than half of all adults play video games of one kind and seniors are reported to play, on a daily basis, more often that all other demographics. 3

The public’s embrace of technology and gaming provides an opportunity for STEM education to reach out to students and the public at large. There exists an opportunity to seize the opportunity that mobile device technology offers to engage students of all ages in a form of entertainment that integrates education into the game seamlessly into an integral part of young people’s lives.

Despite the primary role the US has played in many technological achievements of the 20th century (including developing nuclear power for war and peacetime use and putting a man on the moon), the US is no longer a leader in STEM subjects. The 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report found that the proficiency of US students in Math is lower than many other developed nations including Iceland, Estonia, Poland and Slovenia. 4

Improving performance in STEM subject education will improve competitiveness in the world market. This connection is no hypothetical assumption lacking objective evidence, data from Hanushek et al shows a direct correlation between academic performance and Gross Domestic Product, suggesting that further improvements in education can have beneficial economic consequences. 5Considering the primacy of technical job skills in the current labor market, it follows that STEM education may be a driver of this relationship.

The use of interactive, multiuser games promotes not only collaborative-, but also active– learning. Together, these techniques improve student involvement and retention by instilling a sense of personal responsibility for the material. 6,7 Further, using mobile games immerses students in science and meets them in a technology that is a central part of their lives.

 

Alltogether, games-especially those played on mobile devices- should be part of a comprehensive approach to education because they engage students in science in such a way that is vital to capturing the imaginations of scientists-to-be.

 

 

                       

 

References

 

1.     Mayo, M. J. Video Games: A Route to Larger-Scale STEM Education? Science 323, 75–79 (2009).

2.     Lenhart, A. et al. Teens, Video Games, and Civics. Pew Internet and American Life Project 1–76 (2008).

3.     Lenhart, A., Jones, S. & Rankin Macgill, A. Pew/Internet: Adults and Video Games. Pew Internet Project Data Memo 1–9 (2008).

4.     Peterson, P. E., Woessmann, L. & Hanushek, E. A. Globally Challenged: Are U.S. Students Ready to Compete? 1–48 (2011).

5.     Hanushek, E. A., Jamison, D., Jamison, E. & Woessmann, L. Education and Economic Growth. Education Next 1–10 (2008).

6.     Bonwell, C. C. & Elson, J. A. Active Learning: Creating Excitement in the Classroom. ERIC Digest. 1–5 (2012).

7.     Johnson, D. & Johnson, R. Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom. (Interaction Book Company: Edina, MN, 1991).

 

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