Thursday, September 13, 2012

More Science Videos

There are lots of short and fun science videos on the web. Here are some links:

Science News from the National Science Foundation. Includes:

NASA's Video Gallery (space and planets and astronauts and rockets!)

Smithsonian Videos (not just science!). Science videos include:

MIT Video (over 11,000 videos!). Includes:
The Mechanical Universe (a series of videos about physics by CalTech)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NBC Learn Videos

NBC Learn has these collections of short videos (and other resources). I like the ones I've watched so far.
Spend a few minutes with these videos -- they're well done and interesting!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Middle School Math and Science

MSP2 (Middle School Math and Science Portal 2) is a social network for educators. SMARTR is a related math and science site by kids for kids.


I was looking for good physics videos for 8th grade or so, and I found these links in MSP2's blog:

A great collection of science-focused videos from NPR's Science Friday.

The Science of Speed The Science of Speed, produced for the National Science Foundation (NSF) and written and hosted by Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, explains the scientific principles that are so essential to the NASCAR experience. Viewers learn how science makes cars powerful, agile, fast and safe – and how these same principles affect their own cars.

Science of NFL Football
In America, the autumn season means two things–back to school and back to football. To celebrate both events, NBC News’ educational arm, NBC Learn, teamed up with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Football League (NFL) to release the “Science of NFL Football”–an informative 10-part video series that explores the science behind America’s most beloved sport.

Science of the Olympic Winter Games
NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, teamed up with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to produce Science of the Olympic Winter Games, a 16-part video series that explores the science behind individual Olympic events, including Downhill and Aerial Skiing, Speed Skating and Figure Skating, Curling and Hockey, and Ski Jumping, Bobsledding and Snowboarding. Each video is complemented with lesson plans which include fun classroom activities. The lesson plans were written by teachers at Academic Business Consultants for grades 6-9 and are aligned with California State Standards.

Extreme Adventure
Do you have what it takes to win the Ultimate Race? Find out with the Tryscience Extreme Challenge! Compete on seven courses in four sports- mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing and snowboarding. You must train and apply the science behind the sport to beat the challenge time and earn each course medal.

Funderstanding Roller Coaster
A Java applet allows students to manipulate their own simple roller coaster. Students can change the height of two hills and a loop, the speed and mass of the car, and the gravity and friction being applied. By experimenting with these variables, students will see how basic physics principles guide the engineering behind the design of real roller coasters.

Amusement Park Physics
You learn how the laws of physics are applied to many favorite amusement park rides, including roller coasters, bumper cars, carousels, and free fall and pendulum rides. A glossary and related resources are provided.

Centripetal Force: Roller Coaster Loops
What can be learned from a roller coaster ride? This video segment of a real ride explains the difference between centrifugal force and centripetal force and illustrates how roller coasters rely on centripetal force to give you a thrilling ride.

Make Tracks
At this site, you can design a roller coaster and then climb aboard and see how it rides! Watch the ride from right above the car itself or, if your stomach isn’t up to that, from a fixed position away from the track. Students will get a continuous readout of the coaster speed and acceleration. A fun site!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Inside the Mind of Google

Most of our students watch a lot of video—broadcast TV, cable, DVDs, streaming video via Netflix, videos on the Web. I've often tried to talk a student into substituting just a little TV time with some reading time. It's a hard sell. I'm not giving up on that, but I'd like to branch out and encourage students to watch some video that might help them learn about something they're interested in.

Inside the Mind of Google, a 2009 documentary from CNBC, might appeal to some students. Of course they all use and love Google. So where did it come from? Who started it? What's it like to work at Google? Why do people talk about privacy issues? How does Google make money? You can watch it online here. It's also available streaming from Netflix (for students like the one I talked to who watches Netflix on his WII).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Motivating Students

Here is an excellent article on  motivating students: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic: The Challenge of Motivation, Ecology of Education, Jan. 18, 2012. (Thanks for sharing that, Sarah!)

The hard thing about intrinsic motivation is just that it is intrinsic. Ideally we could always tap into a child's curiosity, excitement at trying new things, and joy at meeting a challenge. But face it, that's not always possible.

It's important to remember that extrinsic motivation (I'll give you a candy bar if you learn this list of spelling words) can work in the short term but doesn't create a lifelong learner.

I read about a study that compared two groups of kids in a reading program. One group of kids was rewarded with pizza for reading books. The other group of kids was still asked to read books but didn't get the pizza. It's not surprising that the kids in the pizza group read more books than the others. What is noteworthy is the follow-up, several months after the program: at that time, the kids who had been rewarded with pizza were reading fewer books than the kids who had no extrinsic reward! The pizza kids had gotten the message that reading was something to do in order to get a prize and didn't pick up the intrinsic rewards of reading. (This is one of many studies described in Alfie Kohn, Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes (1993, 1999) (1999 edition has new afterward), which I highly recommend.

The author of the article above recommends using lots of positive reinforcement. But what kind of positive reinforcement should we use? One point Kohn makes is that it's better to praise what the student does instead of the student's natural ability. Examples:

Say things like this:More than this:
I'm impressed at how you figured out how to do those story problems!You're good at math!
You put a lot of work into that art project. It turned out great!You are a talented artist!
You've been reading a lot on your own, and you've made a lot of progress!You're smart!

Why? Working hard and taking care with projects are things that the student can control, and when things turn out well, the student can justifiably take pride in the results. If everything is attributed to talent or intelligence, then it's out of the student's hands. Maybe this assignment went well, but if the next one doesn't come easily, well, that must just be because the student doesn't have enough talent, and the student can conclude that there's not much point in trying. (By the way, there's a lot of evidence that factors like self-discipline and willingness to keep trying after a failure are much more important to success than native intelligence.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Free Webinar: Reeling in Reluctant Readers

Want to learn about ways to encourage reluctant readers? Check out this free webinar from the American Library Association 11 a.m. Sept. 25:
Reeling in Reluctant Readers
Teachers and librarians are always looking for new ways to connect with children and teens categorized as “reluctant readers.” In this free, hour-long webinar, a reading specialist and literacy coach—along with representatives from Orca Book Publishers and Saddleback Educational Publishing—will discuss strategies and resources effective in reaching struggling readers ages 10 and up, as well as present books that combine high-interest topics with accessible writing. Also hear about new releases and best-selling series from Saddleback Educational Publishing and Orca Book Publishers. Moderated by Books for Youth associate editor Ann Kelley.Register now!

Can't make the date? Register anyway so a link to the video archive of this webinar can be e-mailed to you after the event. 

Why Study Geometry?

Here's an interesting comment I just read:
Younger people may not have taken a geometry class. The subject was reclassified as optionl some years go in the mistaken belief that it was no longer sufficiently relevant to tody's world, a view that demonstrates the ignorance of many of the people who make such decisions. Although it is true that hardly anyone ever makes direct use of geometrical knowledge, it was the only class int he high school curriculum that exposed children to the important concept of formal reasoning and mathematical proof. 
Exposure to formal mathemtical thinking is important for at least two reasons. First, a citizen in today's mathematically based world should have at least a general sense of one of the major contributors to society. Second, a survey carried out by the U.S. Department of Education in 1997 (the Riley Report) showed that students who completed high school geometry performed markedly better in gaining entry to college and did better when at college than those students who had not taken such a course, regardless of the subjects studied at college. As the survey organizers pointed out, the major factor was not how well the students do in such a course. Merely completing it gives them a tremendous advantage in all their other courses.
Keith Devlin, The Math Gene: How Mathematical Thinking Evolved and Why Numbers Are Like Gossip (New York: Basic Books, 2000), p. ___, note 2 (italics are in the original; the large font is my emphasis).

That led me to a speech by then Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, The State of Mathematics Education: Building a Strong Foundation for the 21st Century, Notices of the AMS, vol. 45, p. 487, April 1998. A couple of key paragraphs:
[A]lmost 90 percent of new jobs require more than a high school level of literacy and math skills. An entry- level automobile worker, for instance, according to an industry-wide standard, needs to be able to apply formulas from algebra and physics to properly wire the electrical circuits of a car. Indeed, almost every job today increasingly demands a combination of theoretical knowledge and skills that require learning throughout a lifetime. 
That is why it is so important that we make sure that all students master the traditional basics of arithmetic early on as well as the more challenging courses that will prepare them to take physics, statistics, and calculus in much larger numbers in high school and college.
A recent U.S. Department of Education report demonstrates that a challenging mathematics education can build real opportunities for students who might not otherwise have them. 
It found, for example, that young people who have taken gateway courses like Algebra I and Geometry go on to college at much higher rates than those who do not—83 percent to 36 percent. The difference is particularly stark for low-income students. These students are almost three times as likely—71 percent versus 27 percent—to attend college. 
In fact, taking the tough courses, including challenging mathematics, is a more important factor in determining college attendance than is either a student’s family background or income.
And here's a final point to ponder:
There is a disconnect about mathematics in this country. A recent Harris poll revealed that while more than 90 percent of parents expect their children to go to college and almost 90 percent of kids want to go to college, fully half of those kids want to drop mathematics as soon as they can.