I've heard of people using the revision histories of Wikipedia articles to study how thoughts and ideas about a topic have changed over time. However, for practical use in a high school science class featuring underclassmen, this has always seemed like it would be pretty labor intensive and wouldn't have the best time to learning ratio compared to other activities.
A better, quicker, more basic activity:
- Find a graphic on Wikimedia Commons that illustrates concepts undergoing new discoveries and/or refinements (i.e. Trans-Neptunian Objects)
- Scroll through the graphics in chronological order.
- Observe how our knowledge on the subject has changed over time.
I've done this for you here:
This isn't perfect. The graphics more than likely aren't updated in perfect sync with the discoveries (thus throwing off the timeline), but as a quick and easy overview of recent discoveries, it works.
Admittedly, finding graphics that this type of analysis will work for may be difficult. As an alternative, observing the changing graphics in Wikipedia articles themselves may also be a good method for showing how scientific ideas have changed over time. Imagine in several years' time students going back to the Wikipedia entry for Global warming and comparing the graphics projecting future effects of climate change
on global temperatures to their current models in a study of how climate models have changed over time.
Any other ideas on how this or similar ideas might be used?