3+ Quick- Birthday, (grading) scale matters, exposing climate fraud, debunking handbook

These aren't brand new items, as they're things I came across awhile ago and am just getting around to posting now. In addition, I realized that the anniversary of this blog just passed. My first post was published January 12, 2008. As I look back at my first posts, it's clear that I've come a long way (hopefully for the better)- in my location, in my career, and in my thinking. So, in celebration of the 4th anniversary of this blog, let me present you with the following interesting tidbits:

Scale matters (Rick Wormelli)


Thanks to the ActiveGrade blog for bringing this to my attention. I don't know how many times I've had discussions with other teachers on the topic of what constitutes fair and effective grading. Often the most heated topic (where I never made any headway) involved the giving out of zeroes for either missing or poorly done classwork. Rick Wormelli gives a great explanation of why grading scales matter- and specifically why zeroes are no good. It's long for YouTube at 8+ minutes, but it's worth it:

Exposing a climate science fraud (Ethan Siegel)


The post is ostensibly a take down of Judith Curry's claim's that recent studies and reports on the topic of climate change are "hiding the decline1." However, the real appeal of this post (for me) is how it so effectively describes how science and scientists work. He goes through the data, the uncertainties in measurement, and explains how exactly it is that scientists determine that some effect is real and not just a statistical fluke.

The Debunking Handbook (Skeptical Science)


Somewhat related, the Skeptical Science blog (one of the best places to find science-based information about climate science) released The Debunking Handbook a while ago and just recently updated it. The Handbook provides guidelines for communicating about misinformation and gives tips to avoid falling into common pitfalls. In their own words, "The Handbook explores the surprising fact that debunking myths can sometimes reinforce the myth in peoples' minds. Communicators need to be aware of the various backfire effects and how to avoid them..." The handbook is a free PDF download available at their website.

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  1. "Hiding the decline" is the (totally false) idea that climate scientists are tweaking their graphs to make it seem like the Earth is getting warmer, when it really has been cooling the last decade (which it hasn't). Read the full article for more details. (back)

3 Quick- Subjectives, grading stinks, and modeling with Kelly O'Shea

Fairly often I find things online that I think are either terribly interesting, awesome, or thought-provoking, but don't have either the time or the will or write anything in depth about how or why they're interesting, awesome, or thought-provoking. I'd still like to share these items, so I've decided to make the 3 Quick a semi-irregular feature1 here at Re:Thinking. Offered with little to no editorialization. Feel free to kick off a conversation in the comments.

Subjects or Subjectives (Michael Wesch)


Dr. Wesch says:

As an alternative to the idea that we teach “subjects,” I’ve been playing with the idea that what we really teach are “subjectivities”: ways of approaching, understanding, and interacting with the world. Subjectivities cannot be “taught” – only practiced. They involve an introspective intellectual throw-down in the minds of students.

I agree. I think this is something discussed fairly often in the scientific spectrum (though through different terminology). For me it boils down to the statement, "I'm not concerned if my students can't remember specific scientific content if they have learned to think scientifically."



The Case Against Grades (Alfie Kohn)


Alfie Kohn has never been a supporter of giving out grades, and this article goes into detail on the three big effects of grading:

  • Grades tend to diminish students’ interest in whatever they’re learning.
  • Grades create a preference for the easiest possible task.
  • Grades tend to reduce the quality of students’ thinking.

Even better, he gives some examples of assessment done right. My only beef with the article is the seeming lack of acknowledgement that many (probably most) teachers are working in situations where they would simply not be able to get rid of grades due to the requirements of their schools and districts.



Model Building (Kelly O'Shea)


If you're interested in using the well-researched and effective Modeling Instruction with physics, let me recommend Kelly O'Shea's series explaining how her classes build the models. It gives an excellent peek inside a classroom using modeling to those (like myself) who are interested in implementing it in the near future. As of this posting, she's written up explanations for the Balanced Force Particle Model and Constant Acceleration Particle Model, but it looks like she'll have six in total when she's done.

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  1. "Semi-irregular" as in however long it takes me to come across 3 items to share and have the time to write up a post. (back)

3 Quick: Engineering, For-profit schools, CIPA

Three quick items today:

Uno

I've been thinking about engineering in schools and student (& teacher) perceptions of engineering as a discipline and skill set.

My take: It's misunderstood as being dorky, nerdy, science-y. Educators (& politicians) sell engineering as a great profession that will save America- but then don't do much to actually let students DO engineering during the school day. On that note, I'd love if you educators out there could spare 5 minutes of your students time to have them take this survey. It asks two basic questions: "What do engineers actually do?" and "What do engineers need to know?" As a reward for helping me, I present Sheldon Cooper on engineers for your enjoyment. I'll keep the survey open indefinitely.

Deux

I've never liked for-profit organizations running schools. Also, I've never been very good about articulating what exactly skeezes me out about them. Chris Lehmann is good at articulation, and his post Why I'm Against For-Profit Schools nails my feelings on the topic. Read it.

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Every try to convince your network administrator that they should unblock twitter? or blogs? or any social networking site? If your experiences are similar to mine, you'll get told that they're required to categorically block these sites if they school is going to get e-Rate funding through CIPA. Turns out that's bogus. CIPA makes no such claims. In fact, the FCC (the government agency behind CIPA & e-Rate) goes out of their way to point out:

"Declaring such sites categorically harmful to minors would be inconsistent with the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act’s focus on “educating minors about appropriate online behavior, including interacting with other individuals on social networking websites and in chat rooms, and cyberbullying awareness and response.”

Hat tip to John Pederson for finding and posting this. If you visit his post, you'll find the link to the original FCC document.