Naseem Interviews Bora Zivkovic, Organizer of the Science Online Conference

2010/12/03
By Naseem

In January, eight Extreme Biology students will travel to Science Online 2011, an international conference where scientists, educators, journalists, and students come together to discuss the way the web is changing science and science education.  As part of their preparation, the students have conducted interviews with conference organizers, presenters, and participants.  This is the first in the 2011 series.

Naseem interviews Bora Zivkovic:

As you know, eight of Ms. Baker’s students are venturing into the world of the international conference Science Online 2011 in January along with her and Dr. Ward! With two scientists, Marie-Claire Shanahan and Sophia Collins, we will be assembled in a panel to discuss the science illiteracy crisis in schools today. Our presentation is titled, “Still Waiting for a Superhero? Science Education Needs YOU!” and it meets on Saturday at 11:30am.  Each of us have chosen an attendee of Scio11 to interview.

Bora Zivkovic, and his colleague Anton Zuiker, are the co-founders of Science Online. Bora sometimes checks out our blog and references it on his own blog, “A Blog Around the Clock.” He originally hails from Belgrade, Yugoslavia (which is now Serbia), and came to the U.S. in 1991. Currently, Bora is at Scientific American, running its Guest Blog, organizing his fourth international conference, and tweeting all about it on his twitter!

How and why did you start/organize Science Online? Were you matched with criticism when you brought up the idea or did you find it initially successful in the first conference?

I first broached the idea of a conference on my blog, in a post that received many positive comments from other science bloggers. People who know each other online like the idea of meeting each other in person. But I did not think it was practically possible, due to the cost of organizing such a meeting and the cost of travel for people coming from all around the world. One day, my friend Anton Zuiker pulled me aside during one of the local blogger meetups and said that this was possible to do if we focus on the local scientists and bloggers, if we focus on substantive discussions (and not just meeting and having fun), and if we seek local businesses to act as sponsors.

Thus the first conference was born and we were surprised and delighted at the response – people flew in from around the world so even that first 2007 conference was not exactly local in flavor. We had about 130 attendees. There was plenty of coverage in the media and on blogs and all of it was very positive. People urged us to turn this into an annual event. It has grown since then from a one-day to a three-day event and this year we expect more than 300 attendees (and many more, unfortunately, on the waitlist) from several countries. We will either livestream or record all of the sessions so people not in attendance can follow and participate. And, like last year, we expect lively action on Twitter throughout the conference.

What is your opinion on the declining literacy of US students in the subject of science, and does it have a potential for improving?

This is a difficult question. On one hand, according to annual polls and studies, it appears that the level of science literacy of the U.S. population is not declining – it has been really bad for many decades now and remaining at such low levels today. On the other hand, the level of scientific understanding is not evenly distributed across geography (big cities and college towns scoring much better than suburbs and rural areas), race, class, age and other categories. Yet, there is a problem even with these data – they measure the knowledge of scientific facts, the “trivia”, and do not really reflect either deeper understanding of what science is and how it works, or the trust that non-scientists have in science, scientists and scientific findings.

Since there are multiple factors and causes of low scientific literacy, understanding of the scientific process, and the trust in science, countering them also has to involve a number of different strategies.

First, science education in schools, targeting children, has to move from memorization of facts and words to a broader and deeper understanding of how science works, why it is important to adopt a reality-based worldview, and why scientific experts should be (mostly) trusted. Students need to be taught critical skills and smart evaluation of sources of information – if they do, reality-based information coming from scientists will inevitably “win” over pseudoscience, quackery or traditional wishful thinking. They need to be shown why irrational thinking and unquestioning acceptance of whatever adults claim is potentially dangerous for both the individual and for the society.

We don’t need to train many more research scientists – there are already too few jobs for the existing ones – but to train the general population – children and their parents alike – how to be skeptical of everyone’s claims, how to evaluate them in terms of the real world, how to demand evidence and not just authority claims, how to have courage to lose some of the most cherished beliefs they got from their loving but misguided parents, and how to have courage to oppose dangerous irrational myths that many adults are pushing for various reasons: tradition, fear of change, formulaic and timid media conventions, short-term financial gain, religious belief, or political games. If each generation is a little bit more reality-based than their parents’ generation – that is progress. That is the story of the history of civilization. But it is a slow and hard process because it is so hard and requires so much courage to dismiss what your parents taught you about the way the world works.

So, changing education as a whole – not just science education, but all of it – to teach critical skills is one important thing to do. Actively fighting the anti-science cultural forces, perhaps by discovering and publicizing the sources of their financing, is another. Actively teaching the professionals in the mass media – by criticism, shaming, and demonstrating the way it is properly done on blogs and other online places – to cover the world from a reality-based perspective: treating the purveyors of anti-reality either by dissecting their claims, or laughing at them, or marginalizing them by ignoring them, and not just letting them have a microphone and thus making their views legitimate. Museums, libraries, Hollywood, gaming, blogosphere, etc. – all of those are players in affecting how the general population thinks about the world and what claims it takes for granted, what claims it accepts through careful consideration, and what claims it dismisses. Thus scientists, and other allies with a reality-based worldview, need to try to affect all these industries, get jobs within them and transform them from within. It is a long and hard job, but together we can do it.

Do you believe knowledge is free? If so, why don’t other people feel the same way? Do you think the concept affects the success of future scientists?

The source of this idea is Stewart Brand, who in 1984 said: “On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”

Knowledge is power. Those who have it are always going to have advantage over those who don’t, which is why they are reluctant to give it away, or at least to give it away without a financial gain for themselves. There are legitimate reasons for having secrets, e.g., national security, business plans that may lead to profits, etc. There are also legitimate reasons for charging for information if such information is a result of hard work by a professional who is trying to make a living from that work.

On the other hand, it has become very cheap to produce and disseminate information, and many people are quite willing to do it for free – see how many people take time to, for no financial reward, edit the Wikipedia or write about their area of real-world expertise on blogs. The means of production of information have become very cheap. Printing presses, radio stations, TV studios – those are very expensive to build, buy and run. The “real estate” – inches in a newspaper, minutes on radio and TV – are thus very expensive and people working in those industries expect to be paid for their investment. But the Web is very cheap – one needs electricity and online access to be able to do it. The “real estate” is essentially free.

There is no noticeable difference in either importance or quality between expensive information produced by professionals and the free information produced by experts and amateurs alike online. Both sources require judicious filtering and critical thinking skills – there is excellent information in both traditional and new media, and there is horrible misinformation in both as well – at approximately same ratios. Thus, with abundance of quality information available for free, fewer and fewer people find it in their interest to pay for the information, often substandard or at least available elsewhere, produced by traditional professionals.

It is a paradox that Web brought. In the past, it was expensive to produce and disseminate information. Today, it is expensive to prevent information for spreading around the globe for free. In this, I agree with Cory Doctorow who wrote that this phrase needs to be replaced by “People want to be free.” It is not about information in itself, it is who has it and how does one use it – it is about the people and their power.

When it comes to science, one needs to remember that not all scientists work in universities. Many are employed by the industry, government or the military. Scientist whose research can lead to patents, better national defense, or profit, are quite reasonable in being secretive and not publishing their results in places other than inside memos. But scientists working in the academia, funded by taxpayer money, should be embracing openness and transparency. Their careers are often dependent on their publication record, and having all of their work readily and freely available to everyone is good for their careers as their work gets read and cited more often. Also, unlike business or governmental information that may reasonably be kept secret (though there is always a tension where exactly that line is to be drawn), the findings of basic science are global in nature – we are all profiting from knowing and understanding how the world works. Thus such information should not be kept secret or kept hidden behind paywalls not affordable by most people (especially outside of the richest countries). More people in the world know and understand reality, better it is for all of us.

Why did you start your blog, “A Blog Around the Clock?” How much time a day do you spend on your blog? Is writing your blog a lot of work?

I started blogging in 2004 (and was on Usenet much earlier, in mid-1990s). I started “A Blog Around the Clock” in 2006 when I joined Scienceblogs.com. It was a fusion of my three older blogs, one focusing on science, one on politics and one on education. In the early years I used to spend a lot of time blogging. I posted an average of more than eight times a day for a while. My blog was both an outlet for everything I wanted to say and a kind of a marketing tool for myself – showing the world who I am, what I know, what I think. Years of blogging brought me a reputation online which resulted in two jobs – first with Public Library of Science (PLoS) from 2007 to 2010, and then with Scientific American (just started in September).

Right now, I am spending very little time on my blog. I have decided to take a little break from serious, thoughtful writing during this interim period – between leaving Scienceblogs.com and moving my blog to Scientific American site in a couple of months from now. I have plenty of ideas and am doing background and literature research for a number of posts I intend to write once my blog is again on a prominent platform with a large readership. In the meantime I am quite busy reading, learning, exchanging information on Twitter and Facebook, and actually working: running the Guest Blog at Scientific American and designing a science blogging network to be launched in a couple of months. Organization of ScienceOnline2011 and editing of the Open Laboratory anthology also take up quite a lot of my time.

You call yourself part of the “Beatles generation.” Did you find the technology of today hard to adjust to when it first came about? I understand you are an avid ‘Twitter-er.” Why Twitter?

I was never on the cutting edge of technology, but I did not avoid it either. I played games on early personal computers back in 1980 or so, but never learned any programing languages. I assumed that, as with every new technology, one needed to be an expert in the very beginning but that over time experts will develop the technology in ways that makes it easy to use by everyone. And look now – everyone, with zero computer skills, can use the Web in a variety of ways. It does not require one to write the software in order to start a blog, or communicate via social networks, or to upload videos online – the technology, originally restricted to those with special skills, is now democratized and open to everyone.

I understand that some people, often for professional reasons, have to try and test every new gadget and every new online service. I take my time. I take a look (as you can imagine, I get many invites to test or join various online services all the time), play around a little bit, and evaluate if the service is useful to me. Most of such things I abandon quickly. But there is no reason to put them down – just because something is not immediately useful to me does not mean it has no value for others.

I also seem to have a talent to immediately grasp the value and importance of something that is brand new. I instantly recognized the value of e-mail when it was new. The same with blogs (though it took me a while to start my own – I did when blogging became something useful for me). I joined Facebook in 2005, when it was just starting to move outside of Harvard. While I was already familiar with Friendster and MySpace at the time I instantly recognized that Facebook has some small but important differences that would make it much more useful than these older networks. I immediately understood, viscerally, the importance of Flickr and YouTube and FriendFeed. I still think that FriendFeed is the best social network ever designed, even today after a year since it was bought by Facebook so there is no new development. All the new improvements of Facebook, from “Like” buttons to improved search, are taken directly from FriendFeed and made Facebook so much better.

I did not join Twitter immediately. But I did not misunderstand it, or make fun of it. Some obviously smart people were finding a value in it, so I decided to keep an eye on it and, if and when it becomes valuable to me, to be prepared to jump in. I was monitoring Twitter indirectly – many people import their tweets into FriendFeed. When Twitter as a platform matured, when people discovered and settled on more useful ways of using Twitter, and when a sufficient number of scientists, science bloggers, science writers, science journalists, science teachers, and media critics got on Twitter and started using it in more productive ways (exchanging information and filtering links, not just chatter), I decided it was time for me to join in and I did not need any time to learn how to use it – it was by then already obvious.

If you could meet any scientist, dead or alive, who would you meet and why? What would you say to them?

I know this is no surprise, but I would really love to meet Charles Darwin. I’d love to have a nice, long dinner with him during which I can give him an update on how much his theory was developed, expanded and refined since he died. I’d teach him the basics of genetics, recount the debates on levels of selection (e.g., group selection, species selection), explain new concepts like neutral selection, niche-construction, punctuated equilibrium, (hyper)adaptationism, evo-devo as a new discipline, describe fossils discovered since then, summarize incredible advances in neuroscience and psychology, as well as describe cultural and social aspects of his ideas that were often misused for political purposes, from eugenics to creationism. I bet he’d have loved to get such an update from the future!

What was it like when you first came to the United States from your home country, Yugoslavia, which is now Serbia?

It was pretty scary as first. Yugoslavia was breaking apart in 1991 when I left, with several civil wars starting within the constituent Republics. I had no idea when and if I could go back, and also had no idea what to do if I stay here. In the long run, it all turned for the best. I went to grad school. I became a US citizen in 1998 and visited home three times in the meantime. The ex-Yugoslav countries, including Serbia, are now doing OK, trying to forget the nasty 1990s and have their sights set on the future.

Thank you. Looking forward to seeing you in January.

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  • Danielle

    Also, I know from my personal experience, science was usually taught to me by memorization, not discussion and understanding. Do you think this will change over time? I ask this because I think that the Evolutionary Biology class I’m in right now is definately more interesting and much more discussion based than any other science, or even any other class I’ve been in, and I definately enjoy it much more, and I think I’m learning and understanding more than I have in the past. And I think this is because We are listening to other poeple opinions and branching off of evolution and going on the internet and learning about so much more.

  • rachel

    Reading the blog post, what I found the most interesting is the literacy of US students on the subject of science. Without science, the world would be completely different today and I believe students should have a deeper understanding of how science works, just like you had explained. I think people still believe their religion and parents more than science and evidence, and they should be taught the reality of the world. You want scientists to get jobs within the media and other industries, if the scientists don’t effect the industries like you said, what is another way that science could be brought out into the public?

  • Samantha

    I think it’s really interesting that you created a blog to educate students on science. Science does seem to lose its value and education in schools but I think with people like you, who are creating blogs and working to promote science more into the world, are doing a really good job. I think science is really important myself and if parents and children took their time to listen and learn about science, I think they would be really surprised about what they can learn and understand about the world around us. I also strongly agree with the fact that it is not information being submitted online and how it’s used, but that it’s about “the people and their power.” People don’t pay for information to be placed online because you can literally do it for free. However, it does cost more to pay for information that you don’t want to be published online. In my opinion, I think that’s stupid. Education and knowledge is power and nothing should be hidden from the public. Recently, our teacher Ms. Baker gave us an article to read in class about global warming. The article was about two newspapers that talked about the government hiding information regarding global warming, to the public. After I read this article, I was really surprised because I never knew that the government could hide this kind of information from us, which is literally destroying our planet! The government should be spending money to stop global warming and educate the public on global warming, rather than spending money to hide information about it. I think your blog, “A Blog Around the Clock,” is really inspiring and if you’re able to educate students and average citizens about science, that’s astounding. Not only because of the education being said in your blog but because science finally doesn’t have to be looked at as boring and only memorization as you said, it can be taken as a fun and interesting educational experience.

  • Chris

    First of all great questions Naseem! To Bora thanks for taking some time out to participate in this interview. I completely agree with your statements about how the internet is changing the way we look at science. Going into my Evolutionary Biology class with Ms. Baker I had no idea that science was so online, now only a few months in and I’m already blogging online and learning how scientists connect through the internet and express their ideas to other scientists across the world. Science is about understanding the subject and not just memorizing, and all this online knowledge is perfect for that.

  • Victoria

    Bora, Congratulations on all of your success! I have a response to part of your answer for the second question, “First, science education in schools, targeting children, has to move from memorization of facts and words to a broader and deeper understanding of how science works.” I agree with that statement because I, for one do not memorize science. I think it is quite pointless to do so because then you’re not learning, you are just storing facts into your brain. It is more interesting and impressive if you really know science and know what you are talking about, rather than just rolling facts off of your tongue. Actually learning the science makes you smarter too. You are not only learning science, you are understanding other things in the world. By learning science, it becomes easier to have a conversation about the world, and politics, and so on.

  • Andrei

    The answers to these questains are very interesting.I really support Bora’s idea that science educations in schools should be changed in order to improve the literacy of students in the US. As I am still in school i understand exactly what Bora means when he says that science today is mostly the memorization of facts, and yes that does get boring and is surely not the way to teach the public, maybe thats why scientists are having a hard time of informing people about controversial concepts such as race and global warming. I am currently taking a course, evolutionary biology, which is a perfect example of how science should be thought. We are not really lectured on what to beleive but rather we are given the opportunity to be skeptical to scientific ideas and really develop our own ideas of who and what we should consider to be true.
    I also believe that Science Online is a brilliant idea and a great way to better teach the public on scientific concepts. i myself find it useful to have the ideas and opinions of many people on one page about everyday concepts. It opens your mind to new things and that is great. Through informative organizations like this and a revision of how science is thought i think that the US, along with the world, will be better informed and gain a better interest for science.

  • Jess

    After reading this interview i found it interesting that you first found almost immediate success in your first “Science Online” conference. I agree with you on the fact that the literacy of U.S students in the subject of science can increase. However what are some other ways that you can “train the general population”? Do you think that just by getting jobs within the industries and transforming them is enough? Also why do you think that people are so influenced by what the media has to say? Why don’t they challenge what is proposed as being true? Also since technology has had such a major influence on the public today, what are some other ways besides bloging, and twitter that you can spread the knowledge. After all knowledge is power, so what are some other ways you can spread that power. Also do you find that your blog has been a successful way to get the population to see how powerful knowledge really is?

  • Mayana

    In response to the question you were asked, “Why did you start your blog, A Blog Around the Clock? How much time a day do you spend on your blog? Is writing your blog a lot of work?” You said, “My blog was both an outlet for everything I wanted to say and a kind of a marketing tool for myself!” Your statement made me reflect on my first blog post project that I am currently working on in Ms. Baker’s class. I tend to be really opinionated and it shows in my works of writing. I know my flaws and would like to really stay on one topic. Do you have any suggestions, on how I can focus on one point of view and not be bias towards the other topic? My blog is about Stem Cell research and the controversy behind it. I chose this topic because I wasn’t too familiar with it, and I wanted to broaden my horizons. I also learned about Chimera (an animal that has two or more different populations of genetically distinct cells) in my research. Knowledge is power!

  • http://blog.coturnix.org Bora Zivkovic

    Hello,

    First, Naseem, I want to thank you for this opportunity. I have to say I was very impressed by your questions. I do not recall getting such good questions from professional journalists: you covered all the main topics, framed your questions very well, and forced me to think very hard about my answers to each one of them.

    @Danielle, @Victoria and @Andrei: I have to say that there is a wealth of literature showing how engagement works better than memorization and there are a number of programs that are already doing it well. Inquiry-based science education has especially been well integrated into college curricula. It is harder in high schools – even when teachers want to do this better, the testing requirements force them to fall back on memorization. It is your fortune to be at Staten Island Academy where Miss Baker is given the freedom to do this kind of stuff. There are many other schools in the country where science teachers may not have as much science background as Miss Baker has, nor are administrators as supportive of their staff.

    @rachel: That is an excellent question! If scientists are not able to get inside the media and entertainment industries in order to change them from within, they can also go around them, massively using online media and entertainment venues: blogs, social networks, YouTube, online contests of various kinds, etc. Both strategies can, should and are already applied by scientists and science communicators – it just takes time to get from A to B and for the first effects to be felt. I am quite optimistic it will work out well in the end.

    @Samantha: I know it is surprising to hear that governments around the world, including ours, can hide important information from the citizens. The recent outcry about WikiLieaks, the non-national media organization that publicizes secret documents, is about this tension. Those who possess secret information have power over those who don’t and will thus respond very aggressively when such information is exposed – that is a loss of power for them. I expect that these document releases will force the governments to be more open and transparent: after all, they work for us, this is why we elect them and pay their salaries. I understand that there are some things that should be secret for reasons of national security, but WikiLeaks did not publish any of those – all the documents show is how diplomats abuse their power: if there is more transparency, the diplomats will do their job better, resulting in a more secure nation and more peaceful world.

    @Chris: Thank you for your comments. Keep reading, learning, thinking and writing – you are our future.

    @Jess: So many good questions – that is a whole new interview! Let me try briefly to respond to some of it.
    On infiltration into the media and entertainment industries, see my response to Rachel above.
    On blind trust in the media: I recently wrote a blog post on exactly that question. It is important to take a broader historical view. The 20th century was an exception in the way people exchanged information – the only century in which information was provided by large companies instead of people communicating with each other. This unusual model of information exchange – a one-direction broadcast without an ability to respond – is something human minds were not prepared to handle. When there is only one source of information, e.g., your local newspaper or radio station or PBS, you have no choice but to believe what it says. We have thus lost the ability to criticially evaluate all the information we get. With the Web, we are going back to the more natural way of exchanging information which requires us to re-learn how to treat information critically.

    On other way of spreading power: Web is a great way to reach people…in order to get them organized offline. Twitter does not make a revolution happen, but Twitter allows fast and broad communication to a large number of people who can then organize very fast and effect change in the physical world. I bet the Civil Rights movement leaders wish they could have harnessed the power of the Web back then – the movement would have organized faster, with more people, and would be more efficient, larger and would have won faster if the Web and social media existed back then. Perhaps the success of ScienceOnline conferences is because people recognize how well it marries offline to online action, and how much more power such synergy brings.

    On the success of my blog: I do not see my own individual blog as hugely successful on its own. Its power is in the way it is intergated into a larger network of science blogs, with overlaps with medical blogs, education blogs, nature-lovers’ blogs, technology blogs, media/journalism blogs, political blogs, atheist blogs, skeptical blogs, etc, as well as well integrated into the social media like Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube, etc. A lot of us together can spread messages, information and ideas far and wide, and I see myself as one of the members of this community, helping scientific information spread not just to other scientists but also to the lay audiences in these various networks.

    @Mayana: Do your research really well. Read all the different opinions including those you disagree with, try to understand why people belive what they believe, and get a good grasp of the facts. If, after all that, you are firmly standing in one corner as you feel that facts are on one side only, do not be afraid to state so. Trying to cover the issue which is lop-sided on facts (i.e., facts are firmly on one side of the issue) in a “balanced” way is dishonest and should not be done – all you’d do that way would lose trust and reputation of your readers. Yes, the holders of opposing positions will not like what you write, they may get aggressive in the comment sections, and you should read them carefully and treat them as fellow human beings, but in the end, if you are stating the truth as it is, you are doing everyone a service by stating it clearly.

  • http://www.boulders2bits.com Karyn

    This is a great interview and follow-up discussion in the comments. I am working with Bora on organizing some aspects of Science Online 2011 (books & authors for one), so I look forward to meeting some of you in January. I also am one of the instructors for a physics pedagogy course at the University of Virginia, so I am very interested in the details of improving science education.

    My question to Ms. Baker’s students is: What are the best ways to assess (for grading purposes) the kind of concept-driven (as opposed to memorization-driven) science that you are advocating? I agree that this type of science education is the way to go, but many of the teachers I train have a difficult time finding ways to meet their science department’s (or their state’s ) requirements for assessment without resorting to detail driven tests that focus on memorization. What ideas do you have?

    Karyn

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    [...] Naseem Interviews Bora Zivkovic, Organizer of the Science Online Conference [...]

  • http://mcshanahan.wordpress.com Marie-Claire Shanahan

    @Naseem Thanks for posting such a great interview! I really like the questions that you posed – it made for a very interesting read.

    I’m also really happy to see people talking about the ways that we can improve science education. My university students are studying science to be science teachers. It’s inspiring for them to know that, like them, you want to find ways to make science engaging and open to everyone.

  • http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/10/25/spore-the-evolutionary-game/ Yianni

    @Karyn

    I think the a big way for students to actually learn and not memorize would be to physically do or see something instead of just reading. If you have only words infront of you it gets very boring after a little while and not to mention confusing. If we could for example do more hands on experiments, then we would grasp the topic much better.

  • Michael

    Lets face it:America is rapidly declining in it’s educational status compared to the rest of the world. We are falling behind in critical areas such as math and scinecs, and all the polictians are doing is bickering over what they should do! You, on the other hand, have taken great strides in figuring out ways to teach students again. To many kids hooked on using computers? Have the classes online! If you can find a way to connect with the student, you already madegreat progress. Keep up the good work! By the way, I love the Beatles.

  • Demi

    Bora, Congratuations for all your success. Having a blog and discussing science is really an easier way to understand science more. As a science student, memorizing important information was always a weakness, but now being a part of a class that is more disscusion based than memorizing really helps me. Learning to explain a topic using many examples really is more benifical than regurgitating the information that was just on paper. Just like you said science seems to lose its value in education. Many conservative parents disagree with the evidence based scientific theories because of there strong beliefs in religion. By finding a way to make this easier and to teach online and to give information by blogs is great, but do think that it might become impossible for the growing generation to get past the social side of the internet? Do you feel that there isn’t many sources of for people who for people who do not know websites like extremebiology.net to find blogs that are good for learing from?

  • http://www.statenislandacademy.org/publicnews/?p=139 Naseem Interviews Bora Zivkovic, Organizer of the Science Online Conference « Staten Island Academy School News

    [...] the students have conducted interviews with conference organizers, presenters, and participants.  Read the first in the 2011 series… COMMENTS: NONE YET FOR THIS POST POSTED BY dhayes ON December 7th, 2010. PERMALINK [...]

  • Anonymous

    Karyn,
    The thing is that, from my perspective, it must be somewhat difficult to learn to understand concepts (without memorization) because at some point facts and definitions have to be put into play and learnt before one fully understands the concept. Science is based on evidence, isn’t it? For example, the concept of energy is very elaborate, but the simple definition that introduced my class to it was “the ability to do work.” Personally, I even have trouble with connecting a memorized lesson in one class to another class, and with the critical insight my teachers expect of me. Some of my teachers may take definitions and ask us students to investigate into them further, make some sense of it.

    I found that with memorization of facts, the teacher can test your critical thinking skills many different ways (www.bit.ly/livestrongarticle) Remembering assertions is essential, simply because you need to know them in order to properly use analysis. Testing students on their skill levels in knowledge, comprehension, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation as well as using methods like that of Socrates (http://bit.ly/socraticmethod) in the classroom engage their critical thinking skills, according to Dr. Kristen Stephens of Duke University. Teachers can test your knowledge by referring back to material you previously learned, like some of my teachers like to do. When my English teacher asks me to compare passages in Romeo and Juliet or asks me about the author’s purpose in his work, he is stimulating my comprehension and helping understand meaning. My analytical skills could be tested when I’m assigned to take something apart mentally, and then asked what factors contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. For our blog, it’s evaluating the credibility of sources. I could go on and on, some of these methods are already being employed in classrooms because of their success rates. :)

    LINKS:

    http://www.bit.ly/livestrongarticle
    Duke: http://bit.ly/hdwOqQ

  • http://twitter.com/ktraphagen Karyn Traphagen

    Hi Naseem,

    Thank you for replying to my comment. I would really like to continue this discussion with you in person at some time during Science Online 2011. Perhaps we can plan to grab a cup of coffee at some point or meet over one of the meals so that we can talk some more. You can find me on Twitter @ktraphagen and we can stay in touch as we get closer to the conference. All the best, Karyn

  • http://blog.coturnix.org/2010/12/31/2010-in-review/ 2010 in review | A Blog Around The Clock

    [...] I was interviewed by a Staten Island Academy student for their Extreme Biology blog – read the interview here. [...]

  • http://blog.coturnix.org/2011/01/01/best-of-december/ Best of December | A Blog Around The Clock

    [...] I was interviewed by a Staten Island Academy student for their Extreme Biology blog – read the interview here. [...]

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