2 Interesting Questions

I was asked two very interesting questions today. I needed some time to consider them, and after thinking about it for a while realized that these are the kinds of questions that you could take a LONG time to answer. So I quickly threw some thoughts down. The two questions, and my brief start at answers are below:

1. If you were given the opportunity to develop a Science and Innovation Strategy, what would be included, and how would it be implemented?

Tony Wagner claims in his book Creating Innovators, that essential qualities are curiosity, collaboration, integrative thinking and a bias towards action or experimentation.  He also says that these skills can be taught and nurtured.

So, with that in mind a strategy would have to enable schools to foster that kind of thinking in teachers and students.  It needs to be multi-disciplinary, inquiry based and completely open to take many different directions. The ‘curriculum’ for such a program would be one of skills and attitudes, and not necessarily one of content and knowledge, as in the 21st Century, it becoming more important to be able to DO something with knowledge after you find it, to create NEW knowledge out of old, rather than to spit out 300 years of established facts.  In order to allow this, we may have to consider a new approach to our curriculum and courses, or take the grand leap, and tear down the credit system to one of a mentor or apprenticeship kind of approach where the students learn with each other and teachers.  Practically speaking, many would have to see it in action to understand. There are models of innovative schools around the world that could be drawn from. High Tech High in California, Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia are but two examples that come to mind.

Some things that I’d suggest reading:

Tony Wagner – Creating Innovators
Will Richardson – Why School?
Seth Godin – Stop Stealing Dreams (free download http://www.squidoo.com/stop-stealing-dreams)

2. What would a science lab look like, sound like, be like if it was technology enabled? What would be needed? How would it be implemented?

The science lab needs to mirror the reality of science. So that means having access to all the tools of modern science (within reason of course) but computers, network access, some tools like probes etc… But the key is that they activities in the lab need to mirror the actuality of science. I’d be happier seeing real science being done in an inquiry fashion with students asking great questions and not having any tech than I would if they had all the tech in the world and all they did was confirmatory, cookbook lab activities. High school labs need to be places that encourage open-ended problem solving.  Teachers need to be somewhat comfortable with some of the tech, but they need to be more comfortable with the approach.

So? What are your thoughts? What needs to be considered in a Science and Innovation Strategy?

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Science & Art

Last week on This Week in Science and Education, we had the chance to talk about the intersection of science and art with Dennis McCormac from The Ontario Genomics Institute. Dennis finds unique and engaging ways to get students to see the beauty that can come from science and express it in ways that are novel. It was a great discussion with lots of connections to the work that we do everyday, in many classrooms!

T-WiSE #77

TWiSE #64 – Earth Science @ Waterloo

VROC just posted episode 64 of This Week in Science and Education, where Kevin and I visit the Earth Science Museum at the University of Waterloo.  It’s a very cool place with lots of things to see when you visit there. If you live in the London area, you should check it out. If you teach in the area, it would make a great spot for a class visit to learn about geology.

It’s worth watching the whole episode to see the whole thing, but I want to link a specific part here. I had the opportunity to talk to Kathy Feick, who is a 3rd year student at Waterloo.  We had a short conversation about what she does at the Museum and also about the kinds of things that she has learned about being a university student and what high school students and teachers can consider in order to help with that transition. Click here to jump to the specific part of the episode where we discuss this, or watch the whole thing embedded below. (Jump to 16:09 if you want to just see the discussion I’m talking about)