Looking for Questioning (HS) Teachers

Some of the coolest moments in teaching only occur when your students realize they can safely ask anything. On random days, at random times, (during some unpredictable moment) one student will suddenly raise their hand and ask a question along the lines of “What you just said reminds me of something on TV.” They will then explain what they saw and may not have understood, and will end with, “Can you explain?” or “Can you tell us more?” or something similar as they try and build connections. These random student questions can lead the class on wild rides (and I love rollercoasters). They give me a chance to answer a lot of questions involving space, astronomy, and spacecraft in my physics classes as we stray off topic into the...

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Scientific Dialogue by Journal Article: Coffee maybe required

Today I had two juxtapositions of journal articles. On one hand I had the photo-ready proofs of a journal article on the Astronomy Cast listener survey I submitted to, and had accepted by CAP. On the other hand I had a bunch of journal articles my student was working on data mining for our research (those articles are on the evolution of galaxies in clusters). I have to admit, my own journal article (which I’ll post links to once it is online), would put me to sleep – it is a dry recitation of facts, figures, numbers and a couple charts. Everything is quantified and potential errors are noted. If you want to replicate my analysis, almost everything you need is there, and the only stuff missing is the exact words folks wrote in the fill in the blank...

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Physics Exams as Germ Warfare?

This week all of my physics classes are taking their first exam. Today my two sections of  Science Foundations for elementary education majors had their exam and tomorrow my science and engineering students have their calculas-based have their first exam. My exams are decidedly evil – they are tough and the average student will need 90% of the time (2 hours) to get them done. I’m sure that many of my students wish me ill while taking my exams. This time they might get their wish. While watching my students take their exams today I witnessed a steady stream of sneezing, sniffling, nose blowing, and other signs of students just not being healthy. As they took their exams, without thinking and without malicious thought (I’m hoping), the rubbed...

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The Wizards in the Tower

Somewhere, once upon a time, the metaphor of faculty living in a mystical Ivory Tower entered the vernacular. I don’t know the history of this imagery, but it always conjures images of wizards working their spells while the look out over the common people – the little people – from their vantage on high. These gray-haired men of wisdom sometimes enter the courtyard to educate the young. At their feet the future wise ones absorb knowledge and engage in Socratic dialogue. This image doesn’t have much room for young woman – heck it doesn’t really have room for the young at all. But it’s just a metaphor, right? The problem with stereotypes and metaphors is they are often rooted in a certain amount of truth. One of my favorite...

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ASP – EPO, post defacto blogging

I admit it, I found my wall. Sometime Friday afternoon the part of my brain capable of writing and (somewhat more importantly) filtering the majority of the silly thoughts in my head from coming out my mouth turned off. As Saturday came on the heels of 5 hours of sleep, and crawled across 18 hours of work and travel, progressively more part of my brain continued to shut off. On Sunday, I was a puddle of brainless mush, and I alternated between sleeping, and spending far to many hours at the local home improvement store trying to figure out how to repair my bathroom. Today, I feel almost human, and I can reflect on last weeks meeting. Perhaps the most wonderful thing about the meeting was realizing that at any moment I could be talking to someone with no college...

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ASP-EPO: Day One

(I’m on a bad connection and will add links later.) Another day, another conference. From Dragon*Con, I crossed half-way across the country to Chicago to attend the 119th Meeting of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific on “EPO and a Changing World.” This morning I’m sitting in a session presented by astronaut George “Pinky” Nelson (the astronaut who repaired Solar Max) on things that need to happen for education to be made more effective. He is focusing largely (and I feel correctly) on the need to support our teachers by providing them training, content, and infrastructure. Intriguing comment of the day: “We should only teach a geometric explanation of the lunar phases. Let’s pick a grade, say 5th grade, and...

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