Thomas Friedman’s idea of a “flat world,” outlined in his book The World is Flat suggested that the rapid diffusion of computer and telecommunications technology into the lives of individuals in many nations around the world ushered us into a radically different era. This led to new found possibilities for individuals and groups to collaborate, and do so seamlessly. Indeed some educators have taken Friedman’s ideas and created education projects, such as the Flat Classroom Project, developed by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay. This award winning project “flattens” or lowers the classroom walls so that instead of working in isolation, classes are joined via the Web to work together on various Internet based projects. The designers of the Flat Classroom Project involve students in Web 2.0 tools such as Wikispaces and Ning. This is an example of the creative use of technology to engage students in inquiry and innovation.
Yet, most science classrooms are not characterized as flat classrooms, indeed for many students entering a typical science classroom, there are borders to cross. Aikenhead and others have developed the concept of “crossing borders” as an approach to help us understand how students cope with worldviews that often are quite different than their own as they move from their own “everyday” culture to the culture of Western science. Based on earlier work by Phelan, and by Costa, Aikenhead has argued that we (science teachers) need to recognize the border crossings that students make between their own life-world subcultures and the subculture of science. For some students the transition is easy to negotiate, whereas for others it is next to impossible. Indeed four types of transitions are suggested from the research: smooth, managed, hazardous, and impossible. Here are categories developed by Costa (5 of the categories) and Aikenhead (1 category) that that are helpful in understanding the complexity of the classroom, but also providing us with knowledge to help students (and ourselves) negotiate the waters of the classroom.
- Potential Scientists: Worlds of family and friends are congruent with worlds of
both school and science. These students will have smooth border crossings that will most likely lead to deep understanding of science. These students’ self image closely aligned with Western science.
- I Want to Know: (this category was added by Glen Aikenhead to the others shown here that were developed by Victoria B. Costa). As described by Aikenhead, these students have adventurous border crossings that lead to a modest yet effective understanding of science (there are hazards, but students want to know). Their self-image and lifestyle resonate with the world of science, but the nature of Western science concepts is often a challenge to them.
- Other Smart Kids: Worlds of family and friends are congruent with the world of
school but inconsistent with the world of science. Many students in this category can easily do well in science, but show no real interest in science. They get by in science class. And according to some researchers, they apply “Fatima’s Rules” to manage themselves in science class.
- I Don’t Know Students: Worlds of family and friends are inconsistent with
worlds of both school and science. For these students, they will make hazardous border crossings in the world of science, but according to researchers, they can get by in science class through perserverence.
- Outsiders: Worlds of family and friends are discordant with worlds of both school
and science. For some of these students, they simply drop out physically or intellectually. Science simply does not fit their self-image or their life styles.
- Inside Outsiders: Worlds of family and friends are irreconcilable with world of
school, but are potentially compatible with world of science. But in general these students face impossible border crossings, perhaps due to institutional discrimination.
In all of the talk of reform, and change that will surely be put into motion over the next several years, there is a need to understand the science curriculum implications of classroom with multiple border crossings.Tags: border crossings, culture of science, science teaching