9 Compelling Science, Technology & Education Blogs

There is a profusion of blogs on the Internet, but some of them stand out because they are not only compelling, but they convey accomplished, artful, intelligent, and powerful content.  I’ve selected nine blogs that I read regularly to expand my own thinking about science teaching, technology and education.   They represent the range of topics that interest me, and that I find are important.  I hope you will, too. Here they are.

  • Cool Cat Teacher Blog  The author of this blog is Vicki Davis, a full-time high school teacher of technology, and global curriculum developer in Camilla, Georgia. She is author of award winning wiki, blogs, and co-founder of the Flat Classroom projects You will find some of the most innovative ideas on teaching and technology on this blog, as well as a philosophy that clearly is progressive.  The name of her website is derived from the name the Westwood Wildcats, which was suggested by her students.
  • Dot Earth  Written by Andrew C. Revkin, Dot Earth is a one stop site to learn about the efforts to balance human affairs with the Earth’s limits.  The Dot Earth blog is part of the Opinion section of the New York Times. Here you will find an interactive site that you can use to explore the trends and ideas about the environment which you can share with your students.  It is a trusted environmental science website.
  • Education Matters Written by Chris Guerrieri, a teacher in Jacksonville, Florida, this blog is a very active site for reading about the issues that impinge on the day-to-day life of a teacher in the classroom.  Guerrieri imparts a very strong view of what’s wrong with education today (too many people in suits who have no clue about what’s happening in the classroom).  If you are looking for some support on issues like high-stakes tests, bullying, billionaires in education, poverty, and how teachers really make a difference, then you should go to his site.
  • Mr. Barlow’s Science Teaching Blog Mr. Barlow is a high school science teacher in Melbourne, Australia. His blog is subtitled “A Bunch of Interesting Stuff,” and you will clearly find an abundance of stuff here.  His blog is complemented by biology teaching podcasts, and Apps for the iPhone and iPad.  But for teachers, his site is a model for the way technology can be integrated into science teaching.  You’ll find examples of this at his site, and it is quite impressive.  Be sure to visit Mr. Barlow.
  • Schools Matter. This is a powerful site that addresses issues in “public education policy, and it advocates for a commitment to and a re-examination of the democratic purposes of schools. If there is some urgency in the message, it is due to the current reform efforts that are based on a radical re-invention of education, now spearheaded by a psychometric blitzkrieg of “metastasizing testing” aimed at dismantling a public education system that took almost 200 years to build.”  If you have not read a blog on social justice, I recommend you go over there.  There are several authors who contribute to the site including Judy Rabin, Jim Horn, Robert D. Skeels, and P.L Thomas.
  • Teachers Lead This is a website authored by Anthony Cody and Nancy Flanagan, each National Board Certified Teachers, with combined experience of more than 50 years.  Anthony was a science teacher in Oakland, California, and Nancy a music educator in Michigan.  Their commitment is to leadership from the ground up, and to provide the tools to teachers and administrators.  Anthony Cody manages a blog on the Education Week website entitled Living in Dialogue, and writes provocative essays on educational reform.  Nancy Flanagan writes a blog on Education Week entitled Teacher in a Strange Land.
  • The Dispersal of Darwin This is a blog devoted to all things Darwin, written by Michael D. Barton, who recently finished his graduate work the history of science at Montana State University. It’s one of my favorites. Here is what he says about his blog: My interests are with Charles Darwin, and the development of evolutionary theory. This blog is a place for me to share with interested folk news and views on Darwin, evolution, and natural history, with occasional posts about other science-related topics.  I’ve written a great deal about Darwin on my own site, and found that Michael’s site was the place to go for information and great images.
  • The Intersection Edited by Chris Mooney, The Intersection blog has for nearly 10 years brought analysis of the intersection between science, politics, and culture. Chris is a science and political journalist and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. If you are looking for cutting edge progressive science, then I highly recommend Chris’ blog.
  • The Royal Treatment I met Ken Royal more than ten years ago in Hartford, CT during a seminar I presented on science teaching for the Bureau of Education & Research. Subsequently I visited Ken’s middle school science classroom where he was doing scouting expeditions into the world of technology and telecommunications. In the 1990’s very few teachers had integrated the Internet into teaching. Ken was one of leaders of using the Internet in the classroom. Now Ken is with Scholastic where one of his responsibilities is writing the blog, The Royal Treatment. He says: After 34 years in education, working at all levels and areas, including as instructional technology specialist, it has been easy to look and write about these technologies and products from an educator’s point of view. I look forward to invitations to attend conferences, review products, and interview the people behind the products. It is also a joy listening to district leaders actually using these products to improve technology, management, curriculum and safety better in their districts. This is the blog for technology know-how.

Conclusion.  These are 9 compelling websites that will inform not only about science and technology, but science and education in society. You can visit the Cool Cat Teacher to find amazing ways to use technology with your students and connect with others around the world. The Royal Treatment will keep you up-to-date on new technology products and ways that schools are using them. For great ideas and science content, you should visit  Mr. Barlow’s site, and don’t forget his Podcasts and Apps. Science, technology and society (STS) is an important part of science education, and you’ll find great content at Chris Mooney’s Intersection site.   Education Matters, Schools Matter, and Teachers Lead are crucial sites for us to interact with educators who speak out on the issues that impact education today such as high-stakes testing, charter schools, standards proliferation, and teacher assessment.

Share your ideas.  What is your favorite blog site?  Share it here in the comments section so that others can benefit from your suggestion.

Science As Inquiry Website

This week, the 2nd Edition of Science As Inquiry will be published by Good Year Books.

Science as Inquiry is based on the idea that learning is deepened if viewed as a communal experience, and that students are involved in making decisions about not only how they learn, but what they learn. Center stage in Science As Inquiry is cooperative (collaborative) learning, and how cooperative learning can be used to heighten and motivate students in learning science. Whether we are engaging students in hands-on activities, designing and carrying out projects, investigating and debating important science-related social issues, or participating in Internet-based learning experiences, cooperative learning is a crucial cognitive tool to improve our student’s learning.

To integrate the ideas and activities in the book, Science as Inquiry, I have developed an interactive website on the following areas of investigation:

You can link to this new website here.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll discuss aspects of the book and website, and how you might get involved in using the book and the activities—especially the online science research investigations—with your students, courses and programs.

If you are interested in getting involved this summer, let us know.


Science as Inquiry Update

The revision to Science As Inquiry has been completed and it should be published and available at the end of June 2011. To get a feel for what is in the book, you are invited to visit the Science as Inquiry Website. Here is a screen shot of part of the first page of the site which shows the various topics that are presented in the book and in the site.


Home page of the Science as Inquiry Website

Science as Inquiry is based on the idea that learning is deepened if viewed as a communal experience, and that students are involved in making decisions about not only how they learn, but what they learn. Center stage in Science As Inquiry is cooperative (collaborative) learning, and how cooperative learning can be used to heighten and motivate students in learning science. Whether we are engaging students in hands-on activities, designing and carrying out projects, investigating and debating important science-related social issues, or participating in Internet-based learning experiences, cooperative learning is a crucial cognitive tool to improve our student’s learning. From the preface of Science as Inquiry

From Sputnik to Sagan: Some Views on Science

I decided to obtain a copy of Unscientific America by Mooney and Kirshenbaum via my Kindle App on my iPhone, and started reading immediately.  A few days later, the book arrived.  In an early part of the book, “the rise and cultural decline of American science,” the authors have a chapter entitled: From Sputnik to Sagan.  It is an interesting chapter in that it provides a context to help us understand where we are today when we look at science and society.

Starting with WWII, the authors explore the social and political history of science in American society beginning with Vannevar Bush’s report Science: The Endless Frontier which President Roosevelt requested to explore how institutions of science could continue (given the development of the bomb, radar and other scientific developments of WWII) to serve the nation.  The report called for a heavy investment in science by the government, and one result of this was the creation of the National Science Foundation in 1950 to promote the progress of science, advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare, and secure the national defense.

But of course, after WWII, the Cold War created a scientific and technological war between the USA and the Soviet Union.  In 1957 we all found out that the Soviets, headed by an engineer by the name of  Sergey Pavlovich Korolyov, had launched the first Earth satellite, Sputnik.  It was one of the most significant events in the history of science, and science education in America, in that it led to further pouring of funds into the NSF budget, and creation of a vast number of elementary and secondary science curriculum projects developed from the late 1950’s into the 1970’s.  The first NSF science curriculum project (PSSC Physcs), developed at MIT, was field tested in the high school I attended in the late 1950s, and then more than twenty years later, I was one of the writers on one of the last NSF projects in this string of curriculum projects, ISIS, developed at Florida State University.

Science took a prominent role in the federal government during the administration of President Eisenhower.  He created the President’s Science Advisory Committee, and it was President Kennedy who created an office of Science & Technology in the White House.  Eisenhower also established the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), a direct response to the launching of Sputnik.  ARPA was the organization that was responsible for the creation of Internet through the predecessor ARPA-Net.  Science seemed to follow the outline established in Vannevar Bush’s report, and science flourished.  For example, the budget of NSF went from about $15 million in 1957 to $135 million the next year, and now the budget is more than $7 billion.  But between 1957 and now, science has gone through changes in the public perception of science, and as Mooney would say, The Republican War on Science which started in the 1980s.

Although the authors of Unscientific America talk a bit about the development of science curriculum by elite scientists, they fail to point out that there were two phases of curriculum development from 1958 – 1977, with the first phase primarily organized by professional scientists and science professors, and the second organized by science educators, science teachers, and scientists.  Although not a revolt, it was clear that scientists knew science, but there was a huge gap in what they knew about science teaching.  Mooney and Kirshenbaum do not explore the nature of science education enough to shed light on the true meaning of “unscientific America.”

But they do explore science in American culture, and shed a lot of light on one of America’s most prominent scientists, Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996).  It was during the 1970’s that most Americans became familiar with Dr. Carl Sagan, Astronomer, and populariser of science.  In fact, Sagan helped educate more Americans about the world of science through his PBS program Cosmos which was the most popular science program every produced by PBS, and the book version of Cosmos sold more than a million copies.

Sagan was probably the most well known scientist of the 1970s and 1980s.  Not only did he produce the Cosmos program, he was a scientific advisor to NASA, was director of the Planetary Studies Program at Cornell (where he was full professor), author of hundreds of scientific papers, and author of more than 20 books.  But, I think, more importantly, he spoke to ordinary citizens about science in terms that all could understand.  It was his outspoken behavior that rankled a number of other scientists (especially I am sure his appearances on the Johnny Carson Show), and when he was nominated to be a member of the National Academy of Sciences, he was denied admission.  So this brilliant scientist was denied admission to this society, and as Lynn Margulis wrote to him: “They are jealous of your communication skills, charm, good looks and outspoken attitude especially on nuclear winter” (Mooney & Kirshenbaum, p. 40).

Sagan, according to Mooney and Kirshenbaum, was a “fierce advocate for the proper use of science.”  This is an especially relevant statement today given the attitude that the current President has toward science, compared to his predecessor.

Sagan took issue with two significant developments that occurred during the Reagan administration, namely the Strategic Defense Initiative (using X-ray lasers in space to shoot down enemy missiles), and the idea that nuclear war was winnable.  In the later case, Sagan developed the concept of a “nuclear winter” arguing that fires from a nuclear holocaust would create smoke and dust that would cut out the sun’s rays leading to a global cooling—perhaps threatening agriculture and leading to global famine.  He incensed the right wing, according to Mooney & Kirshenbaum, and in particular William F. Buckley.  But Sagan held firm on his ideas, supported by other scientists, and even resisted accepting White House invitations to dinner.  Sagan’s criticism of SDI was supported by other scientists, especially Han Bethe who authored a report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Unscientific America helps us understand the gap that exists between the world of science—scientists, scientific developments, scientific theories—and the political and public interpretation and use of science.  Since the 1970s battle lines were drawn over issues such evolution, SDI, climate change, energy crises, nuclear proliferation, and global pandemics.  In each of these cases, all of which have a scientific base, political views and media hype have created vast gaps in the way people view these issues specifically, and science overall.

At the heart of a solution to these issues is science education.  Although Mooney and Kirschenbaum do not explore science education in any depth, they allude to it.  When I use the term science education, I am not just referring to K-college science education, but also how the media does or doesn’t help educate the public on important science issues.  Over the past number of years, the print media, especially newspapers, have reduced the amount of space and number of reporters they devote to covering science.  And media such as TV spent very little time reporting on science.

There is more to discuss here, and I’ll return to this topic over the next several days.  In the meantime, I recommend that you take a look at the book, Unscientific America, and also read about some of the work of one science’s greatest spokesperson’s, Carl Sagan.

An i-Phone Experience As a “Tethered” Non-Generative World Event

In Jonathan Zittrain’s book, The Future of the Internet, and How to Stop It, he identifies two patterns that describe the way the Internet can be used: generative or tethered.  The generative pattern exploits the open, flexible nature of the Internet and PC’s enabling tinkerers and innovators to create new ways to interact and work on the Internet.   The other pattern he calls “tethered.”  The idea here is that companies are moving away from an open, flexible system, and more toward more centrally controlled, or tethered information appliances, such as the i-Phone.

I’ve owned an i-Phone for a bit more than a year.  I was very excited about the new i-phone, and the new 2.0 upgraded I-phone software.  Existing owners of i-Phones could connect their i-phones to their own PC, and download the upgraded software.  

A World Event

Now you must realize that Apple, at 8:00 A.M. EST, put the new i-Phones on sale at its Apple stores, and at AT&T stores, not only in the U.S., but around the world, in 24 countries where the i-Phone was being sold.  Last year, when you bought an i-Phone (and they were only sold in the U.S.), you walked out of the store with your new phone, and plugged it into your home PC to activate the phone, and you had to buy a 2 year account with AT&T—no other communications firm.  But, some people figured out a way to “unlock” the i-phone, and get it to work in other ways.  With this new release of the i-Phone, the plan was that you had to have your phone activated in the store, thereby assuring AT&T that buyers would pay for a 2-year deal.

Extreme Overload

Well, can you imagine a world event of this nature where thousands of people are trying to access Apple’s servers.  The result: extreme overload.  The real effect: people being really ticked-off.  Macworld updated us on Friday afternoon describing events at various Apple stores as crowded and full of people who were a bit frustrated.

i-Phone as a Tethered Applicance

Firstly, the i-phone is an amazing handheld device.  I use mine all of the time, but I realized that it is a tethered appliance, and to get this device to work, one has to to realize that it is like the “dumb” terminals that our computers were like when we accessed websites, such as Compuserve.  Because the i-phone is a centrally controlled device, the way the launch of the new i-phone was planned—all at once around the world—problems were sure to occur with the launch, and they did.  Here is one experience.

Launching my i-Phone

At about 9:30 A.M. on Friday, July 11, I connected by i-phone to my i-Mac.  I noticed that the screen did not have an option for upgrading to 2.0; instead it gave me the choice of upgrading to 1.4.  So I initiated that since I had an older version.  Everything went along very well until the very last stage in which the i-phone has to be activated by the Apple server.  I kept getting the same error message (-4), as did thousands of people around the world.  Too many people hitting the Apple server at the same time.  What to do?  I called the Apple Care 800 number, and was assured that everything was okey.  I probably did download the 2.0 software, and all I had to do was leave the phone connected to the computer, and I would get in.  Hours later, I did get in and the phone worked.  But, I didn’t have the new 2.0 software.  So, I called Apple Care again, the very knowledgeable person, after some research on his part, discovered that the 2.0 option had been taken off the server, and it wasn’t available during the times I was accessing.  He suggested waiting.  I waited until the next morning.  Success.  I know have the 2.0 software on my i-Phone, and was able to download some of the new applications, and I am quite pleased.  Later in the day, I upgraded my wife’s i-Phone.