The Scale of things

This amazing flash animation will take you from the farthest reaches of the galaxies to down into quantum foam, the theorized fabric of the universe. It includes stops along the way: Central Park, California redwoods, dodo birds, Japanese crabs, Angel Fall, and so much more.

When it comes up, you will have to sit through an ad, but it is well worth it.

No doubt, many of you will recognize that this is reminiscent of classic Powers of 10 Video. I  first saw that when I was a kid and I didn’t flinch that it represented my hometown as the center of the universe. While I no longer live in Chicago, I still see it that way and I love that the video does, as well.

Classroom constraints & the pass-back effect: Games designed to transcend generational divides

I am excited to be giving a talk today with Nina Walia as part of Games for Learning: Research and Design Innovation at NYU. It’s a quick talk, but I wanted to make sure those interested could take a look at our slides and dig into some of the links to games from our presentation.

Play the Games I Mentioned Right Now:

Operation Resilient Planet, Mentioned on Slide 4: It is a big, 6 hr game. We also allow teachers to pick small 20-25 min experiences from the game to use in classrooms.
Transform-It and Energy City: Mentioned on slide 5: Free browser based flash games that provide a range of different challenges. Both have something you can do in 20 minutes in a class but provide hours of play later at home.
Coaster Creator and Eco Defenders. Mentioned on Slide 6: Both of these games provide spaces for direct classroom objectives, but also provide deeper experiences for players to try to best their own scores.
Here is an example of how videos model practices for classroom teachers. Mentioned in Slide 10:

You can log into the Jason Mission Center to browse some of these supporting classroom materials. Mentioned in Slide 11.

Scientists? We don't need no scientists….

…if you happened to be at a huge-land-grant institution in the past 7 years or so, you’ve heard some mutterings about a very secret situation.  Science graduate students… highly trained, highly skilled, highly smart and highly unable to find a good job.  The kind of job they were promised they’d have if only, if only, they were really smart, studied hard, eschewed the typical pleasures of high school and college life to embrace the glamorous, secure life of a scientists. This was whispered about on campuses and in publications directed at scientists.

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Weird huh?  How did this happen?  Are we graduating incompetent people?  Hardly.  But somehow, we keep hearing from politicians, educations, and folks in the business community that we need scientists and engineers.  There is a dearth of talent.  We need to improve science education!  We need to inspire kids!

Looks like the main stream  message is finally starting to catch up the the reality:  We don’t have jobs for all our scientists.  Got that? We can stop the mea culpa about not having enough scientists.  We have too many, and we can’t give these people the jobs they’ve been preparing for for 10-14 years.

This doesn’t diminish the role of science education by a long shot, but it should make us reconsider what science education is for and why it is important.  The key focus should be science literacy for citizens.  There is of course, nothing new about this, but it is a good time to reflect on our priorities.  Do we need another unemployed nuclear scientsits, or do we want to have an informed citizenry that avoids ghosts, gouls, and the alignment of stars in making policy decisions?

Science Game Review: Shape it Up

Several months ago I had been researching geology games to inspire me with some ideas for our upcoming curriculum over we are working on.  Searching for free educational games online is a painful process (but I’m working on it….more on that later) and finding anything interactive was hard enough, much less something I’d call a game.

volcanoRecently, I came across  Shape it Up, which is my favorite geology interactive so far.   Players try to make one landscape look like another by choosing a force of nature (volcano, wind, water, glacier) and choosing a time period.

This is a wonderful game for young kids.  There are several components that I think can be added or modified in order to make the game more sophisticated for middle school kids. Continue reading “Science Game Review: Shape it Up”