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Friday, December 22, 2006

Simply Elegant

"Hey, Charlie, how does the idea of 11 parallel universes sound?"
I love science.

3 Questions for Your Teacher/Professor

According to Ken Bain, author of What the Best College Teachers Do, a good syllabus should communicate the promises of the course; what students will do to realize these promises; and how the teacher/students frame the nature and progress of learning.

Therefore, I encourage you to ask your teacher/professor 3 questions when they review their syllabi:

  1. What’s the promise of the course?
  2. What will I do to realize these promises?
  3. How will we frame the nature and progress of learning in this course?

Ask the Feynman Question

Super brain Richard Feynman framed the enduring understanding of scientific knowledge as a response to the following question

If, in some cataclysm, all scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?

I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) that all things are made of atoms — little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence you will see an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied.

Teachers at all levels should be required to answer this question. The next time you meet a teacher ask them the Feynman question. It doesn’t matter if they teach kindergarten or graduate school, their answer will take you places.

If you are a teacher, ask yourself the Feynman question; better yet, ask your students.

The Feynman Question Template:

“If, in some cataclysm, all knowledge of ____________________were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?”

Sunday, December 03, 2006

6 Ways to Embed Conceptual Binding Points in Your Lessons

  1. Give students things to notice. Noticing exercises prime the curiosity pump and curious students want to learn.

  2. Provide students with the vocabulary necessary to discuss the content. This allows for entrée into the discourse community—the first step to being an academic badass.

  3. Provide students with a conceptual framework—a vehicle for understanding and arguing about material. Teaching students how to argue is more important than the content. Cogent, persuasive arguments come out of logical reasoning. Teach logical reasoning and amp up the deep learning in your classroom.

  4. Integrate pictures—visual analogies are critical to learning. Pictures penetrate and resonate as they stimulate new neuronal networks.

  5. Encourage curiosity by promoting the why. The more questions we ask the more we reinforce neuronal networks. Whying the day away promotes deep learning; just ask a three year old.

  6. Make time for play. Playing keeps your brain engaged and thinking strategically.

Eide Neurolearning Blog’s Priming the Pump—Optimizing Science Learning through Analogy

Ririan Project’s 22 Ways to Overclock Your Brain