Random Thoughts

about reading, writing, and anything else that interests me

Learning from TED: February 18, 2013

A couple weeks ago I downloaded Tyler DeWitt: Hey science teachers–make it fun. I finally got around to watching it this morning.  DeWitt is a science teacher and a PhD student at MIT. No slacker, obviously. 

The point of the talk is that we ruin science for kids by insisting on 100% accuracy and “seriousness”.  DeWitt believes we would be better served by making science more fun and interesting. He doesn’t believe in dumbing science down.  He says

Now, finally, I am often so disappointed when people think that I’m advocating a dumbing down of science. That’s not true at all. I’m currently a Ph.D. student at MIT, and I absolutely understand the importance of detailed, specific scientific communication between experts, but not when we’re trying to teach 13-year-olds. If a young learner thinks that all viruses have DNA, that’s not going to ruin their chances of success in science. But if a young learner can’t understand anything in science and learns to hate it because it all sounds like this, that will ruin their chances of success.

I couldn’t agree more.We alienate students right from the start and then wonder why they aren’t excited about school, about learning,

DeWitt has a you tube channel where he explains science concepts,  I just watched on on isotopes, and I understand them better than I ever have.  And since he used a comparison that I will remember, I will probably remember everything he said better. 

DeWitt concludes his talk with this advice:

There’s still so much work left to be done, though, and if you’re involved with science in any way I urge you to join me. Pick up a camera, start to write a blog, whatever, but leave out the seriousness, leave out the jargon. Make me laugh. Make me care. Leave out those annoying details that nobody cares about and just get to the point. How should you start? Why don’t you say, “Listen, let me tell you a story”?

Of course, I believe this is true for all areas of education, not just science.  We need to use the personal connection that stories create to suck students in to the lesson.  It required changing the way most of us teach.  But I think it is worth it.

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