Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Week 1 Memo

            Each of the readings dealt, in some form or another, with the creation of models for describing and understanding natural phenomena. Various aspects and implications of modeling were discussed, from Galileo and his use of modeling to describe the nature of terrestrial gravitation, to the exploration of milestone scientific models and modes of thinking, ending with a description of current educational practices designed to introduce students to modeling as a way of knowing through experience.
  I perceived several key themes across multiple or all of the readings:
-          Simple, everyday observations can lead to monumental discoveries
o   Monumental to mankind, and/or monumental in the development of children’s knowledge
-          Experimentation and control of variables are essential to knowing in science
-          “The universe is regular and predictable” (Hazen & Trefil)
-          Scientists must be open to change and revision
-          Knowing in science is dependent upon language and communication
o   Language of mathematics, spoken language, written language, representational models
-          Key contributions in science have been made by doers of science and not merely thinkers about science
o   “They were not, like many of their colleagues, armchair philosophers” (Hazen & Trefil)
-          The documentation/inscription of phenomena fixes them, allows them to be manipulated and reflected upon, and creates from them sources of learning to be used by future generations

I felt that the Galileo piece and the Hazen & Trefil piece interlocked quite nicely, with Galileo’s exploration of accelerated motion fitting right into Hazen & Trefil’s description of his work on terrestrial gravitation and its subsequent incorporation into Newton’s laws of universal gravitation. I have more difficulty relating the Lehrer & Schauble piece to the other two, since it seems to me to be so entrenched in educational jargon that its emphasis on modeling as a way of knowing becomes obscured to a degree. I can, however, identify that Galileo and Newton first understood the world via physical models, and later through representational models, and used these models to communicate their ideas to the larger scientific community. These models were later revised to account for Einstein’s discoveries, exemplifying the degree to which inscription and scientific documentation create time-independent interaction between ideas and collaboration between scientists. In this same vein, Lehrer & Schauble strongly emphasize the development of understanding through modeling, communication, and collegiality. In their writing, they point to the development in children of a scientific way of knowing as a result of exactly the type of experimentation and modeling in which Newton and Galileo participated. I could be misinterpreting the format of the Galileo text, but in my understanding Galileo represents his personal scientific process as a discussion between three aspects of himself, demonstrating just how integral it is to knowing in science to be communicating, crafting arguments, asking questions, and revising one’s own thinking. Personally, I found that each of the readings (especially Hazen & Trefil) inspired me to put science and science teaching on an even loftier pedestal.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Week 1 Memo

This week’s readings all dealt with the formulation of a scientific model. Galileo’s article highlights a few philosophers debating the reasoning behind a falling body’s motion and why or why not the other’s ideas are valid. Hazen’s article discusses how Newton built upon other scientists’ theories, like Galileo and Kepler, to come up with a better, more cohesive model for gravity.  Lehrer’s article shows how educators can guide children to come up with their own ideas about how basic scientific models work through observation and investigation.

A key theme that resonated with me in these essays was the emphasis on being open to new ideas.  In Galileo, Salviati mentions, “…a strong desire to maintain old errors, rather than accept newly discovered truths,” in referring to when one gets proven to have fallacies in one’s theory.  As a class last week, we demonstrated our flexibilities to fallacies.  By going with Lehrer’s idea for open design, we were only guided by two questions: how do you know if the ball is accelerating and how do you prove to someone that the ball is accelerating.  Our mini-groups decided how to use our materials, how to set up our experiment, as well as what hypothesis we would need to prove.  My particular group immediately agreed upon a hypothesis, but riffed off each other for how we should set up our experiment.  After we all finished our experiments, the mini-groups explained each of their processes. 

          The differences seen in every group’s process were enlightening as to see what an educator will go through as he/she is teaching any class that needs a question answered.  This demonstration gave me a deeper understanding of what Lehrer means by, “…materiality is often obscured by providing students with questions to answer, apparatus, and prescribed routines, exemplified by labs. Students are seldom asked to struggle with the material problem of developing conditions or instruments for investigation.”  The “struggle” was the ultimate factor in developing our scientific models.   Hazen notes, “deepest things are often the simplest,” and this idea resonated in our class experiment, with the use of timers and intervals, as it did for the jar ecosystem experiment Lehrer discusses in his paper.  The students’ use of peer reviews helped each other realize some easy solutions or answers as to why their ecosystem was failing and how they could improve it.  This type of discourse helps scientists build upon each other’s ideas and improve their scientific models, like in the students’ cases, how an ecosystem functions.  I really enjoyed how Hazen points out that most well known scientists have used this very reasoning to solidify their own models.  Newton riffed off Galileo and Kepler, Einstein riffed off those three, and eventually we will have a future scientist to riff off all four of these scientists to come up with a final unified field theory about gravity and relativity.  To me, that is amazing, and honestly gives me goosebumps!

Week 1 Memo

Week one: Galileo (1638), Lehrer (2009), Hazen (1991)
            This weeks readings explored the history and nature of science in both their content and language.  Published in 1638, Galileo’s discourse on “Two New Sciences” acts as an example of the beginnings of the scientific method as peer-reviewed experimental research.  His now famous findings on terrestrial constant accelerated motion (known today as gravity) are presented here as a conversation between three contemporary scientists.  The character Salviati presents Galileo’s hypothesis, along with the observations and experiments that support his theory.  The characters Sagredo and Simplicio act as surrogate students for the reader, presenting competing theories and allowing Galileo to disprove the popular concept that constant acceleration was a function of distance traveled.  Galileo uses language that would have been accessible to his peers and the greater educated public to present his hypothesis, observations, and experiments, thus establishing the format for presenting ideas still used today as well as the importance of science as discourse. 
            Jumping forward 371 years, we see Galileo’s formatting at the base of Lehrer’s presentation of his theory on the potential for modeling to produce greater engagement and understanding in the classroom.  Lehrer presents his hypothesis in the context of contemporary literature and alongside competing theories (science as logic v. science as modeling), going on to present observations and experiments in support of his hypothesis and discussing its application.  Reading Lehrer together with Galileo, we see that scientific practices have become relatively well established and the question becomes how to present and teach science in a manner which promotes in students the same curiosity and relationship with inquiry that allowed scientists like Galileo to understand natural processes and relationships in the first place. 
             Hazen’s chapter on Knowing ties Lehrer and Galileo together in his discussion of the history and core values of scientific study.  In relatable prose, Hazen presents examples from the early scientific endeavors of Newton and Galileo to emphasize the beauty in the simplicity of natural laws and the importance of the capacity to see and share trends throughout scientific disciplines.  Hazen establishes Newton as an example of what science should be- simple governing laws based in observation and open to potential relationships, like that of the apple and the moon.  While nature in actuality may not be as predictable as Newton envisioned, Hazen emphasizes the importance of evolution of theory and scientific humility- the ability to listen to what the data is telling you and alter your hypotheses accordingly, and to feel comfortable in the chaotic theory that there exist systems with variables outside of currently measurable realms.  

            Across the three readings, the theme of scientific language and discourse especially struck me this week.  While Galileo and Hazen were both conversational and clearly had a thoughtful relationship with their chosen audience, I struggled to define the audience in the Lehrer piece.  Was his goal to present his findings to teachers or to peers in his specialized branch of research?  Though I have a background in reading scientific papers, I found his diction, especially in his introduction of terms and contemporary literature, to be pretentious and alienating, far too entrenched in the specialized language of his field to feel relatable to the average classroom teacher.  This all spurs many questions for me; what does is mean to ‘know’ in your discipline?  What is the required language, and should one exist?  When did science abandon clean, conversational, logic-driven prose? Reading Lehrer and considering my own relationship with niche research, I wonder if science has become too specialized and insular to discover the relationships between disciplines Hazen points to as critical in the understanding and advancement of knowledge.  How important is perspective in the ability to draw connections?  Hazen describes science as a seamless web of knowledge, but I wonder if specialization, with its distinctive styles, organizations, and languages, is inhibiting scientists from accessing this web to its greatest potential.      

Week 1 memo

Firstly in “Two New Sciences,” Galileo presented the changing beliefs and various approaches that people had in his time to the concept of uniform acceleration, through the three conversationalists, Simplicio, who tended to accept certain ideas just based on the fact that they seemed rational, Sagredo, who in the beginning tended to accept any knowledge that was easily achieved but began to see this folly as he progressed and Salviati, who sought out different scenarios in his observational, everyday life to prove a concept wrong before jumping to any conclusions.  Through collaborative approaches and socialization, they came to the same conclusion on a definition for uniform acceleration.
Secondly, the Lehrer article, “Designing to Develop Disciplinary Dispositions: Modeling Natural Systems,” focuses on the importance of epistemology as the goal of teaching as opposed to just memorizing facts.  Lehrer champions a specific type of teaching, modeling, because he claims it promotes the “social, cognitive, and material mechanisms” of knowing and helps develop students’ higher-level thinking skills.  He deems that through the use of primarily representational and physical models, students can make their own observations and teachers, along with the whole school community, can become “partners in the exploration of children’s modeling.”  Through this, the students can invent, investigate, and revise their own models, becoming primary explorers in their quests for discovery. 
Thirdly, Hazen recounts a history of the major scientific advancements and foundational theories of Newton and Galileo, among others.  He claims these scientists, through observing everyday simple events, began to develop theses “common sense” theories and systems, which in turn where tested and retested.  Hazen makes the keys distinction that Newton sought “incorporation rather than revolution” when discovering or coming to different conclusions, which he denoted a modern way of “knowing” and thinking about science.  

All three readings touch upon various ways of approaching and understanding science.  They all agree on students being active agents in the pursuit of this knowledge through both individual observations of normal, everyday events and the help and collaboration of the surrounding community for the beginning of that discovery, which in turn may take a long time to hone.  I saw these readings tie into Vygotsky and his idea of the zone of proximal development, which advocates and encourages higher level thinking and a child’s potential development, a concept that Lehrer termed as a student’s “emerging capabilities.”  Lehrer warns in his article that assumptions concerning a child’s developmental stage can lead to a “serious underestimation of children’s capabilities,” which I think is what standardized testing oftentimes does.  Instead of focusing on a child’s potential for development, standardized tests focus on the development that has already matured or been completed, which as a result may retard more productive development that was meant to maximize a child’s potential.  Thus, for me the Lehrer article seemed more applicable to my own life and goals for teaching, as I think it was meant too.  Finally, the Hazen article, while giving the reader a broad and simplistic view of the history of major concepts and how many build off each other, failed to show the difficulties and over simplified some aspects, which instead I believe were shown through the long collaborations and discussions that scientists and thinkers went through in the Galileo article.   

Week 1 Memo

Hazen’s chapter of knowing relates a quick history of the development of the different fields of science, and the theories and laws that are the foundation of the modern sciences. The story-telling manner of Hazen’s chapter contrasts with the imaginary dialogue Galileo writes as he reasons towards his definition of acceleration, and the literary review and analysis style that Lehrer uses to suggest instructional methods.

I was, first and foremost, struck by the number of times all three articles described the world as orderly and ruled by (mostly) simple laws. Lehrer, Hazen, and even Galileo’s dialogue show that the world can be explored and described through models, or representations. Furthermore, mathematical representations are popular when describing recurring phenomena. Hazen’s history of science mentions Newton’s three laws, all of which are mathematical formulas. Lehrer’s takes this idea and applies it to teaching. Students can be taught to use models while doing experiments in class, and the students will quickly move back and forth between physical imitations of what they see and mathematical, or otherwise, representations of what they observed. For example, in one of Lehrer’s studies, the students steadily reduced generalizations, and then amplified details such as plant growth, in the plant images on page 767. We used mathematical and image representations in class last Thursday as we tested, and explained, the definition of acceleration (of which we then read in the Galileo passage). Galileo spends most of his time describing theoretical experiments to support his reasonings. However, he also uses images to represent acceleration experiments. On page 7, his depictions represent distance and an apparatus.

There were also a few minor themes that I found interesting as I read through the articles. Hazen made the point that theories and laws are often revised and improved upon. For example, Hazen relates how Newton’s laws incorporated Galileo’s ideas, and then Halley tested them as he predicted the return of the comet. Then later, Newton’s definition of gravity was improved by Einstein’s experiments. The revisions of models can also be found in an education environment. Lehrer’s studies show that students will see inconsistencies in their models, pose questions and new hypotheses, and then improve their models (i.e. the plant models). Galileo’s dialogue shows the finding of fault in old ideas and reasoning towards a better answer.

A theme that resonated with me on a personal level was Lehrer’s suggestion that a teacher’s knowledge of teaching and student learning is just as important as knowing the disciplinary knowledge. One of the reasons I am taking this course is to develop my own knowledge of science instruction and how students will respond to different teaching methods. My professional development will affect how well my students learn. However, I wonder how applicable or easily Lehrer’s instructional designs can be put into a traditional classroom, that may or may not be limited by time, material standards that have to be met?

week 1

Hazen and Trefil (2009) describe the beginning of modern science by describing creation and application of Newton’s laws. Newton’s use of the scientific method and the generalizability and simplicity of his laws made them unique in the study of the natural world to that point.

Leher (2009) looks at modeling as a way for students to both gain and demonstrate knowledge. Creation of a good model requires students to determine the most important factors and make decisions about what makes a good model. Students can use representative models and microcosms to investigate.

Galileo (1638) defined uniform acceleration through careful experiments and manufactured observations. He did this refuting common knowledge and establishing a simple mathematical model for acceleration.

A few of the ideas the resonated most with me from the readings were:

·      The importance of taking time to really address misunderstandings (Galileo 1638)
·      The value of background knowledge in forming new ideas for Newton (Hazen and Trefil 2009)
·      The value of multiple models for explaining new ideas (Galileo 1238)

Last week in class, each group developed a slightly different model for understanding and explaining acceleration. We recognized that to know and to show others that acceleration was happening, we would need models, not just explanations using words, even for this very intuitive concept.  Galileo used models in his experimental design. He needed a way to slow the effects of gravity, so he created a representative world for his study that would make accurate measurement possible: he “diluted” gravity with incline planes. These same models which allowed him to know that acceleration was uniform allowed him to explain that knowledge to others. Later, when Newton united the heavenly and terrestrial conceptions of gravity, he was able verify his laws using both Galileo’s and Kepler’s models. If the greatest scientific understandings of history came through accurate use and application of models, then we can clearly see the benefit of using models to help our students gain new understandings.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Week 1 Memo

Blog Post Week 1
 (Lehrer, Galileo, Hazen and Trefil)

The Lehrer article aimed at discussing certain approaches to design a successful way to teach students about scientific disciplines.  The approach thought most rewarding by Lehrer to truly educate students was modeling.  The article focused on designing a strategy that allows students to learn more so by exploring scientific questions empirically and less by simply accepting what a scientist (or teacher) tells them as fact.  By using physical and representational models students are more likely to explore the subject in a way that allows them to make more connections that can help them not only understand the question at hand, but also explore the questions that arise as a result of experimentation.  By using the invention and revision of models as Lehrer puts it, students are able to actively search and find answers to the questions of the natural world.

The Hazen and Trefil chapter had a focus on the interconnectedness of some of the most important discoveries of all time, as well as how models helped and continue to help advance our knowledge of science.  The chapter also highlighted the importance of the scientific method and design.  By not taking what was thought to be at the time a fact, great thinkers were able to do their own exploration through different models and experiments.  This was key in unlocking new and seemingly hidden truths most people take for granted.

The Galileo piece also focused on the importance of exploring scientific questions empirically and not solely through reason alone.  The article explores the properties of naturally accelerated motion and various people discuss the topic.  Multiple times reason and logic seem concrete, however when modeled in the natural world the results are not as expected.  It once again shows how important it is to do experiments and come up with your own understanding of certain natural phenomena.

A couple themes across all the articles seem to be the idea of modeling, as well as the importance of gaining scientific knowledge empirically.  It seems that although reason alone can be very powerful, gaining insights through empirical evidence is extremely important in science.  By using experimentation and observation to model events in the natural world, it is easier to reshape ideas and theories based on what you know. It is one thing to just believe what you are told, but the more significant discoveries have come from scientists that create their own representations to help answer questions about the world.  I definitely think the readings connect back to the activity we did on the first day of class.  Instead of using reason alone to answer if the ball was accelerating, all the groups used different representations to prove it through experimentation and observation.