What are we doing?
We want to introduce our
website visitors to several topics in science education which while hot
topics among the researchers and teachers involved with them are virtually
unknown elsewhere. They are very important topics because they deal
with the difference between knowing and understanding science and math
A very strange phenomenon has
stirred many science teachers into something of a frustated and futile
frenzy over the past few decades. Richard Feynman revealed the problem
to the general public in the 70's: "All of the textbooks were written by
somone who didn't know what the hell he was talking about...UNIVERSALLY
LOUSY!" That was ALL of the science textbooks submitted for use in
K-12 California schools. In 2003, the situation was still pretty
much the same, at least in middle school physics, as reported in the May,
2003 issue of Physics Today.
But everybody who has ever studied
conceptual science, in K-12 or in college, has encountered the problem
themselves. "It's a hard subject." "It isn't useful for anything."
"It's ivory towered and out of touch with the real
But that's not our point;
just the background. Here's what we really want everybody to sit
up and take notice of: When you--probably after a bit of hard work--"see"
some conceptal piece of what you've been studying, you know
that it isn't really obscure, or particuarly difficult, or out of touch
with the real world. It is, in fact, perfectly obvious.
You just weren't looking in the right way, in the right direction, in the
way you needed to "see" it.
You have then become one of
the few who can use the concept you've learned. And you know something
in a way that you had never before realized that you could know it.
What's more, you will wonder why you hadn't thought to look in that way,
and why so many others are obviously not looking that way now either.
Who are we?
We--webmasters Phil (PhD)
& Keturah (MS)--have had considerable experience with science, in both
research and teaching, in both academia and industry. But more important
we have sought out experts in many other disciplines when we have encountered
some very odd phenomena in our teaching and testing.
In psychology, cognitive,
developmental, educational, and psychometrics branches have contributed
to our viewpoints. In education, science teaching and evaluation
have been important--Phil worked on a commission that assembled many thousands
of potential educational objectives to guide teachers and evaluators.
And that involved evaluating both submitted objectives and textbooks.
Keturah has worked in educational
roles with Children's Museum, Portland Parks, and Tryon Creek State Park--and
ran many day care centers in conjunction with the YMCA.
Both of us have worked with
Oregonians for Rationality in providing experiences that guide people of
all ages toward better understanding of science, math and logic.
We have, for five years, taken many of these to Da Vinci Days in Corvallis,
OR and to many other gatherings of teachers and learners. We have
also judged in the annual Odyssey of the Mind contests (now "Destination
We have developed the Knowledge
for Use project over a period of many decades -- bringing it to
the Web in 1999. Explorepdx was introduced to the Web in 2001.
These are ongoing projects,
and we invite participation from interested teachers and learners.
There is much work to be done, and the challenges are profoundly deep and
profoundly important. The understanding of science today is abysmal.