Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Critical thinking and Pop Culture don’t exactly seem to go hand-in-hand. Enter Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Director of Hayden Planetarium, Research Associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, named in Time Magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential Persons in the World” and “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” in People Magazine. Tyson has a knack for taking complex concepts and presenting them in a way that those of us who aren’t rocket scientists can understand. He seems to enjoy spreading knowledge and is a champion for critical thinking. He has published books, hosted award-winning shows, taken away Pluto and can be found on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and hosts his own podcast called StarTalk.

StarTalk targets those who never thought science could be interesting or entertaining, it connects Pop Culture and science. The introduction of each show states, “Our universe is filled with secrets and mysteries which leaves us with many questions to be answered. We find ourselves searching for those answers as the very fabric of space, science and society are converging. Here for the first time, these worlds collide.” Neil partners up with celebrity guests and comedians to talk about many different scientific topics, he says they explore “everything under the sun, or rather the universe!” He approaches subjects ranging from scientific discoveries to pseudoscience, from the possible benefits of video games to the physics of superheroes. Listeners can submit questions to the show on Twitter. Mr. Tyson approaches the topics and questions with rational (albeit, humorous) discussions backed by scientific evidence and facts. He explains that scientific literacy serves to protect us against pseudoscience. These shows are amusing, entertaining and incredibly informative. The way he explains why things happen or why they couldn’t possibly happen is fascinating and easy to understand. This was one of my favorite episodes in which he answers questions about superheroes…

He explains how a super soldier serum, as in Captain America, could not actually increase the strength of a person’s muscles beyond a certain point if the tissue remains the same size due to the physics of strength. Also, now I know that Magneto could not tear apart the universe but could theoretically “tear a new one” in a star. Superman would be torn apart by a black hole because he is made of matter from this universe. These are very interesting answers to questions I’ve personally had about superheroes.

I also found this great quote encouraging critical thinking (he’s full of them) from an interview on The Science Network. [A] most important feature is the analysis of the information that comes your way. And that’s what I don’t see enough of in this world. There’s a level of gullibility that leaves people susceptible to being taken advantage of. I see science literacy as kind of a vaccine against charlatans who would try to exploit your ignorance.”

Neil DeGrasse Tyson promotes and encourages critical thinking. He is able to do so using popular culture, through social media, television and his podcast. He makes science inviting and exciting. There is no question he is the most popular astrophysicist in America today.


Well I registered for classes today.  I will be a full-time student next semester and I couldn’t be happier.  A little nervous but happy.  It will be interesting being a full-time student, a full-time hairstylist and a full-time mom.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to go to school at all.  I’ve been paying for classes out of pocket so far and am pretty much out of money for that.  The school got rid of their deferred payments so I would have to pay for my classes when I registered.  I was getting really depressed and everyone kept saying “Everything happens for a reason.” “Some things aren’t meant to be.” “It will all work out.” You know the kind of stuff that makes you want to go around punching people in their faces.  And then something happened.  One of those things when you say, “Whoa, is this a sign or what?” A friend offered to help me out.  A friend.  I woke up to a message that said he would pay for my classes and I can pay him back.  I thought about it all day long.  I don’t go around borrowing money from friends.  Ever.  But there he was offering.  The night before I had written out the class schedule I wanted.  I kept looking at it and willing it to be true.  That was my class schedule.  This is what my spring semester will look like.  It was too much of a coincidence for me to ignore so I accepted my friend’s offer.  I am happy.  Good things happen.  Wow.

So here I am struggling with 9 credit hours and committing myself to 12 credit hours next semester but it doesn’t matter.  I will do my best.  I am motivated.  I will make my friend proud (and pay him back).  I see myself graduating, I see myself getting good grades.  I know I can do it!  This will be my mantra.

On a side note while looking up books on Amazon because they are waaaay cheaper than in the college bookstore, I found out that as a student you can try Amazon Prime for free for 6 months and then its 50% off.  Hello free 2-day shipping!!!  So here’s a link to that…

After the last couple of weeks in class, I’m almost ashamed to do this assignment. The question is, “Where do YOU go when you want to find out the facts?” And to be quite honest…Google. I Google like crazy. Having a hard time helping my kids with their math homework…Google. Need to find stress management techniques for a presentation in my Social Services class…Google. Trying to find alternate words to express myself more eloquently in a scholarship essay…GOOGLE!!! When I check my search history it appears I average around 70 searches a week. Which, oftentimes, leads me to Wikipedia. That (and happens to be the top site visited in my history. I always thought, “Gee! A free encyclopedia? Can’t go wrong there.” Oh how wrong could I be?
Did you know anyone can publish information on almost any subject on Wikipedia? It doesn’t have to be an expert or even an educated person. It might not stick but what if you’re searching oh, say the heavy metal umlaut and you find it on Wikipedia in the 2 minutes that some bad information was published. Well, crap, won’t you feel foolish when you cite said bad information in your next discussion on the subject.
Let’s, for a moment and for the sake of my assignment, take a look at my other top information gathering site, eHow. I travel here roughly maybe once a week. The last time I remember visiting this site was to figure out how to write a resume for a volunteer position. I’ve never checked the credibility (until now) but I gather the information I need and discard anything that doesn’t seem useful. According to the “about us” on the website their information comes from professionals in various fields. When checking out the various articles you can click on the author and decide for yourself if they are a credible source to gather information from. Are they educated? Do they have a degree in their area of expertise? Are they biased?
Fortunately, I am learning to think critically. Something I’m sure Ive done in the past but now I’m doing it more consciously and consistently. So, as far as this “quest” goes I’ve failed in the past. I haven’t paid attention to credibility or accountability aside from a gut feeling of “I think this website seems fishy” or “This seems legit.” However, now I am learning what to look for and how to better verify if it really is legit. I will be more cautious when using Wikipedia and I will check the facts I find there. I am shaking my head in embarrassment as I think of my instructor reading this post but hey, at least I’m being honest. I’m admitting I have a problem, which is the first step. My name is Jami and I’m a Googawikiholic.

Gamification is the term that refers to using game mechanics and game strategy to other, everyday applications. It seems that applying it to education is a relatively new concept that is gaining popularity. However, educational games are nothing new. As a child, I remember playing Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, which taught me geography and some history and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing to learn typing skills. Today, there are many educational apps designed for children of all ages and websites that teach a variety of different subjects. Gamification can be applied to all levels of education, from grade school to college.
I believe there are many benefits to Gamifying education. Statistics say that 65% of U.S. households play videogames. Even though I wouldn’t call myself a “gamer,” I find video games to be entertaining and somewhat satisfying. There is something about “leveling up” and earning various rewards that makes me feel a sense of accomplishment. I can see how applying this to education could help motivate children and adults to succeed in school.
The reward system alone is a huge advantage that I see. Rather than having points taken off for every item that missing or incorrect, a student sees their grade or points going up. Then, after earning so many “XP,” they “level up.” This is much more intrinsically rewarding and, I believe, better for the student’s self-esteem. Last year in fifth grade, my son was told that any time he turned in an assignment a day late, it was automatically 50% credit. This did nothing to motivate him to turn in homework that he may have forgotten to bring the day before. Disheartened, he would say, “What is the point of turning it in, I already have an F on it?”
I also see a great advantage in having a reward system for class-wide achievements. This would create a better sense of community and camaraderie. Rather than some students being left in the dust, this could level the playing field, so to speak. Some students could really benefit from a little help from their peers rather than feeling unsuccessful and lost. Shouldn’t we encourage the ones that feel the most discouraged? My son informed me the other day that children that play an hour of video games, feel more secure in their environment. Of course I was skeptical but then I watched the video “Extra Credits: Gamifying Education” and the part about games giving a person a sense of agency, or a feeling of control over their lives, really struck me. I think it is important for school children and adults, for that matter, to feel secure and become more resilient in order to be successful in life.
While I do see many advantages to gamifying education, there may be some drawbacks. Not everyone enjoys videogames or has access to the technology required to play games. It seems many schools and classes have a one-size-fits-all approach teaching. I think it is important to remember that everyone learns differently and what motivates one student may not motivate another. Also, some teachers may not be comfortable using the kind of technology needed for Gamification. I have had an instructor that refused to use Blackboard because he couldn’t figure it out and asked the class not to email him because he would rather receive a phone call. College is not just for freshly graduated eighteen year-olds, either. Gamification might not be as easily mastered by older generations as someone who is in their teens. I know I am having a little trouble with some of the assignments for my Pop Culture class. However, this is forcing me to do things that I may not have tried on my own; like creating a blog, embedding cool stuff in my blog and signing up for Twitter.
I am interested to see where Gamification takes education in the future and I hope you found this post interesting. Here is a fun Infographic I found on about Gamification of Education. (I think I figured out how to embed something.)
Gamification Infographic

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