Bill Nye on Teaching Science Like Comedy

Bill Nye on Teaching Science Like Comedy

Science education should be arranged so that students have more hands-on experience, says Bill Nye.
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edX President Anant Agarwal discusses the latest technologies in online learning, particularly in K-12.

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Transcript –edX is learning destination where we have learners from ages of eight years old to 95 years old on our platform. And so we’ve always had this interest in having a diverse set of courses whether at the high school level or university level, professional education and so on. A lot of our courses right now are university level courses and learners are looking for more basic courses, you know, they lack many of the prerequisites. And some of these prerequisite courses come from high schools. And so therefore it is really important that we get the high school courses on the platform. Certainly high school level courses, very basic courses, are more challenging from universities because universities tend to focus on courses that are at the university level.

And so with organizations like GEMS and high schools and so on we have the opportunity to get high school level courses that can be more on ramps, can serve as on ramps to university level courses. The challenges that are posed with high school level courses is that high schools very often don’t have the resources or video production capabilities and so on to create some of these quality courses. And so there tends to be more of an issue of how do you do the production? How do you provide the support for courses like this?
So our thinking there is that edX has a services team. We are very interested in getting what are called advanced placement level courses in the U.S. So one example is that we could use our production team to provide support for some of these courses. We’re also looking for funding from philanthropists and other foundations that might be able to provide the funding for these courses. We can then partner with high schools or other organizations like GEMS that can then create these courses. GEMS, for example, has a large cadre of teachers that are already providing, offering courses in a number of areas. And so an organization like GEMS is a natural one to partner to get these high school courses.
We also are thinking about courses that are before the advanced placement level. Think of pre-algebra for example. And we’re also developing a lot of tools that will enable students to do simulations and various kinds of online laboratories. That tends to be a challenge as well and we are looking to develop a small team within edX that can create some of these enriched content types as well.
STEM vs. Humanities: The edX Approach to Virtualization and Assessment

So STEM subjects versus humanities subjects tend to have different kinds of components that you need. In the STEM area one of the areas that tends to be challenging are laboratories. How do you provide the kind of hands on laboratory experience. At edX we’ve created online labs that we call, you know, virtual laboratories based on simulation technology. So there students can have a game-like experience as they work with the circuits lab or as they work with the chemistry lab. Or in physics, you know, they can work with an object like a pendulum so they can set the object at various places and see how it moves around all through simulations. So we’re able to use simulation technology to provide a rich game-like experience for the labs in STEM subjects.
Now let’s understand that, you know, not everything is possible to do. So, for example, in chemistry it is hard to capture the smell. But you can certainly look at color and some of the other compositional issues as you titrate different chemicals in various quantities and so on. Now in the humanities side there are other challenges. You may not have the laboratories along the lines of lab benches and so on but in humanities you have other challenges that we try to address in different ways. One example is for assessments in humanities tend to be assessments tend to focus heavily on open responses such as an essay, for example, or a descriptive response. [transcript truncated].

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler
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Brian Greene: It’s Easy to Teach Kids to Love Science. So Why Do We Keep Failing at It?

Brian Greene: It’s Easy to Teach Kids to Love Science. So Why Do We Keep Failing at It?

Science needs to be about discovery, not rote memorization.

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Transcript – I think there are a lot of reasons why there are some people – and I don’t consider it to be some major epidemic sweeping the land but yes, there are some people who resist the insights of science. And I think a lot of this has to do with how we teach science to young kids in school, right. For many people – and I’m talking from experience – people have told me this that science for them in school they didn’t understand it as a body of investigative knowledge that gives us insights into how the world works. No, for them it was some facts that they were made to memorize and spit back on an exam that had no direct relevance to anything that they could directly see or touch or in some sense it was just abstract nonsense that they were force to memorize. And the tragedy of that is when a young kid realizes that science reveals the hidden underside of reality and what it reveals is so exciting – when I talk to kids and tell them about black holes, tell them about the Big Bang, tell them about quantum mechanics and quantum tunneling, how particles can go through barriers that you wouldn’t have thought possible I can’t tell you the number of times kids will say to me, that’s science? That’s cool. And science needs to have that experience for kids where it just grabs them as the most exciting dramatic story of discovery. And if you have that experience as a young kid science is not a subject. It’s not a test that you have to take. Science is your ticket to understanding the world and the universe and then it’s with you for life. If you can have that experience it changes everything.

Hey Bill Nye, ‘Do I Have to Choose Between a Science and Arts Education?’ #TuesdaysWithBill

Hey Bill Nye, ‘Do I Have to Choose Between a Science and Arts Education?’ #TuesdaysWithBill

Bill Nye the Science Guy explains how reinvigorating basic research and development in our schools resulted in the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and why new acronyms are emerging.

Do you want to ask Bill a question for a future “Tuesdays with Bill?” Click here to learn how to submit: (http://goo.gl/Joiqzo).

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Transcript – Sam Passer: Hi Bill Nye this is Sam Passer. And my question for you is, as an art student myself, do I have to choose between art and science for our next generations to thrive or can art and science coexist? Please let me know. Thanks.

Bill Nye: Sam! Sam! Sam! Art and science have to coexist. They’re both human endeavors. However, just keep in mind I am a science guy and like this that science, this process that humans have developed seems to be, to my way of thinking, the best idea we’ve had, the best idea we’ve had about how to know nature, how to know our place in the world, in the cosmos. But without art we would hardly be people. Art is created by people and it inspires each of us. It’s the way we send messages. It’s the way we motivate each other or keep each other from doing something. Art is part of us. We don’t want art or science, we want to both. With that said, a little commentary about our current controversy in education in the United States, everybody goes on and on with this acronym STEM, STEM, STEM, STEM, STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. And this is a fine acronym. It talks about or it was created to address what was a clear need here in the United States after people landed on the moon, investment in basic research was curtailed, except in the military spending. And so we stopped, the United States stopped doing as much basic research as it had been doing and so to reinvigorate this people created this acronym and there’s all these science, technology, engineering and math programs in school. It’s good. It’s good. Now people talk about STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art and math. Well good. Yes. And I’ve heard STEAMD: science, technology, engineering, art, math and design. Okay. Pretty soon the acronym is going to have all the letters that we would call the school, just school. You go to school and you’ve got to have math; you’ve got to have language arts, English in my case and the United States were English is the primary language; you’ve got to have a history; you got to have a – I’d like us to have civics about the U.S. Constitution and the behavior and the way the government is created; and we’ve got to have art; you got to have science. Yes. We’ve got to have all of that. But this tacking stuff on this acronym that became so popular, STEM, is okay, everybody but let’s not forget we got to do everything. It’s not one or the other. Please, it’s not one or the other.

Learn the process of science. You don’t have to become a scientist full-time or an engineer full-time. And for those of you who love science and engineering I hope you pursue some art and learn some art and how to create art yourself and appreciate it. It’s what makes us people. Go for it.
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There must be science and math protocols.

David Pogue: It’s a bigger problem than I know what to say. Obviously it’s a priority issue. I don’t know how you translate that. Is it something on the parenting level? Is it something to do with funding? Is it set from the very top? Is it a Presidential thing? I don’t really know.
There’s a lot of smart people working on the problem, but all I know is that the problem exists and it distresses me personally.
I do not come across a lot of tech-savvy women. Year after year after year, it’s the same thing. The PR people are women, and if I have a question they’ll pass me along to the male engineers who can answer the question. I don’t know if there’s a built-in bias in the system, or if there might just be an inclination. I know this will generate tons of letters but, you know, it may be that fewer women are interested. I don’t know.
At one point, I wrote in a column [for the New York Times] the fact that older people generally have a harder time adapting to new technologies than younger people, which I think was as safe a generalization as one could possibly make. But of course I heard from all these old people, like, “How dare you? You know, I can use a Blackberry with the best of ’em.” But it’s a generalization. It doesn’t mean that every single person is in that category. Yes, I know that.
But I know as a 45-year-old it’s harder for me to pick up new things than when I was 20. Again, I’ve been a computer tutor my entire life and I can see it in the ages of people that I teach. So I still believe that’s true. So politically uncorrect [sic] as it may be, it may be true that there are differences between older people and younger people, and between men and women.
Recorded on: May 15, 2008.

David Pogue: It’s a bigger problem than I know what to say. Obviously it’s a priority issue. I don’t know how you translate that. Is it something on the parenting level? Is it something to do with funding? Is it set from the very top? Is it a Presidential thing? I don’t really know.
There’s a lot of smart people working on the problem, but all I know is that the problem exists and it distresses me personally.
I do not come across a lot of tech-savvy women. Year after year after year, it’s the same thing. The PR people are women, and if I have a question they’ll pass me along to the male engineers who can answer the question. I don’t know if there’s a built-in bias in the system, or if there might just be an inclination. I know this will generate tons of letters but, you know, it may be that fewer women are interested. I don’t know.
At one point, I wrote in a column [for the New York Times] the fact that older people generally have a harder time adapting to new technologies than younger people, which I think was as safe a generalization as one could possibly make. But of course I heard from all these old people, like, “How dare you? You know, I can use a Blackberry with the best of ’em.” But it’s a generalization. It doesn’t mean that every single person is in that category. Yes, I know that.
But I know as a 45-year-old it’s harder for me to pick up new things than when I was 20. Again, I’ve been a computer tutor my entire life and I can see it in the ages of people that I teach. So I still believe that’s true. So politically uncorrect [sic] as it may be, it may be true that there are differences between older people and younger people, and between men and women.
Recorded on: May 15, 2008.
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Hey Bill Nye, ‘Do I Have to Choose Between a Science and Arts Education?’ #TuesdaysWithBill

Hey Bill Nye, ‘Do I Have to Choose Between a Science and Arts Education?’ #TuesdaysWithBill

Bill Nye the Science Guy explains how reinvigorating basic research and development in our schools resulted in the acronym STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), and why new acronyms are emerging.

Do you want to ask Bill a question for a future “Tuesdays with Bill?” Click here to learn how to submit: (http://goo.gl/Joiqzo).

Read more at BigThink.com: http://bigthink.com/videos/bill-nye-on-stem-education-and-art

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Transcript – Sam Passer: Hi Bill Nye this is Sam Passer. And my question for you is, as an art student myself, do I have to choose between art and science for our next generations to thrive or can art and science coexist? Please let me know. Thanks.

Bill Nye: Sam! Sam! Sam! Art and science have to coexist. They’re both human endeavors. However, just keep in mind I am a science guy and like this that science, this process that humans have developed seems to be, to my way of thinking, the best idea we’ve had, the best idea we’ve had about how to know nature, how to know our place in the world, in the cosmos. But without art we would hardly be people. Art is created by people and it inspires each of us. It’s the way we send messages. It’s the way we motivate each other or keep each other from doing something. Art is part of us. We don’t want art or science, we want to both. With that said, a little commentary about our current controversy in education in the United States, everybody goes on and on with this acronym STEM, STEM, STEM, STEM, STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. And this is a fine acronym. It talks about or it was created to address what was a clear need here in the United States after people landed on the moon, investment in basic research was curtailed, except in the military spending. And so we stopped, the United States stopped doing as much basic research as it had been doing and so to reinvigorate this people created this acronym and there’s all these science, technology, engineering and math programs in school. It’s good. It’s good. Now people talk about STEAM: science, technology, engineering, art and math. Well good. Yes. And I’ve heard STEAMD: science, technology, engineering, art, math and design. Okay. Pretty soon the acronym is going to have all the letters that we would call the school, just school. You go to school and you’ve got to have math; you’ve got to have language arts, English in my case and the United States were English is the primary language; you’ve got to have a history; you got to have a – I’d like us to have civics about the U.S. Constitution and the behavior and the way the government is created; and we’ve got to have art; you got to have science. Yes. We’ve got to have all of that. But this tacking stuff on this acronym that became so popular, STEM, is okay, everybody but let’s not forget we got to do everything. It’s not one or the other. Please, it’s not one or the other.

Learn the process of science. You don’t have to become a scientist full-time or an engineer full-time. And for those of you who love science and engineering I hope you pursue some art and learn some art and how to create art yourself and appreciate it. It’s what makes us people. Go for it.

Daniel Koretz says, though it’s difficult to compare testing in developed countries, most indicators show the US lagging behind.

Daniel Koretz:
Bad news sells.  And, in fact, I recently heard someone basically say that the only way to get attention to education is through bad news.  And that may be part of the problem.  We do score… Our kids do score less well than some kids in other countries and that’s not new.  So there’s a fairly, there’s a long standing and fairly stable difference in performance in mathematics between our kids and the kids in all of developed East Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Korea which wasn’t developed until [two years ago].  That’s fairly stable.  What you get when you compare us to countries that are more similar to us, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, maybe even Germany is little less clear because the results are not consistent from one test to another.  One test puts us pretty much in the same league as countries like Australia and Canada.  Another test, the PISA test run by the OECD in Paris suggests that our kids are behind in mathematics.  I think it’s… We don’t know because the tests aren’t designed to allow us to sort this out very well, but it appears that it’s because the test measure different things.  The test that measure what’s taught in school put us higher up relative to those countries.  The one that measures application to more realistic problems shows us falling a little further behind.

Daniel Koretz:
Bad news sells.  And, in fact, I recently heard someone basically say that the only way to get attention to education is through bad news.  And that may be part of the problem.  We do score… Our kids do score less well than some kids in other countries and that’s not new.  So there’s a fairly, there’s a long standing and fairly stable difference in performance in mathematics between our kids and the kids in all of developed East Asia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Korea which wasn’t developed until [two years ago].  That’s fairly stable.  What you get when you compare us to countries that are more similar to us, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, maybe even Germany is little less clear because the results are not consistent from one test to another.  One test puts us pretty much in the same league as countries like Australia and Canada.  Another test, the PISA test run by the OECD in Paris suggests that our kids are behind in mathematics.  I think it’s… We don’t know because the tests aren’t designed to allow us to sort this out very well, but it appears that it’s because the test measure different things.  The test that measure what’s taught in school put us higher up relative to those countries.  The one that measures application to more realistic problems shows us falling a little further behind.
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