Calvin and Hobbes Know Science Looks Good

These are a few of my favorite things

These are a few of my favorite things

When reading the paper as a kid, one of the first things that I did was skip to the comic section to read the Calvin and Hobbes comic by Bill Watterson.  It's my favorite comic of all time, and it often provides hilarious geeky interpretations of science, math, and other things that are covered on this blog. Luckily the Daily Calvin and Hobbes Facebook page has been giving me life for a while now. It's been a great online version of the various compilation books that you see in the pic above, which I acquired from the clearance racks of Borders (RIP) and Barnes & Nobles over several years.

Check out the below comic where Calvin daydreams during math .. haven't we all done this?

Here's another comic featuring one of my favorite Calvin alter egos, Spaceman Spiff.  He travels through space and ... battles things.

Here's Calvin thinking about how far computers may go in terms of artificial intelligence. Remember, this comic was made way before high end computers and the spread of the internet. 

Finally, here's Calvin going through the struggle that us science geeks face when trying to explain our passions to others. 

My Chalkboard Erases Your Computer



I've read a lot about school districts using tablets to help with classroom education. In theory, it's great for subjects such as science and mathematics - students are allowed to view examples of graphs and concepts in an interactive way.  Hell, my high school now allows students to beam their work up to the board, effectively removing the requirement for kids to go up to the board and solve problems. We were still checking DOS-only email and browsing the web with Netscape while I was there.

However, this must be balanced with keeping it old school and getting your hands chalky at the chalkboard. It teaches kids how to present their work in front of others and show their thought process. Most importantly, it forces kids how to deal with an awkward situation.  Many people have a hard time going up in front of a crowd.  As much practice as possible is needed, and school is the perfect place for learning how to deal with the anxiety of butterflies.

I visited the NJ SEEDS program at The Hill School in Pottstown, PA, and sat in on a math class. I'm a proud 1994 alum of this program, and I observed an amazing thing in the classroom. The students pointed out an error in one of the teacher's calculations, and the teacher took advantage. She called students to work out why she was wrong on the board - using long division! Some kids struggled more than others, but everyone got it. Math victory!



I know it's strange to say on a science and technology blog, but sometimes classroom and instruction are better when the tech is not the dominant factor. Kids should take handwritten notes, write on the board when necessary, and learn how to deal with the awkwardness of being up in front of a group.  It will pay off in the future!

Flipping Education On Its Head


Its common knowledge that the United States education system needs some work.  But too often people throw technology at the problem without a plan.  Dumping a bunch of iPads on a school without a process on how to utilize it is an expensive recipe for disaster.

Thankfully, Arizona is doing the opposite. They are taking advantage of online lectures on sites such as YouTube and Khan Academy to create a "flipped classroom".  Learning a concept in class and applying it at home is flipped into learning the concept at home (using the online tools listed above) and turning class time into a large group workshop to apply that concept.  Fittingly, the idea began in Colorado and has spread via social networking to schools across the country.

This is a new concept that has many challenges. For example:

The biggest criticism of the flipped classroom is that some students don't have access to high-speed Internet.

To overcome this, some schools leave their computer labs open during lunch hours and after school. Others direct students to public libraries within walking distance.

Flipped classrooms are more likely to be in private schools, where more families can easily afford computers and high-speed Internet, some superintendents said.

As this teaching style gets tested, challenged, and improved, I hope that it can reach kids regardless of what school and socioeconomic background they are. Our schools need to get a little crazy and nontraditional to be able to break out of mediocrity.

Speaking of nontraditional, some enterprising students at Vanderbilt are developing a custom tablet that allows blind people to understand algebraic concepts using touch and vibration.  The video is so great that I can't really do it justice - check it out below!