Physical Science

Setting Off a Firestorm of Controversy

Ok, here it goes. I have noticed in our school district that our middle school science teachers have voted to use a spin-off of myth-busters as the unit assessment for the scientific method. I am against this because I do not believe that television should be the driving force behind so much of our science curriculum. And besides, we send mixed signals when we caution students against watching too much tv during the school week, and then we turn around and introduce it into the classroom. Am I elevating standards too high here? What do you think?

Therese Houghton
Therese Houghton
7210 Activity Points

Terry You raise a great and provocative question. I definitely see your points and agree with them in part. It’s all in the eyes of the beholder! Like many things in life, if taken in excess, something that is even good for us can cause harm (e.g., too much milk when older can cause kidney stones, etc.). I experienced this first hand and I learned of another individual whose doctor suggested his recent first time kidney stones were most likely caused from his eating of too many TUMS (filled with calcium). While this is probably a poor example, the point I’m gingerly attempting to make is that there are some components of video that might enhance learning if used as part of an appropriate sequence of learning, whereby the attributes or content of a 2-4 minute video clip might help a student learn a particular concept. By attributes I mean certain components of video, such as slow motion, freeze frame, zoom, graphic overlay, etc. might make certain phenomena in nature “visible” that would otherwise be hard to detect (e.g., close up zoom and freeze frame of bee sting or humming bird in flight, or action/reaction car crash, or overlaying the trajectory of a basketball shot after the video is digitized, etc.). That said, I know the point you are making and think those that simply put in a video program for 30 minutes or more, with little cognitive engagement with questions to facilitate observation and discussion before/during/after viewing the video probably don’t do much to facilitate learning. It’s tough to determine in your example provided where “myth-busters” falls along the continuum. I also know of others who attempt to take clips from movies and use them as “engagement” pieces to raise challenging or thought provoking questions given certain students may find them highly motivational. I know some have challenged or determined the actual physics going on when Spiderman was popular (e.g., how much tension force can a spider thread support, etc.). There are others who regularly comment on these “myths” or misconceptions in movies, such as “Blick on Flicks”. See: http://www.nsta.org/publications/news/story.aspx?id=57763. All that said, again, it is in how the video is used. If it is a just used to regularly “kick-back” to view this week’s ½ hour program as a filler, probably not too beneficial. I know this is not definitive, but I’m attempting to provide a balanced perspective. It depends on context. Can you provide more detail about how the video is being used for the assessment (e.g., what questions, how long, what grading rubric, what occurred before this piece of the unit, etc.)? In closing, this is a great question and as others find this thread, I'm sure they'll chime in. We definitely need to be cautious of too much "digital" and not enough "hands-on”. That said, when we look at the nature of science and how scientists learn, many use technology to support data collection and analysis, so it's a balance. You make great implicit points about "commercialization" which is another great area for discussion too. Thanks for posing the question! I look forward for other's opinions on the topic!

Al Byers
Albert Byers
4428 Activity Points

One of my favorite publications is Chem 13 News out of the University of Waterloo. In the November issue there was a discussion about what really matters as factors influencing college science success. I encourage you to take the quiz and look through the website www.ficss.org. The video quiz is a quick way to catch up on work in science education, you may be surprised by what you learn. There are comments relating to the use of technology, and testing. Pam

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68525 Activity Points

Albert, thanks for your insightful response. Our county used a spin-off from the myth-busters programs as the middle school assessment for the scientific method unit. Basically, they asked students to choose an old-wives' tale, and to go home and design a test similar to the myth-busters program. I, on the other hand suggested that we use a previously validated secondary assessment found on the internet, called "Salt on Ice". The experiment was to determine which salt (table salt or Kosher salt) melted ice faster. In their written part of the assessment the students had to make sure that a control was included, and the scientific theories behind their evidence and conclusions was stated. I'm disappointed to say that no student passed this trial assessment method in my 7th grade. I understand the use of media for visual learners; however I also understand the need for validated assessments to provide meaningful feedback.Finally, I would definitely not allow the assessment to be done at home.

Therese Houghton
Therese Houghton
7210 Activity Points

Therese I agree with you. Using a 30 minute video in middle school makes no sense. These are lazy teachers for sure. I taught middle school for 15 years. Teachers around me used Bill Nye in its entire 30 minutes. Most of the students just started listening to the jokes and not the content. I showed them the one about dinosaurs and 4 times it says Dinosaurs and Man did not live together. After the video I asked that question and about 1/4th of the class said they did live together. What I did afterwards was to create powerpoints and embed video strickly about the specific topic. The video's were three minutes at most with questions after it finished to emphasize what I wanted to students to focus on. If they didn't get those answers correct I replayed the segment and asked the questions again. A quick, down and dirty formative assessment that took only 5 or 6 minuetes. I never turned off the lights because I would have students put their heads down and I never allowed heads down at all during these times. Al points out that using videos as an engagement is one way teachers use it. I prefer to use it during the explanation part of a 5E lesson embedded in a powerpoint as I said before. I liked to use discrepent events as engagements if possible. Adah

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101510 Activity Points

I found the following NSTA resource while reading through my library of articles. It sort of addresses this issue.

Attachments

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101510 Activity Points

I found a journal article in the learning center that I think would be a very good assessment of the scientific method. Although written and used for college students, I believe that it could also be used for secondary students. The article can be found here: http://learningcenter.nsta.org/my_learning_center/download.aspx?id=c5zCXZ1wUqz9EOTBG!plus!SHoQ==&furl= The article is titled, "PCBs in the last Frontier: A Case Study in the Scientific Method". It has five correlations to national science inquiry standards. As long as an age-appropriate science article is used, the lesson format could be used for different age groups and learning levels.

Therese Houghton
Therese Houghton
7210 Activity Points

Adah, Thank you for your contribution. I loved the article. I too prefer to use discrepant events for engagement. It gets the "brains" working. I find that videos, mostly shorter clips, work best when I have "primed" students to watch for certain events, details, desciptions etc. If students are not first instructed on how to direct their attention, they tend to focus on the "entertainment" aspect rather than the intended educational content.

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68525 Activity Points

Pam, I think that that is part of my concern, students getting caught up in the "entertainment" rather than the content objectives. Also, a television show has to have broad appeal in order to be popular, and I'm not certain that this always squares with the objectivity of science.

Therese Houghton
Therese Houghton
7210 Activity Points

Therese: I agree with you however, this generation has grown up with instant gratification. The concept of no and try something different is against their very being. In a way, we have to entertain them but we can do this by curiousity and not my dazzling bells and whistles. Computer simulations related to topics abound on the Internet. Educational gaming is becoming readily available throughout the Internet and on prestigous cites like PBS Teacher Domain, Discovery Education and such. These kinds of entertainment yools can be a starting point to their learning. They can work for us to give the students the hook (engagement) into a topic. We have to adjust to their world and learn to become comfortable in their shoes. We can't go back to beating our laundry by a brook with a stone instead of using a washing machine. We as digital immigrants (teachers) have got to get the attention of our digital natives (students).

Adah Stock
Adah Stock
101510 Activity Points

Hi Therese,
I had trouble accessing the article with the URL given, so I looked up the product guide URL. Here it is in case anyone else is interested:
PCBs in the Last Frontier: A Case Study on the Scientific Method

I also just wanted to make one quick comment about video use. I remember when the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill was the talk of the century (My, if only that could have been our last disaster at sea!) The oil company sent out "free" videos showing the lengths they had gone to in order to correct the tragedy. My colleague and I used it to show how important it is to determine the "bias" of a source in scientific research. I agree that we need to always determine the best possible resources and use them purposefully in our lessons. Whether it is a discrepant event or video clip, it should have as its main purpose the advancement of student learning. Then we need to always consider the time something takes. Wasting time by showing a video that serves little purpose or lacks in engagement of the mind is also a tragedy!
Have you checked out the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science? It has case studies organized by subject, education level, etc.

Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86463 Activity Points

I have to agree with you Theresa, some of my peers take the video showing to an all time high with mythbusters being the leader of the pack. It’s hard enough to teach Science without having to deal with all of the misconceptions perpetuated by tv. The one I have the hardest time with is CSI. Students honestly believe you solve a crime the same day it’s committed. The good news is, students at least get interested in forensics as a career and begin to look at what it takes to go into the field. Our test scores continued to drop in all subjects, and one of the first edicts that came down from district office was, “No more videos shown in class longer than 20 minutes.” I really liked the suggestion to embed snippets of the video into a PowerPoint so it can be shown during instruction of the topic. I would love to hear how others are using video in a meaningful way.

Sandy Gady
Sandy Gady
43095 Activity Points

There has been a great discussion on the general science listserve about science misconceptions in the movies. One site that was referred to is http://www.intuitor.com/moviephysics/ (Bad Physics in the movies)

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68525 Activity Points

Pam wrote, "There has been a great discussion on the general science listserve about science misconceptions in the movies. One site that was referred to is http://www.intuitor.com/moviephysics/ (Bad Physics in the movies)"

Can you post a summary of the general science listserve discussion about science misconceptions in the movies? I think the forum reader would enjoy seeing it. I know I would. Thanks, Ruth

Ruth Hutson
Ruth Hutson
63530 Activity Points

Ruth, I have been trying to keep up with the various topics on the listserve with the intention of moving summaries to the forums. Sadly this is one that got away from me before I had an opportunity to capture it. I will need to investigate how to get into the archives. Pam

Pamela Auburn
Pamela Auburn
68525 Activity Points

Pam wrote, "I have been trying to keep up with the various topics on the listserve with the intention of moving summaries to the forums. Sadly this is one that got away from me before I had an opportunity to capture it. I will need to investigate how to get into the archives."

Thank you so much, Pam. I would be very interested learning how to access the archive as well. I had to limit access to the listserves because the updates were filing my in-box too quickly. I was missing other important emails because my inbox was full.

Ruth Hutson
Ruth Hutson
63530 Activity Points

It appears that predicted 'firestorm' response never materialized. I expected a backlash in favor of television. Here's what one critic of the show said, "Good science CANNOT presuppose that any claim, at least those that are not logically impossible, to be a “myth.” You can read the rest of the critique at: http://orgoneresearch.com/2010/03/17/when-mythbusters-gets-it-completely-wrong/

Therese Houghton
Therese Houghton
7210 Activity Points

Hi Therese and all,

Good to know that this decision was reconsidered. I looked over the demise of the person who had 'contact' with subway third rail. Seems that there was NO RECORD of that person.

As I read over all your thoughts on this topic of using media for instruction and assessment kept on thinking about the difference between passive entertainment and active and interactive engagement.

Seems we need to use in our teaching the kinds of media which engage students in thinking processes and also producers of information rather then just consumers.


Arlene JL

Arlene Jurewicz-Leighton
Arlene Jurewicz Leighton
44543 Activity Points

Arlene I agree with you...I am skeptical about using science content that has not been peer-reviewed. Here's more criticism for the show "Myth-busters": http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/04/mistakes-in-the-mythbusters-explanations/ Although the program is engaging, I think that we can all agree that popular misconceptions create a barrier to understanding science.

Therese Houghton
Therese Houghton
7210 Activity Points

Hi Therese and thread participants,
Therese said, "Although the program is engaging, I think that we can all agree that popular misconceptions create a barrier to understanding science."

Thanks for pointing this out, Therese. Having just participated in Page Keeley's web seminar last night about "Uncovering Student Ideas" (and misconceptions), I see the need for teachers to NOT create or perpetuate misconceptions in students' minds. It is far more difficult to try to change a child's mind about a wrongly-held concept than it is to present accurate information to help form correct conceptions in the first place! There is a one-page article in the Learning Center that deals with this very thing: Science Sampler: Correcting Student Misconceptions
It is a quick read and provides some background research on this topic.
Carolyn

Carolyn Mohr
Carolyn Mohr
86463 Activity Points

Great resource Carolyn thanks. What I liked most about it was the thought,'Use discrepant events to eliminate learners’ naive theories and to promote critical thinking. Give children an opportunity to debate the pros and cons of an event, an activity, or an experiment with each other and with you. This will alert them to the notion that what may seem so obvious may have no scientific basis.'

Therese Houghton
Therese Houghton
7210 Activity Points

I teach Freshmen. I have used Mythbusters in my class and I don't see an issue with it. I definitely don't see it as me being lazy as one other person said. I generally don't show the entire episode, but will fast forward through some of the middle parts. Eventhough, it shows the part of the method where you were wrong, you fix it and go back. While watching the episode I have my students complete a worksheet where they identify the following items for each of the "myths": Question Hypothesis Independent Variable Dependent Variable Procedure Errors Results I feel its a better way for them to pick out things, esp the first 4, rather then me giving them a worksheet with different scenarios and having them pick out the concepts. I also feel it gives them an idea of how science can be "Fun." There are some great episodes to use in physical science. Probably the best one that I have shown the past two years was the one where they show that a bullet fired from a gun and a bullet dropped from the same height will hit the ground at the same time. This is one of the biggest misconceptions to get students to get over I have found and even after watching the episode some of them still do not beleive it.

Chris Leverington
Chris Leverington
4015 Activity Points

Chris, I like your idea! I can see the benefits to helping students recognize elements of the scientific process within live experimentation. Can you upload a copy of the worksheet you require your students to complete while watching? Also, do you or anyone else know of a list of quality Mythbuster episodes that would be appropriate for middle grades or high school students? Sue

Susanne Hokkanen
Susanne Hokkanen
79060 Activity Points

Sure thing! I've attached the word document that I use as my worksheet. This wikipedia page lists the episodes from every season and what myths they were testing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_MythBusters_episodes I generally use the Mythbusters Big Blast collection early in the year when we are discussing the scientific method the most. Kids like seeing things blow up. Another one I was happy to see them do, was something the teacher I student taught with several years ago had his students design an experiment around. The Seinfeld "Double Dipping" question. The movie myths episode could be a good one as well. I fortunately can stream episodes from my netflix account at school, otherwise I think you can stream episodes on discovery streaming and those might even be edited to just show the one myth being worked on, and not the whole episode.

Attachments

mythbusters.doc (0.03 Mb)

Chris Leverington
Chris Leverington
4015 Activity Points

I like the questions you ask in the worksheet! Thank you for sharing. My students have a difficult time with dependent and independent variables, and I like how the questions point out or help the students recognize the aspects of the scientific process that are followed in the show. I will keep you posted on how it goes...right now I am working on getting something on my wall so my students can see whatever is projected - nothing but blue bricks right now...lol. Somehow I think they will pay attention better and remember more of mythbusters, whether they can see it clearly or not, than they will any of my overhead notes. :-) Thanks again!

Susanne Hokkanen
Susanne Hokkanen
79060 Activity Points

I would agree with your outlook on too much tv. I also think it enables the children to stray from creativity and discovery, because they are always being shown what and how to do something. Perhaps they should allow the students to experiment on some simple methods and watch as the students are in awe of their discovery, which will last longer than the tv episode!

Keith Godlewski
Keith Godlewski
2810 Activity Points

Hi Keith, Welcome to this thread. You posts depicts you as an educator who strongly supports hnds-on learning and discovery. Do you use any video in your classes? How would you describe a typical class? ~patty

Patricia Rourke
Patricia Rourke
45915 Activity Points

I have a slightly different take on the use of Myth Busters - because it's sloppy science. BUT - it does have that flare that we are often missing in classrooms and flare is what gets and keeps kids' interest. I can totally see using it to have students find where the show completely misses multiple variables (as they do in nearly every episode I've ever seen) or where their models fall short (another common problem). In order to do this, they would have to watch the entire episode, which I also don't have a problem with. And I can also see the advantages of having students tackle their own myths in the style of Myth Busters. I think it's an excellent way to get kids interested and engaged in science. Might even be a new spin on science fair projects. But with all that said, I have a real problem with districts using a "Myth-buster-style-platform" as an assessment model because I would probably fail nearly every episode I've ever seen and those that didn't outright fail would probably not score higher than a "D." I just really hope this is not what's being presented to our students as "real science."

Kendra Young
Kendra Young
17180 Activity Points

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