Author: DiScoro

New York Times

The New York Times App offers quality articles that can be used in class, be it in arts or science classes. The download is free of charge and includes FIVE free articles per month. These can be shared, thus used in class.

The articles are possibly relatively long for students with English as a second language. However, the topics cover a wide spectre, from art, human interest, politics to technology.

 Purchase Basic subscription $1.88 per week for education
(students and     teachers)
Free App with 5 free articles per month
 Hardware iOS, Android, Kendle
 Requirements App
Advertisements

Eyesight Problems and Social Media

Research in Asia shows that in the big cities 90% of the students leaving school have to wear spectacles due to myopia (nearsightedness). The reasons given are too much hard work for school and far too little exposure to daylight and lack of time spent outdoors.
Recent research in The Netherlands shows a steep increase in myopia (nearsightedness) among 20 year old students (Klaver, 2017). Myopia is the eye disorder with the most rapid increase in prevalence worldwide. In 1990 only 5% of the school leavers in The Netherlands suffered from myopia. In 2017 this has risen to 50%, and this is likely to increase. It develops in childhood, with a peak incidence between the ages of 13 to 15 years. Myopia developed in childhood cannot be reversed.

The main reasons given for the steep increase is the frequent use of social media on smartphones and iPads, and og computers in general. Children use their eyes too one-sided, namely for nearsight mainly. This results in eyes that change shape to accomodate for this effort. Another negative side-effect of the use of digital devices is the fact that the eyes become too dry. We blink only 10% of the normal amount when watching at a screen.
Other causes, related to the use of digital devices, are a decrease in hours spent outdoors and the decrease in exposure to daylight. In childhood the eyes need both daylight and the exposure to farsightedness.

How can we reverse the myopia epidemic?

Researchers and experts on eyesight have developed a rule-of thumb.

20-20-2

After 20 minutes working on a screen

Take a break of at least 20 seconds

Spend at least 2 hours a day outdoors

Additional smart rules for parents and teachers to prevent myopia and other eye problems are:

  • Young children (< 6) should not work more than 20-30 minutes a day on a screen.
  • The SmartBoards in classrooms should be turned off regularly.

Riddles and Puzzles

DiScoro writes about inquiry-based learning, digital resources, and ways to encourage higher-order thinking. We focus on STEM education and the use of technology.

Puzzles and riddles that are fun. They require language skills, understanding, logical thinking and can be solved individually or in groups. The Brainzilla website offers a number of ‘Zebra’ puzzles and riddles. An easy one to start with is Movies Night and a pretty difficult one to solve is Einstein’s Riddle. Brainzilla puzzles and riddles are suitable for K4-10.

It is advisable to print out the riddles and puzzles, as the solutions can easily be found online. You can help the pupils to organise their thinking by providing a card for every clue and a stack of cards for the values given. Allow pupils to work together, because not all will enjoy the puzzles if they get stuck.

More similar puzzles can be found on Math is Fun under the so called ‘Einstein Puzzles’. The vocabulary used in the clues here is more suitable for K8-12.

Visualisation of so called ‘Einstein’s Riddle’ which can be found on many websites.

 

Chemistry: pH scales and acidity

DiScoro writes about inquiry-based learning, digital resources, and ways to encourage higher-order thinking. We focus on STEM education and the use of technology.

The PHET simulation pH Scales enables students to experiment with acidic and basic fluids.

Note that pH scale and acidity are complex concepts for students especially for primary school pupils. A lower pH value means more ‘acidic’ and a higher value means less acidic, or more ‘basic’.  Neutral is indicated by the pH value 7.0.

However, the simulation can help the students to familiarize themselves with the concept(s). The simulation can be used in grade 6 or 7. Depending on how much time you wish to spend and how much structure you wish to give, in addition to the simulation, you could encourage the students to experiment and discover the basics about pH values in fluids and its application in every day life.

Suggestions for tasks and experiments:

  1. Check out the different fluids available.
    Rank the fluids from most basic to most acidic before you start measuring. Write down your estimation.
  2. Measure the pH values for the fluids given and write the results in a table.
    Which fluids are closest to pH 7.0?
    What does it mean if  the pH value of a fluid is close to 7.0?
  3. Use water to dillute the fluids and try to make a fluid that is closest to 7.0.
    Write down what you have done to reach your result.
    Make a screencast of your closest result(s) and print it out.
  4. Can you dillute a basic fluid with water to a pH value below 7.0?
    Can you dillute an acid fluid with water to a pH value above 7.0?
    Try to explain the result?

Think beyond the simulation.

  1. How could you make an acidic fluid basic? In other words, how could you for example change the pH value of an acidic fluid from 5.0 to 7.5?
  2. a. Your body functions best if the pH value is neutral. How does your body manage this?
    b. With the knowledge about the pH value of your body, how can you support your body to remain healthy?

pH value paper strips

In addition to the simulation students could use pH paper strips to measure the acidity of fluids. It becomes particularly interesting if the fluids you use can be tasted. Students can describe the taste they experience. Use for example coca cola or other fizzy drinks, fruit juice, tea, milk, coffee, water. This real life experiment makes it possible to neutralise an acid/basic fluid using other chemicals, for example by adding bicarbonate (baking soda) to an acidic fluid.

battery hydrometer

Another interesting tool is a battery gravity hydrometer, which actually measures the acidity (pH value) of the battery acid. You could also say that it measures the gravity of the battery fluid. Together with a Volt meter it is used to check if the battery is charged and in good condition If your battery is fully charged the pH value should be near 1.28. If the battery is discharged, the pH value will be near 1.14. The battery hydrometer only measures accurate with pH values around 1.2. So is useless to measure pH values over 2.

More PHET simulations. See also Balancing Act, The moving man, Energy skate park, and Density and Buoyancy.

 Purchase  Free
 Hardware  PC, iPad
 Requirements  browser

Gossip Simulation

DiScoro writes about inquiry-based learning, digital resources, and ways to encourage higher-order thinking. We focus on STEM education and the use of technology.

The Gossip Simulation shows how fast gossip spreads through a group of a hundred people. The simulation enables the user to change the number of people that start to spread a message. Besides the variable number of initial processes (= number of people) there is the variable message loss. The value behind message loss can be attributed to different factors. It could for example be based on the percentage of the people that is not likely to pass on the message.

After the students have familiarised themselves a little with the simulation, you as a teacher could discuss what (other) reasons may lie behind the variable message loss.
The value will be different when the message is a secret and when people are being asked to keep the secret, than when the message contains interesting but harmless information. The value of message loss will also vary in different groups . Some people may be too busy, ill, travelling and are therefore not communicating intensively within the group for a while. There are more factors that could influence the value of message loss.

To explore the simulation students could be asked technical/mathematical questions such as:

  • How many rounds does it take before everyone has got the message with x processes and a message loss of y?
  • Why is the outcome not exactly the same if you run the program several times with the same values for the variables?
  • Can you calculated/estimate the amount of rounds it takes? Explain how and what you did?
  • How could you extrapolate to a thousand people, or to the whole population?

The simulation could be used to discuss group behaviour in real life and on social media. Also topics related to safety/security systems based on communication could be discussed. Warnings about oncoming disasters (tyfoon, floods, earthquakes, pollution etc.) and messages related to evacuations need to reach as many people in a short timespan.

Additional questions for students could be:

  • Considering different scenarios, what could the rounds represent? (minutes, hours, days, weeks ….)
  • When is rounds more likely to be days than minutes?
  • If you want to prevent a message to spread on Facebook, how could you prevent or stop this?
  • What else could this model represent? (spread of warning, spread of a disease, spread of a product, ….)
  • Could you come up with a better name for the simulation.
  • If the police wishes to spread a warning as fast as possible, how could they best go about it?
  • In what way could you use this model to visualise a disease from spreading too fast?

Proposed age group: grade 5-10.

 Purchase  Free
 Hardware  PC, iPad
 Requirements  Browser

Simulation: Diversity

DiScoro writes about inquiry-based learning, digital resources, and ways to encourage higher-order thinking. We focus on STEM education and the use of technology.


This blog is about two simulations based on the same concept namely Thomas Schelling’s Model of Segregation. The model tries to explain social phenomena and shows for example how difficult is it to build and sustain a diverse community. Schelling tries to explain when and why ghetto forming takes place and under which conditions this can be prevented or even reversed.
In other words, people with shared identities tend to cluster/group together. In most classes boys and girls form their own groups.

The first simulation by Frank McCown is named Schelling’s Model of Segregation. The second is by Vi Hart and Nicky Case and named Parable of the Polygons. The two simulations have different interfaces. Both simulations use two groups. The first simulation has four variables (and a interval timer) whereas the Parable of the Polygons offers different simulations for different variables.

The simulation by Frank McCown can be found if you scroll down on the page. The simulation generates a multitude of questions that can be explored.

    • When do communities remain diverse?
    • When and why does clustering take place even if people are relatively tolerant and open-minded?
    • Can segregated communities be tolerant?
    • Under what circumstances does segregation happen and why?
    • How can a segregated community become diverse?

The Parable of the Polygons contains a group of simulations and uses scaffolding to explore the concept. Contrary to Mc Cown’s simulation the Parable of the Polygons visualise if people are happy or not. Additionally the user can move ONE person and see what happens. The last simulation is a particular interesting one.

 

The Parable of the Polygons could be used as inspiration for the teacher. However, in our opinion the degree of scaffolding will limit the curiosity, thinking and reasoning by the students themselves.

As teachers we have to be careful how to introduce the simulation and how to discuss the issues. Minority groups in class can easily feel uncomfortable. It is up to the teacher to choose the context and vocabulary that suits the class. As you may have observed have we tried to use the word diversity instead of segregation.

Additionally, the simulations can be used by policy makers, but also by students in relation with religion, geography/demography. It has been known in chemistry that seperate molecules and molecules in small quantities react differently than in mass. The same can be observed with people. Individual people can be tolerant and open-minded, but the large group will nevertheless become clustered under certain conditions.

 

 Purchase  Free
 Hardware  PC, iPad
 Requirements  Browser

Technology and Design – Rocking horse

DiScoro writes about inquiry-based learning, digital resources, and ways to encourage higher-order thinking. We focus on STEM education and the use of technology.

We give an example of  a Technology & Design task. In several countries Technology & Design is a (project based) school subject for students (grade 6 to 10). This task comprises many subjects: arts, mathematics (measuring, scale and ratio, geometry) physics (friction, mass, centre of gravity, forces, movement), language (vocabulary, writing skills), technology. In addition, it is an example of co-creation and collaboration.

Task: design and make a rocking horse for young children
and test out it at a kindergarten.

The task is complex and challenging, yet at the same time has a very clear goal. We discern different steps.

(1) Research and design of rocking horses. Students may search the internet for ideas, examples, pictures. The students may check out different constructions, materials used. Students can search for technical drawings or draw the design from scratch. Others may want to build a miniature modell. At the end of this step the students have made their choice about what material they will use and about the type of construction.

Examples of rocking horses from the internet

(2) Planning. What are the steps to take in de construction phase? What do I need for the construction in terms of material, tools, and other resources. How much time do I need? What are the costs?

(3) Implementation. This will be carried out in the planned steps. A prototype made of cardboard or plywood (3mm or 5 mm) can be useful. If not a design on paper 2D/3D is required.

(4) Test at kindergarten. Students should decide in advance WHAT they will test out. (e.g. Is the construction strong enough? Is the the rocking horse attractive for the children? What age group does it suit best? Is it safe in use? Does it swing enough?) and HOW they will test this out.
The students will have to plan a visit to a kindergarten and explain what they wish to do. The results must be reported.

(5) Reporting and documentation. This should be done during the whole process and not just only at the end. Students may choose if they wish to use mainly written or oral, visual, or multi-media  documentation for reporting. The teacher could (or  should) specify what he/she expects and how it should be presented/delivered.

Of course the rocking horses could be examined, measured, compared in many ways and from different perspectives (physics, accounting/economics, maths).