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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Thinking Outside the Starship

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Bloom’s Taxonomy” is (or should be) a part of all teacher training programs. Making connections is part of seeing how the world works and understanding it by associating it with other workings of the world. It can be as simple as finding similarities to known quantities or processes (more of a simile), or stringing together previously unrelated topics (analogy). Depending on how they’re synthesized, these types of brain creations are in the higher levels of the taxonomy (probably at the Analysis level or higher).

This isn’t to say that all things must be connected to other things, but it’s a new-ish movement to introduce systems of things and how they work, rather than lists of facts for memorization. For example, here’s two ways of learning about the circulatory system:


Version 1:
Heart
pumps blood
has four valves
has two arterial vessels and two venial vessels
two valves lead to lungs, two to body
works by electrical impulses
Veins
look purple/blue
lead from everywhere in body to heart
Arteries
look red
take blood from heart to body
Blood
red cells carry oxygen and waste
white cells fight disease

Version 2: The heart, veins, arteries, and blood are the main parts of the circulatory system. Think of moving blood like running races around a short track, then a long track. Prodded by electrical impulses from the brain, the heart pumps the blood through arteries to the lungs to pick up oxygen. The blood returns to the heart through veins to get pumped out to the body through more arteries. The blood drops off oxygen in various parts of the body and returns to the heart again through more veins. Then the cycle repeats in every heartbeat. Not only does blood, specifically red blood cells, catch and release oxygen while running around the tracks, but it also carries other things. White blood cells circulate to find and destroy disease or repair cuts, and waste products are carried off to the kidneys for filtration and elimination.


Yes, the second version has more words, but it also illustrates the connections between body parts much more clearly. I’m sure part of it is just how I phrased things, but there are a lot more whys answered in the second way. And really, it’s a lot closer to how bodies actually work, since working human physiology can’t be effectively reduced to a pile of parts.

So, what if we could put the analogy first, and then fill in the parts? It sure sounds cooler to get the story, the good deeds, the catch phrase, making you want to know who did it.

Like starships. As in, who had the best starship

Okay, first, it’s just plain awesome that Dr. Tyson was a random attendee at ComicCon. And then he stands up and gives this analogy, followed by his choice:

Neil deGrasse Tyson at the Starship Smackdown

And that is why Dr. Tyson is amazing.