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Lunch Dates: Emily Graslie

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Is your job what some would consider gross or icky or ewwwwwwwwwwwwdonttouchmewiththosehands? Do you love your job? No, I mean reaaaaally love your job? Emily Graslie does.

It still has brains on it…

This is The Brain Scoop. How can you not love her enthusiasm and genuine awe for nature and all of its creations? And the way she can rattle off the names of bones and tissue, not to mention Latin genus-species combos, is awesome.

Discovered by Hank Green (yes, that and that and that Hank Green) when he visited the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum in Montana, Ms. Graslie took him on a tour of the building and its inhabitants (mostly stuffed and/or preserved animals), and Mr. Green encouraged her to put up a YouTube channel.

Ms. Graslie has a Tumblr as well, where she posts random findings at her new museum-home, Chicago’s Field Museum. Her role as “Chief Curiosity Correspondant” is now letting her serve as an ambassador to the public, showing visitors what the museum has to offer, and even some of what hides in the collections.

What makes her relevant to WWNdTD? It’s the joy and pride she takes in her craft. It’s totally okay for her to be fascinated in things that other people aren’t. And even better, even if you can’t stomach the dissection videos, she is clearly captivated by everything there despite her own “ewww!”s and “oh wow!”s, enthralled in the beauty of how nature works, and makes no judgement on you. It’s how you want students to be absolutely engrossed by what they do, no matter what anyone else says.

Questions for during lunch:

  • Since you have a BFA, I assume you still do some kind of art/craft stuff. Do you still paint in your free time?
  • You started in preserving museum specimens and are now working on a Museum Studies degree (awesome!) Why museum studies and not conservation/restoration?
  • As a fellow art/science nerd, I really appreciate your fascination with the minutia. Did you consider something like scientific illustration as a career?
  • Would you like to do other aspects of museum work eventually?
  • Are you mostly on the floor of the museum or behind the scenes? What is your typical day now like?
  • Would you like to do more museum outreach stuff instead of museum work?
  • Your background isn’t particularly science-y, but would you take science courses now?
  • You’ve got an awesome video on what makes a museum. Would you like to work at other science museums? history museums? art museums? children’s museums? Smithsonians?
  • I also worked at a museum (see how similar we are? we should be friends!) and the upstairs storage loft of randomly-donated things was fascinating. But, funnier to me were the phone calls from news outlets when something weird appeared on beaches, and they wanted us to identify it. Got any good phone calls?
  • What’s your favorite key on your museum key ring?
  • What kinds of classes or skills should today’s students learn in school?
  • Who was your favorite teacher? your most respected teacher?
  • Ever considered teaching as a career?

Lunch Dates: Wil Wheaton

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Maybe there really isn’t such as thing as bad publicity.

If you’re not a Trekkie, or a fan of The Guild, or The Big Bang Theory, or a bunch of other stuff on TV, video, audiobook, and even book-books, then perhaps you haven’t heard of Wil Wheaton. One of his first screen-credits was in the animated version of The Rats of NIMH, which was my favorite book as a kid, although the movie scared the bejeebers out of me.

With a slogan of “Don’t be a dick!”, Mr. Wheaton must be aware of his characters’ sometimes questionable moral views. But there’s also “Be honest, be kind, be honorable, and always be awesome,” and “It’s not what you love, but how you love it,” which show up on a lot of specially-made shirts and posters.

Wil Wheaton is a huge proponent of technology-related stuff. His blog is full of things he’s thinking and doing. He brews beer. His Twitter feed is covered with a background that parodies the Neil deGrasse Tyson wavy-hands thing. He raises money (with his wife) for shelter animals. He’s got a beard and wears snappy t-shirts. He’s basically a Seattle-ite.

Questions to ask during lunch:

  • As a tech-loving guy, what do you think about Slashdot and Tested? Other tech favorites?
  • Do you also build stuff, like models and electric things, or stick mostly to web/computer/writing things?
  • Are you the kind of person who distinguishes between nerd and geek?
  • Having been on TV and a board game YouTube channel, you must be a nerd. Do you think of yourself as a nerd or a geek?
  • Do you encourage nerd-ness in your kids or was it inevitable?
  • You seem to have the dream nerd-life doing things like moderating a Comic Con panel for Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage. Do you like being a celebrity?
  • You attend various Cons, but from your blog, you don’t seem to like being in the public eye very much, and yet, can rally a lot of people at once. Besides some charity work, what do you want to do with that kind of power?
  • Who was/is your favorite character to play in a role?
  • Is it strange to play a version of yourself on BBT? Do people expect you to act in certain ways when they meet you?
  • Do you feel a sense of obligation to defend nerd-things (like commenting on the Discovery Network‘s truth-stretching/fiction for high ratings)?
  • What do you see as the biggest role for Hollywood (and other media) in terms of education?
  • What are your favorite shows? favorite educational shows? Least favorite and/or poser education shows?

Lunch Dates: Joe Hanson

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I totally apologize for the mostly-unflattering gif, but I really like his shirt. And it reminds me of this.

Wanna see some neat science? Some weird science? Videos? Pictures? Gifs? Links to science articles you didn’t know you wanted to read? Commentary on current science topics? You need It’s Okay To Be Smart!

Joe Hanson is the keeper of this awesome Tumblr feed of science. Oh, and he also has a YouTube channel through PBS. It’s basically popcorn for your nerd-brain: you just keep wanting and consuming more. I actually use this page as a back-up for student who think they aren’t interested in science. We just scroll through and look at the amazing stuff that’s going on.

What’s the big deal about another science blogger? Besides being in awe of fantastic science videos and gifs, Dr. Hanson can write in complete sentences… paragraphs, even! With jokes and puns and sarcasm! And he can laugh at himself, which I think is a sign of strength of character. Oh, and he seems to enjoy what he’s doing, and even to be pretty darn excited by it.

Things to ask during lunch:

  • Congrats on the recent PhD! What did you think you’d be doing with it?
  • Why did you start a Tumblr? a science Tumblr?
  • Where do you see the Tumblr going in the next few years?
  • Are there topics you want to explore, more than just re-posting cool stuff?
  • I know you have certain websites you visit all the time, but how do you find new sources of information?
  • You also have a book list, but what do you consider essential reading for a nerd? for a non-science person?
  • What do you see as your role in the greater internet?
  • Do you consider yourself an educator, or part of a virtual/digital museum?
  • What is a good amount of science knowledge for the non-science person?
  • Are there parts of science that you’re less interested in? more interested? (You seem to have a lot of astronomy-related stuff, as least, in my head.)
  • What’s the coolest thing about being a recognized internet-guy?
  • You’ve already met a bunch of other fascinating YouTube-rs. Who else do you want to meet?

Lunch Dates: Dan Meyer

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Lately, I’ve read a lot of articles and papers and expositions (with a Platonic-conversation-twist, even!) on how mathematics curricula is terrible and demoralizing and demeaning and meaningless.

Enter Dan Meyer. He doesn’t like the current direction math is “supposed” to be taught. He also has a TEDx talk, in which he describes student impatience and complacency that is awfully applicable to math and non-math subjects alike. His blog, dy/dan is already listed in my links (didja get the calculus joke?)

I think I first found Mr. Meyer through a random search online. I somehow got to this lesson on filling a water tank:


It was one of the first entries his series called “What Can You Do With This?” Through several of these videos, he refined the format for his WCYDWT videos. After more adjustments, he now creates Three-Act Tasks, a generalized pattern for everyday, yet simple, situations for students to create their own questions and puzzle through their own answers. Three-Act Tasks are now created and tweaked by his numerous blog and Twitter followers. Recently, he’s started a group effort to fix textbook questions into Three-Act Task formats, to make them more (frankly) interesting and applicable.

To me, it’s kinda sad that such a thoughtful teacher has left the profession in favor of a PhD. On the other hand, hopefully he can continue to inspire even more teachers online than he has already touched in his (pretty faithful) following.

What’s so compelling about Mr. Meyer? He seems like a genuine who truly wants to help kids not-hate math, and maybe even enjoy it a little. And, hey, individual thinking skills and actually creating curiosity in the classroom is not terrible either. Not only that, but he also seems to want to help other teachers re-engage with their enjoyment of teaching and sharing that passion with their students. You can’t get a whole lot better than that.

Questions during lunch:

  • Why did you enter teaching?
  • Why are you leaving teaching?
  • What do you miss about teaching? and not miss?
  • In your classroom, what kinds of assessments or rubrics or evaluation tools did you use to grade students?
  • What do you want to get from the, may I say, fantastic network of people you blog to/with?
  • What should general-society people know to be mathematically literate? Mathematically functional?
  • What makes a good student?
  • What makes a good teacher?
  • Is there a part of math that isn’t taught that should be?
  • You seem to have a beef with Khan Academy-style stuff (and I happen to agree). But what in particular bugs you about it more than textbooks or canned lessons? What do you think about online learning in general?
  • How do you feel about public verses private schools? Charters?
  • Is STEM learning the right solution?
  • What do you want to do once you finish your PhD?
  • What do you hope to hear from students who visit you in 5 or 10 years?

Lunch Dates: Smarter Every Day

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Mix together a bit of firearms, some strange (yet, more or less) everyday happenstances and situations, and some slow-motion video, and you might get Destin from Smarter Every Day. Okay, he’s not entirely about firearms, but there’s a lot of things that my colleagues would categorize as “things to attract boys” (like guns, explosions, helicopters, and spiders). Destin’s channel is also not entirely slow-mo, but a lot of the videos I use for class happen to be.

Oh, and add in there the enthusiasm and a constant smirk. Kinda a smile, but really, mostly a smirk. Probably because he seems genuinely fascinated by whatever he’s filming (emphasized by the Psalm 111:2 he posts at the end of his videos). This guy loves what he does. I wonder if he was the nerd in the classroom, or the closet-nerd (I’m leaning toward the latter).

I think I first found Destin while looking for something to help teach about rotational inertia. Like why cats always land on their feet:

I’m equally delighted by his off-channel, Funner Every Day… random videos that aren’t necessarily science-related. This video of his daughter folding Vi Hart hexaflexagons is fantastic!

Things to ask during lunch:

  • Do your kids go to public or private school now? Why?
  • What has the internet brought you?
  • How do you think of new ideas?
  • How do you contact people for trying new stuff?
  • What does your “normal” job help you do on your videos?
  • How did you get into videos, anyway? and slow-motion stuff?
  • How do research some of the science involved in your videos?
  • What should random internet-people take from your videos?
  • What do you want to explore next? Anything you want to do but can’t?
  • What do you think of Gever Tulley and Mythbusters, especially in terms of education?
  • What makes a good teacher, anyway?
  • I know you’re doing this for your kids’ college funds (which is all kinds of awesome). What do you hope they can get from your videos?
  • What do you hope they do with their college experiences?

Lunch Dates: Chris Hadfield

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What’s so enthralling about another guy on YouTube? For one thing, he made videos in space.

Sometimes I’ll take a minute between classes and “look” for the ISS with this and then “look out” the ISS window with this. I think most little kids (and many bigger kids) wonder about space and going in a rocket ship somewhere. Few people actually get to experience it. The first astronauts were declared heroes, advancing nations in their quest for knowledge and competition and technology. Current astronauts (at least, in the U.S.) get little to no recognition unless tragedy strikes. Somehow, this guy is different. He’s wired-in.

In case you’ve been missing his tweets, his YouTube videos, and a bunch of news articles (and it would be so, so sad if you haven’t seen them), Chris Hadfield has recently left the ISS as the first Canadian commander of the space station. He just strikes me as an interesting guy. C’mon… he’s singing David Bowie as one of his last submissions from orbit. That can only come from a person with whom I’d like to have lunch.

Major nerd-crush here.

Hadfield (and two other astronauts, Roman Romanenko and Tom Marshburn) just returned from space, landing in Kazakhstan via a Soyuz capsule. He says that being in space was too good to keep to himself.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I (and so many other people) are drawn to his videos. In space. He’s just doing his job. In space. But really, he’s answering simple questions, doing complex research, and acting like a real person. In space. Clearly, he’s not just an everyday guy. He’s military-trained, a test pilot, has an advanced degree, is a Commander. In space. But through his time in videos, it feels like you can ask him anything. He’s not judgemental or condescending. I’d like to think that he knows just how many people want to try out what he did. It’s a kind of charisma, I guess. In space. It goes along with this video (which I’ve posted before) from Dr. Tyson, regarding stopping dreaming:

Random side note: spell check recognizes “YouTube” and “Soyuz” but not “WordPress”. Heh.

Questions and thoughts for lunch conversation:

  • What were the coolest three things that you could do on the ISS? What will you miss?
  • What were the most mundane or annoying things you did on the ISS?
  • What did you miss most on Earth (besides family, I’m sure)?
  • Other astronauts have sent videos back to Earth, aimed at schoolkids, but they haven’t really been popular (or viral). Why do you think yours are such a draw?
  • Are there similar videos by other ISS members (for Russian audiences, etc.)?
  • If you’re online, what are your favorite or most frequently visited websites?
  • Are most transactions on the ISS are in English? How much Russian did you learn?
  • What makes for a good astronaut, and what makes for a good ground-crew member?
  • On the station, how do you monitor or record or keep track of the 100+ experiments? Do you find out the results, or just take data?
  • Did your military training prepare you well for this kind of task? Would you say that military people make better astronauts?
  • What’s the way to encourage education (and science education) in classrooms?
  • Who was your favorite teacher in school? Why?
  • How did you get into YouTube and Twitter in the first place?
  • If your face and nasal passages swell in space, does the food really taste all that good (or bad)?
  • Would you like to go back into space?
  • What’s next?

Lunch Dates: Derek Muller

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Perhaps better known by his super neat videos on physics, Derek Muller (a.k.a. Veritasium) has produced a bunch of cool and informative videos on how stuff works. His usual format consists of asking a central question, asking real n-the-street people for input, performing the experiment, and an explanation for the workings… sort of a version of Mythbusters, but without the explosions or crazy prop shop. He, instead, visits a lot of universities (and professors at/from universities) to get high-quality explanations and demonstrations.

The first video to get attention had to do with Slinkies. Well, one Slinky:

(And check out the answer as well as the extended version.)

Oh, Dr. Muller’s a nerd all right. Check out his fantastically obvious nerdly delight at getting to touch THE kilogram:

Was it good for you, too?

In a number of his videos, Dr. Muller proposes an experiment, then asks a number of random bystanders what they think will happen. He has been called all sorts of names because of it. Really, he’s got his own PhD thesis to back up ferreting-out and addressing misconceptions head-on, as well as a short TEDx talk. I think he’d get along well with dy/dan who’s working on his own PhD (in math education).

Things to ask during lunch:

  • What is the most exciting thing about education today?
  • What do educational systems get right? wrong?
  • You’re not from or in the U.S.. What do the U.K. and Australia do better (and worse) than the U.S.?
  • Do you think that there should be more science education, and at what level(s)?
  • How do you think of new videos?
  • You probably didn’t think you’d be doing YouTube videos for a living. What did you intend on doing with your PhD?
  • You’ve already got a PhD, a successful YouTube channel, a loyal fanbase, and a TED talk under your belt. For you personally, what kind of recognition or kudos would you consider your ultimate goal?
  • Who in the non-formal-education arena would you like to meet?
  • Who influences you?
  • Was meeting other YouTube-rs as fun as it looked?
  • What would be your ideal day, working or not?
  • What’s your pet sub-subject? Besides education, the physics-related thing that you really love?