Science, creativity, & literature

October 20, 2012

The nature of science is often misrepresented as dull, straightforward, & overly empirical. Such a view misses important aspects of creativity & intuition in science. Below is an abstract to a recent paper where the author uses insights from Edgar Allen Poe to illuminate the creative side of science. Now the question is, “how do we illuminate these aspects of science for our students?”

Edgar Allan Poe’s standing as a literary figure, who drew on (and sometimes dabbled in) the scientific debates of his time, makes him an intriguing character for any exploration of the historical interrelationship between science, literature and philosophy. His sprawling ‘prose-poem’ Eureka (1848), in particular, has sometimes been scrutinized for anticipations of later scientific developments. By contrast, the present paper argues that it should be understood as a contribution to the raging debates about scientific methodology at the time. This methodological interest, which is echoed in Poe’s ‘tales of ratiocination’, gives rise to a proposed new mode of—broadly abductive—inference, which Poe attributes to the hybrid figure of the ‘poet-mathematician’. Without creative imagination and intuition, Science would necessarily remain incomplete, even by its own standards. This concern with imaginative (abductive) inference ties in nicely with his coherentism, which grants pride of place to the twin virtues of Simplicity and Consistency, which must constrain imagination lest it degenerate into mere fancy.


Creation of what?

August 1, 2011

When we talk about the use of technology in schools we often note how the technology can be leveraged to increase students’ level of thinking.  Bloom’s taxonomy placed “creating” (used to be synthesis) near the top of the “thinking pyramid”.  I agree that creating is something we ought to be having students do, but there are some subtle traps awaiting our implementation.

When teachers have students create a Powerpoint about topic X, the students are not necessarily creating using their understanding of topic X, they are creating using their understanding of Powerpoint and maybe topic X.  A students can know little about X and still be able to create a wonderful presentation about X.

For example, students might create a Powerpoint about density that has loads of examples and explanations of density, but not really use this information in any meaningful way – other than to “present” it.  Instead, if students create a solution to a problem (how can we separate oil from water), or design a product (a submarine) using their knowledge of density the creative act is much more closely aligned with the intended content.  Also, notice other thinking such as application and analyzing come into play.

So, have kids create, just be careful about what they are creating.  Despite the obvious mental development benefits, creation may distract us (and students) from the intended learning goals.


It’s not just the technology…

September 21, 2010

I am starting to see a shift in educators’ dialogue around technology.  I see that they are more careful to note that technology is not enough to change education.  An example might be, “It’s not just the technology, I use the technology to get kids thinking critically, arguing points, researching topics, evaluating ideas and making connections”.  While this stance of “its not just the technology” is a welcome step forward, I want to push a little harder.

You can do everything in the second half of the statement WITHOUT digital technology.  So take out the word “just”.  Education change is not technology. Take pride in YOUR affect on your classroom, talk about what YOU do with kids and how YOU promote the higher levels of thinking that will serve them well.  To say “it’s not just the technology” gives technology too much power and removes the importance of the classroom teacher.  Yes, use the technology, but realize teachers were doing amazing things before digital technology.  Let us not give too much credit to technology, nor use lack of technology as a scapegoat. TEACHERS create amazing learning environments.


An open invitation for students to learn.

March 29, 2010

(Hear author read this post)

Below is the blog post I wrote for my students on our class ning.  This project will be worked on throughout the rest of the school year.  While this will not be the only thing we do in class, the project will take up a large portion of time.  I am very excited to see how my students react and where they take the project.  Comments & suggestions are appreciated.  As you can tell, the project (which starts today!) is fluid.  I’ll let you know how the 8th graders handle it.  Here is the post they will receive:

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