The successful launch of the SpaceX Dragon supply spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) today marks a true beginning of the next phase of space exploration.  Utilizing the famed LauchPad 39B where the Apollo mission launched the Saturn missions to the moon, the SpaceX Dragon was put into orbit for an eventual rendezvous with ISS to deliver much needed supplies and some important scientific experiment packages. This mission is very significant because it returned the large booster rocket (first stage) and landed it successfully in a landing zone only  8 miles from the launch site.  This will allow SpaceX and NASA to re-use the rockets in the future and save millions.  The landing of this booster was the first for an operational commercial launch.

Students and teachers interested in STEM should pay particular attention to what is happening in Space Science.  Every aspect of STEM (and STEAM) is represented here.
NASA and SpaceX maintains an extremely close relationship with K-12 education.  NASA has numerous K-12 STEM activities all over the country and there are numerous lesson plans and interactive projects that are emanating from SpaceX, NASA, NSF, ARISS, and many other space and science related organizations.

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The IBM Data Science Experience (http://datascience.ibm.com)  has provided three important papers on programming and math in understanding machine learning, probability and prediction. High school students who are interested in advancing into STEM fields should be required to be familiar with these principles.  I am sure some districts are doing this, but every district should have at lease one required course for students in their senior year to prepare them for STEM courses in college.  I hear too many stories of HS students with “senioritis”.  They essentially waste their senior year when that time should be spent in rigorous preparation for college courses. It would certainly make things easier and more enjoyable once they get into the college routine. (We should do a study of senior year HS courses taken vs. college performance.)
Here are the links to the Data Science papers.  The papers have many links to free online courses:

http://datascience.ibm.com/blog/the-mathematics-of-machine-learning/

https://developer.ibm.com/recipes/tutorials/use-ibm-data-science-experience-to-detect-time-series-anomalies/

https://apsportal.ibm.com/exchange/public/entry/view/efb51900cc9d687fb9f05b2eabb66cb5

As a young child, my parents brought me to the Hall of Fame and Gould Library a few times.  I remember the Hall of Fame as being one of the first “tourist” attractions I ever visited since it was only a few blocks from our home in the Bronx.  But I remember a much more interesting visit to the same location a bit later in my life.

I was about 14 or 15 years old and my good friend Peter and I decided to go out one evening and walk to the tennis courts at NYU to have an evening game.  The courts were on the campus of NYU in the Bronx which also encompassed the Gould Library and Hall of Fame. These great monuments are still there today but are part of Bronx Community College. These tennis courts were one of the few in the Bronx that had lights for night play.  It was also just a couple of years before the advent of indoor tennis in “bubbles” or pressurized domes that became prevalent around the city.

After playing we started walking back, but as we did, we passed the Gould Library and saw that is was still open.  It was impressive to look at from the outside with spotlights illuminating the columns and walls.  We walked inside and it was mostly empty.  Someone sat at a desk in the rotunda.  It reminded me of a smaller version of the Capital rotunda in Washington, DC.  It was no less impressive with marble interior columns, marble floors and wrought-iron spiral staircases that led to the multiple stacks above. Nobody stopped us as we walked around the rotunda, then climbed a spiral staircase. The stacks circled the library just below the dome itself and had many doors that led to many small “reading rooms”.  The stack floors that led to the rooms circled the interior of the library and were also wrought-iron but with thick glass tiles that were translucent.  The glass tiles below our feet provided an interesting perspective of the stacks below and the lower rotunda. As we walked around the stacks, we felt an eerie sensation.  There was a musty smell and the light was dim.  Many of the rooms looked like they hadn’t been entered in decades. There were some desks and tables, but they were covered with dust.

We walked into one room and there was a table with a number of books laid out as if they had been removed from the stacks years ago and were still sitting there.  I picked one up and blew off the dust.  Inside the front cover were some very old papers.  I don’t remember the name of the book.  All I remember is that I opened the folded papers and saw some very old writing and then a signature- James Madison. Peter looked at it and confirmed that is what it was.  I remembered I had a replica Constitution at home and that James Madison’s signature was on it.  It looked exactly the same, but this did not look like a replica.  Suddenly we got very nervous and we heard someone ascending the stairs.  I quickly folded the papers, closed the book and placed it back on the table.  We grabbed our tennis rackets and ran down the opposite spiral staircase to the base of the rotunda and out the back door which was the closest exit out of the building.  Somehow we thought “they” were after us for fiddling with US history.

The rear exit of Gould Library takes you to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.   James Madison was the first bust we saw as we walked down the colonnade of heroes.  Was he trying to tell us something? We both continued to run all the way home.  We didn’t sleep well that night.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hall_of_Fame_for_Great_Americans

http://www.nylandmarks.org/videos/tourist_in_your_own_town/tourist_in_your_own_town_30_-_gould_memorial_library_and_hall_of_fame/

 

 

 

 

Pete Reilly’s new book “A Path With Heart” is a must read.  Here is my review on Amazon:

Teaching is a profession of two loves. The love of learning and the love of helping students acquire a love of learning. This book looks at both of these loves and puts them into fascinating perspective with poignant stories from the classroom. Some folks claim that inspiring students is a genetic gift. Not true. “A Path with Heart” shows how a teacher, how anyone, can inspire others from within using practical, easily developed “soft skills”. Trust, respect, honesty flowing from teacher to student and back is goal that can be achieved.I remember all those education classes in college and grad school covering teaching methods, nomenclature and learning patterns. I wish I had read this book back in those days. Instead I had to endure my own mistakes usually resulting from not understanding my students.This is a great book and should be required reading not only for every prospective teacher but anyone who has an interest in education.

http://www.amazon.com/Path-With-Heart-Journey-Teaching/dp/0986135402

I was a science teacher eons ago, but these two articles should get anyone interested in science excited.

The first describes the Tardigrade- a minute creature that can actually survive in the nothingness of space.  I don’t mean inside a space station or spacecraft.  I mean in the inordinately freezing and airless nothingness where any other living thing would immediately lose its life. It goes into a sort of water-less hibernation and can be dry-frozen for a year and literally come back to life.  It is not really that small, certainly visible and easily viewed with a magnifying glass or microscope.  More importantly, it is found all over the place, mostly in lichens and mosses.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/08/science/the-tardigrade-water-bear.html

The second endeavor is a telescope, actually a number of telescopes.  For the first time a group of extremely large, powerful radio telescopes are probing the universe together as one.  The purpose is to view a black hole for the first time.  By using all these telescopes synchronously, the power and data received is increase exponentially.  The first reception session yielded 400 terrabytes. We can view a black hole by watching the material swirling around it.  That area is called the “Event Horizon”.  The name of the telescopes working together are the EHT (Event Horizon Telescope).

Science is alive and well!

http://www.eventhorizontelescope.org/

This article by Andrew Gillen states the true advantages of this new form of learning.  What is great about MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) is that anyone can take them.  A high school student, a retired person, anybody can register and take any number of these courses, with some great professors.  The problem is that very few people actually complete them   Gillen says “For students taking a MOOC, self-motivation and self-discipline are even more important”. It is true. There is no one there to prod you and it is easy to procrastinate or simply abandon the work.  If you are not self-motivated, maybe you should think of a “brick and mortar” course in the presence of human bodies. There, you may be able to “learn” self discipline.  It seems that the peer pressure of presence and human interaction are intrinsic motivators.  Most people live and work in a human environment and self discipline is needed constantly.
This is a good thing.  It organizes your life and it makes you feel grounded and calm.  You will also be on time for meetings!

An article in the New York times talks about a new University that acts as a “technology incubator” for New York City.  This alliance of business and education is not new, but has a unique concept – applied science.  Students do work and research that will directly benefit people.

Why not do the same for K-12 education in a more limited way.  Companies can “sponsor” students who are promising in these companies’ own “academies”.   Soccer teams all over the world have academies that nurture their best prospects, sometimes from the age of 9 or 10 or earlier. They do rigorous study and work at their game.  Why can’t students do rigorous study and applied science as well?

Education in the US has gone from loosey-goosey, no accountability, let them go, to State and Federally mandated tests with rigid accountability for both students and teachers. This has caused an education system that is solely based on the tests and testing data. Teachers, Administrators and Students have become “puppets” of this system. Teachers no longer have the time to make learning interesting and fun for their students. In the last decade education has moved from the sublime to the ridiculous. 10 to 12 years ago Education in the US was too free-wheeling and open, with teachers doing what they wanted and no accountability. There was no rigor. This was recognized by business and government. Politicians realized this and in the usual manor, overreacted.
Now is the time to start to change this to a more balanced approach.
We want to start a school that would run under this more balance approach and still be a project-based learning environment, where students work in teams to create things, solve problems and learn to be successful members of society.
The idea that college is the necessary goal of all students is not realistic. In the 21st century, specialized technical skills in conjunction with critical thinking and problem solving can make for a very successful career. The same skills can also make a very successful college and post-college career.
Yes- a student does need to know some basic skills that need practice and more practice. Why can’t that practice be embedded in projects and collaborative exercises?
The school’s success will be measured by the success of it’s students, not necessarily academically, or financially but socially and humanistically.
A teacher’s success will not be judged by one or two test results, but by students, parents and supervisors together. Teachers will have the freedom to experiment with new methods and students will have the freedom to participate in wide-ranging projects that take them out into the “real world.”

This article regarding the Stuyvesant HS  iPhone cheating scandal gives new meaning to the term “scanning” papers.  I agree with the author on many counts.  I would also add that in addition to “learning for learning’s sake”, working on character education early in a student’s  career might be helpful.  Project-based learning with more assessments “for learning” and fewer “of learning”  would seem reasonable.

One of the challenges has been simply the teenage mind.  Many teenagers are just not into learning.  They need to find something that interests them and focus on it.  One of the best things a parent or teacher can do is give a teenager something that they can strive for. Even if he/she never actually pursues that particular interest in the future, it gets their mind to focus and all of a sudden they have a highway to travel.

Here I am sitting in my classroom about to teach a class at the local community college and I am on the college’s computer.  Yes, I can go access my docs on Google, but I recently added Google Chrome Frame to my personal computer so I can do all the neat Google Doc sharing on Internet Explorer rather than Chrome.  Even though I do have Chrome on my personal computer, I need to use Internet Explorer for certain sites and I don’t like switching between them.  So Google has Google Chrome for Internet Explorer which allows you to download an add-on.  Google also has another add-on called Google Cloud Connect  that allows you to open, work on, save, share  and download Micorosft  office documents in Google Docs.

This is all very cool, but these add-ons are on my local computer and I can’t load them onto the college’s computer because it is locked down.  So sometimes the cloud doesn’t quite work out.

I would imgine that eventually the browser will get smart enough so that we don’t have to keep loading add-ins, but right now, it seems a bit out of hand.

If we are truly mobile, it should mean full funtionality at all locations and all platforms.