Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tinkering & Making Mistakes - that's what scientists do!

A note to my 8th graders:

I follow many bloggers (I think I am up to 45 now). Why? I learn a ton from what they have to say. Many of the ideas, tools, and projects that I bring into science class (and for those of you who were my math students last year) came from bloggers - people who are sharing their ideas. It's one of the ways I learn to improve to be a better teacher. It's also why I blog - to share my reflections so others can benefit. It's also a way for me to reflect upon my practice. While I don't always receive comments, I know that people are reading them (as I know you read my emails from my conversations with you). 

This past weekend, I happened upon Leslie Keehn's post about tinkering - trying out new technologies and learning new skills... and her hesitation to because of fear of failure. She was at an expo for new tech and she was hesitant to try it out for fear of not "getting it right" the first time.
Remember from the beginning of the year, how I said it's good to make mistakes for that is how we learn? The same is true for adults (in fact, it's even more true for adults, if that is grammatically correct to say). We have been taught that it's not ok to fail. And, society, for the most part, is just starting to learn new behaviors - that it's ok to fail if you learn from it. 

The past couple of weeks, you have been working on your science fair projects - trying to compose the strongest experimental question you can. Many of you have been struggling with it and that's a good thing... it ain't easy. Some of you have had to rewrite your question over and over and over... and it can be frustrating because you feel you should have it right immediately. 

In some ways, designing an experiment is exactly like tinkering with new tech. You have to play with it, observe, analyze, reflect, modify and then restart the steps. And guess what... you're in good company! Newton, Boyle, Darwin, Curie, Pavlov, Vygotsky, Watson, Crick, Salk... all of these scientists across the centuries did exactly what you are doing now. 

So, think of yourselves in that light... you're doing good work... great work... just like the great scientists did... so tinker away and don't be afraid to make a mistake!