|Students at St. Cyprian's band a tree with scientist Josh Falk|
Microsoft, Taking IT Global, and the Smithsonian Institute have just announced a collaborative three year platform for students to study Land, Air, and Water. This year's focus is on land and will kick off with an extension of the Deforest-action project that first came from the Microsoft Innovative Education Forum in Asia this past year.
The website is www.shoutlearning.org and will allow students to interact with scientists at the Smithsonian and each other as they collect data on tree growth. Leading the science team are Geoffrey Parker and Josh Falk of the Smithsonian. Dr. Parker made splash in the news earlier this year as he discovered that trees in Maryland are growing faster than they should be according to traditional data.
|Anthony Salcito, VP Education Microsoft Corporation|
When asked about how students could be expected to collect such data, Dr. Parker commented that there are methods to help distinguish between "signal and noise" meaning that the "noise" caused by improper techniques is pretty distinguishable from the signal of data change using statistical methods.
Citizen science has been emerging through projects like Project BudBurst that tracks blooming data and many citizen scientists have joined in around the world. Now citizen science has moved to the classroom with students collecting data. In a world of academics, this approach seems to be somewhat revolutionary.
|Student at Hout Bay High School bands a tree and learns to measure growth.|
I asked Dr. Parker "what will you say to those scientists and people around the world that students cannot be trusted to collect data properly and be accurate in what they are doing?"
"I'll prove them wrong," says Dr.Parker.
Not only will Dr. Parker prove that this can be done, as a blogger and co contributor to this Flat world I believe that this partnership between the Smithsonian, Microsoft, and Taking IT Global will begin showing the power of student sourcing science and is only the beginning of a trend that will continue to shape education. I hope that many foundations, organizations, scientists, and companies will look to fund such projects to help science, math, and social action learning become real to students.
A video documentary about 1 million students saving the rain forest is being filmed now by an Australian Film maker will be narrated by Hugh Jackman about the deforestaction project which is part of the shoutlearning.org network now.
Expect more on this story later... As a person who believes in "flattening" the classroom - seeing scientists work with students is very powerful and exciting.