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Monday, February 12, 2007

Interview with Nanotechnology expert, Earl Boysen

I was excited last week to connect with Nanotechnology expert, Earl Boysen. Using the miracle of video skype, we saw each other and had a conversation about nanotechnology. We completed a chapter on Computer Hardware and if one looks at the specific definition of a computer, nanotechnology and quantum computing should be at least understood.

I want my students to understand the ethics that arise from being surrounded by devices that are microscopic. If you bought something with nanotechnology in it -- how could you verify it? If you buy a computer now -- you can see it, pick up the box, and take it home. Nanotechnology will be used in the fabrics we buy, and indeed is in the sunscreen that we use today. (I didn't know that.)

Following is the audio file of our class interview with Earl Boysen, author of Nanotechnology for Dummies and www.understandingnano.com - he is also a columnist for Nanotechnology. We had a great conversation where students were allowed to ask questions and be asked questions.

You can listen to the interview over your computer speakers.

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The Preparation

This is an example of how a class can learn about a concept when the teacher knows very little.

Here is how I taught something to my students when I knew practically nothing!

1) The Wiki Exploratory Project

The students created a wiki to prepare for the interview. The students elected a project manager and determined four critical questions that would give them a basis for understanding nanotechnology:
They explored websites and created their wikis in a class and a half (75 minutes).

2) The Interview

I set up my laptop to hook into our classroom speakers and a separate mike to prevent feedback. We determined the order of the interview to allow time for student questions and for Mr. Boysen to ask our students questions as well.

We spent thirty minutes talking with Mr. Boysen who is in California over Skype computer telephone service. (A free tool that is blocked in most schools because you can also make phone calls!) It was an internet telephone call with full video and audio (and was free!)

3) Post-Interview

Students were to post their "corrections" to the wiki.

I created a podcast to share with parents and students. Then I posted an article on the school blog which links with our school homepage. (This is done automatically using Feedburner -- if you want the steps -- see my blog post about how to easily RSS your website.)

Why tell parents?

As purveyors of new technology, we must consistently remind people about its importance. Many adults and parents mistakenly think that because something sounds confusing that it automatically belongs at the college level, this is wrong! Boysen believes that Nanotechnology should be discussed in high school physics and chemistry classes.

And when I did some research into the inclusion of this topic (and some other engineering topics) I found a study showing how our most popular middle school and high school science textbooks are severely lacking in fundamental issues they should cover. (Look to see if your science book is on the list.)

Here is what I told the parents of our students:

"Technology is changing faster than the textbooks, and we work hard to bring students to the cusp of technology so that they will be prepared for the accelerating pace of college and technological change. Students have to be lifelong learners who can go out and find answers and be unafraid of new things. I am proud of how well they did in the conversation today," says Mrs. Davis.
No, not everyone can connect with this researcher, but using Skype you can connect. This is how to bring people into the classroom and I believe will bring in a new wave of virtual volunteers into our schools. Top CEO's and others can help the most remote, impoverished schools through virtual access using such tools as Skype.

I think Skype is a must have service for teachers in any school. I use it on a daily basis to connect, plan, and answer questions. I am beginning to use it on a weekly basis to teach and connect with other classrooms.

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