March 20, 2009

Gearing Up For The Maker Faire 2009!

It's official! GalaxyGoo is taking The Cell Project to the Maker Faire again! We got our acceptance notice today.

So, now the planning and preparations begin! We had so much fun last year!

Would like to get involved? If so, please contact me at galaxygoo -at- gmail -dot- com, with "GalaxyGoo Cell Project" in the subject line. We're getting ready to move to a new web hosting company, so please use our gmail account until we're all settled into the new server.

Some of the things we need help with:

  • Volunteers to help set up and take down the booth
  • Volunteers to help staff the booth and help with the activity. We were very busy last year, and had a hard time keeping up with all the visitors to our booth.
  • photography during the event
  • Have you done the activity yourself? Take pictures of your cells and share your photos with us on flickr.
  • Donations are always welcome
  • Give the Cell Project to a teacher or a whole classroom!
  • Got an idea? Tell us about it!

February 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Darwin!

Tomorrow, February 12th, is Darwin's Birthday! In fact, it's the 200th anniversary of his birth.

My husband and I are going to our daughter's class to talk about Darwin and evolution. What are you doing to celebrate?

April 28, 2008

Bay Area Maker Faire Education Day: Friday, May 2nd

The Maker Faire is fast approaching. In fact, it's this weekend!

This year, they're trying out something new. They've invited the Makers to start a day early, and to participate in a special day just for students and educators. Admission is free for Education Day!

That's right, if you're a teacher, and you'd like to come to a special open house just for educators, go sign up right now!

I'll be conducting a special workshop for teachers, on making cell models. If you're going to be there, please contact me so that I can be sure to have enough clay on had for you to do the workshop. Did I mention that teachers get in for free?!

The open house for teachers is scheduled for 4-6pm. Earlier in the day, I'll be doing some demonstrations for students, who will be there on field trips from school.

November 30, 2007

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil de Grasse Tyson is giving a talk, here in San Francisco, in February! He's been a hero of mine for a long time, and I'm always thrilled to see in on The Daily Show or Colbert Report.

One thing that always impresses me about Dr Tyson, is his obvious belief in the importance of raising science literacy of the general public...that science isn't just for scientists.

I'm looking forward to his talk, and am very happy I got tickets.

October 25, 2007

The Extinction of Science in Schools

I am simply appalled by the state of Science education today. How can there not be time to cover Science in grade school!?

"Some of a new study's findings about elementary school science instruction in Bay Area schools:
-- 80 percent of teachers say they spend less than an hour each week teaching science.
-- 16 percent of the elementary teachers say they teach no science at all.
-- Ten times as many teachers say they feel unprepared to teach science than feel unprepared to teach math or reading.
-- Fewer than half of Bay Area fifth-graders scored at grade level or above on last spring's California Standards Test in science."

Read the article in The Chronicle, and the full report.

July 31, 2007

Robert Krampf & binary marbles

Robert Krampf seems to be having the same mindset as GalaxyGoo, bringing science to the masses... And he has the ability to explain things in a clear manner. Check out some of his videos, they are very entertaining, interesting and you might pick up a thing or two as well. A true science educator!

Also, check out this binary adding machine which is made out of wood and uses marbles. There's a video at the bottom that shows it in action and explains binary addition quite well. Quite a fascinating video and you have to admire the work put into this machine. Don't forget to check out the rest of the website, this guy knows how to build stuff!

June 04, 2007

Adobe needs a Science and Education Evangelist!

The scientific and education communities use Adobe products extensively. Does Adobe have an evangelist that serves their needs? If not, why?

I'd like to see Adobe doing more to meet the needs of scientists and educators. I'd like to see Adobe at the next AAAS national meeting, as exhibitors--a big booth with demonstrations of the current releases of Photoshop, Flash, and the rest. Introduce them to AS3 in'd be surprised how often I meet scientists/programmers who have no idea that Flash has a scripting language, let alone one with the capabilities of AS3!

Why do I want Adobe to do this? Because it will make my life a lot easier! Adobe now owns most of the software that I use in my work. The more scientists and educators know about Flash, the sooner I can get to the project brainstorming and development aspects of my work. We will all start to build even more compelling and useful learning tools.

March 16, 2007

Photos from Family Science Days

Some photos of our booth, from the professional photographer who covered the whole conference. The kids were really into it. I think some of the parents wished there was enough room for them to play, too.

GalaxyGoo at AAAS Family Science Days ( photo1 | photo2 | photo3 )

We've also started a Cell Project Flickr group, and we're hoping to see a whole bunch of cell models showing up.

February 15, 2007

Stage Show Schedule at Family Science Days

The Stage Show Schedule is posted for the Family Science Days, and the Mythbusters are first up on Saturday! I think I have a view of the stage from the GalaxyGoo booth, and I'm looking forward to their show. It would be cool if they'd stop by our booth, and pose for a photo with me. Even better, wearing GalaxyGoo T-shirts :-)

GalaxyGoo's booth is sponsored by Adobe. Also, thanks to the generosity of Friends of Ed, we have some great books to give away. Peter was kind enough to send some copies of New Masters of Flash 3 and LEGO Mindstorms NXT: The Mayan Adventure.

Stage Show Schedule

AAAS Family Science Days
San Francisco Hilton
11:00 AM — 5:00 PM

Saturday, 17 February
11:00 AM "The Mythbusters: Jamie Savage and Adam Hyneman" — The Science Channel
Noon "BioBug: Field to Fuel" — University of Idaho
12:45 PM "Iron Science" — The Exploratorium
1:30 PM "Fun with Science and Astronomy" — The Zula Patrol and KQED Kids!
2:15 PM AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books: Awards ceremony
3:15 PM "Waves in Nature: Lasers to Tsunamis and Beyond" — Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
4:00 PM "The Outreach Roadshow" — Women@SCS Outreach Roadshow, Carnegie Mellon University

Sunday, 18 February
11:00 AM "Name that Mammal!" — Platypus Media
11:45 AM "The Science Hour of Power" — Sikes Science
12:30 PM "Global Warming Discovery" — ClimateChangeEducation.Org
1:15 PM "The Science of Yo-Yos" — Yomega Corp.
2:00 PM "BioBug: Field to Fuel" — The University of Idaho
2:45 PM "Cloud Nine" — How The Weatherworks™
3:30 PM "Robotics: The Next 10 Years" — The Robotics Society of America and San Francisco State University
4:15 PM "Kinetic City" — AAAS

February 05, 2007

Reflecting on IM2.3 at Apple

I'm still recovering from the Image and Meaning workshop I attended last week. Gotta say that our hosts at Apple took wonderful care of us. It's very heartening to know that a big company like Apple, is taking an active role in supporting this work. But then, with a visionary leader like Felice Frankel, it's only natural that Image and Meaning is attracting such support.

The Image and Meaning phenomenon is unlike anything I've ever experienced. My brain will continue percolating this intense, and extremely positive collaborative experience for quite some time. I think it's safe to say that all of the participants are passionate about visually communicating scientific information, and that we are equally concerned with the accuracy of that communication.

The workshop was remarkably interdisciplinary. What does that mean? In my workshop group, we had physicists, artists, biologists, computer scientists, and more. Many of us fell into multiple disciplines, as individuals. To me, "interdisciplinary" also means that I rarely got the "I have a PhD" dropped on me, when someone wanted me to take their words as more heavily weighted than anyone else's (including my own). We were all participants, and were not segregated into groups of "speakers" and "listeners".

It doesn't seem possible that it all took place in under two full days, and I can't wait to do it again! I'm all fired up and eager to take on new challenges.

January 31, 2007

Science and Technology week on The Daily Show?

Is it Science and Technology week over at the Daily Show? On Monday, John Stewart interviewed Bill Gates...who made a hasty departure.

Tuesday night, Mr Stewart interviewed Neil DeGrasse Tyson... who stuck around and gave a wonderful interview. Could Dr Tyson be breathing new life into Carl Segan's legacy? He sure makes Astrophysics seem very down to earth. I especially liked the way he talked about how "calculations" make things easy. The really is truth in that.

Off topic...could somebody talk to the folks at Comedy Central, and tell them to make their website more user friendly? Just getting a simple link to add to this post was a pain to accomplish.

January 29, 2007

GalaxyGoo at AAAS Family Science Days

GalaxyGoo will be at the AAAS - Annual Meeting Family Science Days! Feb 17-18. Exhibit Hall at the AAAS Annual Meeting, San Francisco Hilton.

We'll be demonstrating some of the off-screen activities from our Cell Project. My favorite is building Cell models out of clay, and looking at the cross-sections. So bring your family along and play! Admission is free!

I hope our booth has a view of the stage, because there are a number of presentations I want to see, espcially by the Mythbusters and Iron Science (from the Exploratorium).

GalaxyGoo's participation in this exciting event was made possible by the efforts of Simon Conlin and the support of Adobe. Thank you!

January 13, 2007

Journey Of Mankind

Journey Of Mankind Is an interactive Flash animation looking at the way people have populated the world over the past 160,000 years. It is fascinating to watch and read all the information. I do find the Flash-execution quite poor, if only they would've asked us to help them with it! :) But all-in-all, this is a wonderful example of bringing science to the masses.

May 03, 2006

NASA's Earth Observatory up for a Webby

I get to meet some very bright and talented people. Last month, I had the pleasure of speaking at NASA GSFC, and to see some of the work going on at the Earth Observatory. It gave me a much greater appreciation for how much work goes into their website. It's really amazing.

I'm not the only one who appreciates their work. Rob Simmon (of NASA GSFC) just emailed me that they're up for two Webbys. Two! Congratulations!

Science category: NASA Ozone Hole Watch

Education category: NASA's Earth Observatory

They've got some tough competition in their categories (Education and Science). I was especially impressed with the BBC Springwatch for their mobile data collection and use of Flash to display data.

You can add your vote to the Webby Awards: People's Voice

January 13, 2006

Ramblings on Science Literacy

Did you know that the editors of Scientific American blog? Today, I came accross a great post by David Biello, where he writes hisConfessions of a Teenage Science Illiterate. It's a short and very well written piece.

He talks a little about the successes and failures of his teachers, erupting volcano models won over hamburger trajectories, and even talks about is major studies change from Chemistry to English.

While he confesses to gaps in his science literacy (who doesn't have gaps!?), he expresses his frustration with people who choose to "ignore or misinterpret scientific findings".

His closing paragraph sums up why science literacy is so important:

Perhaps if more people understood just some of such basic principles of science, we would be ready to make informed decisions about the medical potential of stem cells, global warming and other vast science-based conundrums facing the U.S. and the rest of the world today. At the very least, we should educate our children to understand them, since they will have to deal with the consequences of the decisions that are made today in an apparent fog of ignorance.

I would add that we need to educate our adults, too. It's never too late to learn, and while our focus may be on educating the next generation, we must also hold our own generation to the responsibility of science literacy.

A family centered approach might include trips to science museums and family science experiments and other activities. Build a volcano in your kitchen! Travel the path of discovery as a family.

November 23, 2005

New version of The Cell

We've just uploaded a new version of The Cell: A Learning Tool.

This version includes a feature that lets the user build a cell from a selection of organelles, and checks if the correct organelles have been placed in the cytoplasm.

We've also included questions in the quiz that are more cognitive based.

We still need to add better logic to the quiz, so that the same question isn't repeated and the quiz responds to the user's learning needs.

November 14, 2005

What Makes a Great Conference

It's been so busy around here, that many "news" items just haven't made it to the blog.

This summer, I attended the best conference I've ever been to: the Gordon Research Conference on Visualization in Science and Education. There were several factors that made it such a great conference. First of all, the attendees were all encouraged to participate by presenting posters, so that most attendees were either giving a talk or giving a poster. Also, the speakers were not singled out, or isolated from the rest of the attendees.

The conference was focused on a single track of sessions, and there were more opportunities for talking with the other attendees than at other conferences I've been to. Also, limiting attendees to 125 reduced the chances of getting "lost in the crowd". During the five days of the conference, we ate all of our meals together and there were many opportunities in the day to socialize. We visited several pubs.

For me, attending one of the two-day workshops before the conference began was a great way to get to know people. We broke up into small working groups. I learned a great deal about assessing the effectiveness of learning applications, and got to know some amazing people at the workshop. You could even say that I had a paradigm shift, as a result of the workshop. I'll be writing more about this, as I continue my studies and explorations.

There was also the mini-grant competition. During the course of the conference, we were encouraged to form interdisciplinary teams, design a pilot project, and write a grant application to fund the project. Each team was expected to include a subject expert, a learning expert, and a media expert. The application was due at the end of the conference.

I am pleased to announce that I am part of a team that won funding for a pilot project, through the conference, and the project will include the development of a learning tool built with Flash. The grants were funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

November 11, 2005

Class Based version of CML Reader

Eric Mulvihill contributed a class based update of Edwin's CML reader a while back. It's now available for download on the GalaxyGoo Working Forums - CML reader

September 28, 2005

Evolution Resources for Teachers

The National Science Teachers Association has great resources on Evolution for teachers.

August 16, 2005

How to Read Mathematics

Just came across this nice article called "How to Read Mathematics"...

From the article:
'A reading protocol is a set of strategies that a reader must use in order to benefit fully from reading the text. Poetry calls for a different set of strategies than fiction, and fiction a different set than non-fiction. It would be ridiculous to read fiction and ask oneself what is the author's source for the assertion that the hero is blond and tanned; it would be wrong to read non-fiction and not ask such a question. This reading protocol extends to a viewing or listening protocol in art and music. Indeed, much of the introductory course material in literature, music and art is spent teaching these protocols.

Mathematics has a reading protocol all its own, and just as we teach students to read literature, we should teach them to read mathematics.This article categorizes some of the strategies for a mathematics reading protocol.'

August 12, 2005

Earth's City Night Lights

At the GRC conference on Visualization in Science and Education, I learned a great deal, and met an awful lot of amazing people. NASA also had several people there, and I had the pleasure of getting to know some of them.

For this post, I'm going to focus on Robert Simmon. He's responsible for an image that caused a bit of a buzz a while back: the Earth's City Lights.


I've been asking him how he created the image, and I hope to have some answers to post soon.

June 30, 2005

I'm a cryolophosaurus, what dinosaur are you?

I spent the day at Natural History Museum of London today, both in person and on their website. On the website I found this cute little app. It's not your run of the mill personality test: what dinosaur are you Apparently, I'm a Cryolophosaurus.

I met up with Edwin, Aral, and Mischa for lunch and a walk about the museum. We wandered through the mammal section, and ended up in a cafe, where we stopped for coffee and talked Flash under the gaze of Darwin.

Well, that's it for my time in London. I'm off to Oxford in the moring.

June 16, 2005

Aritfacts and artifacts

I've been doing a little research on the word "artifact", mainly from the perspective of microscopy (photographs through a microscope). On a google search, I came up with mostly what I expected...except for one result. It took me back to my days as an anthropology student. When an artifact was a tangible thing to me, instead of an accidental miscommunication.

The SAA provides an interesting list of terms and definitions relevant to archeology, including "artifact: any object made, modified, or used by people". I can see how this definition may have influenced the use of the term artifact to refer to an accident in image preparation. It makes artifact is the result of human activity and not a naturally occurring phenomenon. So, when you're successful in your visualizations, they seem natural. An awkward visualization will have artifacts--traces of the attempt to communicate instead of the communication itself.

May 27, 2005

AAAS response to attack on teaching Science

The most recent episode of anti-evolutionism in Kansas, and other attacks on science education, is troubling and I've tried to write a post about it for some time now. While I'm having trouble finding the right words to address the issue, Alan I. Leshner, CEO, AAAS is very eloquent on the matter. Here's a quote from a recent AAAS newsletter:

The teaching of evolution in U.S. public school science classrooms and the showing of evolution-friendly films in technology centers and museums have come under escalating attack in many U.S. communities. In a broad, quick-response effort to counter this campaign, AAAS has delivered a series of op-ed commentaries, letters, appearances, and high-profile interviews that support science education and defend the scientific method.
Our message is consistent and continual: The science classroom must be dedicated to the teaching of factsin the case of evolution, based on 150 years of research covering tens of millions of yearsto prepare our children for a future of great challenge and hope. Science and religion are not in opposition; many scientists are deeply spiritual and most religious leaders accept evolution. However, the place for discussions of creationism and intelligent designbased on faithshould be churches, temples, religious schools, and perhaps even public schools, but only during nonscience classes.

May 19, 2005

Technologies for Creative Learning at MIT

MIT has added more courses to its Open CourseWare project, and this one caught my eye: Technologies for Creative Learning. That looks like a great course. Perhaps Frances and I should form our own study group based on the reading list.

May 12, 2005

All About Ratios Project Now Onlne

Last night, I uploaded the All About Ratios project to our server. So far, testing is going well, but we could use some more feedback. The focus right now is on function.

For me, the most challenging part of the project was working with internal and externally loaded images as if they came from the same source, and keeping my code readable. Since Flash won't duplicate a movie clip with an externally loaded jpeg, I had to load them repeatedly. But I wanted there to be default images for the exercise, so that the learning tool would work even if it landed in an environment without external resources to load.

I'm going to take a break from the code for a little while, and then come back and look for ways to improve the class structures.

All About Ratios: a learnig tool built with Flash

April 28, 2005

Instructional Design

Hi All,
As my role changes at GalaxyGoo from intern to instructional designer Kristin sugguested a definition of instructional design be posted for the benefit of the general audience. So here it is, instructional design is the systematic development of instructional specifications using learning and instructional theory to ensure the quality of instruction. It is the entire process of analysis of learning needs and goals and the development of a delivery system to meet those needs. It includes development of instructional materials and activities; and tryout and evaluation of all instruction and learner activities (McNeil).

For the cell project I will continue to evaluate and analyze the learning tool and activites for the best possible interaction between user and interface.

I look forward to reading any feedback as the process evolves,

March 19, 2005

Learning made easy: Tivo and PBS Telecourses

Learn science and more at home! I find that I value my Tivo more and more the longer I have it. I have it programmed with a keyword search for science and education, set to record automatically. I've been thrilled to find that it has recently recorded a collection of three programs, each offered as a series in science education.

Continue reading "Learning made easy: Tivo and PBS Telecourses" »

March 04, 2005

Search for science-based examples for programming courses

Today I'm wrapping up another web technology course, in J2EE/EJB. The course material uses the same business examples as all the other programming courses I've taken. You would think that by now I've built so many banking applications that I'd be qualified to work at Fidelity or BOA, and so many Coffee vendor store fronts that I could run Starbucks.

Why is it that programming courses all use business models as the vehicle to teach the material? If you are building a genomics application to manage data coming from microarrays would you still write "business logic" or just "logic" to handle the rules governing data transactions?

I'd like to see some ideas proposed based on real world science or biology examples as the foundation for examples in programming lessons. I would imagine that it is assumed that the average developer can follow the lessons when they use banking examples without being too distracted by the actual banking aspect. Why not science?

What ideas do you have for interesting science use cases that could be applied as the foundation of programming classes, without overwhelming the student developer with with excessive jargon or difficult concepts? I think I'll google for children's science experiments on the web to see if I can find any subjects that might work for and information management type of a use case.

Please post your ideas!

-Steven Erat