Friday, December 28, 2012


I love the Internet.

Back at the continuation high school (my last gig before the break), the science class had a crossword puzzle on earthquakes. The lesson plan stated: "Feel free to help them. Give them a few of the tougher answers... I don't have a key." After glancing at the crossword, I saw I was out of my depth.

The puzzle had an author on it. I typed that into Google. The puzzle didn't come up, but all the terms and definitions did. About half the terms were words I had never seen before. Realizing that they'd have more difficulty than me, I decided to make them a word bank.

There were 33 terms, things like "Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale" and "Mohorovicic discontinuity". My hand cramped up just thinking about writing those up on the board. But I had a computer hooked up to a projector.

I love technology.

A quick copy/paste into a word processing program, add bullet points, and voila! I had a word bank for the class.

I wonder if their teacher wanted them to find those terms. Terms that weren't in their textbook (I checked). I mean, these are the students that will not do an assignment just because it's too hard. They got to the continuation high school for a reason. So, helping them out this way was the right thing to do.


(Not all the terms were impossible. The crossword also contained Richter scale, aftershock, foreshock, and other terms that Californians, who have been through many earthquakes, should be familiar with.)


  1. I don't think it's cheating. "Memorization" is not knowledge. Knowledge is learning to think one's way through a problem. Sure, one way to do that is to learn everything about something and parrot it back, the way we learned multiplication as a 4th grader. But a better way is to teach someone how to figure out or deduce the answer -- teaching someone to think rather than recall.

    Part of why those kids maybe ended up there is because standard teaching doesn't always work for everybody, especially people from tougher backgrounds, personally or mentally speaking. B If you had shown them how they could find the answers, they would have gained two levels of knowledge: first the method for finding an answer and then the answer itself.

    As for your post yesterday which I read today: I believe that everything happens for a reason, but often that reason is self-imposed from the back end, as in "I saw this drunken car crash and now I am never going to drink and drive again," in which the car crash "happens" for the reason of "teaching me not to drive."

    That is why people don't think things are random: we impose order on them as often as we can, pareidola (seeing faces where there are none) being one form of that.

    If things are truly random, then that suggests that free will exists: a random beginning to the universe, or to our lives, suggests that we can impose one of many possible outcomes, through our own will and chance, even if the ultimate outcome is similar to others -- think of gas particles in a jar, exerting pressure. Each gas particle moves randomly, but the outcome is uniform pressure on the jar. Some randomness in the system is necessary for us to be able to affect it.

    A lack of randomness means we have no free will -- we are marbles in a maze, but there is only one way through the maze and we will follow it to the end.

    In seeking to impose order on randomness, to impute patterns that may not exist, we could be hoping to free ourselves from the outcome of our actions -- the pattern drove us to it -- or we could be hoping that there is a higher meaning in life, that the reason this happened and that happened is not just bad luck or a flip of the coin, but for a purpose.

    I think both can exist: I think we have the option at any time of doing whatever we want, but that there is a higher power who knows the outcome of every choice we make... but doesn't tell us what to choose. So I am free to go on typing this or go back to work. God knows what will happen if I do either of those things, and the result of each choice along the way, until I bump into the outside of the jar, but how I get to the outside of the jar is entirely up to me, and random chance.

    Not sure if I answered the question, but thanks for making me think!

  2. I think you did what you're supposed to do. The fact is...some of them watching you do that research probably learned something.

  3. I was an overachiever and there's no way I would have been able to find those words. Good thing you put them up there.

  4. You do have to look stuff up to learn it in the first place, right? I think what you did is right!

  5. I think it's okay to help/show the kids how to find the answers. And sometimes I feel the same way; it's too hard and I don't have the energy to invest. Of course, when I was in school that wasn't really an option... but I also think Brian is right, some kids to very well in the public school system and others require a different method of learning in order to succeed.


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