Introduction to Learnalong

For several years, people have been asking for an organized curriculum. It has taken quite a bit of thought, since my approach is not the traditional one, but I am finally ready to give it a shot. Be prepared, because it will not be the usual kind of curriculum.

About Learnalong

Why is this different? Well, first it will not be grade specific. My educational training was in a museum environment, and I was lucky enough to learn from some incredibly talented people. I was taught to speak to a family audience, with the goal that everyone, from pre-schoolers to college professors to great grandparents would enjoy the program, and that everyone would learn something from it. With tremendous mentoring from these expert educators, I was able to learn to do this with a live audience.

Since entering the world of videos and websites, my goal has been to accomplish the same thing through this different medium. There are many differences. It is much harder without a live audience to observe. An audience can quickly let you know if you are holding their attention, if they are understanding what you are saying, and their questions quickly show where a program needs more attention or better explanations or demonstrations. With a video or web page, I can’t see your reactions. That is why I need your help with this.

Your Responsibility

An important part of the success of this program will depend on you. I am hoping for plenty of conversations and questions. Please be as specific as you can. General comments, such as, “Great lesson!”, “I love your cat!”, or “This is boring!” don’t really help me improve things. It is much more useful to hear that a specific explanation worked very well, that the example I chose did not explain the concept clearly, or that something I said sparked a question for you.

Ask those questions! Don't worry that it might be silly or simple. As I said, this series will hopefully have a broad audience, from young students to adults, from people who know little of science to science teachers. As you are learning the basics of science, I will be learning the best ways to present that science in a continuous series. We will be learning from each other as we go along. I will be depending on your feedback, (both positive and negative), your questions, and your suggestions for making things better.

Work at your own pace and level. If something seems too complicated, skip it for now. You can always come back later if you want. If something seems too simple, give it a try anyway. Sometimes we can learn amazing things from simple activities. The more time you spend on each lesson, the more you will learn.

Because this is a learning experience for all of us, things will change as we go along. We will not be locked into a formal curriculum. We may take side trips or loop back to look deeper at something we have previously talked about. Much of that will be determined by your questions and suggestions.

When you get to a stopping place, use the bookmark feature to save your place. That will make it easy to pick up where you left off.

Goals.

These lessons will not be about memorizing facts. While that was an important part of science classes as I was growing up, the world has changed. Anyone with a smart phone can tell you in seconds the distance to the Sun, the atomic weight of carbon, or the scientific name for a Bald Eagle. I will frequently give you interesting facts, but I do not expect you to memorize them.

Instead, we will be focusing on understanding the basic concepts of science. How do scientists learn new things? Why are scientists always changing their minds about things? Along the way, we will learn how to find scientific information, how to fact check that information, and explore some common misconceptions about science.

Most important, we will look at why you should learn these things. One of the most common questions that I asked when I was in school was, “Why do I need to learn this? What good will it do me?” These were, and still are, very excellent questions, although some of my teachers did not agree. Too often the answer was simply, “Because it is in the textbook.” Not a very satisfying answer, and definitely not one to inspire me to enthusiastically learn the material. As we will see, no matter what job you wind up with, science will play a major role in your life.