Skip to main content

Chris Aldrich

Today, I got an email update from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI, which has some generally excellent free teaching materials in science/technology related areas. (I recommend everyone spend some time on their site when they have a block of free time.)

In particular today, they have some nice looking materials for thresholds 5 and up:
Exploring the Anthropocene
Summary: How are our activities affecting the planet? This engaging interactive brings our popular poster ( to life, letting you explore data on human population growth, air pollution, agriculture, mining, water use, and other factors. Turn layers on and off, identify trends and correlations, and discover the impact of human activities on the environment.

They've also got an accompanying set of 6 stream-able lectures

Biodiversity in the Age of Humans
Summary: Are we witnessing a sixth mass extinction? What factors threaten ecosystems on land and in the sea? What are researchers doing to try to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems?

Most of their materials have online videos, animations, virtual laboratories, and poster-type components for helping to illustrate their points.

Primarily the HHMI's mission is to help move cutting edge research forward, though they also spend some significant time trying to help educate the public on the importance of their research. Given the wealth of free educational materials and funding along with the overlap of major areas of science which underpin Big History (in particular evolution, earth science, chemistry, biology, physics, etc.) it may also be worthwhile for the larger Big History movement to work along side of this part of HHMI to pool resources and education materials for improved pedagogy. Perhaps the Big History Project could partner up to help extend HHMI's reach into classrooms? :)

Chris Aldrich

Chris Aldrich

Chris Aldrich

Tell me lies, tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.

Chris Aldrich

Chris Aldrich

“Shia LaBeouf" is a song by Rob Cantor. It tells the true story of an actual cannibal. It is awesome!

Chris Aldrich

IndieWebCamp for Education

2 min read

I ran across a good, short video the other day related particularly to success in MOOCs, though I feel it's fairly applicable to many classroom situations:

Parts of it made me think back to some of the guiding principles about personal websites and interactivity stated on IndieWebCamp which have direct application to flexible learning environments that allow student interaction as well as the ability for students to "own" their own data and interactions about the content they're creating as they learn.  Though I've built some of this type of infrastructure for myself on the WordPress platform in conjunction with some indiewebcamp plug-ins as well as for free), the technological hurdles can potentially be daunting for some.  

For those with tech-fear, I might suggest looking at WithKnown's Education landing page which uses these same types of guiding principles and is geared particularly to the education space.  Their corporate structure is very similar to that of WordPress in that they give away everything as free opensource advocates, but also provide hosted and paid subscription services for those who prefer the help and additional support. If nothing, their website has lots of interesting stories and use-cases which can give teachers a variety of ideas on how they can use the web in their classes.

For educational use, some of my favorite functionality is that a teacher can make an initial post with information/questions to which the students can reply to on their own sites. The technology is set up so that the reply appears on the teacher's site (for grading) as well as on the student's own site where they'll "own" that work for perpetuity rather than relying it to live on the teacher's site. These types of functionalities assist in threaded commenting that all sides can keep for themselves as journals of their work during the class as well as long afterwards. Additionally, there are plugins so that comments on students' content that is shared on social media is back-fed to their original post - for example if their blog post is cross-posted to Facebook, all of their friends' likes and comments are posted back on their own site as native content.

Chris Aldrich

Yesterday I ran across a new textbook from MIT Press by Sanjoy Mahajan entitled "The Art of Insight in Science and Engineering: Mastering Complexity." In general, the book shows how to build insight and understanding in science and engineering to help students from drowning in complexity. The book attempts to keep the mathematics and science fairly simple while focusing more on how to handle and understand them.

Given the heavy reliance of big history on a broad variety of sciences and the overlapping concepts of complexity and emergence, this text can be helpful not only for beginning students, but will likely help even seasoned scientists. Applications of these concepts can certainly assist in the application of broader scientific thought to big history.

For those teaching high school students, some of the scientific concepts may be a bit advanced, but I would highly recommend this for students with a modicum of exposure to basic physics and a year or more of algebra. STEM students could/should treat this as a must-read.

The best part of it all is that MIT Press makes the book a FREE DOWNLOAD! They also make physical copies of the book available for a small fee as well. Either way the concepts behind the book have some fantastic application to the field of big history and beyond.

Chris Aldrich

I wish that platforms like @edXOnline @coursera were using more flexible/useful software along the lines of @withknown

Chris Aldrich

Book stores are scared!

1 min read

See it here,

Buy it here,

Keep us here.