30 June 2009

Research Day 1

Yesterday was the first day of a research project I began through Quarknet at OSU. It was actually an interesting day although not necessarily what I had expected.

I arrived with plenty of time to spare and met my mentors, Dr. Flera Rizatdinova and Dr. Sasha Khanov. They are both high energy physicist who teach at OSU and are involved both with Fermilab and the LHC. They have so much knowledge and are more than willing to share it with me.  It seems as though Flera is into the actual data analysis side of things while Sasha is really good with computing and the hardware side. He is quite knowledgeable in different types of particle detectors.  BTW, they are actually married and have a couple of children who are both younger than 6. Apparently their son is obsessed with how things come apart and go back together. Sounds like a little scientist in the making. Both Flera and Sasha are from Russia, but met at Kansas State.

My morning was filled with a computing class from Sasha and some general knowledge from Flera about the Z boson and how they use the Root program to detect different types of particles.  Root is an open source program which was written by the physicists at CERN to analyze their data. I got a brief intro to it coupled with an introduction to UNIX. I have never worked in either, so it was quite a morning.

After lunch, we met again and I was instructed to play around within the Root program and UNIX.  Its kind of like learning to drive a car without understanding how the car actaully works. This a problem for me since I really like to understand how things actually do what they do. Suffice to say I just accepted my lot in life because there is no way I can learn everything!  I am just going to try to pick up some data analysis skills and computing knowledge during these 4 weeks.

I am beginning to feel a little more comfortable just navigating around within UNIX and Root; now its time to actually start manipulating some of the different code modules so I can get a handle on how to make Root do something for me, instead of me just looking at other peoples data.

Stay tuned...

17 June 2009

Back to the Moon!

Here we go. Tomorrow, if all goes as planned, NASA is RETURNING to the Moon. Now I say returning because there are many conspiracy theorists out there who "believe" we've never been to the Moon. A couple of problems with that:

  1. All of the conspiracies are based on a mis-interpretation of facts and faulty logic. I won't get into those things here, but feel free to look around and see what you find, you can start here.

  2. The other problem here is that word "believe". There's no room in science for belief. A belief in anything conotates some kind of faith. I believe in God. I believe He created the Earth. I DO NOT believe in Evolution. I ACCEPT Evolution. I see evidence for it and I accept that evidence. I don't believe in anything in science. There is either evidence for something or evidence to refute it.

So all of that to say, conspiracy theorists are about to have to shut up. Why, you say? Because tomorrow, there is a rocket launching with the LRO (Lunar Reconnasiance Orbiter). This little gem is going to orbit about 31 miles above the surface of the Moon. That means, with the optics on modern space vehicles, the LRO will be able to resolve objects smaller than about 1.5 feet. So, anything left behind by the earlier lunar missions will be able to be seen. As soon as those images come back, the conspriacy folks will have to clam up. So NASA, be sure we get those images!

11 June 2009

Technology at the district level

This week I was "allowed" to teach a class on Wikis, Blogs, and Discussion Boards. It was actually the first day of a class I was able to take called AIT Beyond, with AIT being Advanced Integration Technology. This has been a good class, really for collaborating with other teachers, but also to be able to get the new 13 inch Macbook Pro as "payment" for being in the class. It has been interesting to hear some of the anti-technology sentiment, even within this class. And therein lies my question:

How do you get teachers to start embracing technology and stop complaining about it down all the time? How is it that we expect students to be prepared for a tech heavy workplace? How can we expect them to be successful in college where virtual learning platforms are the norm? Do we need to do away with all of the old school teachers? Maybe we need to adopt more alternatively certified teachers? How do we solve this problem? I hear it all the time in my building, "I don't use technology in my classroom" or "I can't use technology in the classroom". Some can use it, but choose not to. Why? Is it too time intensive? Is it because its different? Is it too scary? Is it not scary enough?

I certainly don't know the answers. I do know some of the questions, though. Anyone want to weigh in on how to get teachers comfortable with technology? Why does it have to be a bad word to some teachers? And I am talking web2.0, not just using powerpoint and video for teaching. I am talking computers in the kids hands and students adding to the body of knowledge! Project based learning via computing.

08 June 2009

Vacation is over

This week begins with thoughts of technology. Tomorrow I'm teaching a tech class to other teachers and then spend the rest of the week taking a tech class. Next week is Quarknet which is the beginning of a summer research opportunity for me. That will take me all the way up to the week before school which is when I get trained on our new administration program, Powerschool, at the beginning of the week and then I begin training others the rest of the week. I'm not complaining, mind you; I'm just commenting. I do feel a little sad that I won't get much of a summer, but I am excited to get all of the training I am going to receive over the break.