Technology Teachers Learn
New Tricks at Sci-Tech '97
technology subject associations worked together to
organize a successful conference. Sci-Tech 97
showed how relating science and technology works for
students and the conference was a hit with
Evidence and Aliens
Going From "I Cant Do
Science" to "I Can Do Science"
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Linking Knowledge and Understanding
to be Missed
Sci-Tech organizers worried that
having an entire months worth of snow dropped
onto southern Ontario in one day would keep teachers
away from their conference, but more than 1,000
teachers from all over the province crammed into a
Toronto airport hotel on a blustery November weekend
to find out whats new.
And there was
lots new. Teachers and students roamed the
exhibitors room, sat on the floor in crowded
sessions, served as volunteers for presenters doing
"magic" tricks, collected material and
talked with colleagues about issues and ideas.
theme, Partners for Tomorrow, reflected the emerging
emphasis in education of combining science and
technology. A third of the more than 220 sessions
focused on science, a third on technology and a third
from elementary and secondary classrooms,
universities, boards, media, museums and businesses.
For the first
time, this annual conference was organized jointly by
the Science Teachers Association of Ontario
(STAO), Ontario Technological Education Co-ordinators
Council (OTECC), Ontario Technical Directors
Association (OTDA), Design and Technology Teachers of
Ontario (DTTO) and the Association franco-ontarienne
en éducation technologique (AFOET).
Canadian Astronaut Awes
teachers and students paid close attention as a
conference headliner, Canadian astronaut Bjarni
Tryggvason, highlighted the Sci-Tech theme and showed
some awesome photos of his home planet.
and technology have made our lives a lot more
comfortable and a lot less expensive," said
Tryggvason, citing a list of everyday examples, like
television, safer cars and being able to drive on a
set of tires for 100,000 kilometres.
continued, governments need to spend more money to
He noted that
the United States spends $50 a year per person on the
space program, while Canada spends only $10 a year
per person. Without government support, society will
get fewer benefits from scientific and technological
tribute to teachers, telling the audience, "You
try to turn excitement on in your students."
Tryggvason, teachers put in the foundation that
society needs to support scientific discovery.
In response to
a request from the audience, Tryggvason showed some
slides from his trip on the space shuttle Discovery.
In some ways,
it was like looking at any travellers photos,
with the speaker pointing out landmarks of interest.
In this case, however, the points of interest
included the layers of the atmosphere, a dust storm
somewhere east of Russia, and Tryggvasons
birthplace, Iceland. The usual "this is my
room" picture showed him at his computer, but as
he was weightless he was neither sitting nor
sat engrossed in these picture of Earth, taken from
space by the person standing in front of them,
talking about how the shuttle "shuddered a bit,
like a giant coming to life" when the lift-off
touches in the pictures reminded the audience that it
was entirely possible one of their students could be
going into space one day.
By Rosemarie Bahr
With a title like Science and the
Paranormal: UFOs, Dowsing and Spontaneous Human
Combustion youd expect a crowd of the curious.
And youd be right.
All the seats
in the small room are filled 10 minutes before the
session is set to start. People crowd in, filling
wearing an alien T-shirt under his tweed jacket,
starts early, remarking its "no use
waiting for more to arrive."
Fraser, is about gaining knowledge, finding out what
is true to the best of your ability. Teachers tell
students to look at the quality of the evidence, not
the quantity. But teachers usually provide only good
evidence. "We dont tell them its
lousy evidence in the real world. Rarely, if ever, do
we give them poor evidence."
teacher sets out to give students bad evidence so
they can compare good and bad. "And theres
lots of bad evidence available," he says.
the session by reporting on a survey he had done of
100 junior and senior high school students, asking
them if they had heard of alien abduction,
spontaneous combustion, dowsing, and ESP and whether
these things had happened. Forty-five per cent of the
senior students believed in alien abduction and in
spontaneous combustion. Three-quarters thought
dowsing worked. Ninety per cent believed in ESP while
only a quarter believed in astrology.
out of vogue," comments Fraser, noting that
societys always had myths.
students," Fraser instructs, "if someone
tells you they saw an alien would you believe them?
What if a thousand people saw the alien? If you
believe a thousand people, you also have to believe
in leprechauns, fairies and goblins. Theyre all
mystical beliefs supported by honest eyewitnesses
doing the best they can. The problem is with the
demonstrates several ways to help students judge the
for ESP, telepathy and clairvoyance is easy. You just
have to understand statistics and probability,"
he says. With help from a volunteer, Fraser uses a
deck of cards to "prove" he has ESP.
explains an experiment in dowsing he uses with his
students. The students use divining rods, a piece of
wire bent at right angles (two-thirds of a coat
hanger) that rest in what look like the small
test-tube-like water containers florists use, to
figure out which of the covered cups contain water.
practice," Fraser says, "some students will
find water." He reminds the audience that about
97 per cent of land has water under it and that the
water is like a lake, not streams, so that its
pretty hard not to find it.
continues, showing a bit of a famous alien autopsy
film. He points out that it contains a danger sign
that didnt exist until 20 years after the
autopsy was supposedly done.
other facts that contradict the evidence of incidents
of spontaneous combustion.
audience with a long list of resource books and
videos, Fraser has provided several ideas on how to
excite students interest.
As for teaching
"alien abduction," Fraser says,
"students will talk about it forever, maybe so
they dont have to do density. Besides,
"I Cant Do Science" to
"I Can Do Science"
By Angela Monaghan
science? I dont think so. I cant do
I felt until I attended the Sci-Tech 97
I am a
pre-service teacher at Brock University, and Im
being trained to teach all subjects from Grade 4
through 10. My emphasis is music and social studies,
and I claim to have no background in science.
intimidates me. Joe Engemann, my science professor,
encouraged me to go to Sci-Tech 97.
dissolved. Workshops were presented in such a manner
that anyone with no science background could
understand most of what was going on. I felt better
about myself and my abilities.
subjects is important, not only to make sure all
necessary material is presented in a very short time,
but more importantly to help show the
interrelatedness of one subject to another.
Sci-Tech to be a great way for science and
non-science people to learn more about math, science
and technology and how to either teach or integrate
I knew more
than I thought I did, and I expanded on this previous
knowledge. I learned about rain forest and coral reef
conservation and how these areas affect Canada;
specific aspects of humans damaging interaction
with nature; the physics of sound and how to teach
it; using a computer to make 3-D model patterns;
technology as a process as opposed to a product; ways
to keep parents from doing their childs science
projects; and setting up a science committee.
related topics that were reinforced were how to make
resources for next to nothing and how to use them;
concept mapping; global trends and their predicted
impacts; making an effective rubric; where to find
more information; how to get students to do their
homework; lesson plans and evaluation techniques;
writing worksheets and creating learning centres;
encouraging and evaluating student participation; and
97 was invaluable.
I spoke with
Fay Trimble of the Halton Board of Education about
non-science teachers and their ability to teach
science. The music teacher in her school works
closely with Trimble and another colleague in
creating science lessons.
the music teachers initiative in asking
questions and researching his lessons has made him a
better science teacher. At Sci-Tech 97 I
learned that teaching science is not beyond this
Teachers of all
disciplines should be encouraged to attend Science
Teachers Association of Ontario conferences.
Attending is a great way to learn that science is
more interesting than intimidating.
learned that I can do science.
Angela Monaghan is a
pre-service teacher at Brock University.
Eureka! Innovation and Entrepreneurship
By Keith Gibbons
What makes a
session at SciTech 97 a success? Audience
participation, humour, challenging questions, useable
handouts and innovative ideas immediately spring to
mind. Exposure to invention case studies was the hook
that drew me to this workshop: Eureka! Innovation and
As we enter the
session, Susan White of the Canadian Industrial
Innovation Centre in Waterloo uses puzzles, clocks,
birth dates, heights, thumb sizes, among other
things, to help this motley group of participants
meet each other. She then focuses our attention on
the soft drink can, asking us to question its origin
If you think
you have an idea that will satisfy an urgent consumer
need, Susan White can ensure the most rigorous
testing of your product, including development,
protection and marketing. Answers to critical
questions will highlight the potential strengths and
weaknesses of your invention as well as
recommendations for progress.
In fact, since
1976 the Canadian Industrial Innovation Centre in
Waterloo has evaluated over 12,000 products at a cost
of $345 per application. This organization has
categorized the key factors for product success into
four groups: technical, production, management and
session revolves around evaluating inventions by
using real submissions to question technical
feasibility, safety, production costs, potential
markets, existing competition, and legality.
Will Ratapult Work?
as Ratapult, Gopher Sucker Upper, Easybagger, and
Easy Jug let participants appreciate the complexities
of making a viable product acceptable to the public.
This process is fraught with pitfalls.
of the Simcoe Board of Education explained the
possible misuse of an invention, "If youre
stupid, dont use this product."
analyzes a wheelbarrow rack. We do not recommend it
because the rack doesnt satisfy a true consumer
need and lacks practicality
try parking a car
in your garage with this product on the side wall.
juices are beginning to flow. Perhaps there is
something innovative in my future. Not!
Keith Gibbons teaches at
Catholic Central High School in London.
By Christina Clancy
If we could
ensure that students could both know and understand
science and technology, then we have accomplished our
mission. It is the linkage between the two, knowledge
and understanding, that should drive each one toward
the other. That was Ursula Franklins message to
Franklin is a
favourite speaker at science teachers
conferences. She is renowned for her uncanny ability
to eloquently outline the constructs of present-day
socio-economic problems affecting learning in science
and then to deftly display a palette of solutions,
reflections and insights.
An educator of
mechanical engineering students at the University of
Toronto for many years, she came to us this year with
another clear and inspirational message about our
teaching mission in life: to preserve the quality of
It may be a
common misdirection among teachers, parents and
education officials to equate amount of knowledge
with a quality education, but if students cannot
apply their knowledge outside the classroom, their
education has failed to serve them.
At the same
time, it is a sorry state of affairs, especially in
developing countries, when citizens of a community
are intuitive about problems and possible solutions
but do not own the tools of knowledge that will
enable them to construct viable solutions.
Keeping the Awe
outlined how to ensure the security of the linkages
between knowledge and understanding. Among comments
about learning to learn and using technology to
enhance learning in science, her most valuable
reminder was to keep the awe in science alive.
She recounted a
memory of her early childhood. At age seven, she was
on a beach in Germany. Seagulls were flying overhead.
Suddenly she had a revelation so strong that she
stopped in her tracks: she watched the gulls
shadow moving on the sand in relation to the gull up
above and in an instant understood the perspective of
she has had only a very small number of these
"religious moments" in her life of science,
but it was these small "eurekas" that kept
the understanding weaving through the knowledge. She
reminded teachers that we should always endeavour to
create the occasion for these precious moments to
happen to our students.
reflections and unfailing wit inspired, enlightened
and amused the audience.
Greg Howard, a
teacher at Loyola Catholic Secondary School in
Mississauga, who was hearing Franklin for the first
time, was deeply impressed by her power as a speaker.
"Not a word is wasted," he said.
with an uplifting nod to our courage and persistence
as educators and stewards of education and with some
new insight as to how to face the challenges of
reform in our everlasting determination to preserve
the quality of education.
Christina Clancy teaches at
Loyola Catholic Secondary School in Mississauga.
interesting thing youve learned so far at
this wonderful program called Moon Link in the
exhibitors section, where children can see
space the way it really is."
Irene Krytiuk, Josyf Cardinal Slipyj, Toronto
water a diaper can hold. After Bill 160 had me
depressed for so long, this conference has got me
Darlene Holyoake, Armour Heights Public
the science Olympics."
Althea Brown, Diefenbaker Public School,
interactive technology to have a less structured
Oksana Baczynsky, R.H. King Academy, Toronto
to keep things moving faster and faster these days.
Its really the same information but there are
so many new ways to give it to the students."
Benjamin Lawton, Chatham-Kent Secondary
theory is teachable."
Chris Nokes, pre-service teacher at OISE/UT
Im seeing in the integration of science and
technology in workshops and exhibits, but also
connections between the grade levels and the
fun and challenges."
STAO regional councillor Lynda Bachynski, St.
Patrick High School, Thunder Bay
Sci-Tech Not to be Missed
By Roxanne Le Blanc-Lemieux
Whether it was
the magic and demonstrations by Steve Spangler, the
thoughtful presentation on the independent chemistry
OAC research unit by Carl Twiddy or the innovative
Science and Technology 10 by Christina Clancy and
Malisa Mezenberg, all sessions at Sci-Tech 97
brought us a wealth of information.
More than 300
dynamic speakers in science and technology and over
100 exhibitors of the latest in material and
equipment met up with lots of teachers willing to
learn and share.
was contagious. Elementary level teachers were
introduced to the technology of toys, robotics,
technology across the curriculum and 60 other
sessions. There were countless resources, kits,
materials, books (most of them in English only,
unfortunately). Everything was conducive to
experimentation and discovery.
partners in scientific programs such as Science
North, Ontario Science Centre and Shad Valley, as
well as researchers from the international approach
to science in education listened carefully to
questions and concerns from teachers.
Even the most
frustrating session, from a representative of the
Ministry of Education and Training, reflected well
the mind-boggling pace of the changes in science
Next year, we
are promised stimulating and innovating presentations
to help us implement the new elementary curriculum in
science and technology and the new secondary
curriculum guidelines. So, lets meet again at
the 98 STAO conference in Toronto in November.
Roxanne Le Blanc-Lemieux
teaches at the Collège catholique Samuel-Genest,