Especially for K-12 teachers, check this baby out.  The National Science Digital Library has Science Literacy Maps online.  For a bunch of different topics (Math, Technology, Physics, Nature of Science) you can click to get a concept map of a set of topics.  In physics, for example, you can click on waves to see a map of all the concepts related to waves.  Even better – there is a link within each section to see a list of student misconceptions (with references) related to those topics.

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I’ve just posted a new episode of my Science Teaching Tips podcast — Which is Closest?

Which is farthest away from the earth, the stars or Pluto? The answer may be obvious to you, but a lot of people get this wrong.  Here’s the task — arrange these in the order from closest to furthest from the earth:  moon, sun, Pluto, stars, and clouds.  Think about it first, and then listen… listen carefully!  It can be easy to miss the mistakes that people make.

We went out and harassed the employees at the Exploratorium with this little survey.  I was astounded by what we found.  Many teachers are.  Linda explains why people (even highly educated people!) answer as they do, and what this means for teaching about science.

432px-moon_earth_sun_dtal.jpgI’ve posted a new episode of my Science Teaching Tips podcast: Private theories. TI Director Linda Shore was one of the people originally involved in the Private Universe video (from Annenburg Media), which showed surprisingly persistent misconceptions in students. In the famous opening scene, they interview students as they graduate from Harvard and ask them why there are seasons. Almost all of them said that it’s because the earth gets closer to the sun during 1/2 of its orbit, despite the fact that this doesn’t explain why the southern hemisphere has summer while the northern hemisphere has winter. [The real answer is that the planet is tipped on its axis, so 1/2 of it is closer to the sun during part of the year].

In this podcast, Linda Shore explains how she probes student thinking to find out about their private theories about the universe. Without understanding what students are thinking, it’s very difficult to help them form new conceptions of the world.