Monday, January 21, 2008

How It All Ends: YouTube, Climate Change, and Inquiry

Thanks to Chris Lehmann and Will Richardson, I came across this video (well, actually, multiple videos). As Chris said, "This is one science teacher's attempt to influence the way we talk about the issue of climate change. Pass it on."

I find this worth blogging about for two reasons. First, full disclosure, I am concerned about climate change. But second, even if I wasn't, I find this approach very interesting and would like to explore the educational possibilities.

This teacher has taken an important, controversial topic, and attempted to start a global conversation. He started out with an earlier video titled, "The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See!" It got a lot of views, and also a ton of criticism (hmmm, sounds vaguely familiar). He then acknowledges that he had a giant hole in the original video, and then created a series of videos attempting to address every criticism of the original, with the How It All Ends video being the jumping off point.

He provides an index of all the videos and a suggested order of viewing in the "About This Video" section next to each of the videos on YouTube, but easier access can be found on this site. He provides some links at that site as well.

I think this is a very interesting approach, even if the topic wasn't so huge or as controversial as climate change. Lay out an argument, address and attempt to refute all the criticism, put it all out there on YouTube to be freely distributed, commented on, criticized, discussed, and generally put through the wringer, and then also provide some next steps for those interested in doing something about the issue.

I think this holds a lot of promise as an example of an inquiry approach to learning about climate change. I could see a science class taking this on, watching and discussing all the videos and investigating the related links. And then investigate the other side of the argument thoroughly, generate a list of links and resources, and then presenting them in one, unified "space." This would involve looking deeply at the science - as well as the related social issues - and I think would offer many possibilities for learning and doing science along the way. The students would learn a whole lot of science concepts in context - in relation to the bigger picture issue of climate change. Then each student (or perhaps group of students) would have to take a stand and make a persuasive argument using all the evidence collected, and present that argument both digitally in some form and in person to their peers and/or their wider community. Invite others in to critique (including Greg, the creator of How It All Ends.)

For me, this big picture approach would not only be more engaging for students and would be more likely to lead to more enduring learning of science concepts, but it would also immerse them in the scientific process itself. Not just the scientific process as applied to science - which I think most folks would agree is pretty significant in and of itself, but also the larger scientific process as it relates to politics and policy. As we've seen with so many issues (AIDS, evolution, stem cell research, climate change, etc.), you really can't separate the science from the politics and the policy when it comes to actually addressing the issues and attempting to solve the problem. What better way to show the relevance, the social impact, and the sheer beauty of science?

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