[IAEP] define "textbooks"

mokurai at earthtreasury.org mokurai at earthtreasury.org
Fri Aug 12 23:46:24 EDT 2011

Taking discussion to mailing list.

On Fri, August 12, 2011 6:26 am, Valerie Taylor wrote:
> I have been trying to piece together a Science "textbook" replacement.

Please bring your efforts into this public discussion. We would like to
hear your ideas, which might help us in other projects, and we might have
ideas that you can use. I hope that some of us can put your ideas to
children and get their feedback also.

> I'm assuming that this should be learner-centered content - much like
> textbooks that are distributed to students. However, finding OERs for
> student use is challenging. Much of the information is for "teaching"
> - rather than for "learning".

Exactly so. However, there are some teachers who "teach" physics primarily
by asking questions for students to work on together, and occasionally
providing hints. I suspect that we could teach physics using only
questions commonly asked by children, but that would require a research

> Textbook "adoptions" normally come with vast amounts teacher
> materials, teacher's guide, lesson plans, powerpoint slides, videos,
> training, resources, teaching strategies, references, even equipment
> in some cases.
> What's the plan for Replacing Textbooks? How much of this
> infrastructure is required? What is "nice to have"?

None of it is absolutely required. All of it is nice to have. (Except no
PowerPoint when we have Open Office/Libre Office Impress, Scratch, Turtle
Art Portfolio, and so on.) One approach would be to collect and curate
such materials from students, teachers, and volunteers. We must also,
wherever we can, show how to link our approach with existing curriculum
topics and sequences.

Here is a question that has been successfully asked of first-graders. Note
that we are not requiring precision in the answers. A sphere is close
enough. Any child who proposes an ellipsoid is well ahead of the game. Any
first-grader who knows that the ellipsoid is inaccurate is either from a
family of scientists, or is a genius.

How can you tell what shape the Earth is?

You should get at least five different answers back from any first-grade
class that is exposed to TV and the Internet, preferably more. Here are
ten of mine.

* The shadow of the Earth on the Moon in an eclipse is round.

* The Earth looks round from space.

* Things disappear below the horizon as they move farther away. The bottom
disappears first.

* The horizon is further away the higher up you get. Thus crows' nests on
sailing ships, and broadcast antennae on the tops of the tallest

* Shadows are longer as you go further north or south from the equator.
There is a band around the equator where the sun can be directly overhead
twice a year. (Eratosthenes used that fact to measure the size of the

* Every object in the Solar System above a certain size is round.

* Satellites going around the Earth in any direction can have circular
orbits at nearly constant height.

* Laser measurements on the Golden Gate Bridge show that the tops of the
towers are further apart than the bottoms.

* Gravity is perpendicular to the ground wherever it is level (not the
same as flat), and to the surface of the ocean. The only surface which is
perpendicular to all of the lines through its center is a sphere.

* If you put sticks of the same height into a straight canal a mile or
more apart, and look from one end to the other, the line joining the tops
of the two outer ones intersects the middle one well below the top. (This
was done as a challenge to the Flat Earth Society in England. They denied
that it had anything to do with the question.)

It turns out that the Earth is not quite spherical, due to rotation, as
was known to Newton. It further turns out that the shape of the Earth
varies very slightly with rock tides, and that there are a number of other
factors involved. So here is a sequence of cross-disciplinary questions
for high school students, involving deep issues of philosophy and

* How much is known about the exact shape of the Earth?
* How do we make such measurements?
* How much is not known?
* Can we get better information?
* What are the sources for the answers to the above questions?
* What ideas exist that contradict this knowledge, in addition to Flat
Earthers? (Hollow Earthers, Inside-Out Earthers...)
* Why do people believe such things? (along with UFOs, circle-squarers,
angle trisectors, AIDS deniers, cold fusion, evolution deniers, Global
Warming deniers...)
* Can we refute these ideas? Is there anything to any of their objections?
(A vital part of scientific method)
* Will they accept your refutations?
* Do you know anybody who believes something that is obviously not true?
* Is there anything that everybody around you believes that you suspect
isn't so? (Plate tectonics was obviously nonsense when I was a child,
because solid rock can't move around, but became obviously true when
mid-ocean volcanic spreading was discovered.)

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you
know for sure that just ain't so.

    Frequently attributed to Mark Twain, and often to Will Rogers, Satchel
Paige, Artemus Ward, as well as others.

Edward Mokurai
ج) Cherlin
Silent Thunder is my name, and Children are my nation.
The Cosmos is my dwelling place, the Truth my destination.

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