For the past week I have been living vicariously through the twitter feeds of those attending SXSWedu in Austin, TX. Today, Melissa Greenwood wrote about What's Changing in Education for Smart Blog. The first item in her list was Teach Students to Find the Answers. Alan November told attendees in his session entitled Creating a New Culture of Teaching and Learning that 100% of questions that students ask teachers are Google-able. He goes on to say that educators must become learning facilitators, teaching students, among
other things, how to create solid queries for online research and use
the technology and tools available to them.
We can no longer function as the Magic 8 Ball for our students. It is time to throw out the standard responses, and change our Magic 8 Ball rhetoric that we use with students.
Last night I received a message from a former student who is taking a biology course at the moment.
Student: Ms. Newcomb at the end of the ETC why does oxygen have to be the final acceptor of electrons? (Definitely Google-able)
Me: (answered a question with a question)
Student: (continuing to bombard me with Google-able questions, then has a thought) Maybe that's why evolutionary oxygen was the most efficient option.
Me: It would be interesting is to look into the evolution of the ETC. If you think about it, when life began, theoretically there was only anaerobic bacteria. How did those organisms transform energy? Then the photosynthetic bacteria evolved and started to produce O2…which lead to the oxygen catastrophe. So theoretically, it could have been somewhere in this time period when eukaroytic organisms evolved alongside of the increased production of O2 that these mechanisms would have come about. Look it up and let me know what you find!
Student: That's awesome and makes so much sense and I definitely will. One site is saying that it is only because oxygen has a great electronegativity. The only substance with a greater electronegativity is fluorine which is poisonous.
This conversation would have gone differently had I simply answered his question. Instead, my magic 8 ball response was, "Better not tell you now". This approach helped him to refocus his questions and pointed him in the direction of other research possibilities.
I woke up this morning to a
message containing a series of links that attempt to answer the evolutionary origins of
aerobic respiration. One peaked my interest. In the article, Evolution of energetic metabolism: the respiration-early hypothesis, the abstract states:
Other molecular data predict that this ancestor was unlikely to perform oxygenic photosynthesis. This evidence, that aerobic respiration has a single origin and may have evolved before oxygen was released to the atmosphere by photosynthetic organisms, is contrary to the textbook viewpoint.
Textbooks can be wrong??? :-)
I do this frequently in class even if I know the answer. The other day, we were discussing the mechanisms of movement at a molecular level.
Student: Your heart is a muscle that is constantly contracting. Why doesn't it ever get tired? (Google-able question)
21st Century Magic 8 Ball response: I don't know. Why don't you find out and share what you learn with the class?
Student post to class Facebook group:
In case you are curious, here is the link. Which brings me to my question for you. What suggestions do you have for the revised 21st Century Magic 8 Ball? While you ponder that, I am off to research this obscure hypothesis from 1995 that could very well turn everything that we think we know about the evolution of aerobic respiration upside down...or not.