“Constructivism isn’t laissez-faire”

This, from ateacherswonderings, is rather impressive.

how do you teach an abstract concept such as “system” to 2nd graders?

Simple: I divided the class in three groups and gave each group something different: a toy car, a pen and a puzzle. The trick that the kids didn’t know…was that each was missing a piece! They tried to assemble the pen (hey, but the spring was missing!), the toy car (oh no, a wheel is not there!) and the tree-puzzle (again, part of it was missing). The kids thought, argued, rearranged…”Cri, we can’t finish it!!”

So we sat down and discussed . Their conclusions: – a system is made of interconnected parts (yes, Ioana said that magic word!) – if a part is missing the entire system will not work (Elenis formulated it exactly that way!)

Some will ask, “So what? No big deal. How do you know they UNDERSTOOD the concept at a deeper level?” Well, I asked students to prove they understood it. How? By asking them to actually give an example, illustrate a system that is familiar to them and then share with us.

What systems did they draw and illustrate? Lots! From the anatomy of a bunny (heart, bones, lungs etc) to complex machines, buildings, laptops, musical instruments, plants. All included parts of the system and each student explained HOW it worked and how they were connected.

It’s the beginning of a wonderful exploration of cities. I’m not a huge fan of textbooks but this makes me think that textbooks should be replaced with case-studies for teachers.


oobject » 12 unrecognizable before and after views of cities

Despite the appearance of permanence that historic buildings create, many if not most of the worlds famous cities have been almost entirely destroyed either by war, property speculation or Ayn Randian architects. They have been rebuilt, either as replicas (Warsaw) or even in the image of the culture that destroyed them (Hiroshima). Here are images where either we or others have matched up locations for incredible before and after shots.

Source: here

oobject » 12 unrecognizable before and after views of cities

Despite the appearance of permanence that historic buildings create, many if not most of the worlds famous cities have been almost entirely destroyed either by war, property speculation or Ayn Randian architects. They have been rebuilt, either as replicas (Warsaw) or even in the image of the culture that destroyed them (Hiroshima). Here are images where either we or others have matched up locations for incredible before and after shots.

Source: here

oobject » 12 unrecognizable before and after views of cities

Despite the appearance of permanence that historic buildings create, many if not most of the worlds famous cities have been almost entirely destroyed either by war, property speculation or Ayn Randian architects. They have been rebuilt, either as replicas (Warsaw) or even in the image of the culture that destroyed them (Hiroshima). Here are images where either we or others have matched up locations for incredible before and after shots.

Source: here

Dealing with Internet Waste

If you assume that the internet, blogosphere et al are complex systems, what might their waste be? And how might we “recycle” it better?

One of the many things I’ve learnt from Steven Johnson’s Ghost Map, is that waste recycling is a hallmark of almost all complex systems.

System Recycling
Cities
  • Composting pits used in Knossos, Crete 4000 years ago.
  • Medieval Rome built with much of the ruins of the Imperial City
  • Manure spreading helped towns grow

    This feedback loop transformed the boggy expanses of the Low Countries, which had historically been incapable of supporting anything more complex than isolated bands of fishermen, into the some of the most productive soils in all of Europe

  • Modern day bottle, plastic, paper and other recycling methods.
Human Body Calcium is a waste product of all nucleated organisms. This is turned into e.g. bones, teeth
Coral Reefs Coral lives in symbiosis with an algae called zooxanthellae. This algae captures sunlight and turns CO2 into organic carbon. This process produces oxygen as a waste product, which the coral then uses in its own metabolic cycle. And that process produces nitrates, CO2, phosphates etc as waste products all of which are used by the algae.
Tropical Rainforests One organism captures some energy from the sun, harvests it, but in the process produces waste, which then serves as a source of energy for another organism in the chain

At a more micro level, without the bacterial process of decomposition, we’d have been overrun by dead things years ago.

All of which had me wondering about internet waste.

The obvious waste is the hardware to support online life. Oxfam and others all work hard to recycle the motherboards, cables and chips that help us connect. But there’s still a huge amount left, and lots of that goes to China and the third world. [See e.g. the BBC ‘s Disposable Planet, or Salon’s article]

Then there’s the paper.

But most interesting, I thought, is what we do with all the old articles, thoughts, posts etc. I know I personally rarely look back over all the guff I’ve written. But I don’t particularly feel any qualms about leaving it up there. The amount of memory it all takes up is so small in the scheme of things I don’t really have to bother. That said, as things stand a lot of it is, if I’m honest with myself, waste. It may or may not have been at the time, but now, a few years on, it probably is.

So how best to recycle it? The easy way is just to delete it all. Alternatively, on the rainforest model, rather than delete everything, I could delete everything that had no comments/links to it. (As such, it would be much the same as an email retention policy)

I’m probably a little nostalgic for that. Part of me thinks that a yearly revisit to old posts might in itself be useful. (It’s amazing how much you can forget). And part, as I’ve said before, thinks that doing a social network analysis of your blog to look for structural holes could be instructive.

Anyroad, probably barking up the wrong tree … and perhaps in a few years time I might delete this …

Cities are greener than the country

Toby Hemenway argues that

“Virtually any service system – electricity, fuel, food – follows the same brutal mathematics of scale. A dispersed population requires more resources to serve it – and to connect it together – than a concentrated one”

Cities as such serve to reduce humans’ environmental footprint. Or put another way, if you’re going to move out the country, it would seem you’d have to invest substantially more homegrown food, solar panels, electric cars and the like before you even begin to be level with a city-dweller in terms of carbon neutrality.


Source: alykat [via Urban Nature]