NOTE: PLEASE SEE THE DISCUSSION IN THE COMMENTS BELOW. I STAND CORRECTED, TECHNICALLY SPEAKING A NEEDLE WHICH HAS BEEN “MAGNETIZED” IS A MAGNET. I HADN’T REALIZED THIS PREVIOUSLY, SO THIS IS A BENEFIT OF MAKING YOUR THINKING TRANSPARENT… ALTHOUGH I FEEL SHEEPISHLY IGNORANT FOR NOT KNOWING THIS AS AN ADULT. THANKS TO THOSE WHO HAVE ADDED TO THIS DISCUSSION AND MY OWN EDUCATION!

My 7 year old daughter and I had an interesting disagreement a few weeks ago which was finally resolved on Monday. We had been discussing navigation and compasses, and she informed me that compasses have magnets in them. I asked her why she thought this, and she told me:

My science textbook says compasses have magnets in them.

I felt relatively certain she was mistaken, not only on a factual basis (because a compass is a freely spinning metal object on a pinhead or pivot, which is magnetized but does NOT have a magnet “in” it) as well as with regard to the facts included in her science textbook. SURELY her new, beautiful science textbook wouldn’t have a basic error in it like this? Surely she just “misunderstood” what was written in her textbook, and needs to re-read the information again to understand what makes up a compass?

To resolve this situation and clarify things, we worked together on Monday for about 10 minutes after school to build a basic compass in our kitchen. To do this, we used a needle, a small piece of foam which could float, and a clear bowl of water. We also used a magnet to magnetize one end of the needle. This was our simple, kitchen compass:

Our kitchen compass

Sure enough it worked: The magnetized end pointed to the north, the same direction our house faces. Sarah experimented moving the floating pin around and watched as the free-floating needle spun around and always oriented itself to point north. Satisfied that, although we had magnetized the end of the needle with a magnet, the compass itself did NOT “contain a magnet,” we opened her 2nd grade science textbook to see “what the textbook says.”

As a second grader, Sarah has a beautiful, new science textbook from Houghton Mifflin:

My daughter's 2nd grade science textbook

As you can see in the following image, this textbook is copyrighted in the year 2007, so it was literally BRAND NEW last year in her school:

A 2007 Houghton-Mifflin Science Textbook

You will also likely note the copyright notice which is printed underneath the copyright year, and may wonder how I am legally able to share a few, limited photographs of this textbook here on my blog and still remain in legal compliance with U.S. copyright law. The answer is that I am complying with the fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law, which DO permit limited uses of excerpts of copyrighted works under certain conditions, including critiques and analyses of another’s work. This is a topic I discuss in my educational presentations on copyright, and addressed in more detail in the winter 2003 TechEdge article “Copyright 101 for Educators.” For more information about U.S. copyright and intellectual property law as it applies to bloggers and blogs, refer to the EFF’s Legal Guide for Bloggers.

Before I detail the erroneous information presented as “facts” regarding compasses in this 2nd grade science textbook, I want to show you the pages of the textbook (remember, printed in 2007) which focus on the planets of our solar system:

Wait a minute, this is a 2007 textbook? I thought Pluto wasn't a planet anymore?

The first thing I notice, as a former elementary teacher as well as a lifelong learner interested in science, is that this picture provides an extremely misleading perspective on the relative distances separating our planets. No attempt has been made to make this “drawing” to scale, and no indication or disclaimer is included on the pages to bring this fact to the attention of 7 and 8 year old readers. The solar system overview of the wonderful “Nine Planets” website communicates these relative distances between the planets of our solar system quite well. Unfortunately, this critical “fact” is entirely omitted from my daughters’ science textbook.

Even more glaring, of course, is the fact that Pluto is presented as a planet on these pages, despite the fact that:

Pluto is now considered the largest member of a distinct region called the Kuiper belt. Like other members of the belt, it is composed primarily of rock and ice and is relatively small: approximately a fifth the mass of the Earth’s moon and a third its volume.

It is remarkable that although astronomers officially changed the status of Pluto from planet to “dwarf planet” in August of 2006, this science textbook copyrighted in 2007 completely ignores this controversial change. This omission can sadly lead to controversy in some classrooms. As a “big brother” in the Kansas Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, a year ago my cousin had to meet after school with his little brother’s fifth grade teacher, who had graded down his homework project on the solar system because he had not included Pluto as a planet. Instead, he had noted it was a dwarf planet and cited his online source, but the teacher had replied “The textbook says that Pluto is a planet, and we have to go with what the textbook says is right.”

Good grief. Give me a break. Thankfully, after meeting with my cousin the teacher agreed to give his little brother full credit for his solar system project EVEN though it contradicted the written gospel included in the classroom’s science textbook. So much for encouraging critical thinking and media literacy in that teacher’s classroom…..

Given this background, I was not entirely shocked to find another mistake in my daughter’s second grade science textbook, but I was still surprised. This is the page which describes and provides “facts” about a compass:

Science textbook error: Compasses do NOT have magnets in them!

In case Flickr is blocked in the location where you are reading this post, I will transcribe the sentences from this image of the textbook:

People often use a compass when they are hiking in the woods. Ships at sea use a compass. A magnet in a compass helps you find direction. The needle always points north.

The third sentence in this paragraph is patently FALSE. Compasses do NOT have magnets in them. Yet my daughter’s 2007 second grade science textbook says that they do.

What are our learning points and “takeaways” from this situation? In the conversation with my daughter, we discussed how we CANNOT BELIEVE EVERYTHING WE READ, EVEN WHEN IT IS IN THE SCHOOL TEXTBOOK. This is a very important media literacy concept and conversation, and one which I am delighted to be able to have with her now. I don’t want her to believe everything she reads at face value, whether she is reading something on the Internet or a note written by one of her friends. She needs to consider the source as well as what other/competing sources tell her, and make up her mind for herself.

Hopefully, as a result of this conversation and our short, hands-on activity together building a simple compass in our kitchen, Sarah will have a much better idea of what a compass is and what it is not. Of course there are much more complex topics that we can and hopefully will dig into at some point that relate to compasses and magnetism. These include our current theories of how the earth’s molten core creates a dynamo and our planetary magnetic field, which in addition to making compasses “point north” also transforms the solar wind into the northern lights– also called the aurora borealis or polar aurorae. These are GREAT topics to discuss, investigate and explore in further depth, not only because they are so practical and engaging (using a compass is an important skill, and the aurora are beautiful) but also because they relate to scientific THEORIES which are continuing to evolve and develop through the work of diligent scientists around the world.

This conversation and controversy over “details” included in Sarah’s second grade science textbook also raises a critical curriculum and fiscal issue for our own school district and other school districts around our nation. WE ARE WASTING MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN OUR COUNTRY PURCHASING PAPER-BASED, ANALOG TEXTBOOKS WHICH ARE OUT OF DATE AND OBSOLETE, IN MANY CASES, THE MOMENT THEY ARE PRINTED. We do NOT need to purchase ANY more paper-based textbooks in our schools. Instead, our school districts should be purchasing laptop computers for EVERY student which permit them to access up to date, multimedia and multi-sensory information online:

Holding the OLPC!

Unfortunately, the textbook lobby and textbook industry continues to maintain a virtual stranglehold on VAST quantities of public funding for education in the United States. For more on this, refer to my previous posts:

We need to support 1:1 computing initiatives in our schools, and reject the pleas of textbook company owners, employees, and investors to “keep buying textbooks.” Please don’t misunderstand my position of advocacy here: I LOVE printed books, and libraries full printed books– especially children’s literature trade books. We still need books in our schools! We need to stop wasting money on PRINTED TEXTBOOKS, however, and instead embrace digital curriculum in various forms.

On a related topic, the WikiPedia article for compass contains a fascinating list of events and artifacts which relate to the question, “Who invented the compass?” The depth of inquiry and explorations to which we can stretch when we have access to online, digital resources is truly amazing.

When will this basic error regarding a compass and what it is “made of” be fixed in my daughter’s second grade textbook? Will Houghton-Mifflin issue an errata page in full color, and provide a copy free-of-charge to every student in the United States currently using this textbook which contains this basic, factual error? That doesn’t seem likely. If my daughter had access at school to DIGITAL curriculum sources, inaccurate information provided there could be fixed IMMEDIATELY. In her case, however, it seems likely this textbook error won’t be fixed for at least five years, when a new science textbook is adopted in the state of Oklahoma and purchased by our local school district. I hope by then, our state leaders in Oklahoma will have taken the enlightened step of providing a wireless, portable computing device for every student in the state, and freed up local districts to purchase varying types of digital and analog curriculum resources to meet the needs of learners. I’d much rather see our school district purchasing FOSS kits and student licenses to Explore Learning Gizmos than wasting money on another paper-based science textbook that can’t be updated once it has been printed.

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On this day..

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  • Your post reminds me that my school districts’ one to one initiative, funded I understand in part, by cuts to the textbook budget, is very much a step in the right direction.

  • Nancy White

    Wow! Thanks for this information and reminder that we all need to be teaching kids to be critical evaluators of information – whether it is print or electronic! It reminded me of an article I saw in Edutopia awhile back: The Muddle Machine: Confessions of a Textbook Editor

  • Nancy: You are most welcome, and thanks for sharing that EduTopia article link. I had read that as well, and found it to be eye opening.

  • mattbucher

    I am a textbook editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I work in language arts, not science, but that might be more relevant for a passage like this–which is a semantic splitting of hairs rather than a scientific “error.” As you say at the top of the post, a compass does need a magnetized pointer. You can’t make a compass out of a piece of paper and a cork. So, if the pointer is magnetized it’s not “a” magnet, but that distinction is pretty subtle for such a young audience. Should they learn about magnetic moment per unit volume, vector fields and magnetic fields at this age? Your insistence that the 7 year old’s textbook read “A magnetized pointer in a compass” rather than “A magnet in a compass” seems to me much ado about nothing.

  • The 4th sentence is also incorrect. It says “The needle always points north.” My work as an aquaculture lecturer means I’m based at a Maritime training facility working with fishing and maritime operations lecturers (they operate the really big ships). Anyone with any background in boating, who sits at lunch every day, and listens to fascinating stories about life on the ocean knows that a compass on a ship doesn’t point to true North but magnetic North; direction needs to be converted to ensure you know where you are and where you are going. Got to say love my job not only do I get to work with fish, ICT – I also get to play on all our different boats :).

  • Elizabeth Zwicky

    What is a magnetized needle if it’s not a magnet? It’s magnetic, right? It behaves in all respects like a magnet? What makes a black round thing a magnet but a magnetized needle not a magnet? The shape? The fact that it had a prior purpose?

    I agree that textbooks have issues — personally, I went to high school with a history textbook that said “Someday man may walk on the moon” and the moon landing happened when I was three — but I think in this case the textbook is right and you’re wrong. A compass includes a magnet. A magnetized needle is a magnet.

  • Elizabeth and Matt: I appreciate your challenges on this. I would never have previously considered a compass needle to be a magnet. After doing some further research, as I discuss below, it appears that you are right and I am wrong, Elizabeth. Since a magnetized needle” does create a magnetic field, it IS a magnet. I stand corrected in part.

    I think it is worthwhile to discuss this in terms of what seems reasonable, and then consider what is accurate scientifically. I think both perspectives have merit. It is also certainly fair to ask what is reasonable to teach and introduce a second grader to, in terms of scientific concepts. Matt, I clearly have not advocated inserting information about “magnetic moment per unit volume” or “vector fields” here, so let’s be careful not to construct a “straw man” argument instead of talking about the issues at hand.

    From a reasonability standpoint, I hardly think a magnetized needle in a compass should be called “a magnet.” When my seven year old thinks about a magnet, she thinks about the things that are stuck to our refrigerator and stick to the metal there. We used a magnet on the back of a nametag, in fact, which had been on our refrigerator to magnetize the needle we used in our kitchen compass. I readily acknowledge, both in my original post and here, that it was necessary to use a magnet to magnetize the needle in making the compass. I disagree with the idea that by magnetizing the needle, we “made the needle into a magnet.” We made a non-magnetized needle into a magnetized needle, but I don’t think we can reasonably say we “made a magnet.”

    To Matt’s point that this “distinction is pretty subtle for such a young audience,” I disagree. My 7 year old was thinking (and arguing quite adamantly) that a compass has a magnet in it. Writing that a “magnetized needle” in a compass helps it point north is not an unreasonable request, and would make the third sentence on that page of the textbook clearer and less confusing. Instead of writing “A magnet in a compass helps you find direction” the authors could have written “A magnetized needle in a compass helps you find direction.”

    Let’s not pretend that squabbling over words and terms in a textbook is unreasonable. Nancy commented earlier about the recent EduTopia article, “The Muddle Machine: Confessions of a Textbook Editor.”According to the author of the article, Tamim Ansary, the textbook industry is a $4.3 billion business. Editors pore over words, sentences, and concepts regularly. I am not naive enough to think that textbooks don’t have any errors. Of course they do. My main points in this post are that:

    1- Printed textbooks DO have errors and inaccuracies. (Lets not forget the point about Pluto.)
    2- Printed textbooks can’t be “fixed,” revised or edited like online digital curriculum can be.
    3- Our school districts are continuing to waste millions of dollars (I guess I should revise that to “billions”) by spending money on analog, print-based textbooks when instead we could be providing 1:1 learning devices and access to digital curriculum sources.

    Before I get sidetracked on these fiscal issues, I want to respond to Elizabeth’s challenge on the scientific accuracy of my position that “a magnetized needle is not a magnet.” Technically speaking, after referring to WikiPedia’s article on magnets, I understand that a magnet is an object which produces a magnetic field. Under that definition, I can understand that a magnetized needle DOES produce a magnetic field (although of course a small one) and therefore HAS become “a magnet.”

    This distinction is good to understand, and I appreciate your challenge, Elizabeth, because you’ve helped me develop my own understanding of magnetism and physics. I’m sticking with my original position, however, because I don’t think most people would reasonably consider a “magnetized needle” to be a magnet. Perhaps they should, and I should as well. I think the distinction that a compass includes a “magnetized needle” is more helpful, however, in terms of assisting learners (young and old) to better understand magnetism, how a compass is made, and how someone can make a compass themselves which actually works.

  • “A compass is an extremely simple device. A magnetic compass (as opposed to a gyroscopic compass) consists of a small, lightweight magnet balanced on a nearly frictionless pivot point. The magnet is generally called a needle. One end of the needle is often marked “N,” for north, or colored in some way to indicate that it points toward north. On the surface, that’s all there is to a compass.”

    Obtained from: http://www.howstuffworks.com/compass.htm

    It looks as though “How Stuff Works” believes that a compass needle is in fact a magnet. It’s also interesting to note that the North Pole actually has a “south pole”. Which explains why the north pole of the magnet (in the compass) is attracted to the north pole which is in fact a south pole.

    Wow we’re learning lots here!

  • Diane Quirk

    This is quite an interesting debate. We constantly have conversations in our district about the fact that we should be teaching the curriculum not the textbook. Mainly this is to help us stayed focused on the actual instructional goals which may often need to be met with something other than the rather limited (and possibly inaccurate) information found in a textbook. If I need to help students understand a particular concept, they need to be immersed in information in order to have a better understanding. A few pages or paragraphs in a textbook don’t lend themselves to full understandings.

  • Many of us in education – and I include me – have gripes with textbooks and the textbook industry.

    Having said that, you misunderstood what a magnet was and launched a tirade based on your flawed interpretation. I’m not purposely trying to provoke you here; I consider that an honest assessment of what happened based on your original post and your comments that followed.

    There is absolutely no shame in learning that a magnet is simply one piece that has the ability to attract another piece. This could have been one of those “teachable moments” we hear so much about where both you and your daughter understood what a magnet was both practically and conceptually. Instead, your last comment shows that you would rather bunker down with a narrow interpretation and defend [justify?] it to the death.

    I agree that the textbook could have explained the principle of magnetism in a way that would’ve avoided this situation altogether, but it didn’t. That’s reality.

    And while you’re right when you suggest that the average 7 year old shares that narrow interpretation of what a magnet is/isn’t, it’s important to remember that a foundational point of learning is to expand our understanding – not just to rely on what we ourselves have experienced.

    You could have talked with your daughter about what a magnet really is. You could have taken her understanding of a magnet as something stuck to the fridge and expanded her conceptual understanding [catnip is a magnet for cats, etc.].

    Again, you didn’t bother to do any of this.

    Elizabeth Zwicky is 100% right. You aren’t.

    And if you’re really going to lecture someone on logical fallacies [your offensive dismissal of Matt’s comment, which was a tongue-in-cheek indictment of your terrible argument, though apparently lost on you], I hope you recognize the logical deficiencies/irrationality in your final comment:

    1. You say Elizabeth is right and that you’re wrong;
    2. Both perspectives “have merit”;
    3. You don’t really care about what’s accurate because you’re sticking with your narrow definition that you’ve admitted is wrong;
    3a. Lecture-line re: Matt’s logic;
    4. Political point about the textbook industry;
    5. Back to Elizabeth’s point, which you’ve already admitted was correct;
    6. Again, you don’t care that she was right, because you’re sticking with your definition.

    You could’ve saved everyone some time/effort – as well as some embarrassment of your own – by admitting that you didn’t know, by discussing the implications of changes in disciplines as they relate to textbooks [this is an interesting topic, especially when given the financial commitments you cite], and by mentioning how we might best work with we’ve got now as we work on improving the situation for everyone.

    But you didn’t.

  • Great discussion. But, I wonder if Elizabeth went to wikipedia to edit the entry on magnets before she made her claim. I’m doing a presentation on our state conference called “How Do We Know? I’ve set up a wiki for contributions/collaborations and will be referencing this post when I present.

    (I don’t really think the article was edited for this purpose….”

  • Pat,

    I’m interested to hear your take on this post. Is there any way we’ll have access to your presentation?

  • Matt: I have admitted I made a mistake here. If I hadn’t posted this, I’m not sure I would have learned that a magnetized needle is a magnet. You say I “could’ve saved everyone some time/effort” by not posting these thoughts. If I wasted your time, I’m sorry if you’re upset, but I don’t consider it a waste of time to learn something new, or to help others learn something new. I think this is a valuable conversation to have. I’ve added some comments at the top of this post, admitting I was wrong and encouraging readers to see the discussion in the comments where this is described.

  • Though I’m pleased that you’ve finally accepted what Elizabeth said a while back – and that you’ve been transparent about your mistake, which is admirable – there is no excuse for launching a political offensive on textbook industry [or including the largely-irrelevant support for 1:1 laptop initiatives] based on such a flawed point. It also does not address why you thought it was appropriate to make the defense you presented in comment #7.

    I’m not upset at all, but this thread would have been much smoother – and more productive – had you, to use your words, let yourself learn something new and let others teach it to you. It’s a remarkably simple, easy process if you want it to be.

  • I actually wanted to talk about textbooks.

    I too dream of a day without textbooks. I teach English and I hate those massive anthologies with a passion that burns like 1000 suns. Still, even I couldn’t kill the textbook.

    We read paper words differently than we do screen words. I see it every day in class and there will be a need for dead tree words for the same reason that we would look at you funny if you wanted me to read “Crime and Punishment” on a screen (who know if a Kindle would change my mind).

    I also wanted to say in regards to Wikipedia that one of the best things about it is that it’s so often wrong (especially in lit and letters). Students are forced to double check it in way that they wouldn’t if it were Brittanica

  • Okay I grabbed the lecturers who teach compasses to seafarers to help with this discussion. These guys are highly qualified seafarers who can captain any ship anywhere in the world. To be honest I’ve worked hard for this information because I’ve just had a tour of all the compasses on site, been shown how Magnetic north and true North works on a boating chart.

    Lets hope I can do what they have told me justice. There are three types of compass: magnetic compass which are based on using the magnetic field of the Earth; gyro compass which senses the spin of the Earth; and the GPS compass which use global positioning. Most large ships use gyro compasses because it reads true North so there is no need to make adjustments for magnetic North. They also all carry magnetic compasses because that is required by law.

    Now you are talking about a magnetic compass. The needle of the compass in the picture is a magnet. These types of compass normally have an indication on them of the North seeking end – as shown by the red tip. So unfortunately the book is correct about the magnet but wrong about pointing to North. If ships relied on North being what was displayed on a magnetic compass, without making adjustments, we would have tanker ships running aground every.

    And just to totally blow your mind once every now and again the magnetic poles change place. Which means the North becomes located in the South.

    If you would like to have a Skype conference call with my seafaring lecturers I’m happy to organise it with you and I sure that your children would love to hear the Aussie accents (except they apparantly don’t have the aussie accent except for me).

  • I didn’t read your post update prior to writing my second response however I’m glad that you wrote the post as I’ve had a lot of fun learning a lot more about magnets that I didn’t realise. I wouldn’t have learnt this information without your conversation. And lets be honest we learn more when we make errors than if we were always perfect.

  • Matt Bucher

    I think it’s more important to teach critical thinking skills, acknowledging that you can find errors in a textbook, in a website, in an ad, etc. Educational publishers are all for teaching these skills and all major publishers have many materials that relate to critical thinking skills. However, most state standards and adoption committees are focused on “basics” and not on “extraneous” materials like media literacy, multi-sensory information, or 1:1 computing. Textbook publishers invest VAST amounts of money in online courses, remediation software, and tech products in general, but they are forced to give these things away for free because states and districts are used to getting a lot of these things gratis when they adopt the print textbooks. The first publisher that stops giving away online/CD products and starts charging for them will be financially insolvent in less than one adoption cycle. If all textbook companies go out of business, who would you want writing your child’s tests? Should a teacher also produce all of their own teaching materials? Should there be any standardization across schools or districts or states? I am interested in these issues from the other side of the fence.

  • Colin

    Wesley,

    I found this comment of yours interesting:

    “To Matt’s point that this “distinction is pretty subtle for such a young audience,” I disagree. My 7 year old was thinking (and arguing quite adamantly) that a compass has a magnet in it. Writing that a “magnetized needle” in a compass helps it point north is not an unreasonable request, and would make the third sentence on that page of the textbook clearer and less confusing. Instead of writing “A magnet in a compass helps you find direction” the authors could have written “A magnetized needle in a compass helps you find direction.”

    In other words, calling it a magnet (which it is) would confuse a 7 year old, since it’s not the type of thing that holds things to the fridge. Yet telling them “it’s a magnetized needle” would be acceptable. How so? How will the kid understand the concept of “magnetized” easily? That logic makes no sense.

  • Colin: You’re right, a magnetized needle IS a magnet, so calling it a magnet really isn’t confusing… I was confused. I appreciate the discussion here, as well as the grace given by some to make mistakes and learn in a public forum. No one likes to be acknowledged as ignorant on a topic, particularly something they have strong opinions about, so I do appreciate the assistance and understanding shared here.

    Sue: I think it would be wonderful to have a conversation over skype about compasses! What are some dates/times that could work for you and your compass experts next week? If you’ll let me know some possible dates/times I’ll do my best to accommodate those. If it can be during class time here (which I realize may not be possible) I’ll see about doing this with my daughter’s 2nd grade class. This would be educational for us all. If the time needs to be after class (US Central time) then I’ll arrange for my daughter and I to participate. If it is ok with you we’ll record the call so we can share it with others here.

    Nate: I think you raise an interesting point about screen words being read differently than printed words on an atomic page made from dead trees. I’m interested to hear how you see students reading digital words differently. Can you elaborate on that? Do you see students scanning more when they are on the web, and reading more thoroughly when they are reading a print book? I know for me personally, I feel comfortable cuddling up to a book or magazine to read in the evening in a way I still don’t with my laptop. Still, words are both places, and I can can or read more thoroughly in either place. The fact that I can search for particular text phrases on a digital text document makes that medium much more useful for me in many ways, and the fact that I can hyperlink to the ideas of others makes hyperlinked writing a much richer experience for me than simply reading printed texts. So I’d like to hear more about that.

    Matt B: I am certainly willing to question and encourage others to question assumptions we’ve made in the recent historical past about the textbook industry. I think the availability and access we have now to digital texts in various forms should fundamentally change the curriculum game. Time remains the biggest challenge to any suggestion involving change in schools, and I’m not naive enough to think teachers have enough time to write all their own curriculum every day. I do think, however, that teacher-created curriculum can have great value, and I am enthused about the open content movement overall because of its potential to unseat the textbook industry and offer not only viable but preferable alternatives to commercially produced textbooks. WikiBooks is one example of an open content book project I’m very interested and enthused about. WikiJunior books are designed specifically for kids. These and other open content projects were discussed in depth at NCCE in Seattle by Karen Fasimpaur in her presentation “Free Content + Open Tools + Massive Collaboration = Learning for All.” These are VERY different ways about thinking of curriculum, but not unrealistic ones. 1 to 1 computing is a key element, every child needs a wireless, electronic device to realize the potential here. And I’m not for simply getting kids a device that only permits the passive, 1 way reception of content. Like the OLPC, kids need a laptop that lets them communicate, collaborate, and CREATE. Open content projects are opening the door to these sorts of curriculum alternatives.

    While I regret not knowing prior to writing this post and participating in this conversation thread that a magnetized needle is, indeed, a magnet, I’m glad for the learning I’ve not only experienced but my children have also shared in. If we end up having an audio or videoconference with Sue and Australian seafaring compass experts, wouldn’t that be amazing? None of this would be possible without blogging and a willingness to share ideas, and help each other learn. I think there are many object lessons yet to be realized here. 🙂

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  • Ben

    “It is remarkable that although astronomers officially changed the status of Pluto from planet to “dwarf planet” in August of 2006, this science textbook copyrighted in 2007 completely ignores this controversial change. This omission can sadly lead to controversy in some classrooms.”

    Unlike the auto industry, textbook copyright dates are not an accurate reflection of when the content was written. The content for this 2007 copyright was written late in 2005 and went to press in early 2006. So it was not possible for this publisher to include a this revelation that Pluto is part of the Kuiper Belt. Just a little Publishing 101. I am sure this will be corrected with HM’s revision as well as those of other publishers.

  • Ben

    Scratch that first line. “Not unlike the auto industry.” Need to go to bed.

  • Thanks for that Ben– I would say, however, that the fact that information is two years old in a published, paper-based textbook and cannot be updated once published is yet another reason to embrace fully digital curriculum sources and abandon textbooks in our schools. I think we need lots of library books and trade books to read, but let’s stop wasting money on textbooks that are out of date (in this case apparently by two years) the moment they touch the hands of our children and students in the classroom. If these same students had been accessing digital curriculum on a Macbook laptop or OLPC, the content could have been updated for EVERYONE at minimal cost to the publisher.

  • Really enjoyed the lively discussion about science content. I am a science teacher that dislikes the idea of teacher from the textbook. I think they are great guides, but any teacher needs to be ready to adjust to the changing information available to them. How often do we find new historical information that causes us to change our interpretation of what is in our history books? The same with science. Any scientist will let you know that when they conduct research they are attempting to verify information, which also means they may have to revise information. This has to happen continually. We rely on the textbooks to keep us up to date but sadly by the end of the adoption cycle here in Oklahoma those books are often 8 years from their original print date (not copyright date).
    To add a little spark to the conversation. How would you classify electrical fields? Since electricity and magnetism are two aspects of the same force, anytime there is electricity there is a magnetic field. If there is a magnetic field there is a magnet. So a logical deduction would be that anytime there is electricity there is a magnet. So what is the magnet? The wire?
    Just curious how those of you that have been active in this discussion will answer.

  • Well, by the definition I guess I’d say the material serving as a conductor for the electricity would be considered the magnet, since it is creating the magnetic field. I’m guessing here though. Anyone else want to weigh in?

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