Friday recommended reads #21


The Guardian has written an article lauding the unheralded contributions of taxonomists and why their work is so essential. And it’s timed for the arrival of Taxonomist Appreciation Day on Wednesday, March 19th!

Be sure to check out the illustrated taxonomy puns that have been coming out all week at BuzzHootRoar! All in preparation for Taxonomist Appreciation Day! Buzz, Hoot and Roar have topped themselves, and I am humbly appreciative that they’ve picked up the mantle of evangelizing the celebration of TAD (that’s Taxonomist Appreciation Day). They made their five illustrated puns into postcards, too! If you want to buy them, drop them a line by direct message on twitter or email. I’ve got one on my office door, and others in the mail to my favorite taxonomists!

College is expensive, but the non-wealthy rarely pay list price. How much does college really cost for you? Here’s an interactive featuring showing what people actually pay at every college, broken down by family income levels. This is fascinating stuff.

Powerpoint is a bane of education. This point was illustrated in a slide show by Rebecca Schuman so well, I bow to her achievement.  Here’s one line: “Powerpoint and its imitators have become the Comic Sans of instructional tools.”

Michael Hunsacker does biomedical research on autism and other neurodevelopment disorders, to make a difference in the people’s lives and the quality of their care. He just jumped from that track to take a job as a para-eduactor to work with children at a local elementary school. His piece explaining his motivation for this change is affirming and moving.

With the new Cosmos show, I got to thinking about the records that we stashed on Voyager 1, still flying away from us, beyond the solar system. We (as a species) put a golden record on the machine, to communicate what our planet and its people are like. Here’s an article about how the contents of the record were selected. And here is an over designed site that features the contents of the record itself.

We should be teaching calculus in Kindergarten.

Why we need to be conscious of white male classroom privilege.

In the United States, Major League Soccer is going through the second week of a referee lockout. Not all of the scabs replacement refs haven’t quite been up to snuff. The referee union distributed a big fat booklet with a one-page profile of every replacement ref, with a big photo and a list detailing their (lack of) MLS experience. 

How do people become less racist? Breadth of experiences, travel, and lots of other things, including reading literary fiction.

On a related topic, how can we parse out political opposition to President Obama and strategic racism targeted at the President? I found this piece of writing to be very insightful and carefully constructed.

Do you want your papers cited more? Should you phrase the title in the form of a question?

Behavioral biologist extraordinaire Bernd Heinrich is a world class runner. Here’s a profile of his running career.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology just launched a comprehensive and attractive outreach site about the biology of birds. It’s cool for everybody, and particularly for families and teachers of all ages, as well as non-majors and majors courses.

There is a great video series called The Brain Scoop, by Emily Graslie, which you might be familiar with. Just as interesting, I believe, is this article in the Chicago Reader about how her path from majoring in studio art towards museum education. (I liked this story, myself, in part, because my spouse also was a studio art major who also became a kickass museum educator.)

Be careful which classes you take at Harvard. You might not be allowed to say even a single word in class, when a MOOC is being recorded.

For links, thanks to Bashir, Rob Dunn, and Kate Bowles. Have a great weekend, and feel free to add new links in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Friday recommended reads #21

  1. In strong disagreement with you about Schuman’s article. the problem is not PowerPoint, it’s shitty instructors. I use a very limited amount of slides (no text slides at all), annotate the slides themselves, and I am a much better instructor for it.

    Talk about knocking down strawman arguments – in a presentation that could have shortened by approx 40%.

    • I agree with you on this. I use it too, sometimes, in the same way. But that’s not the default and especially outside the sciences (as Schuman is) when I walk across campus and glance into classrooms all I see are text ppt slides and unengaged students. If PowerPoint and its ilk didn’t exist, would people be better off? I would bet yes. But the fix is effective teaching, not the elimination of a tool.

    • But Schuman was not merely criticizing PowerPoint. She was giving examples of poor use of PowerPoint, and even started to point the way to better uses of PowerPoint. There’s a whole mini-industry around How to Use PowerPoint Better, and this was a free first lesson for readers of her article which hopefully makes them reflect upon how they use PowerPoint and start to learn how to use it better.

  2. I, too, disliked that powerpoint article. So much so that I was prompted to post my first blog post in reaction to it. I use it unabashedly and while I do get some complaints from students, most of them love it. Even more than that, I just gave my mid-semester evaluations and 90% of them said that having access to the slides was “extremely useful” and most commented that the pace would be too fast without having them. I can get through more material, and they can absorb more information, instead of just scribbling the words down, without a thought in their heads.

    • Wow, boy do we disagree! Which is fine, of course. (In the queue of posts to be written is a post about why I don’t distribute my lecture notes and slide shows to students.). In a phrase, I wouldn’t ever want my students to absorb information. But that’s a discussion for another time, unless others want to take it up in the comments :)

      I just left a short comment on your post, waiting for your moderation.

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