Saturday, September 23, 2023

Human Nature

Human Nature is a Wonder Collaborative documentary that was picked up by PBS NOVA. And I have questions.

It's the story of CRISPR: the challenges that were insurmountable prior to CRISPR, how CRISPR was discovered, how it's been implemented (so far), and what the future might hold. There are ethical concerns; they are explored. And this production was produced as a feature film. The production values are high, the soundtrack is not always subtle, and emotional punches are not always pulled. It's exceptionally well done.

After the introductory material (Preface), the film is divided into six chapters: Needle in a Haystack, CRISPR, The Gene Machine, Brave New World, Good Genes, and Playing God.

This is a 94-minute film, and I wrote 83 questions to accompany the viewing. That might seem like a lot of questions, but it is not. The questions maintain attention, but do not require reflection or analysis. And the question formats vary to prevent any potential fatigue. 

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Physics Crossword Puzzles [Conceptual Physics]

Once I gained access to crossword puzzle creation software, I plied computer power to generate physics-themed puzzles. The trouble with most academic crosswords is that they consist one or two dozen words, not that many crosses, and a whole lot of empty "zen space". 

I was determined to fill the gaps on my physics crosswords with other terms, preferably science terms. When you get deep into gap-filling, you appreciate the value of short words, acronyms, and initialisms. Later I got the idea using words from online lists of "words all high school students should know". I knew that would bring some joy to the hearts of my ELA colleagues.

The puzzle-creation software package I initially used did not survive the 2000s. The most recent program I used still operates in the current version of the macOS operating system. So now I'm preparing crosswords for posting at TPT (Teachers Pay Teachers).

Puzzle Maker by Hokua Software LLC allows the creation of printable crosswords. It also allows for the creation of HTML puzzles that can be uploaded to one's server space and solved online. It also lets you drop in an image for the grid's backdrop rather than just using black, white, or gray. 

And for the printable PDF versions, I've prepared one with an empty grid, another with 10% of the letters prefilled, and another with 20% of the letters prefilled. Users can determine which level of difficulty is best for their students. I include a separate Word List for instructors to deploy at their own discretion. Words like "rarefaction" and "specular" are likely to show up where appropriate, as will high school vocab words like "impetuous" and "evanescent," so hints can prove useful.

I've discovered that there is much more craft involved in the creation of a robust, "busy" crossword puzzle, even with computer power. This is why so many subject-matter crosswords are so sparse.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Making North America

Paleontologist Kirk Johnson certainly landed a trip of a lifetime with this series. I'm completely jealous. But he knew his way around these locations and had a compelling story to tell, so he was more deserving. We get the plate tectonics of how North America came to be, the genesis of life on the continent, and how humans made their way here from Africa, at least to the best of our understanding in 2015. 

Among other things, I learned that camels originated in North America. The continents of Laramidia and Appalachia are name checked, but for some reason, the Niobraran Sea is not.

My consolation prize is that I used my own photographs for the cover art on all episode question sets and the series bundle.