the sally sisson blog


November 22, 2010

Where’s Bill Nye When We Need Him?

promo-consider-following
Climate Change Skeptics vs. 21st Century Skills Movement in Schools

I’ve got Bill Nye on the brain. I miss seeing him on PBS and now he keeps popping up in unlikely (online) places. Recently he was featured in an Utne Reader blog post (“Bill Nye is the Archbishop of Scientism”) that described his take on the current climate change debate. Having been awarded the 2010 Humanist Award, he was extolled for his “unflappable faith in science.”

In his words:

Climate change is going to affect the world in ways that are truly hard to imagine. And it’s this hard-to-imagine nature that’s costing us so dearly in time. We’re losing valuable time because of disbelief in the scientific method.”

Math + Science = Future

A couple weeks ago Bill joined Al Gore and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a Global Online Town Hall forum called “Math, Science and the Future of Our Nation.” More than a thousand students joined in the live discussion about the future of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.

Other panelists included astronaut Sally Ride, inventor Dean Kamen, and the stars of Discovery Channel’s MythBusters. The program was just one small piece of Connect a Million Minds (CMM), Time Warner Cable’s $100 million philanthropic initiative to advance education and careers in STEM fields.

imgres

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

In October the National Journal reported that 19 of the 20 GOP Senate challengers deemed climate change a non-issue, declaring the science behind it either inconclusive or wrong. Some of those same politicians are now gunning for seats on the House Energy Committee, and pledging to attack existing environmental policies, discredit scientists, and do away with the EPA’s authority to tighten emissions controls on coal, oil and other carbon fuels.

imgres

This flies against the findings of the National Academy of Sciences and 97 percent of the world’s climate scientists.

Separation of Science and State?

As a citizen and parent, I find this disconnect deeply disturbing. As someone who writes about science, technology and trends in K-12 education, I find it mind-boggling.

Science is a key focus of the 21st Century Skills movement. STEM skills are in demand around the globe, and teachers, students and professionals are being challenged to deepen knowledge and keep on the cutting edge of scientific advances.

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills outlines recommended outcomes for core subjects and relevant interdisciplinary themes, e.g., Environmental Literacy. In K-12 classrooms, students engage in authentic learning online with real scientists and government groups like NOAA, NASA and, ironically, the EPA.

So while students and schools are ramping up science, government officials are dumbing it down. It doesn’t make sense.

Call for Alternative Energy

Today I searched on YouTube for a video clip I’d seen a couple years ago. Nye’s call to invest in wind and solar energy seems especially prescient right about now. Check it out:

Repower America: Bill Nye the Science Guy

YouTube

Voice of reason

Okay, so here’s the other reason we need Bill Nye: He’s a reasonable, even-tempered guy who’s trying to help us reach across the aisle here. In his words:

We all have a tendency to dismiss people who believe other things, who are outsiders, or who speak other languages. I constantly have to fight the urge to say, “You don’t know what you’re talking about! That’s crazy!”

My advice is just try to listen and see if you can figure out what it is that makes a person not want to believe in climate change, not want to accept that Venus is like Earth only a little different, not want to question things….So try asking instead of telling. Ask people, “What is it about science that you don’t like?”

Sounds like we could all read a page from his book. Click here to read more from his entertaining acceptance speech for the 2010 Humanist Award.

Closing thoughts…

“It is through science, and the discovery of scientific processes, that I came to be a skeptic and came to really embrace critical thinking. I came to embrace the idea that you probably only get one shot at life, so, roughly, don’t blow it.”

— Bill Nye the Science Guy
1 Comment

November 4, 2010

Left vs. Right: Re-visualizing the political spectrum (in polarizing times)

l vs r

Click for full size version:

Left vs. Right: A Visualization of the Political Spectrum

Fair and balanced

Back in January I posted this infographic on my Facebook page as an interesting example of information design. I found it thought-provoking, but didn’t bother to articulate why.

Then this morning, I was watching a TED talk on YouTube with information designer David McCandless, and up popped the same chart. (Ironically, I had just come indoors after pulling my collection of political yard signs out of the ground, hoping to appease my neighbors.)

Viewing the graphic nearly a year later, in the aftermath of the cut-throat mid-term elections, it struck me as quaint and out of date. The hues of red and blue now looked too subdued, the lines too soft around the edges. It’s a friendly looking graphic, in contrast to the technicolor FOX News one in my mind.

And I guess that’s part of the point — and perhaps the chief reason it begs a second look. These are polarizing times, and we desperately need to find some commonality.

Oh say, can you see…

As McCandless eloquently described the thought process behind his infographic, I scribbled down his words (on Post-its, the back of an envelope, and the margins of the comics section of the Boston Globe). Here’s the bit that resonated with me most:

talk

“When I was designing this image, I desperately wanted this side, the left side, to be betterthan the right side (…being a journalist type, a left-leaning person). But I couldn’t because I would have created a lopsided, biased diagram. So in order to really create a full image I had to honor the perspectives on the right-hand side, and at the same time I had to sort of, uncomfortably, recognize how many of qualities were actually in me—which was really, really annoying… and uncomfortable.

“But not too uncomfortable … because there’s something unthreatening about seeing a political perspective versus being told or forced to listen to one.

You’re capable of holding conflicting viewpoints, joyously even, when you can see them.”

consiousnessA matter of perspective

“That’s what’s exciting for me: to see how data can change my perspective and change my ideas, even mid-stream.”

— David McCandless, author of Information is Beautiful,
available on Amazon.com and at informationisbeautiful.net


Watch the entire TED Talk here:

David McCandless: The beauty of data visualization

(Click on link above. The Left vs. Right bit is at 14:50.)

No Comments

May 7, 2010

Social Media 101: “Walshgate” Tweet and How the Dems’ Fall Fumble with Twitter and Facebook Served as Wake-Up Call

I couldn’t help but get a kick out of the recent Scott Brown vs. Rachel Maddow mix-up (for lack of a better word). As a loyal Mass Democrat, I’m a big fan of state party chair John Walsh. But I had to laugh that the root of the controversy turned out to be a “goofed” tweet-gone-wrong.

Tweet Heard ‘Round the (Political) World

Apparently Walsh picked up on a Facebook rumor about Maddow aiming to challenge Brown for his senate seat in 2012. Intending to tweet a message to an individual, he instead sent it viral and spread it out to the masses. Thus fueling the fire.

Slick young media types jumped on this right away. Mediaite.com posted this snarky remark:

“First of all, it appears that the Massachusetts Democratic Party needs to hire a social media consultant (or just someone under the age of 30?)”

Ouch.

Years ago we used to panic about accidentally hitting “reply all” on an email message. Now an errant tweet can spread across the country in seconds.

As someone who works in social media and also gets worked up over politics, I followed the Brown vs. Coakley campaign closely. But during the campaign I must admit I was mainly fixated on the influence of television.

Every sound bite and telegenic glimpse of Brown in his barn coat sent me back to Joe McGinniss’s classic The Selling of the President 1968.

sellingIt wasn’t until after the election when pundits started parsing the role of social media and harping on the Democrats for their feeble Facebook usage stats, that I realized the magnitude.

The young guns behind the Obama campaign had shown the rest of the country the power of grassroots marketing and the Internet. The Republicans spent the next couple years playing catchup,  jumped on the social media train, and surpassed the Democrats at their own game. Using iPhone apps, YouTube videos and Facebook, the Brown camp ran a heck of a campaign.

And now the Dems are the ones playing catchup. They’ve learned their lesson and are leveling the social-media playing field. It will be interesting to watch what happens next.

This time I’ll be checking Twitter, not TV.free-vector-twitter-icon

Twitter & Facebook controversy for Scott Brown and Rachel Maddow
http://www.onlinesocialmedia.net/20100328/twitter-facebook-controversy-for-scott-brown-rachel-maddows/
Mediaite.com blog shows Walsh’s actual tweet and Brown’s email to donors:

http://www.mediaite.com/online/scott-brown-seeks-donations-for-potenial-run-against-rachel-maddow/

How Scott Brown’s Social-Media Juggernaut Won Massachusetts

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1960378,00.html

Atwitter in Mass.: Brown’s Social Media Strategy Tops Coakley’s

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2010/01/19/atwitter-in-mass-browns-social-media-skills-top-coakleys/tab/article/

After the fall 2009 elections, The Wall Street Journal cited a report on lawmaker’s use of Twitter:

“Republican lawmakers are taking advantage of the Twitterverse significantly more than their Democratic counterparts. In the House, GOP lawmakers send out 529% more tweets than Democrats.”

Not for long. Stay tuned…

tv

No Comments