September 2014

The New School Year Begins

Visiting Sudbury Neutrino Observatory during CAP Congress

Visiting Sudbury Neutrino Observatory during CAP Congress

As this busy summer is coming to an end, I keep thinking of what I have learned during the last three  months and what I would like to achieve in the new year. This summer was exceptionally busy for me: I helped to organize two international conferences (STEM 2014 conference at UBC) and 5th International Women in Physics Conference at Wilfried Laurier University, I also participated in the Canadian Association of Physicists Congress that took place in Sudbury,  ON (see the photo of my visit to the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory above). I also taught an intensive graduate course on the use of technology in mathematics and science education. Two of my graduate students successfully defended their MAs (I am very proud of them) and four other students finished their MEds with writing very interesting papers. In addition, I had an opportunity to read books that were not work related but that made me think and during our long trip to Colorado we had a chance to listen to audiobooks. However, most importantly, this summer gave me an opportunity to reflect and to focus on what I want to achieve with my research and my teaching: I want to understand better how technology can help us change how our students learn mathematics and science. I want to use this understanding to change how we prepare teachers and how we support in-service teachers. I want our children to have different experiences in school than what many of them have today. As I was preparing to the new school year today I decided to have my nails done. I was talking to a young woman in the Nail Salon who was taking care of me (who is from Vietnam) and she was telling me how much she liked mathematics and science in her school. She didn’t become a mathematician, but she was smiling when she was describing her math classes to me. I am sure she will pass these memories to her children. How do we do the same here? This is the question I keep asking myself. How do we make people interested in science? While attending a Canadian Association of Physicists Congress in Sudbury this summer and visit a SNO Lab that is located 2 km underground (!!!), I kept thinking how exciting it was. People are trying to understand the world we live in on such a grand scale. Even the miners I talked to while going down the shaft in the elevator were telling me about this exciting lab. Yet, while talking to my taxi driver in Sudbury, I realized that she didn’t even know about this lab. How do we make people know and care? How do we use technology to help us excite people about science – not just to pursue science, but to care about it? And these questions are asked while in BC we have a very difficult situation. It looks like our provincial government and the Teachers’ Union cannot even come with an agreement, so the school year can start properly…  This is a sad situation. How can this issue be solved? How can we change the attitude towards the teaching profession and consequently the experiences of our children in schools. I believe the solution is not just technology, but it should come from the vision of the governments and the general population. Finland was able to do that, why cannot we do it? I hope this year will bring a lot of positive experiences to my students, myself and all BC teachers and students despite the very rough beginning. We need a good year, we need good teachers and we need the governments that realizes that teaching is one of the most important professions in our society. Happy New School Year!

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