Thursday, July 30, 2009

Abstract submitted for GSA

Well I just submitted my abstract for the annual GSA meeting in Portland, hopefully it will be accepted. Since I am not currently working on any research and I am just starting back at school in a month I figured I would try and present on what I had been working on in the last few years. If it gets accepted I will post the abstract otherwise here is just the title:

From Dinosaurs to Volcanoes: Helping Students Learn from Hollywood's Mistakes

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Teaching Revolution

Ok, I don't know if it is actually a "revolution" but it is revolutionary in thought. I just read this article, When Computers Leave Classrooms, So Does Boredom, that discusses how in the modern "technology age" students find PowerPoint lectures as their most boring (most boring?) form of education.

Now this follows perfectly on the heals of my last post, a call for "Out of the Box" (or Outside the box) teaching ideas. The article goes on to explain how PowerPoint is perfect for outside the classroom. Have students research the topic before coming to class and then use the classroom as a forum for debate and discussion. While this may not work on larger class sizes, I can see this as a great alternative to the status quo variety of teaching. Shake things up. The only problem is that students usually don't like to do "homework" and this method basically gives them more. But I am all for alternative forms of thinking. Use the classroom to get the students inspired about a topic, not as a place to pound nonsensical information into their head. College should be a place where students learn how to think, not a place where they are inundated with useless information. Information can be obtained in numerous locations now-a-days, and usually at a faster pace than the professor can deliver it. So use technology, but not to make the life of the professor easier, to make the student a better learner.

As Einstein said "Never memorize something that you can look up."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Accretionary Wedge - Time to think OUT of the Box

This is the next call for submissions for August's edition of the Accretionary Wedge. You can find July's edition, Geologic Inspiration at Volcanista's Magmalicious Blog.

Having been particularly interested in geological education for sometime, I have wrestled with the best ways to teach students. Now we all have to admit that not everything in geology will appeal to everyone (some more than others) and not everything has the glitz and glamour of volcanoes and earthquakes. So how do we as geological professionals get out that information. There is the standard textbook and lecture approach, but that often fails to get the ADD generations attention. In this ever evolving world of technology and instant communication, what is there that is useful that we could use to teach the next generation. I for one have thought about using bad geology movies or references in fiction literature as possible teaching tools. I figure if the information is coming from an unusual source, they might be apt to remember it better.

So your mission is this: "What out of the box ideas do you use to teach people about geology or geological concepts?" No need to limit yourself on ideas you have actively used. If you have used it and you think it is good, great. Is it an idea you have worked up on and gotten ready but haven't had the chance to use it yet, also great (this is pretty much my scenario). What if it is just a theory that you think would be something different and cool, even better. Anything works, as long as it is "Outside the Box" (i.e. not your typical lecture and textbook approach).

The deadline is Friday, August 21st since this is the last Friday before classes start (for me at least). And this way I can compile responses over the weekend. Early submissions are recommended but not necessary since I probably won't get to combining them until after the deadline. Late submissions will be added as I get time. Leave your link in the comments section below.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Origin of Species Drinking Game

I was just pointed to Capacious Handbag by Thomas Holtz via the VP Mailing List, where they invented a Darwin Day Drinking Game. In it:

"Each player has to read out a whole sentence from the book without stopping for breath. If they can't do it, they take a swig and try the next sentence instead."

I hope this shows people that this book is just mind numbingly boring and "only worth reading if you have to" as my Evolutionary Biology teacher put it. Some of my friends seem to think this book is awesome, I beg to differ. I reviewed this book in a previous post after I had read it during my quest to read the 100 Greatest Books of all Time.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Accretionary Wedge #18 - My Geological Inspiration

The current Accretionary wedge being hosted over at Volcanista's Magmalicious Blog and the topic is:

So July’s topic is about your inspiration to enter geoscience. Was it a fantastic mentor? Watching your geologist parents growing up? A great teacher, or an exciting intro field trip? How did it happen? Deadline of July 10, and leave your permalink in comments when your post is up!

My Story

Growing up I had been very interested in dinosaurs. And for as long as I can remember I had wanted to dig them up (although Jurassic Park scared the crap out of me). So I told people that I wanted to be an Archaeologist (since that is all I knew at the time). Until one day when I was probably around 10 I was at a family party when someone asked me what I wanted to be. I told him an Archaeologist. He asked what specifically did I want to dig up, so I told him dinosaurs. Well he corrected me and told me that they were not archaeologists but paleontologists. And from that point on I was set in the right direction.

I started my studies into paleontology with my 8th grade Earth Science class when my professor told me that the best way to become a paleontologist was to either study biology or geology (but being that he was a geologist he kind of pushed me in that direction). So I started to direct my undergraduate school options towards schools with either a paleontology department or a geology department. To help me along I took two summers of the Paleontology Field Experience with the Museum of the Rockies in Montana.

After this I went off to college with paleontology always in mind. I started immediately into the undergrad geology department at SUNY Geneseo, and I worked at it. At first the information came fairly easy to me and the information was pretty straight forward but nothing too complicated, and nothing seemed to fit together. Just a bunch of disjointed information. Then I hit Mineralogy like a lead wall. My worst grade in school to date. Well I studied and I studied hard for it (just ask my wife). And I got through it. Then things started to make sense. And the more classes I took the more they fit together, like giant puzzle pieces. And by the time I was a senior I understood it. I could see the whole picture and it fascinated me. I love puzzles and this one I just finally put together. Well, I then proceeded to study Vertebrate Paleontology in grad school at Texas Tech and that is when I had my first immersive experience as a Geology TA. I started to understand things better because I had to teach them to people who had no clue what I was talking about. From that point on I wanted to teach people geology and have them understand what became so fascinating to me. I have since moved on and am starting my doctorate in regular paleontology (not vertebrate) in the Fall at the University of Utah and have built up a website ( to help people learn about the basics of geology and I provide some out of the box teaching tools and information to help others learn geology.

So that is my story. Not all that interesting but I always find it fascinating that I started out loving dinosaurs to being more interested in teaching people about geology and finding out what other information there is to be had (but don't get me wrong, I still love dinosaurs).