Student Sourcing Science: Shout Learning Announced at Microsoft Innovative Educators Conference #msief

Students at St. Cyprian's band a tree with scientist Josh Falk

I want to make this announcement so you can dig in although I will come back and enhance this post with the recordings and photos of the last few days.

Microsoft, Taking IT Global, and the Smithsonian Institute have just announced a collaborative three year platform for students to study Land, Air, and Water. This year's focus is on land and will kick off with an extension of the Deforest-action project that first came from the Microsoft Innovative Education Forum in Asia this past year.

The website is and will allow students to interact with scientists at the Smithsonian and each other as they collect data on tree growth. Leading the science team are Geoffrey Parker and Josh Falk of the Smithsonian. Dr. Parker made splash in the news earlier this year as he discovered that trees in Maryland are growing faster than they should be according to traditional data.

Anthony Salcito, VP Education Microsoft Corporation

Five hundred kits will be distributed to schools around the world to measure tree growth, collect data, and share the data between students and classrooms as they learn to analyze tree growth in this important project.

When asked about how students could be expected to collect such data, Dr. Parker commented that there are methods to help distinguish between “signal and noise” meaning that the “noise” caused by improper techniques is pretty distinguishable from the signal of data change using statistical methods.

Citizen science has been emerging through projects like Project BudBurst that tracks blooming data and many citizen scientists have joined in around the world. Now citizen science has moved to the classroom with students collecting data.  In a world of academics, this approach seems to be somewhat revolutionary.

Student at Hout Bay High School bands a tree and learns to measure growth.

I asked Dr. Parker “what will you say to those scientists and people around the world that students cannot be trusted to collect data properly and be accurate in what they are doing?”

“I'll prove them wrong,” says Dr.Parker.

Not only will Dr. Parker prove that this can be done, as a blogger and co contributor to this Flat world I believe that this partnership between the Smithsonian, Microsoft, and Taking IT Global will begin showing the power of student sourcing science and is only the beginning of a trend that will continue to shape education.  I hope that many foundations, organizations, scientists, and companies will look to fund such projects to help science, math, and social action learning become real to students.

A video documentary about 1 million students saving the rain forest is being filmed now by an Australian Film maker will be narrated by Hugh Jackman about the deforestaction project which is part of the network now.

Expect more on this story later… As a person who believes in “flattening” the classroom – seeing scientists work with students is very powerful and exciting.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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cheryloakes October 29, 2010 - 9:20 am

Yes, I meant . I did get it right on the show! Travel safe.

coolcatteacher October 29, 2010 - 2:37 pm

I knew you would! I’m so tired right now! Thanks for commenting – on this different time zone I’m feeling disconnected – my usual blog and tweeter friends and I aren’t connecting! Thank you for not only commenting but coming back my dear friend. I’ll have to listen when I get back to the states as my bandwidth stinks here.

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