Experimenting as a Valuable Way of Doing Science

September 29, 2012 in Exciting Stuff by Jasmin Ganti

It wakes me up by barking at me. It reminds me 10 minutes before every class where I should be. I can ask it a question and it responds with endless answers from the web. It’s a wonderful and breakthrough HANDHELD computer unlike any phone before it. The face of the iPhone is Steve Jobs but the retina camera, plated .5mm sleek with multi-touch screen display, or the voice recognition are each their own products of experiments done by someone like you and me. These people, or apple engineers, had to conduct experiments simply because experimenting is a valuable way of doing science. Experiments provide a powerful way to understand the relationship between variables, like how the iPhone’s large display, networking features and powerful processor all take a toll on the battery life.

Learning how to conduct experiments like this may be difficult for young learners because of the attention to multiple details and dreaded testing that generally comes along with it in class. I am almost certain that these apple engineers started in fourth row of their math and biology class bored out of their minds simply because tests have become less of a way to see who is learning but rather a way to achieve a grade to pass a course. I know 90% of the time much of the work assigned to me for my science classes is essentially busy work that I do passively in order to get a good grade. And 100% of the time the answers to these assignments and to exams are what the professor FEELS is the right choice. Essentially, testing has taken the fun out of learning science. With no passion or willingness to even want to do an experiment, students easily lose sight of important fundamentals of learning science. As Aleja stated in her Nature as a Science Blog, science is everywhere. But why would I care to engage in the science around me if I see it as nothing more than just a chore?

The only way to understand the many aspects of science is to experience it for yourself and experiment. Hands-on learning fosters the establishment of oneself in the culture of science. A student’s science identity is influenced by their attitude. If ones attitude is jaded by the overwhelming learned helplessness of not being able to regurgitate facts as the teacher asks…..then who would ever want to take a chance in becoming a scientist and participate in the hands-on learning. If one cannot learn how to persist despite the challenges they face, one cannot expect to advance in the long winding road of finding what inspires you in the field of science. MY phone is what is because of the experimental process and “just as with a picture where the photographer or illustrator reveals where he or she stands in relation to the scene, so too we can recognize that using a scientific perspective allows us to see things in a certain way” (129 Settlage/Southerland). Somewhere down the road, potential young scientists lose sight of this fact that THEY HAVE THE RIGHT ANSWERS! The beauty behind experimenting is that not everyone is going to click and see the solution to a problem all the same way. What matters is the data that supports the end result. Great ideas do not grow unless they are picked at by many different minds and in turn these great ideas have a way of becoming great products, JUST LIKE MY PHONE. But great minds only come to life if they discover and keep in mind that experimenting is not only about doing an experiment to find results but it is also about developing a way to connect their world experiences with their identity as a scientist.