2012-01-23 11:48:15How can we help teachers
Pete Dunkelberg


I'm glad to see the new post on the NCSE. I'm well known there and probably would have offered a post on them in a couple days.

*Teachers need help*!

A chemistry teacher asked me recently (after I mentioned Sks) "Yes and another wen site says the opposite. How do you know which one is right?"

This got me thinking about obvious things: teachers are very busy as it is. Practically no one learned climate science in school. Teachere *do not have time* to learn each argument one by one, and I think that would be very difficult anyway with some general knowledge of climate.  So...


A shortcut is needed. A way to evaluate arguments wholesale, and.or a dichotomous key - or something.

I'm no Isacc Held but it seems to me that there is very little room for internal variability to drive surface temperatures up while the ocean is gaining heat and ice is decreasing. (yeah I know, thousands of tiny undersea volcanoes.)

So that brings us to TOA heaat balance, which influenced by just a few main things (but the stratosphere is beyond me).

I hope some brainstorming will start on helping teachers and on a shortcut to replace having to learn each argument individually. Again, teachers are busy! And important!






2012-01-23 12:00:37
Pete Dunkelberg


Ok I should have said "How can we help teachers Even More?"

SKS is their best friend already.

2012-01-23 12:44:54My initial thoughts on how we can help teachers
John Cook


I've been corresponding with Genie and Mark McCaffrey from NCSE about a possible collaboration between SkS and NCSE. This is the latest email I sent where I encapsulate some of the ideas I've been having on how we can contribute:

I have a few thoughts which I'll describe here, perhaps there's something in it to work from. I had two lightbulb moments in December - just before I left for San Francisco, I gave a talk here in Australia and in question time, a few skeptics threw some myths at me which I was happy to respond to by not only debunking the myth but also putting it in context, explaining how it misled and threw in a bit about the nature of science too (hopefully I didn't go overboard and put the audience to sleep). Reflecting on the evening, I realised afterwards that audience members confronting us with climate myths presents a great opportunity for teachable moments - getting confronted with climate myths are not something for educators and communicators to fear but an opportunity to educate. So I'm fully onboard with Mark's jujitsu pivot idea - use climate denial against itself to teach the students climate science.
Then while in San Francisco, I was presenting my Debunking Handbook where I talk about the key element of a successful debunking is creating a gap in a person's understanding by "removing" the myth, then filling the gap with an alternative narrative. You need to replace the myth with something else or the myth just comes back to fill the gap. During a media workshop with Susan Hassol, she talked about the concept of sticky ideas and compelling messages. She said that to engage an audience and tell a compelling story, you create gaps or questions in the person's mind to intrigue, arouse their curiosity - then you fill the gap with the answer. I realised that the process of debunking a myth lends itself naturally to compelling storytelling. Science teachers can use climate denial as a powerful, compelling way to arouse the student's curiosity, then teach them the science.
Lastly, I've been asked to give a climate presentation next month but they asked that rather than I give a talk, the audience just throw all their myths at me and I have to answer them. Personally, I prefer the security blanket of a pre-scripted talk but this should be challenging and more engaging for the audience! So to prepare for this, I'm going to compile a PPT slideshow of visual answers to all the most common myths, structured in the "create a gap, fill it with the alternative narrative" structure so that as questions come, I can jump to the appropriate part of the PPT.
Pulling all this together, one possible approach would be to take the Debunking Handbook (http://sks.to/debunk) and the Guide to Global Warming Skepticism (http://sks.to/guide) and meld them together into a resource that equips teachers to respond to climate myths in the classroom. It starts by teaching the general principles of effectively responding to misinformation then gives specific examples. Perhaps accompanied with PPT slides, simple graphics, interactive features, etc. The hole in my knowledge is what is the most practical format for teachers which I imagine NCSE would have years of experience with.

2012-01-23 15:25:45
Pete Dunkelberg


John, this is great! I see that with your experience you can move very fast. We have to remember that actual teachers who know their subjects, classes and individual students, and who have their own personalities and methods, will determine what works in the classroom. But many will welcome all help against resistant students. I'm still thinking about an approach that will not require busy teachers to learn each argument. I'm starting to think now of a Socratic approach featuring conservation of energy to get things going. My idea is to show the class that indeed climate is changing and an explanation is needed, and that the explanation must include an energy source.

... and there is the bottom line: each class should be brought to the realization that total CO2 emissions must be minimized to minimize the harm that will follow.

So some science beyond debunking is needed too.