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Re: [side note] Physics dissertations

From: Anne Pemberton <apembert@erols.com>
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2001 17:34:52 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>, w3c-wai-gl@w3.org

	Chatting with a 2nd grade teacher who is ready and waiting for the
Internet link to arrive in her room (equipment and wiring in place awaiting
the techie's time)... we have both been doing a lot of searching on the web
for stuff related to what she is teaching and coming up dry most often
because of steep reading levels and lack of illustrations ... looking up
"Solids, Liquids and Gases" was a bust! Nothing less than college level
interpretations ... Today was the "Science Fair", and a few second graders
chose that topic and did a better job of showing the simple meanings of
those terms than any web page I found! If I was working in a school for the
blind, I would be having the same difficulty!  

	The National Science Foundation works at many levels. A few years ago I
served on a Review Board for an NSF-funded project in West Virginia that
had elementary children logging into the Internet to submit findings from
studies of the local streams ... data that was used by state officials to
determine pollution from coal mines and runoff ... My only fault with NSF
was their dogged determination to keep any language arts componants out of
their "science" project!  

	In addition to aiding many disabled adults, and those who don't consider
themselves "disabled", but have difficulty reading, the web can fulfill
it's promise to the lowest levels of educational needs ...

	A second grade teacher can easily use materials at a fifth grade reading
level (a bit under what I estimate to be "average" or "general" audience)
with her class by reading and amplifying it with them (which is easier if
there are good illustrations with the text), and fifth grade teachers can
do the same with up to about 10th grade level materials ... again,
illustrations make the task easier ... When a cognitively disabled user is
on the web by himself, he doesn't have the advantage of a teacher --- he
must depend on the page author to provide usable content, or click on the
back button ...




At 12:05 PM 3/14/01 -0500, Al Gilman wrote:
>While to those of us not in the habit of reading doctoral dissertations in
>Physics, writing a dissertation and writing for the Web may see reasonably
>separate things, this is definitely not the vision of the U.S. National
>Science Foundation who underwrite a lot of Physics research.
>Tim Berners-Lee initially conceived of the Web as a basis for communication
>among scholars doing advanced research.  At CERN, a Physics research
>The National Science Foundation requires that the grant recipients of their
>Partnerships in Advanced Computational Infrastructure (PACI) grants
>dedicate some of the money to Education, Outreach and Training (EOT)
>activities.  They are investing in advancing the state of Web technology
>precisely because they believe that running scholarly communication over
>the Internet gives knowledge a global reach and a more encyclopedic
>audience than traditional paper publishing.  And they are testing their
>advanced technologies in educational settings because if they aren't
>shortening the knowledge dissemination cycle, they aren't doing their job.
>Publishing scientific results to the Web accelerates the production of new
>knowledge, and so that is how the NSF wants scientific scholarship to be
>One of the strong levers that they are seeking ways to pull is to use the
>immense connectivity of the Internet to shorten the cycle time from
>laboratory discovery to mass market products to common public knowledge.
>This is viewed as a major economic driving factor.  If each writer in the
>food chain by which new knowledge is disseminated down to the primary
>school curriculum were able to reach just a 30% broader audience, as
>measured in reading level band, we could take whole steps out of the
>multi-step dumb-down process and take multiple years out of what is today
>often a twenty year process or longer.
>So even 'though new Physics knowledge at the Ph.D. dissertation level can't
>necessarily be written at the seventh grade level in the first instance, a
>sensitivity to the reading-level demands you are placing on your audience
>is important for people writing about new discoveries in Physics.  It's not
>just the editors of Nature and Scientific American who need to worry about
>this.  It is everyone who touches the stuff, starting with the innovating
>researcher.  At least, EOT is an integral part of PACI because the NSF
>believes this. 
>Ref: http://www.eot.org/
Anne Pemberton

Received on Wednesday, 14 March 2001 17:30:26 UTC

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