Jun 12, 2023

Nobel Prize Summit 2023 Day 3 Transcript

Nobel Prize Summit 2023 Day 3 Transcript
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Nobel Prize Summit 2023 Day 3. Read the transcript here.

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Audience (00:00):

Thank you.

Carol O’Donnell (00:00):


Audience (00:00):

Tell me what you’re interested in. So the Maryland University integrated [inaudible 00:06:37].

Carol O’Donnell (06:37):

Welcome everyone.

Audience (06:42):

And [inaudible 00:06:43] masters.

Carol O’Donnell (06:42):

Try again. Welcome everyone.

Audience (06:44):

We’re working at the [inaudible 00:06:48].

Carol O’Donnell (06:48):

What a great room to be in. Did everyone have a chance to see the incredible area outside with the beautiful ceiling? This is such a beautiful building to be in. And there used to be a pendulum here, right Marcia?

Dr. McNutt (07:04):

There’s still, but it’s down, well it’s up into the ceiling and the base goes back down to the floor [inaudible 00:07:11].

Carol O’Donnell (07:12):

Ah, okay. So only on special days do you get to see the pendulum, is that right? So welcome. My name is Carol O’Donnell and I’m the director of the Smithsonian Science Education Center and together with the Nobel Foundation are dear friends at the Nobel Foundation. Can you stand up those of you who are from the Nobel Foundation and helped to organize this session? And I also want to give a special shout out to Catherine Blanchard, who likes to always be behind the scenes, but she is an incredible person who helped to organize this along with the Nobel Foundation. So thank you, Catherine.

All right. So as you know, this is trust in science, the importance of education and developing an evidence-based worldview. And believe me, that was not an easy title to come up with. We had the word fact in there and we actually pulled it out and changed it into evidence-based. So this session will address and discuss the importance of education to help society meet the increasing demands of navigating complex information in today’s environment. And we’ll examine why education systems must adapt to meet the demands of the future. The actors involved will come from both the formal education sectors as well as the informal education sectors. So with that, I’d like to introduce Marcia McNutt, who is the president of the National Academies. Probably does not even need an introduction, but I’m going to do it.

Marcia Kemper McNutt is an American geophysicist and the 22nd president of the National Academy of Sciences. And believe me, we would love to have her here for many, many more years. And previously she served as editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal Science from 2013 to 2016. Dr. McNutt holds a visiting appointment at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She’s a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Advisory Committee for the Division of Earth and Life Studies and the Forum on Open Science. Dr. McNutt chaired the National Academy of Sciences Engineering and Medicine Climate Intervention Committee who delivered two reports in 2015.

She was the 15th director of the United States Geological Survey, the first woman to hold that post, as well as Science Advisor to the United States Secretary of the Interior from 2010 to 2013. Before working for USGS, Dr. McNutt was president and chief executive of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and an oceanographic research center in the United States Professor of Marine Geophysics at the Stanford University School of Earth Sciences and Professor of Marine Geophysics at the University of California Santa Cruz. Lots more even to say about her, but I cannot tell you how happy I am to be here. So thank you Dr. McNutt.

Dr. McNutt (10:20):

Thank you so much, Carol. I promise my opening remarks are going to be shorter than that introduction so we can get on to the important work today. So first of all, I’d like to ask how many of you joined us either yesterday or the day before? Terrific. Terrific. Well, I was thinking today, if I had received a dollar for every time the topic of education came up over the last couple days, I’d be a very wealthy lady today. And the importance of this is of course, that when we’re talking about misinformation and disinformation, we can certainly look to the platform to providers and say, “What are their obligations to make sure that they are purveying accurate content.” And we can look to ourselves as scientists and say, “What were some of the missteps we have made in the past where we didn’t communicate appropriately and led to impressions that our information was not correct or that we were capriciously changing our minds on topics?”

But in the end, I think we’ve all decided that the most important inoculation against misinformation is helping young people build critical thinking skills and knowing what they need to do to check things. And not only check things that sounds suspicious to them, but check things that overly confirm their own biases. I think both of those are very important. That’s why I’m so pleased that we’re hosting this summit on education today at the academy. And I want to give a special thanks to Carol and her team at the Smithsonian, as well as our good partner, the Nobel Foundation, for their work to pull together this session. I’m really looking forward to learning from all the speakers today.

The Smithsonian is one of the finest institutions in the world in terms of informal learning, and I really have been so pleased with our collaborations with the Smithsonian over the years and feel that they are the perfect person to be leading this today. As you all know, for those of you who are American at least, education can be very siloed in America. Each school district has its own rules and regulations and school boards make different decisions. And education in Oregon might not be at all like what an education in Florida’s like. Well, in fact, it truly isn’t. In any case, I just want to say welcome to everyone. So happy you’re here. So looking forward to our discussions today, and I’d like to invite up to the podium Vidar Helgesen. Vida is the former interior minister for the nation of Norway and has now moved across the border to become the director of the Nobel Prize Foundation. So Vidar, please.

Vidar Helgesen (13:40):

Thank you, Marcia, and thank you Carol. Thanks for your great partnership in organizing the days we have behind us and the day we have before us today. Truth, trust, and hope is what we’ve put on the agenda for the last couple of days, or actually disinformation and misinformation, but that sounds terrible. So truth, trust and hope is really what we need to inspire ourselves. And the issue we’ve dealt with over the past couple of days is really about a problem that is destroying democracy, that is tearing society apart. And when we have focused on the solutions, what can give hope for truth and trust. Education has really come back again and again as a solution. Arguably the most important long-term solution, it’s not the only one, but really one that has come back again and again. And when we discuss education in national politics or international events, we often talk about equipping our young people with the necessary skills to master their lives.

And yes, it’s about that, but in this context, it’s really about safeguarding our democracy and our fundamental freedoms. So education is more important than equipping the individual for his or her life. It’s about equipping society for countering destructive challenges and securing the long-term health and wellbeing of our societies and our planet. And that’s why it’s fantastic that we have this among nine solution sessions taking place today in the context of the Nobel Prize Summit. This event focusing on the importance of education, the importance of critical thinking, the importance of equipping our kids and ourselves with what we need to reach the SDGs and take care of our planet.

And it resonates also in the context of the Nobel Prize in one particular way. And that is if you ask Nobel laureates, if you ask Saul and other Nobel laureates, “What was it that inspired you? What made you take up science? What really was the source of inspiration?” More often than not, they say, “My teacher.” So those who reach the pinnacle of scientific excellence refer to their teachers. And that’s also why the teachers are so extremely important for the future of our societies. So thank you for partnering in this and I look forward to continuing the engagement that we’re committing to for equipping young people with the ability to think and think critically. Thank you.

Carol O’Donnell (16:59):

I loved that quote, ” Teachers, the power of a teacher, we can’t underestimate it.” So with that then, thank you for the welcoming remarks. I’d like to introduce Dr. Andreas Schleicher, who’s the director for Education and Skills and special advisor on education policy to the Secretary General of the organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD in Paris. So as a key member of the OECD Senior Management Team, Dr. Schleicher supports the Secretary General’s strategy to produce analysis and policy advice that advances economic growth and social progress. He also promotes the work of the Directorate for Education and Skills on a global stage. So in addition to policy and country reviews, the work of the directorate includes PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment, the OECD Survey of Adult Skills, the OECD, teaching and Learning International Survey, and the development and analysis of benchmarks on the Performance of Education systems. I am so thrilled, cannot wait to hear your words. So thank you so much Dr. Schleicher.

Dr. Andreas Schleicher (18:17):

Thank you so much for inviting me and also for devoting attention to this topic. I don’t believe that there’s anything that could be more important in our world today. And we’ve just gone through a difficult period of the pandemic with many disruptions, and the future is always going to surprise us. Climate change is going to disrupt our lives a lot more than this pandemic and artificial intelligence is going to put education to a test. We know how to educate second class robots who repeat what we told them, but what makes us human in this new world? And then there are lots of other trends that actually shape this world. And actually some of these trends are not so difficult to predict. One is the rise intangibles. The engines of growth these days are all companies that deal with intangibles. And that’s not so difficult to understand.

Knowledge is something that you can reproduce and extrapolate from infinitely and many different places and all at the same time, the traditional Fortune 500 companies still exist, but they’re no longer the engines of our economies. And in this world, the kind of things that are easy to teach may be easy to test, have also become easy to digitize and automate, and technology intensive tasks are on the rise. And you put the two things together and you see that future of work dominated by non-routine and technology intensive tasks. But there are other implications, look at the rise in social media platforms. Digital and physical identities are becoming meshed and so do you know fact and opinion, but people who do not feel a floor under their feet are the ones who are going to build walls around them. That is the simple truth.

And that’s why what ends up polarizing our economies, our labor markets, our societies, and you just said it, our democracies or look at the decline in voting ages across countries. Now it’s great to bring young people in, but do our education systems help them to make up their minds. And then there is the wisdom of the crowds. In the 20th century it was an elite few who produced and curated the knowledge from which we all lived. Today, it’s all of us who generate their content. And for the young generation, this digital world of information has become the real world. You can see here, even before the pandemic, 15 year old spend 30, 40 hours online every week. The digital world is of course full of opportunities, but it’s also become a world where reality becomes sort of fungible, where virality is often privileged over the quality and the distribution of information and truth, in fact can easily lose currency.

Back in 2000, literacy was about reading books. Hard to remember, but that was true. Find your answer to your questions always in an encyclopedia, and you could trust those answers to be true. And that’s what we teach people when we actually work with them in school. We make them compliant with what they read in their school books. We do not actually have them question the established wisdom of our times now. But today, Google gives you 10,000 answers to your questions and nobody will tell you what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is not true. But the trouble is that across OCD countries, our international PISA tests show that these 21st century literacy skills have actually not evolved over the last 20 years because we haven’t changed the paradigms of education. We’re still teaching people to reproduce the knowledge of our times not to question it. So it’s not actually so much of a surprise now, less than half of the students can reliably distinguish fact from opinion.

And this is in this world where there is scarcity of attention and an abundance of information, and where algorithms easily sort us into groups of like-minded people that insulate us from opposing in divergent viewpoints. And then comes ChatGPT. Last year it could actually answer 65% of the PISA science task correctly. And this year, GPT-4 answered 85% correctly. Now AI advances at an incredible speed while education sort of seems stuck. Now that should give us to think. And yes, AI has still many limitations, but it is at advancing very, very fast. One of the complaints I think we all have today is ChatGPT and the likes do not tell you where the information comes from that they present to you. But that’s actually something we can fix with existing models. And in the midterm, AI will also get much better in interpreting our questions. And as the underlying models evolve in the long run, it’s quite possible that AI will be able also to reduce that risk of bias that comes from inherited from the training data that those systems use.

And that’s when it’s going to get really hard to distinguish truths from fiction. So in this world, teaching the intellectual methods of science and mathematics is probably one of the best investments that we can make in the future of our societies, in the future of the planet even, in the future of our democracies. If you don’t understand the concept of an exponential function, you’re going to have a hard time following the debate on climate change or understanding the evolution of a pandemic. But education does a lot more, it shapes also the behavior that influence political commitments, whether that’s financing parties or social activism. It shapes the behavior that impacts local communities. Now think about volunteering, community services, it can shape behavior that influences business practices and think about changes in consumption and lifestyle patterns, personal investment choices, employment choices. They all relate to the education that we get. And of course, what we do always makes a difference for other people.

Let me give you an example of those dynamics. Think about environmental awareness, on average across OECD countries, seven out of 10 students know something about the consequences of clearing forests. And two thirds have a basic understanding of the increasing greenhouse gases. And then look at environmental optimism, less than 20% of 15 year olds believe that things like water shortage or air pollution and so on will get better over the next 20 years. So what drives that optimism? There doesn’t seem to be much of a difference in environmental optimism between students with an interest in science or career ambitions in science and those without. Students from privileged backgrounds and girls were sort of less optimistic, but most importantly, students who scored high on the science test were a lot less optimistic that the environmental challenges will be addressed.

Now you can say, “Okay, let’s teach students less science and they all will see a brighter future.” But of course what those data really mean is that students who knew more about the science have a much more realistic appreciation of what is involved. Students at the low end of the science spectrum thought there’s going to be some magic politician who’s going to sort all of this out. Why do I need to change my behavior? So here you can see what we know is directly connected with our behavior. What’s also important is that science knowledge and also interest here, a great predictors for environmental awareness. What you know always provides that frame of what you see and what is your awareness. So that’s why building strong foundations in science is so important, but how that could look like? And let me borrow from Saul Perlmutter here.

When looking at what we should expect from a future of science education and for a start, we need to place much greater weight on the intellectual methodologies of science that have allowed us to progress as humans rather than just teaching the surface of scientific content. And actually what makes my heart sink these days when I go into science classrooms where you see science taught like religion, we teach them a kind of scientific method or idea, and then we give them lots of exercises to practices. And at the end, we test whether they found the answers that we actually expected from them. And that has so little to do with the nature of science, which is about inquiry, which is about raising questions, building hypothesis rather than learning answers. But actually, there’s a lot that we have to do. Second, we have to have people who are capable to engage in probabilistic thinking.

And most of the phenomena in our world today about finding signal in noise, as Saul has put it so well. The more we can think in terms of alternative likelihoods, the more we can think in terms of alternative futures, the better we will be prepared for the future that eventually arrives. And human cognition, that’s the obvious part in last, but not least, we need that scientific optimism that science actually will find answers to questions that we cannot imagine at the time in which we live. And to build that growth mindset of young people to engage with the future, because that’s the other end. If you get just depressed these days, you’re not going to change anything. And many of those ideas will be at the heart of the next PISA assessment where students will be asked to explain the world they see in scientific terms. Where they won’t be asked to repeat answers, but actually to show that they can understand pose scientific questions. And where they need to show that they can distinguish scientific evidence from misinformation based on a solid understanding of scientific concepts, but also of how scientific knowledge is actually produced, how it is communicated, how do we engage actually very, very important dimension to this. And that includes an understanding of common flaws in scientific arguments that you need to understand in the concept of peer review, consensus, all those foundations of how science actually advances. And what I must say is we do not know how students around the world are going to come out on this PISA science assessment, but I think we know that we have a lot to lose for our economies, for our societies, for our democracies if we do not get this right. Thank you very much.

Carol O’Donnell (29:17):

I think that was incredible. So I look forward to hearing your next talk because there’s a lot that we’re going to be learning in 2025. So our next speaker is Dr. Jonathan Osborne. He is an emeritus professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education. His research focus is a mix of work on policy and pedagogy and the teaching and learning of science. And in the policy domain, he’s interested in exploring students’ attitudes to science and how school science can be made more worthwhile and engaging, particularly for those who will not continue with the study of science. So in pedagogy, his focus has been on making the case for the rule of argumentation in science education, both as a means for improving the use of a more dialogic approach to teaching science and improving student understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry. A lot of what we heard from Andreas. So with that, I’d like to welcome Dr. Osbourne.

Dr. Jonathan Osborne (30:38):

Thank you, Carol. Right, okay. The slides is what I need. Just click there, yeah. Okay, great. Okay, well, thanks very much for being here, and thanks for the invitation to come and talk. I’m very quickly going to run over some of the work we’ve been doing to address science education in age of misinformation, which was funded by the Moore Foundation. Because about two or three years ago, we came together and said, “We really do need to do something about this. This is a problem.” I will say that my feeling now, having been here for three days is this is even more of a problem, though it’s great to have this opportunity. Okay, so what have we been up to? We got together a group of experts that are not just science people and said, “What kinds of things should we be doing about it?” Saul was one of them, very grateful for his contribution, and that’s led to this report, Science Education in an Age of Misinformation. We managed to persuade the editor of science that it was so important that they should publish an article about the work. And this is available on the website, which is there, and I’ll give you at the end. And our latest piece of work on this is what we need to do to take this work forward in terms of tackling scientific misinformation in science education. So I’m going to briefly run over what that work is actually saying. Okay, just the headlines. First of all, why are these competencies needed? Well, [inaudible 00:31:58] look at the evidence, and I think one of the big discussions to have here is what constitutes evidence for trust in science and that leads them to make mistakes. I’m going to show you a quick video of one student doing this. This is the work done by Danny Pimentel, one of my graduate student co-authors, interviewing students when they were asked to evaluate a page from the Heartland Institute, which I suspect most people in this room know is a known climate denial organization. So what does he do? Have a look.

Danny Pimentel (32:58):

Well, already off the bat, I saw the Heartland Institute, and even though I don’t know much about it, my first thought that came in was like, “Okay, this does look credible because of the images, the title, the person who wrote it, the February date.” There’s options here with news and opinions. And then it says institute, and you’d assume institute would be an important place. And then there’s things like donate here. So if they want to get your money, I’d assume it’s credible to other sources. And then there’s a menu, and then the menu here is really well laid out. So you can find out more information about the person, the topics, the opinions, news, publications, and even look at videos or events. So here it shows climate change and energy, and it also shows the author as well-

Dr. Jonathan Osborne (33:54):

Okay, I’m going to stop there. I think you’ve got the picture. And the trouble is that’s what most of the students did. They have not learned the basic routines to check out sources like that. Third reason we think this is important is because like it or not, none of us are intellectually independent. We are all epistemically interdependent with other people. We learn from other people, we depend on other people, that means the judgment that we have to make becomes a different judgment about people. And you can’t rely on existing resources or media literacy resources, which put a lot of emphasis on checking out the evidence on the page.

This is one of them called CRAAP, which is an interesting title for it. But basically it asks you to check out… the only time it asks, “Check the authority, the source of the info.” Otherwise, it’s asking you to stay on the page. And students are taught to avoid Wikipedia because it’s not reliable. That is just not true, I’m afraid to say for the majority of cases. So the issue you are faced with then is one of evaluating credibility. Can

Dr. Jonathan Osborne (35:00):

… I trust this particular source. So quick exercise for you, okay? Be honest, how many people in this room believe that climate change is a manmade or human-made effect? Okay, most of you. Okay, right. Okay. Now be honest, how many of you have actually read the evidence? Hands up. Well, that’s reasonable. This is a fairly scientific audience. About 50% for those people out here. But why do the rest of you believe it when you haven’t read the evidence? It’s because you’ve made a judgment about credibility of the source in that way. And how do you make that particular kind of judgment? You need three basic questions. This is what we call misinformation 101 from that point of view when it comes to science. First one, is there any clear conflicts of interest? Science research is usually paid for, so these are the kinds of questions you need to be asking, because that, obviously will tell you something about whether to trust it.

Second one is does the source have the relevant expertise? Somebody who is an evolutionary biologist is not an expert on health matters from that point of view, but people get labeled with the label of scientists and it gives them an authority which they don’t have outside their own particular domain from that point of view. So these are some of the kinds of questions you need to be asking. There’s more in the report.

And then number three, is there a scientific consensus? This is the important one. The goal of science is to achieve consensus from that point of view. And when it’s achieved, it’s very difficult for anybody to challenge it. It’s not that it isn’t challenged, but actually if there is a consensus, you really ought to look critically at somebody who’s actually challenging it in that way.

So those three questions are what you need to know. You also need to know that science is a social process, that it’s a community of people engaged in mutual criticism. It’s a kind of machine for error detection from that point of view. And that’s what means the knowledge is reliable and trustworthy. And this is a quote from the editor of Science very recently. So you need to know something about the significance of scientific consensus, something about peer review, something about the criteria of scientific expertise. And you also need to be able to acknowledge where other people who are working as practitioners have other relevant expertise. None of this is taught in most school curriculum, and that is a serious problem and challenge at this point in time.

So what we’ve been doing is saying these are scientific competencies you need. These are generic ones. These apply to all subjects. These are developed by my colleague, Sam Wineburg at Stanford, from that point of view. So the important one is lateral reading. Don’t stay on the webpage, check out the source straight away from that point of view, and then see what you can find out about it. And we’ve got this into what we call a nice fast and frugal heuristic, taking you through these three things. If you end up at number three, i.e. The source is credible, there is relevant expertise and there isn’t a consensus, then obviously it’s much more difficult and you’ve got to make up your mind in whatever way you can.

So just to show you very quickly as an example of this, this is the former undersecretary for science in the Obama administration, Steve Koonin, he’s doing a video on PragerU, basically arguing that there isn’t a climate emergency from that point of view. So if you come across this, if you put into Google, “Is climate change real,” for instance, you might think this is credible. So you need to ask these kinds of questions. Do they have a conflict of interest? Well, PragerU was founded by conservative radio talk. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve got a conflict of interest, but it does mean you at least know where it’s coming from and what it might say in that sense. Do they have appropriate scientific expertise? Well, if you look at our… He’s a theoretical physicist, from that point of view, which seems a bit distance from climate change science, so maybe your sense of worry is going up. And then of course there’s the scientific consensus, which we all know.

So to finish, what am I actually saying from that point of view? This is the kind of project I think that needs to be embedded in science education. The goal of science is the production of reliable knowledge, it’s a core commitment to science. It’s got a specialized set of social practices for doing that. It’s more than just peer review in that kind of way. Peer review is an ongoing process all the time. Most people can’t evaluate the data and evidence for themselves, and they need to acknowledge that because if somebody encourages them to do that, they’re making a mistake in that sense. And the judgment we’re trying to get young people to make is the source credible and what’s the evidence that they can use to support that point of view? So science education’s got to do more on this. And I think they’ve basically got to step up to the plate and help with the challenge that we’re all facing. Thank you very much. And that [inaudible 00:40:08].

Carol O’Donnell (40:15):

Thank you so much, Jonathan. So you’re starting to see a theme come through. We’ll continue with that theme as Dr. Perlmutter, Saul Perlmutter, will join us to talk about the work that he’s doing in a critical-thinking project. So Dr. Perlmutter is the 2011 Nobel Laureate, sharing the prize in physics for the discovery of accelerating expansion of the universe. He’s professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, where he holds the Franklin W. and Karen Weber Dabby chair. And a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He is the leader of the International Supernova Cosmology Project and the director of the Berkeley Institute for Data Science and executive director of the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics. His undergraduate degree was from Harvard, his PhD from UC Berkeley. I’m thrilled to introduce you to our Nobel Laureate, Dr. Perlmutter.

Saul Perlmutter (41:12):

[inaudible 00:41:28].

Carol O’Donnell (41:27):

Why don’t we do that, Saul?

Speaker 1 (41:29):

I can just go up. Good morning. So I’m Laura or Laura Sprechmann, and I’m the CEO of Nobel Prize Outreach. And Saul will come in a second, so don’t worry. As Marsha just mentioned, the word education was said and spelled out many times throughout these past two days. Indeed, education and critical thinking were mentioned repeatedly as solutions to the crisis we’re facing today. At the heart of critical thinking is the scientific process, and how it helps us make good judgements. The Nobel Prize celebrates the power of critical thinking. It celebrates human progress within the sciences, the humanities and peace work. If you think about it, without critical thinking, there would probably be no Nobel Prize.

Critical thinking provides a toolkit for the sciences, for culture, for democracy. And it is important and key to a well-functioning democracy with active individuals. Why? Because it supports a shared view of reality and it empowers us to make good decisions based on evidence. But the bad news is that critical thinking doesn’t come naturally. It takes an effort. It takes an effort to learn it and to practice it. As Daniel Kahneman, as you well know, has described these two ways of thinking, system one and system two. Where system one is relying on estimates and rules of thumb, and it’s the one also that exposes us to being biased. And system two, based on evidence, on thought. And that one, unfortunately, takes some more effort.

So we many times use and rely on system one by default, and we very often avoid system two. So that critical thinking is challenging is no news. But what has certainly become more difficult in the past decades is that critical thinking is under assault. We bear our nice devices in our hands, and those are programmed to keep us in system one. They play with our biases. They pull us sorts of holes and talk to our fears. And this creates a polarization and undermines our ability to think rationally. And in the end, of course, as we all know, it is a threat to our democracy.

So what do we do? If we value this, we need to act. And that’s why it is important to teach critical thinking, not only for scientists, but for everyone, for kids as early as we can. And it’s essential that we provide these tools for students to make good decisions. At Nobel Prize Outreach, which I represent, we have been discussing this for many years. Our colleagues at the Nobel Prize Museum have successfully organized many teacher summits. We publish the material on each Nobel Prize every year on our website for students and teachers to access. But we need to do more.

And so what we have been reminded of in the past years, last year not least, is how generative AI makes the situation even more challenging and complex. So what we started to do was to explore, well, how can we work long term with this? And as it happened, we met Saul Perlmutter in Stockholm who told us about an undergraduate course he had been developing together with colleagues, very successfully. And we got interested and fast-forward, because this happened actually, Saul, believe it or not, like four years ago. And we talked about, “Well, what about adapting what Saul and his team has learned in developing this course for undergraduates to another group, namely high school students?”

And so a team of experienced and very professional developers of material for schools and teachers have been working hard to adapt this material for a new group. So this material and this curriculum is called Scientific Thinking for All. And why that name? Well, because we believe that all can learn these tools to think critically.

So what is our goal with all this? It’s equip young minds with the ability to analyze information, to evaluate evidence, not to be fooled by disinformation, and not to be fooled by their own minds, which are quite tricky as we all know, and not to be fooled by biases. So we want to build a community because this is obviously not an individual endeavor. We’re part of a community that we have talked about in the past days as well, the importance of belonging to a group and to do something together, to share a reality, and not least to respect each other and to listen to each other. This is an very important part of the curriculum.

So by embracing the power of critical thinking and building it into our education system, hopefully we can empower this next generation to shape our future and hopefully to continue off this progress that humanity has been making. We’ve done pretty well, but hopefully we can continue on that path. So on that, I want to thank everyone who has been supporting this project one way or the other. I want to thank the National Academy of Sciences for this collaboration, for the summit and for hosting us here today, and all of you for attending. And I hand over to Saul. Thank you.

Saul Perlmutter (48:58):

Let’s see here. Advancement. Good. So good morning and it’s great to see the group finally gelling for the last day of the meeting. I wanted to describe just very briefly what initiated this project for us originally at Berkeley that then led to what you were hearing about. And I think that as we all know, we’ve been facing this idea of all the problems of our future. But I was very aware that I was not feeling that these would be scary problems if I thought that we were actually talking together on the same page at all in our society. And so it seemed like as a starting point, that was actually a reason for optimism. If we could actually learn some way to build a capability of people actually talking, discussing.

In particular, the moment that this began was one of these moments of frustration of watching our society unable to make decisions together. It was one of the last times that in fact that we had a debt ceiling crisis, about 10 years ago. And I remember at the time thinking, “The kinds of conversations I’m hearing don’t sound at all the kind of conversations you will have over at lunch table with other scientists.” The assumptions and the definitions of how do you think about a problem felt so different. And I thought, “Why don’t people learn this?” And I realized partly many of the ideas that we were discussing that could be helpful were ideas which I was never taught explicitly. They were all things that we were taught basically by osmosis, as we went through actually graduate school and postdocs, and being a young faculty member. They were not even taught at the undergraduate level or the graduate level in classes at all. And it seemed like it would be very useful to try to ask could we articulate this and could we turn this into something that became an element of science? It seems to me in some ways it’s maybe the most foundational element of science that we were not teaching.

So what we ended up doing was sitting down with a large group of both students and faculty over the course of about nine months, and walking through what would make an interesting vocabulary of ideas that are not being taught that we could teach. And so we developed a course that became something that we are always teaching with a natural scientist, a social scientist and a humanities professor in the room together. And we came up with a rubric of some 23 ideas, I think it was, that we thought just together would make an interesting vocabulary. They weren’t exhaustive, they could be substituted, but they would be something that you could describe.

We also spent some time developing the assessments for this material because we thought if you’re teaching something so meta, how would you know that anybody was getting it, unless you also developed a lot of assessment tools? So we did that work. Let me show structurally how we’re thinking about these concepts. You already heard from Andreas a little bit of the ailments. I think of them in some sense as the top left corner, we’re talking about the various cautionary notes, the ways in which we tend to fool ourselves. And we emphasized that a lot of what science is over many, many centuries and years and even recent decades, we learned new ways that we discover that we fool ourselves, and then we learn new ways to be able to scaffold our behavior so that we don’t make those mistakes. And we also learned that we tend to make those mistakes anyway, even though we’ve done that. And so we need to have our colleagues work together in a social setting so that we can catch each other making mistakes, but that only works if everybody shares these vocabularies.

So you would have the underpinnings. So we teach a number of concepts that were things like causation is not the same as correlation. And there’s the probabilistic thinking elements, which are partly that almost any proposition we make we actually give it some percentage of confidence level or credence level. We don’t present a data point without an error bar. But we also are very aware that we tend to fool ourselves in the probabilistic realm by seeing patterns in random noise and thinking that we actually discovered something, when it’s just a random peak. And scientists learn this very well early on, but they usually do it through experience. But it can also be taught specifically earlier.

Those cautionary notes on the top left there are then needed to be balanced. Those are the brakes of science, but you can’t drive a car with brakes, you also need an accelerator. And so we also try to teach the can-do elements of science. Among them is I think something that I have not actually seen expressed very often and articulated, which is the sense that science has built a culture of what we call scientific optimism. That it allows you to stick to a problem long enough to solve it because you have to fool yourself into thinking you can solve a problem long enough to solve it.

And surprisingly, you talk to scientists and you realize that that’s actually one of the things that they are trying to teach their graduate students along the way, that they often give up in despair. “This isn’t going to work,” and the graduate students are going to go home. But most faculty I know end up eventually teaching their students that’s what it feels like. It doesn’t work for the first 25 times. And then eventually you can still get there, but you need to have that confidence in order to do it. All of these brakes and accelerators of course are the rationalities of science, but they come against human cognition and group thinking when you actually have to make any decisions. And we thought it was very important to teach a lot of these elements of the thinking fast and slow. Danny Kahneman that we heard mentioned. In particular, confirmation bias has a very particular flavor when it’s done in the sciences, which I can describe. And we’ve recently developed techniques of blind analysis and others that are only in the last 10, 20 years still being developed. And so this is something that’s an ongoing process of trying to catch ourselves in doing these mistakes.

The group thinking problem of course is one of the key elements of all this, which is that if you do not come up with a real principled way to weave together all of the goals, fears, desires, and values in a decision with the rationality and all these elements of the factual elements of the story, the part that you’ll throw out is all the facts and the rationality, not the fears and goals and desires because those are the things that got you to the room to make a decision in the first place. So it’s our job as scientific thinkers to be developing the structures and essentially the principles by which you do a group process because we’re the ones that care that you still keep some facts and rationality in the decision at the end of the day after you’ve brought in all the values and drivers of the decision.

And then finally, we always thought it was important that a course like this, which can sound very much like science boosterism, to spend some time on where science goes wrong. And because people have to be sensitized to the ways that you can misuse science, and it’s been used as a tool of oppression in the past. And just pathological science, ways in which people have just fallen into their mental traps and fallen in love with something and the science that just is a failure mode as well.

So these are the elements that we were teaching. We ended up… You can take the elements that I just showed earlier, the 23 items and put them in these categories. But for the high school course, we thought it would be probably helpful to turn this into something like badges of what are the different competencies that a student could build up over time and have them feel like there’s a collection of tools that they can own and that they can be part of in the long run.

We went then of course to our partners to figure out how do we develop this into a curriculum that could inspire other curricula worldwide? I mean this may be one of the first of this kind, but it shouldn’t be the last one. There should be many attempts to figure out how to teach this well. And we see this as an ongoing process that we’re going to have to learn better and better how to do this job well. We worked of course, as you’ve heard, with some very experienced educators on developing this. Lawrence Hall has their science material in some 20% of schools in the United States. STEM Learning is apparently in about 100% of the schools in the UK, and they seemed like strong partners to begin with. And actually we were getting some very good advice from our funders as well, that you see here.

We have a cabinet of advisors, both on the material itself but also on the connections to the international stage. And in the end, what we developed was a concept where we would take those various different concepts that we were describing, those tools they want to teach, and we’ve come up with a way to present them using these flexible modules, these units, about seven of them here, that would allow each one to get at some of these ideas, but they would be much more in the educational tradition of phenomenon forward as I learned the languages, where you begin with some scenario and some activities that the students would get interested in, engaged with, that would feel like it meant something to them personally. And then from that, you develop these concepts.

So just to give you a sense, we began with these first three examples of these units. And the first two of them have already gone through the first round of testing, field-testing in schools, and you’ll be hearing about that. We took these concepts and you can see now that we start highlighting different ones for these different units. So just to give you a feel for what kinds of settings we used for this purpose, the first unit here, evidence and iteration in science used as a driving question, how do people construct scientific explanations relevant to everyday issues? And this case, water quality was a driving scenario that was being used. And it allowed us to deal with a number of these topics. But in particular, the students spent a lot of time in this case learning some of the processes of science, and that led to scientific advancement.

That third unit uses the driving question of, how do we use scientific investigation to identify causal factors for interventions for wellbeing? And so here, there was actually a fair amount that had to do with mental wellbeing and health that was brought into the scenarios. And the students were using labs, and card activities, and simulations, to build some understanding and skills in how you marshal different kinds of evidence and how you work with it.

And then finally, the group decision making was a big element of the last unit, where the issues that were being addressed tend to be ones around the futures of energy, and so that was the driving story that was used there. But this one has lot to do with the group decision making techniques that I was mentioning earlier. And we actually have the students practice some of these different techniques, and see ways that you can actually weave the values and facts together in more constructive way. All right. So current status, so we know where this all is. At this stage, we are now rolling out the first couple of those units, they’re now becoming available. We have the paper versions that teachers can download and print out. Obviously, this is all being done in the open source… The open world of modern day distribution, and so these will be available in this next month actually, coming from the Nobel website.

Let’s see. What should I comment here? Oh, just say that, as we were saying, we’re trying to use these iconic badges as ways for the students to start checking off what have they already learned, and then become curious about what the other ones are. And they might then go to websites that we will be providing, that provide videos and other approaches, for ones that they haven’t yet gotten to, but ideally, will… Teachers can weave different ones of these units into their current classes as one approach to getting into schools, but they could also put them all together and teach it as a single course as well. And so we’re trying to provide that flexibility because we know that it’s not very many schools that have a huge amount of room for new material. And so we think that this should be used as part of other programs, and that’s what our field trials have found that these teachers are starting to do.

So far, the field-testing, which I’ll show you a video on some of it in a minute, has reached… We’re reaching some 20 teachers in eight states in the US, and then across the UK as well, there there’s a pool of teachers that STEM Learning is pulling together. And what we’re finding or what we’re aiming to do at this stage is to begin the process by which we will learn what are the progression rubrics that we can actually track, and then what are the right forms of formative and then summative assessments? And so we have some of that material from the university course, but this is actually a time to track it very carefully. I don’t know whether in the room here, we’re starting to talk to the group at IB for the IB school system because they’re actually very interested in figuring out how to do these kinds of assessments of this sort of material. And so we’re hoping that we’ll be reaching a nother whole 20 schools in field-testing for that purpose as well.

What we of course want to do is find out how well are the students able to pick up the concepts, but how well in particular are they able to generalize them to novel contexts, which is of course the whole point of this. And one element that came up in the meetings here that we think is very important is that the students feel invited in to be part of the scientific effort, whether or not they ever plan to be scientists. So these are all ideas that I wish I had been taught well before I got to graduate school. And I also feel that they would be the basis for people to be good citizens and thoughtful thinkers just in their own day-to-day world decisions. If you’re trying to decide how to work through a medical decision, you should be using these ideas.

All right. So finally, I’ll mention that the university course has been trying out different assessment tools, and so we have found that we are getting very strong improvements and it is possible to teach this material, I think it’s important to be aware of. So we are pretty sure that going back just a few years earlier, we should still be able to teach the material. So that was I think one of the things that made confident in moving ahead. All right. So finally, I’ll say just a few words about the results of the first field-testing. Teachers are reporting that it’s working well for them, and I guess this is not a surprise at this stage. And that they are finding the students are beginning to understand this shift in understanding science as a body of knowledge to science as a process. And I think that’s really the key thing that we’re after. You get these quotes from the teachers that they say that it’s really reinforcing that in their classrooms. And then, you also see pre and post comments from students. I like the fact that this student thought of science as a large collection of information. And then by the end, they think of science, we use as a process more than we use its facts. And I think that if students can get that concept, I think that would be very salutary for our world today. I’m hoping that 20 years from now, you’ll have a group of people who are much more resistant to the kinds of mental manipulation that we’ve been seeing in the world, that we’ve been discussing the last few days.

All right, let me skip some of these other quotes, but you can get a sense for the fact that students are enjoying it, and just leave you with the website for those people who are interested in tracking this and taking the material as it comes out. We’re also inviting educators at all levels in schools around the world to sign up at this website to be part of this ongoing community that we hope will be developing this and improving this over the years. So this is not supposed to be a finished product maybe ever. It’s supposed to be something that… Because we’ll be constantly learning new ways that we’re fooling ourselves, new ways that we have to do better together. And it is, once more, something that has to be a group activity for it to be able to keep each other honest. So the webpage should be going up this month as well. I may just pass to [inaudible 01:06:37], who can show the video of just a minute or two. If I just click I’ll get it? Oh.

Speaker 2 (01:06:42):

I’m Ben Koo with the Lawrence Hall of Science. The Lawrence Hall of Science is the University of California Berkeley’s public science center. And the Lawrence has a long history of developing instructional materials and curriculum for schools. And in fact, at least one in five students across the country will use our curriculum materials in their school careers. And over the last 15 months, we’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to work alongside Dr. Saul Perlmutter, the Nobel Prize Outreach organization, and STEM Learning UK to engage in a pilot project to develop model units and conduct small scale field-testing of those units in classrooms.

And in the United States, we conducted field-testing with about a dozen teachers, based in a number of different states across the country, teaching in schools in urban, suburban, as well as rural communities. And teaching students that varied in their backgrounds and demographics. The first of those units we’re releasing now to the public. And we were also really excited and encouraged by the positive early reactions we got to the materials from our field test teachers and students. And we’re really excited at this point to invite the larger community of educators to engage with us in future field test opportunities, to give us feedback about the units that we’re making public, and to be our partners as part of this community to share about and teach about the thinking tools of science that are applicable to students in their everyday lives.

Speaker 3 (01:08:33):

Students are engaged when they’re asked to solve real-world problems. They see a direct connection to things that are important to them. Even students who are typically not engaged in other activities that we do really were interested in this water unit because they saw a theme, there was a problem to solve. And they wanted to make sure, again, that they made the right decisions. So collaborating and sharing ways to solve those problems throughout the unit, I think just kind of increases engagement all the way around.

But in activity three in particular, students were asked to analyze claims based on different evidence that they saw throughout the reading activity that they did. And I think… Well, I know it was super cool to watch students be like, “Oh, my goodness, this technology changes my perspective about how I’m going to solve the problem or how I view the claim.” So by seeing different types of technology that were used, students saw how they could be applied in different scenarios, and also how it’s very easy to change perspective when solving problems.

I also think activity five was a great hook for my students in particular because the first part of the activity discusses a water issue in a city in our state. So it

Speaker 4 (01:10:00):

… brought those water issues very close to home for them. And in particular, there are many examples throughout the water unit where people could tie it to something very locally that they’ve experienced with water in those regards.

Speaker 5 (01:10:16):

What stands out the most to me about the curriculum was the variety of lesson delivery. That in each lesson there were so many different ways that students got information and even shared the information that they learned. We did field trips, we did labs, we watched videos, we did readings, we had discussions, there was a storyline that we followed, and then at the end to put together all their information, students did a research and they made a presentation about it. And I really enjoyed all the different in the variety that the students were able to experience in this unit. One of the things that I value the most at the students learn was how they became scientists themselves. And they put themselves in shoes of even people that need to use science that might not be trained scientists. We role-played a town that needed to make a decision about their water sources.

And so, it showed students that science is applicable to everyone, not just people in a lab coat, which sometimes the students like to think. And one of the lessons that the students most enjoyed was the lesson about the cholera outbreak, which was it took students through a story about a cholera outbreak and it put students in the shoes of scientists. So at the beginning, the students didn’t have too much information, and as time goes on, they were able to gather more information and make decisions. And they were really excited by the end of the lesson to find that the decisions that they made based off the information that they were given, actually followed true history. They were really excited about that and they’ve still been talking about it.

Speaker 6 (01:12:01):

I’ve had quite a few girls sign up from year 10 through to year 12 and have been so impressed by their eagerness to think about the problems and develop their critical thinking skills. We all realize that all over the world we are surrounded by false reports, misleading information, and unsupported claims. Identifying truths and making well-reasoned decisions are skills that young people need to be taught. In the course so far, we have discussed the potential for the future to look very different and learned how to carry out firmly estimates. The girls had to estimate the number of balls in a box and then the amount of power used in our local small town of Hampton. Amazingly, with no information provided, they were accurate to within order of magnitude, proving to themselves how powerful clear thinking can be. My students and I are 100% committed to this project and we look forward to participating fully and giving all of the input we can to support this wonderful initiative.

Saul Perlmutter (01:13:08):

So this is the first time I got to see any of this myself. So I should [inaudible 01:13:11] That’s it. All right, so let me stop there. And I’m very happy to talk to people later about the project.

Carol O’Donnell (01:13:26):

Yeah, I love the fact that we are starting of course with the broad global scale that Andreas shared with us in terms of the global data, and of course, the underlying kind of scholarly research that Jonathan shared with us that tells us that this is really crucial to help students move from facts-based learning to more critical thinking. So with that, we saw from the example that you shared with us, Saul, that bringing this down to the classroom level and you’re working with high school teachers, in particular, is so crucial.

So now, our center, the Smithsonian Science Education Center, is going to share with you what we’re doing with even younger students. And I want to just say a special thank you to our program officer, Dr. Janet Coffey, who’s in the room, also from the Gordon Betty Moore Foundation. You can tell that the Gordon Betty Moore Foundation is committed to bringing science into the future. And so, I just want to say thank you to you, Janet, because you’ve been incredible. Trust in us in 2016 when this was just a brand new idea. All right, so with that, the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals project, I think there is a… Sorry.

It is part of the Smithsonian, which our mission is the increase in diffusion of knowledge. We’re 176 years old and the Smithsonian Science Education Center is only one unit of 37 that make up the Smithsonian. Most people know the museums. There are 21 of them, but one of them is an education center. And the Smithsonian Science Education Center, our job is outreach for both primary and secondary schools across the globe, and our mission, transforming K-12 education through science in collaboration with communities across the globe. We have three goals: innovation, so promoting active inquiry-based K-12 STEM teaching and learning, inclusion, ensuring diversity, equity, inclusion, and STEM education and sustainability, advancing K-12 STEM education for sustainable development. And it’s in that last area, although you know that these all overlap with each other, that I’m going to share information with you today.

So earlier we heard reference, Vidar mentioned the SDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals. How many of you have heard of the SDGs? That number keeps going up every time I ask the question, which is great. These are called the global goals. And our job at the Smithsonian is to bring these global goals down to the local level so that students have and can engage in local knowledge. And my colleague, Heidi Gibson, will share a paper that we published in Frontiers about how to engage in collecting data to understand local knowledge, engaging in local investigations, making local decisions, and engaging in local action-taking so that we can help students understand these very complex issues that Saul referenced, like water quality, et cetera, on a local level, but then understand them on a macro level. Now, to date, we have published with the support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and other funders, the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals Guides, we call them community research guides.

So we moved away from this idea of a teacher’s guide and a student guide, and we created a community research guide that was for both teachers and students simultaneously so that there was this co-creation of knowledge. You can see that to date, we’ve developed eight of these guides. We are currently in the process of developing three more. And we are excited about the fact that we learned two days ago that we just received funding to develop another two. Our underlying construct, which we call our theory of change, is The Global Goals Action Progression. And embedded in that are three things: discover, understand, and act. We want young people to discover the topic using their local community, exploring the issue locally, recognizing the local context for that knowledge, whether it’s climate change or it’s water quality or it’s energy, recognizing that, also, these ideas help to connect individuals, communities, and the issue.

The second part of our three-part cycle, discover, understand, and act, is understand, where students investigate the underlying science and social science related to the issue. We’ve heard multiple times this morning that science is a social process and it’s important for students to see that science is not just simply facts. As Andrea shared, if they just think that science is facts, then we can just have ChatGPT take the piece of test and we don’t need students to do that. Students become data gatherers, and you’ll hear more from Heidi about that, in their local communities so that they’re engaging in critical reasoning, systemic understanding, and they’re also able to take that information and synthesize it. Why? Because we want students to act. We want them to apply their new knowledge for social good. We want them to put their learning into action and we want to encourage connection, resilience, and reflection.

Ultimately, we want students to develop scientific literacy and we’ve heard that theme throughout this morning, but as well, we want them to develop sustainability mindsets. Heidi Gibson, you published a book called From Ideas to Action, if you’re interested in where this idea of developing students’ sustainability mindsets come from. The idea is that we’re teaching about global challenges and opportunities and that requires an increasing level of integration, from traditional disciplinary teaching to multidisciplinary teaching and learning to interdisciplinary to where we believe we are today, to transdisciplinary teaching and learning. So with that, I’m going to shift it over to my colleague, Heidi Gibson, who’s going to talk about a paper that we had published in Frontiers called Data, Discourse, and Development, building a sustainable world through education and science communication. Heidi.

Heidi (01:19:56):

Thanks, Carol. And hopefully I can use this. So I want to start with this. I’d like you to raise your hand and keep it up if you’ve ever had any of the following types of conversations. Gee, traffic patterns have really changed since the pandemic. Anyone? Yeah. Okay. Keep it up. Keep it up. Or, this neighborhood or this place is a lot greener than that other place. Or, some people in my community are actually talking a lot more about this thing than this other thing than they used to. Yeah? Okay. Now keep it up and keep it up if you think that it would be useful to have data to have those conversations. Yeah? Okay. Take it down. You’re fine.

All right, thank you very much. So I know many of you are scientists, so I don’t need to blow the horn about how important data is, right? And how critical it can be to understanding situations. But what I do want to talk a little bit today is about a different way of thinking about data in education, transforming the idea about data as a separate thing to a way of students solving and understanding their everyday questions like the ones we just talked about. And to engage in reciprocal discourse about what they know and also what they’re learning by listening, and after cycling through that interplay of data and discourse to take actions that lead to their own personal development and the development of their communities. And as Carol said, I’m drawing on a paper that was published earlier this year. You can see the citation in the corner there if you’re interested.

And that paper focused on data, discourse, and development. And it was using our Smithsonian Science for Global Goals Guide on Vaccine. So really thinking about vaccine hesitancy. But since we are here today, and I wanted to think about it in a slightly different context. I don’t know if any of you have seen some of the amazing videos of young people that have been playing during this three-day conference, but there has been a sustainable communities action research project with young people leading up to the summit. It included 80 students from 11 countries, 17 US states over 12 weeks, and they produced 12 student videos in cross-geographical teams. Videos were shown yesterday, so you can go back and view them and we’re also going to talk about a few today, but actually, some of the students are in the room today, so I’d love them to raise their hands. Yes. And I also want to acknowledge the role of our colleague at the Smithsonian Science Education Center, Alexa Mock, and once again, Katherine Blanchard, in really spearheading this effort to bring our published materials and really use them with students to think about this.

So to begin with, I want to talk about data. Now, data, as you all know, is information, and it can be information derived from a lot of sources. And sometimes in science, we fall victim to thinking of data as just numbers, but data is a lot more than numbers. It can be observations, it can be ideas, it can even be affect how we feel, shared in different ways, sometimes through drawings, stories, conversations, so all sorts of different types of data. And for many years the scientific community has worked to help people better understand how to connect that data that we’re all so assiduously gathering with actually making the decisions that we need to make as a region, a country, a world. Sometimes those efforts have not been as productive as we may have hoped, but because people haven’t really engaged with that data and really taken it.

So what we’re suggesting is that there’s a slight shift in the way we think about data and education, that the combination of relevant data, localized data, holistic data, can really help us make progress on that goal. That, as Carol said, students become data gatherers, data analyzers, and meaning-makers as they explore topics most relevant to them, their goals, their communities. And this disrupts this notion of data is something that is only gathered by professional scientists and frames data is something that students are fully capable of engaging with. And that part of that is localizing that data, making sure that it really applies to the context that students face.

And then this transdisciplinary approach that Carol was talking about. In order to truly understand the problems that are important to students, that data is not just the data from the natural sciences, it’s also not just the data from the social sciences. It is across disciplines, it is across groups, it is holistic, it is across perspectives. So I’d like to share with you an example of the way one student used data to try and think about how to solve a problem in her community.

Speaker 7 (01:25:50):

Our project aims to take local actions to create a global impact. We focused our efforts on reducing emissions in our local communities through accessible transportation, but each with a different approach.

Speaker 8 (01:26:02):

Eugene is known as a bike-friendly city with great transportation in place, but the large majority still travels by car. I did some math and I estimate that my school of 1500 students produces 210 tons of CO2 a year just from driving to and from school. That doesn’t include people making multiple trips. To reduce these emissions, a few friends and I started what we like to call The Carpool Project. We collected some data and found out that most people who drive to school aren’t likely to stop anytime soon. Most people live up hills so biking is difficult, and taking the bus takes three times as long as driving. If we can’t get people to stop driving, at least we can reduce the amount of cars on the road by getting them to carpool. We’ve been raising awareness by presenting to the student body, making posters, and just getting people to talk. We’re working on getting carpool spots painted in our parking lot. This is obviously not enough, but it’s a step in the right direction. If we can get people to build better habits at a young age, we can make a lifelong impact.

Heidi (01:27:11):

I know, I love that project and I just think it’s such a wonderful example of really understanding that local context in order to engage in sustainable problem-solving. And I want to think just for a moment about that idea of making meaning from data. Because we’re all awash in data. We live in the data age, and unlike many errors of the past, our limitation is less access to knowledge and more making sense of it and understanding its application to our everyday life. Young people can develop those data literacy skills to turn a critical eye to data. Yes, Saul. And really think about how to spot misinformation as we heard earlier. And also think about that scale of the data. How broad is it, how localized is it? And thinking about what a picture can paint of data at a very national level might not actually be applicable to them locally.

Through that lens, students can become experts in spotting gaps in data gathering and really think about who the data’s being gathered about, when is it being gathered, how is it being gathered. And through that start to think about data equity. So throughout each of our guides, students are engaging with data in multiple ways. They’re analyzing it, they’re applying it, they’re collecting it. And that multidimensional exploration into data really starts to make them more comfortable with data use and developing a critical lens. But data by itself is not enough if we are trying to talk about the future, we have to talk and that means discourse. That’s how we make sense of it. Discourse is one of our most essential tools that we have to build civic engagement and participation and trust. Students can both be gathering ideas and conversations and other methods of discourse from their community to better understand the situation and the causes of a problem.

They can essentially act as social scientists, and then at the same time, they can build meaning to share their thoughts and listen and engage. One of the most important things that young people can do is to really understand from their community what their concerns are, what their hopes are, and then try to engage in the conversation within that construct, within their hopes, within their concerns. And hopefully, what that leads to is a virtuous circle where the discourse is informing the data that we collect and the data is informing the discourse and through that process we’re developing about the future. So I’m going to move forward a little bit here. This is an example of some students thinking about their role in discourse.

Speaker 9 (01:30:21):

Do you think youth are engaged in political and civic issues in Chesapeake? How do you consider youth activism and decisions?

Speaker 10 (01:30:30):

Honestly, I do believe there’d be more impact. And when you ask me, can I think of an example, I just don’t recall anybody, a youth group coming to council and say, please do this.

Speaker 11 (01:30:44):

There’s definitely a lack of youth activism within the city of Chesapeake in any meaningful way.

Speaker 10 (01:30:50):

We listen to young folks that get organized and it really excites us.

Speaker 11 (01:30:57):

So if a 10-year-old comes to me with a poignant point about a situation that means something to them, I will listen to that the same as I would the multi-million dollar developer who wants to sit down and talk about a project of theirs.

Heidi (01:31:16):

And I think that that interview that that student took place really points to the fact that there is a huge potential to help young people use the data they gathered, engage in discourse, and lead to the development that they want to see. To create a space for a shared local and global conversation about what does constitute development, what do they want to happen, how to link their present with future more hopeful imaginaries. Students with their local knowledge and perspectives can become very important assets and participants in defining an equitable, sustainable future within their local context and joining in civic action-taking to make that vision a reality. Now, I want to end with the thing that I find most hopeful, which is this group of students and the work that they have been doing to really define what they want to develop their future into. And to that end, we have the students finding truth, inspiring trust, and providing hope for the future. And hopefully this works.

Speaker 13 (01:32:45):

Hi, my name is Rinni Vasco Lauti and I’m from Los Angeles, California.

Speaker 14 (01:32:49):

Hello, my name is Catalina and I am from Argentina.

Speaker 12 (01:32:52):

Hi, I’m Sara. I’m from Mexico.

Speaker 14 (01:32:55):

Hi, my name is Carrie Kang and I’m from Annandale, Virginia.

Speaker 15 (01:32:58):

Hi, my name is Alice, and I live in [inaudible 01:33:01] in the center of France.

Speaker 16 (01:33:03):

Hello, my name is Zoe Jung and I’m from Flower Mound, Texas.

Speaker 17 (01:33:07):

I’m Abigail.

Speaker 18 (01:33:07):

And I’m Olivia.

Speaker 17 (01:33:09):

And we live in Arkansas and we are at our composting area outside of our school. We realized there was a need for composting when we saw the amount of food waste accumulating at our school.

Speaker 18 (01:33:25):

Hi everyone. I’m Layla Hunter, and my concrete action plan is about addressing the unequal distribution of shared spaces in Fairfax County.

Speaker 19 (01:33:33):

Instead of having the ability to cut down its carbon footprints, South Korea suffers from heavy traffic congestion, poor air quality, and excessive global carbon emissions.

Speaker 21 (01:33:46):

Our project hopes to achieve outcomes that promote sustainable choices about the production and uses of electricity. We specifically wish to encourage action by fostering a sense of responsibility in the community.

Speaker 20 (01:34:00):

This stigma has its roots in the social history of rank, race and occupation, residential segregation, and the historical usage of the bus system by non-car owners who needed to commute into the city center for work.

Speaker 22 (01:34:10):

The main issue that I noticed in my area is that the access to diverse public transportation is too low.

Speaker 23 (01:34:25):

I led a group of students in researching, funding, and carrying out a plan in which we partnered with the school’s horticultural department as well as local nurseries to receive native South Floridian plants and plant them on our campus in sectioned-off areas. The project was a success and now is being taken up and continued by younger students to maintain this natural manmade balance.

Speaker 24 (01:34:46):

To reduce these emissions, a few friends and I started what we like to call The Carpool Project.

Speaker 25 (01:34:51):

My plan to spread these both on social media and hang them up in areas where recycling misinformation is prevalent.

Speaker 26 (01:34:57):

First, to prevent the use of chemical fertilizers, we need to search for alternatives, like composting.

Speaker 27 (01:35:01):

So what I asked myself was, what is a way I can reuse all of this paper? That is when I decided to make these biodegradable seedling pots made from a mixture of paper, flour, and water.

Speaker 28 (01:35:47):

Climate change is a global issue that affects everyone around the world. And as the next generation, we will be the ones who are most affected by the climate crisis.

Speaker 29 (01:35:57):

You are important. It may seem like as a citizen, you can’t do anything big to act against environmental issues. However, you can really change everything just by modifying some small habits in your everyday life. As mentioned before, it is like a snowball effect. If one acts, the other one will be more likely to act as well.

Speaker 30 (01:36:19):

I liked how my team and the participants in the program came from different communities and cultures all around the world, but everyone was focused on one goal, making a change, no matter how small.

Speaker 31 (01:36:31):

With all this in mind, we hope that we can somehow make our communities a better place. Thank you.

Heidi (01:36:55):

Aren’t they amazing? And with that, I will pass it back over to Carol. Thank you so much.

Carol O’Donnell (01:37:10):

That makes my heart sing. All of us at the Smithsonian Science Education Center are educators, and we believe in the power of the role of education. And we go back to Marsha, when you started, you talked about how many times you heard the word education. So with that, I want to thank again, can you raise your hand one more time if you were one of the students who participated in this? Yep. Keep in mind there were 80 of them and they came from all over the world. 11 countries, Catherine Blanchard said, and 17 US states. Yeah. So thank you, Catherine, and thank you to Alexa Mock who helped to put all this together. You guys are incredible.

All right, with that, I’m going to bring up our panelists. So of course, our speakers who were here this morning, if you would join us up at the table. In addition, I’m going to introduce two additional panelists, Anne Friedman. Anne. Anne is the founder and CEO of Planet Word. Is in this bright, beautiful orange blouse, which I just love. She’s the CEO of Planet Word, which is here in DC. So if you haven’t seen it, please do go over. And she’s the developer behind the restoration of the Franklin School, which is the museum’s home. Her interest in literacy began with a lifelong love of reading, her early work as a copy editor and translator, and a later career as the beginning reading and writing teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools.

Again, back to the power of teachers. From 2010 to ’16, she served as the chair of the board of the Seed Foundation, the parent body of the nation’s only public inner-city college prep boarding school where she currently serves as the vice chair. She was recently elected as a trustee of the American Alliance of Museums, and she serves on the advisory board of Ascend, the Aspen Institute’s program that takes a two-generation approach to ending family financial insecurity. I just want to say when I spoke with Anne about this, Anne said to me, “I don’t know why I’m on this panel”, but the reason she’s here is because of the power of words, the power of discourse, and how important it is to be transdisciplinary. So I’m so glad you’re here. I also want to introduce you to Anita Krishnamur… I knew I was going to do this, Anita. Anita Krishnamaruthi… help me, Anita, come here.

Anita (01:39:42):

It’s Anita Krishnamurti, and it’s very phonetic. You just follow the syllables.

Carol O’Donnell (01:39:45):

Oh, I’m not very phonetic. I must have failed on that part of the test. She’s the President of the Collective for Youth Empowerment and STEM and Society. She previously worked at the Alliance as vice president for STEM policy and returned after a five- year absence during which she lived and worked in the United Kingdom holding senior positions at the University of Cambridge and the Wellcome Trust. She now holds the newly created position as the President of the Collective for Youth Empowerment and STEM Society, while also serving as the alliance’s Senior Vice President for STEM and Youth Engagement. She has a PhD in astrophysics and previously was the John Bahcall Public Policy Fellow at the American Astronomical Society. And before that, she worked at NASA for six years at the agency’s headquarters here in Washington DC and at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

So please welcome our guests, our panelists. And with that, I’m going to just get us started on a couple of reflections. So as both Dr. Sprekman mentioned this morning as well as Dr. Schleicher, we heard about ChatGPT, and you mentioned to us, Andreas, that what is it about, 65 to 80% of those questions, science questions were answered correctly by ChatGPT 4.0. It’s a little bit disconcerting. Yet, we don’t yet think that ChatGPT can reason, although I heard that Microsoft put out a paper saying otherwise. So how important is causal reasoning, teaching causal reasoning, teaching critical thinking in schools? Why is that better than teaching facts? And I open that up to the panel to respond.

Jonathan Osborne (01:41:42):

Yeah, I’ll start with that one. I think it’s not one or the other. It has to basically be both. But then the question you’ve got to ask yourself is what kind of facts do people need to make sense of the discourse that’s going on these days? And I’m afraid much of the facts that are actually commonly taught in much of the standard science education, I think my view is it’s looking through the wrong end of the telescope. What you want are the big overarching frameworks in that sense, the major theories of science that have changed and transformed our view of the world. Well, my question to you is go home tonight, say to somebody who is not here, who hasn’t touched science for 10, 15 years, and say, what do you remember of value from your school science education? And I think the answer speaks volumes about how we’re not approaching the teaching of what I call knowledge, I don’t want to call it facts, in the right kind of way. But in addition to that, you need the other elements that we’ve been hearing about today.

Speaker 32 (01:42:41):

Can we do this?

Carol O’Donnell (01:42:50):

Andreas, do you want to add to that?

Dr. Andreas Schleicher (01:42:53):

Yeah, I mean, all that ChatGPT does is calculate correlations. It actually has no conceptual understanding nor any causal reasoning. And the fact that it can still answer a lot of the questions that we pose to students in a classroom should give us to think what we are actually teaching. And, actually, that’s where the risks are. And I very much agree with Jonathan and also with Saul’s presentation earlier. I think we need to give people that understanding of the fundamental underlying concepts, the ways of causal reasoning. And then I think they will complement, not substitute the artificial intelligence in our computers.

Carol O’Donnell (01:43:33):

Yeah. Excellent. Saul, did you want to add to that? Anita? Yeah.

Ann Friedman (01:43:40):

I was just going to say that I’m starting from a position that’s even predates earlier than critical thinking because what my belief is, is that we have to create a love of literacy. We have to create a population that pays attention to words and language first, and then they can engage in critical thinking. So that’s what we’re trying to do at Planet Word. Did you want to add?

Saul Perlmutter (01:44:19):

Yeah, and may I just add that it seems that the problems that we will be facing in the future are going to require a very flexible thinking, not the sorts of thinking that you currently see. I know a few have been playing around with ChatGPT. Now, it may advance, but right now it’s very much capturing things that people have said, right? Really, we need people who could be able to respond to new things that we haven’t yet seen and to be able to create new things that we haven’t seen. I think, for me, the fact that it doesn’t seem to be able to tell a joke is actually a good indicator of something about that sort of flexibility of thinking

Saul Perlmutter (01:45:00):

… that we’re looking for. And the other element of it that I think is so key, which I think people have spoken to, is this communal element of thinking that we don’t think as individuals, we think as a group. And I think that that’s something that we know that we need to be teaching that ChatGPT, at least not so far, is able to help us with.

Carol O’Donnell (01:45:20):

Yeah, well said. So Anita, I’m going to build on that and ask you a question. So there are many local community issues that matter to youth. We heard about them this morning, but they cannot be abstract to youth, and as my colleague Heidi Gibson mentioned, these issues and data must be meaningful to youth. So how do we shift the paradigms in education so that young people are part of the conversation?

Anita Krishnamurthi (01:45:49):

Yeah, and thanks for that question, Carol, and I think that the videos you saw and the talks you saw this morning have brought that up over and over again, the relevance of local context of making it meaningful for young people wherever they are. And I think that thing of relevance, and I think it’s what Saul and the others just said as well, we learn when we need to learn something, so I think that kind of motivation of pulling rather than pushing information is really, really important because it motivates us to learn. And I think the other thing around young people and inviting them to be at the table is that they have a different lived experience than those of us who’ve been around for a little while, and it’s just different and it’s valuable and we just need to be thinking of it as having a lot more intergenerational conversations together because young people are living in the here and now.

And one of the things that always drives me slightly batty is when we think about, we always talk of young people as the future, the future workforce, the future citizens, that ignores the fact that they’re living in the here and now and have ideas and perspectives and commitments and passions to do things in the here and now, and I think we need to adopt a little bit more of that extension of the mindset of nothing for us without us, so let’s have them at the table. It’s not about saying, oh, we’ve created a mess, we’re going to turn it over to you to fix now, but it’s how do we all act together? Because you have as much at stake, sometimes more than we do because you’re going to live with it for a bit longer. And the final thing I’ll say is I think referencing, I loved what you said, Saul, about the optimism, to maintain the optimism long enough to know that you can solve a problem.

Because I really believe that action alleviates anxiety, things are not great around us right now, but we’ve been here before, right, and one of the things that I’ll keep saying is young people have always been involved in change. Think of the civil rights movement in this country, think of the Vietnam War, think of feminism. Young people have always been involved in making change and I think that that helps to provide a sense of agency. And I think that these are all the reasons why I think we just need to include young people as partners in the issues that we’re facing and as adults, we have some more experience and expertise and pragmatism perhaps to share with them. So to me it’s really about how do we all come together to both prepare them and equip them for the future, but also to apply their knowledge and passion in the here and now.

Carol O’Donnell (01:48:38):

Yeah, that’s excellent. Does anybody else want to add to that?

Saul Perlmutter (01:48:47):

Just jumping in again. I was realizing that as you’re talking that one of the elements of this whole story that I think is going to be really interesting to try to navigate is that you would like the students and the teachers to be feeling that they’re in this game together and I know that in different cultures, the abilities of the teachers to feel comfortable being part of the mix as opposed to being the authority in a room is going to be a tough one to negotiate. Particularly because I think among the things we’re trying to teach here, which I don’t think is maybe something that people ordinarily think about is that we’re trying to teach a certain kind of intellectual humility.

Usually you teach debating teams how to win your argument, here we want to teach people how to not win your argument, how to come in with the assumption that you’re probably getting something wrong and that you want the teachers to be able to model that too. And it’s not comfortable necessarily in every culture for that to happen because we want a culture and a generation who feels comfortable going to a meeting with somebody who they disagree with, not to convince them of something, but to learn something from them, that you want them to feel like that is actually how science has been powerful, that this is a powerful position to come to somebody and ask me how am I going wrong? Where am I misunderstanding something here? And I think that’s not something that we yet know how to negotiate.

Carol O’Donnell (01:50:15):

Yeah, excellent.

Anita Krishnamurthi (01:50:16):

Can I just jump in on that?

Carol O’Donnell (01:50:17):


Anita Krishnamurthi (01:50:18):

Absolutely. And I think that the other point right to that is that learning happens everywhere. I mean, the Academy’s put out a report many years ago, science is everywhere, science learning happens everywhere. So I think it’s also about not putting the burden only on the teachers, but also on the community based organizations, the afterschool programs, the museums, a lot of different places that young people inhabit and equipping and empowering the educators and the facilitators and the mentors in all of those spaces to be able to work alongside young people and equip them on this journey.

Carol O’Donnell (01:50:54):

That’s excellent. Jonathan.

Jonathan Osborne (01:50:57):

Yeah, I’ve just got one thing to add to that, I think really, which is all of these attempts I think to involve or draw on the young people’s experiences are highly valuable. The one fundamental question that anybody who teaches science will know is you get is “Why am I learning this?” And the problem, I think it’s the onus is on us to frame the curriculum in a way where that is absolutely clear that the teachers have a narrative about that. And the obvious one these days is the issue of sustainability and development, because sustainability involves all of the issues to do with life and independence, that’s basically all of biology. It involves resources extraction, which is basically most of chemistry in one kind and it involves energy supply and transmission, which is an awful lot of physics. And I think this kind of work is really terribly important in terms of framing essentially why what these students are asked to learn matters.

Carol O’Donnell (01:51:56):

So this is an incredibly important point. So I really appreciate the fact that you’ve raised this, Jonathan. So you said earlier, Andreas, and you were quoting some others as well, that students, and Anita you just mentioned as well, students who know more about science, you said Andreas, are less optimistic about the environment. So why is it important that as science educators, people who work in science education, that we also integrate other disciplines, building on Jonathan’s point, into the teaching of these incredibly important socio-scientific issues? Why does it have to be kind of transdisciplinary or interdisciplinary?

Dr. Andreas Schleicher (01:52:39):

Well, I think students have to learn to think across the boundaries of subject disciplines. I mean, most innovation today comes from one connecting the dots, where the next big idea comes from. And actually unfortunately science education is still very siloed. We educate specific ways of thinking, we don’t educate students to learn, to look at a problem from different scientific angles, so appreciate those different ways of thinking. And that leads then also again to this very compliance based education that we see in science. Science in a way comes natural. We’re all born as scientists. If you have a three-year-old son or daughter, they’re going to question everything you tell them, they’re going to experiment with anything that gets into their way and they’re always willing to unlearn and relearn, they do not have that kind of idea to convince others, they’re always open to the novelty and then we bring them into school, we make them compliant with the specific ways of thinking and that actually creates this.

No surprise, when we survey 10-year olds, they all enthusiastic about science. Science is about inquiry, science is about exploring nature, science is about causal reasoning, understanding cause and effect and then at age 15 when we survey them again, it’s become a misery for most because it’s become a world of formulas and equations that has nothing to do anymore with scientific inquiry. And one last point on this question, when we ask students about their engagement for the sustainable development, there’s a very high level of awareness, very high level of engagement. When you ask them, do you think you can do something about it, do you think what you do is going to make a difference for people in other places? That’s where the numbers become smaller. It’s that agency that really we lack. It’s not the awareness, not the motivation, not the engagement just.

But at the same time scientific knowledge in a way becoming less optimistic is they become more realistic. If you do not understand the phenomena, you have this idea, well, it can be sorted out in some ways other than through science and so in that sense, I think that is a positive insight that students with a greater level of knowledge do have a more realistic appreciation of the challenges now.

Carol O’Donnell (01:54:53):

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, ann.

Ann Friedman (01:54:57):

What you asked about sort of fighting the siloing of science and making it more multidisciplinary, that’s the approach we’ve taken at Planet Word, because if kids stop being interested in science at 15, imagine what happens with interest in reading and literacy. So what we are trying to do is show that you can use words and language, songwriting, humor writing, oratory, literature, poetry, advertising copywriting, whatever might spark an interest and get kids interested and in the door we will try that and that’s our approach.

Carol O’Donnell (01:55:49):

Yeah, I love that Ann, and I’ve learned so much from you, of course, in our conversations about the importance of integrating language and literacy into the teaching of science. So my last question that I’m going to ask, and I’d like as many of you as you can to respond to it because it’s open-ended, and then I’m going to turn to the audience in case any one of you want to ask a question and there’s a microphone in the center and that’s a big question. So why is this a transformational period for education?

Saul Perlmutter (01:56:31):

One of the elements that I was going to just remind people of is just that we live in a period in which if you learn physics, biology and chemistry, you are not necessarily prepared for all the other topics that are appearing in your life that you need to make decisions about, which are science driven issues. And so we’re at a period where we’ve recognized that you do need to have a basis of understanding of how we know that the world works, but you also need ability to take on a much wider variety of novelty than one might have thought from that traditional format. And so it seems that between that and the fact that we now live at a time where anybody can teach themselves anything and can grab anything from the web, it’s a very different educational period than it was when we developed all the curriculum that we currently have.

And we really should be rethinking what is it that provides the kind of flexible thinking that would allow you to use the web as your tool in a positive way where you can teach yourself any topic that you need, use ChatGPT when it’s appropriate, and presumably ChatGPT-7 will be more interesting than GPT-4 so it seems it’s hard to imagine a time when there’d be a better moment to rethink what are we looking for actually at every educational level, I think at the university back through high school, back through K through 12.

Carol O’Donnell (01:57:54):

Yeah, absolutely. And that idea of giving students the tools as you shared with us to be able to be good consumers of knowledge, that’s critical, that skill being integrated into actual real world problems and phenomenon. How about anybody else? Why are we in or why is this a transformational period for education?

Ann Friedman (01:58:16):

So I’m also the mother of a daughter who’s set up a new school, a new way of approaching education in California and why is that? It’s because she believes and I think we would all agree that we are at this point in education where we are not educating kids to have a job, the same career for 30 years. We have to educate our children to be lifelong learners, to ask questions, to be ready to respond to whatever the world throws at them. So I think it’s a really different challenge, we need different kinds of education, student agency, how to be self-motivated, be your own guide.

Carol O’Donnell (01:59:11):

Absolutely. And Anita, do you mind adding this role of education and terms of citizenship and democracy, why that’s so crucial?

Anita Krishnamurthi (01:59:21):

Yeah, I think my colleagues have said a lot of what I would’ve said, but I think it is this idea that STEM is often just so, the narrative around STEM is so much around workforce development that I think we’ve lost sight of this bigger goal of STEM is a tool for public good, science is in service to society, and how do we grab that narrative back? And I think these kinds of projects which are very locally rooted and I think those videos we saw really demonstrated that and I spoke to some of the young people who were here on Wednesday and I think young people have a tremendous desire to really help their communities and I think will pull from whatever knowledge they need, whether it’s literature or history or science and I think we all do that, right? If somebody in our families gets sick, we will do everything we can to learn all about it.

So it’s how do we create those kinds of situations where young people are then motivated to go out and look for the information that’s needed and then the onus is on us as the adults to figure out how do we support that kind of learning and what are the structures we’re putting in place? And I was really interested in what Jonathan was saying about sort of science taught as the argumentation, right? Because there are some papers that sort of talk about does teaching for science literacy look very different from teaching for the workforce? And I’m not sure where we’ve landed on that as yet, but I think that that’s an interesting topic and maybe Jonathan has something to add to that. But yeah, so I think science for civic engagement I think is as important, I would argue, as science for the workforce and learning for the workforce.

Carol O’Donnell (02:01:19):

Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. Andreas, do you want to add, and then Jonathan?

Dr. Andreas Schleicher (02:01:25):

Yeah, thank you. I actually want to build on something that Ann just said, and this is this importance to continue to grow and develop. In the past we used to learn to do the work and now learning is the work. Now, I mean the approach to education that we criticize here has actually worked for a long time pretty well for most people, you could just accumulate a set of knowledge and skills and then be quite happy and successful in all your life. And today that capacity to learn things, to unlearn things that are no longer relevant and relearn things in new ways, I think is so fundamental.

It’s fundamentally economically, but also I think as you just highlighted for our societies and democracies. In the past, science was a matter of a few experts and we left that to them and then used what they actually told us. Today you need to be a data scientist yourself. You need to be a scientist to make judgment actually and it’s not just as a consumer, it’s also to on your own behavior, the kind of behavioral change that climate change will require from us will only come when people have that innate understanding that those things actually matter for them and I think that is a transformation that we are going through.

Carol O’Donnell (02:02:33):

Yes. Yeah, absolutely, transformational period. Jonathan, did you want to add before we take a question from-

Jonathan Osborne (02:02:39):

Well, I’m just going to add and reinforce what Anita’s saying, which is that science specific engagement is much more important than science for workforce development. Fundamentally, okay, everybody has to do school science, only 10% of them go on into careers that actually require scientific knowledge, so why is it the needs of the minority are determining the needs of the majority? The majority, okay, are faced with the fact that they are going to be confronted with science that they do not understand. They are deluded by some of the science they’re taught to think that they can evaluate this for themselves, which they quite clearly can’t. Just think your own confusion around the many scientific messages you were getting during the pandemic about the nature of the virus, about what you should do. Okay, did you go and evaluate the evidence? And what you’ve got to do is prepare students to deal with that situation in a context where the access to knowledge and information is changing very rapidly as we’ve raise today and I think that’s the challenge that’s facing us.

Carol O’Donnell (02:03:45):

Yeah. Excellent. We have time for one question from the audience, but the panel will be here, of course, to answer other questions. Yeah. Thank you.

Dr. Karen Jackson-Weaver (02:03:56):

Thank you, good morning. And really appreciate the phenomenal presentations this morning, they were amazing. My name is Dr. Karen Jackson Weaver, and I’m the senior associate vice president at NYU and my role is global faculty engagement and innovation advancement and while I’m based in New York, we have sister campuses in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi as well and our research centers are throughout the globe. So much of what you said really resonated with me in terms of the global approach we take to really helping our students understand what it means to be a global citizen and a global leader to prepare them to be scientists or to have scientific thinking. So here’s my question.

Much of the work that we’ve done during the pandemic as well as kind of post-pandemic is related to the neurodiversity that we’re seeing in the classroom. And much of what you presented seems absolutely phenomenal in terms of the different ways to engage student learning and the different modalities. And I wanted to know if you could talk a little bit about what you’ve seen in terms of the neurodiversity and the spectrum of learning that takes place and how have the teachers and the students responded in terms of that challenge with neurodiversity in the classroom? That’s the first question. Second question, two part. For those of us in university settings who work with faculty, who work with students, but many of us who work in schools of education as well with teachers, how can we do more to support you? Thank you.

Carol O’Donnell (02:05:17):

Thank you.

Saul Perlmutter (02:05:17):

So that may be a question for several of the different curricula people that are here. In our case, I would say that we have not yet been able to start breaking down the statistics to do this rigorously, to have the full sense of, for a large group with real neurodiversity, how’s it breakdown. But I will say that what we’ve been seeing is that the style of teaching that we’re doing is so much involved with having the sense that the teachers are part of the questioning as the students are and that we always have three different teachers in the room, in our case from the social science, natural science and humanities at any given moment, which is of course very much in that spirit that it means that we’re often getting a student asking a question and one teacher, one of the faculty trying out something, and then another faculty saying, oh, I have a completely different way of approaching it and I think that has actually ended up providing different ways in that we’ve seen.

We’ve also found that the teaching assistants in a university setting bring a huge amount to the table. They have completely different approaches, each one of them to how they might want to teach it and that has been providing a variety of ways in as well. But underneath it all is the fact that we see this as an exploration and an experiment in teaching and I hope that this will always stay an experiment in teaching because it’s modeling for the students what it looks like to not always know the answers and to be trying to develop the approaches on the fly at any given moment without fear of looking ridiculous in the process. So that’s probably the best approach that I can give right now, but I’m betting that the… Actually I should turn back, while, we’ve lost the, there you are.

Carol O’Donnell (02:07:17):

I was tracking to see if we can have more time and we got it.

Saul Perlmutter (02:07:20):

Okay, good.

Carol O’Donnell (02:07:21):

We have about 10 more minutes.

Saul Perlmutter (02:07:22):

Because I’m thinking that the activities that we were hearing about today of where people are actually going out and doing things, which are like our field work, I’m sure has a big effect in this as well.

Carol O’Donnell (02:07:32):

Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. And Andreas?

Dr. Andreas Schleicher (02:07:35):

Yeah, I actually am not sure the pandemic created a new scenario, I think it made us more aware of the neurodiversity and yeah, there’s an interesting differences across countries. If you ask an Estonian or Finnish educator about how many students with special needs do you have, they will not understand your question. And if you insist, they will say, well, a hundred percent, everyone learns in a different way and our education system needs to respond to the different needs of different kinds of learners. So for some systems, this is actually a very familiar thought, for others, the pandemic has made us aware that a one size fits all approach to learning doesn’t meet the needs of different learners. And this is actually, I think, where education also is at a point of transformation, with artificial intelligence we can now actually model learning environments on an N equals to one rather than a smaller class all day now.

Dr. Karen Jackson-Weaver (02:08:28):

Thank you.

Carol O’Donnell (02:08:28):

Yeah. Thank you so much. Thank you for the question. We have two students, so we’ll take those questions and then we’ll turn to the left.

Heidi Tolman (02:08:35):

Awesome. Hello. So throughout this panel and throughout this two hour session, we’ve heard a lot about students being the beacon of hope and the importance of equipping them with the tools and giving them a seat at the table in these kind of conversations. And we’ve heard from very intelligent and very accomplished CEOs, researchers, teachers, but my question is, why is there not a seat for students at this panel and how do you think those actions that are very much displayed across other fields and conversations as well have impacted this discussion and impacted students’ ability to feel confident in their own abilities to make change in the present instead of simply just in the future?

Carol O’Donnell (02:09:21):

Could I answer that question first? So I think that’s a fantastic question and my bad, because I helped to fill these seats along with my colleagues, and that was a mistake and we went to COP 27 in Egypt and we talked about this work and there were questions like that who came from the audience, from youth who said, we don’t want you to engage in youth washing, we want you to include us, keep us at the table. So what is your name? Tell us who you are and what school you’re from?

Heidi Tolman (02:09:53):

My name is Heidi Tolman. I’m from Walt Woodman High School in Bethesda, Maryland.

Carol O’Donnell (02:09:57):

Thank you and so be careful, you may be at the next panel.

Heidi Tolman (02:10:03):

More than happy to, just let me know.

Anita Krishnamurthi (02:10:04):

Thank you. Carol, can I answer that question? And thank you so much for raising that because I noticed that too actually. And I’ll just say that I think that we are having a lot of conversations increasingly about youth leadership and youth voice and I would still say we’re still at a somewhat nascent phase of that kind of conversation. And I think even as we talk about empowering young people, I think we need to be talking about how do we support adults to share power and influence because we’re not used to it. It’s a new way of working and thinking and what encourages me is that we are starting to think about that and I hope that the next time there is a panel like this, there will be more young people because we need to be challenged, right? And thank you very much for bringing that up and posing it as a challenge to this panel.

Carol O’Donnell (02:10:54):

Yes. Excellent.

Dr. Andreas Schleicher (02:10:56):

And just to bring a bit of optimism into this, actually, at the OECD, we do collect data on the role that students have in curriculum design, curriculum development, implementation and learning environments. And actually in a fair number of countries, we have seen real change on that over the last decade. At this point now, students do have actually a big voice, and it’s not just having a voice in the design, it’s also about that development of agency that students actually take ownership over what they learn and how they learn and where they learn and maybe also when in their lives they’ll learn. So actually, I think this is something where we do see real change.

Carol O’Donnell (02:11:30):

Yeah, that’s excellent. And I would say that at the Smithsonian, in addition to field-testing, which is important to curriculum developers, we also now have young people who are part of the co-creation of the units themselves, so they are now playing a role in developing the content. So thank you so much for the question.

Heidi Tolman (02:11:48):

Thank you.

Carol O’Donnell (02:11:49):

All right, we’ll go to our next student question and then we’ll turn to the left.

Samantha Cowan (02:11:54):

Hi. I was really intrigued by the idea of in incorporating environmental optimism as a concept within the classroom, I was recently having a conversation with my soccer teammates right before practice and we were talking about climate change naturally, and one of my teammates was saying, and many of my teammates agreed with her that the damage is done and we’re already too late, so why even try? Why even attempt to make a difference if there’s nothing that we can do about it and we’re not going to have any behavioral changes? So I guess my question is how do we address the concept of environmental doomism and general apathy when it comes to climate change?

Carol O’Donnell (02:12:40):

Does anybody want to take that question?

Saul Perlmutter (02:12:42):

Well, I will say that this is saying that I’ve been particularly concerned about watching the way in which the, well, it’s partly because we live in a society where the news is always scary and it’s designed to be scary because otherwise, why would anybody watch the news? But it’s not a very healthy diet. It’s a little bit like eating candy all day in a very unfortunate kind of candy. But it does seem to me that a huge element of how science works is with that can-do spirit that it can take on problems and it can solve them. And I think that from my perspective, if there’s any way that we can convey some of that as part of an educational experience so that people feel they’re part of a process where we all together solve a problem, that would be certainly enough to make me actually much less worried about all the doom and gloom items, environment being one of them that we hear about.

I mean, personally, I don’t know about anybody else in the room, but I sort of feel like, I don’t think people recognize the fact that we live in one of the first times in history where I think it’s reasonable for us to consider that we could shape a world right now where everybody is fed, clothed, educated, housed, and that we are building a world that will last past the next time that comets try to knock us out. This is, I think, an unusual time in history and we didn’t even know some of this when I was a child, that we had that capacity because we’ve done so much in terms of feeding the world, in terms of educating the world in that timeframe.

So that whole aspect feels to me like it’s not being properly taught so that a soccer team will be actually thinking about this after practice. Today, who we’re going to talk to, so we are going to make the world this incredible place that it could be next year. I don’t know whether that answers the question quite clearly in a useful way because it’s a big project and I think that we have not taken that on as a society in a real useful way yet.

Carol O’Donnell (02:14:49):


Anita Krishnamurthi (02:14:50):


Carol O’Donnell (02:14:50):

And can you say your, do you mind your name and your school?

Samantha Cowan (02:14:53):

Of course. My name is Samantha Cowan and I go to Thomas Edison High School in Alexandria about 20 minutes away from here.

Carol O’Donnell (02:15:00):

Thank you. Anita.

Anita Krishnamurthi (02:15:01):

Yeah, thanks for the question and I think just picking up on Saul’s point, I think local action, I think actually starting to do things that make a difference helps with that, but I think the other thing is while I am an advocate for STEM education, I’m also a huge proponent of history because we’ve been through some terrible times. I mean, we lived under the threat of nuclear war for a long time, and we believed we’d just blow each other to bits and we didn’t because people did come together and figure out protocols and legislation and action and continue to do that, right. So I think we see the problems in the here and now, but I think we’ve always had a lot of really, really big problems and I think it’s really important to keep that in mind that when we decide to actually take action and make a difference, we’ve always done it. So I think right now it is about sort of coming together and motivating ourselves to take the action in the face of the current crisis that we’re facing.

Carol O’Donnell (02:16:04):

So with that ending on hope and optimism, and my apologies to the two of you, hopefully you can ask the panelists questions individually. We do have to end our session and let the next panel come in. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. This was an amazing opportunity to learn from all of you. So thank you so much and I hope you developed trust, hope in an evidence-based worldview.

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