I am totally ready to get back to blogging. In fact, I have a post that is 3/4th complete that I have been working on since before Christmas. Anyway, in order to procrastinate a little bit more I would like to share two learning observations (maybe they are not really about learning).
Kids these day
First, I was in the airport. When I am sitting around starring at the walls, I can’t help but accidentally overhear someone that is 4 feet away. So this guy was talking about how impressed he was with kids these day in school. They are learning all sorts of stuff that he had already forgotten. I can’t remember the exact topics, but the point I wanted to make: if you forgot it, did you really learn it in the first place? This is part of a theme that I have noticed in schools. It seems that memorizing stuff is a common task.
Random Magnet Question
The other question came from my niece – who is an extremely bright girl (not sure exactly what grade – maybe 5th). She was at home and didn’t have her science textbook, so she asked me the following:
“What happens to the electrons in a metal when it becomes a magnet”
I always worry about magnet questions because magnets are not that simple to understand at a fundamental level. Sure, there are some things you can do with magnets – especially if you want to do some experiments. However, asking questions like this or like “why can iron be a magnet, but not aluminum” to a 5th grader is like asking me how gravity works.
I am not sure that this is actually the question she was asking, but who knows. It is a bad question. The answer I gave her is this:
Suppose I take a piece of iron and rub it with a magnet so that it also becomes a magnet. During this, what happens to the electrons? I say nothing happens to the electrons. Why then does the iron become magnetic? The iron can be broken into “magnetic domains”. When the iron is acting non-magnetic, the domains are not aligned. This means that the magnetic fields of these domains sort of cancel. For iron that is magnetic acting, all these domains are aligned in the same direction.
She said she couldn’t find this answer online. And this is the second part of my rant. I think schools are training kids to just go look up silly stuff online. Don’t we already have google? Do we really need to train students to do this? Or are educators confusing looking up stuff with learning? Or are they just giving them busy-work?
Maybe the teacher just had the idea that magnets are just like electric charges – this is a common idea anyway. Ok – back to physics blogging.