Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding What is "Radiation?" - Section 2: Cell Phone Reading


The reading I chose made a remarkable impact on my students. This was both beneficial and dangerous.

On the one hand, the article gave voice to much of what students had heard ("cell phones are health hazards') though had perhaps never truly considered in any meaningful way. They connected with the article as evidenced by the wide range of contributions from a variety of students in the discussion. Their concern about the idea of "radiation" was taken to an entirely difference level with this article and the subsequent discussion. Furthermore, the author used terms such as "microwave radiation" and "radio-frequency energy" which helped me to merge the concepts of radiation with my broader topic of the electromagnetic spectrum. For all of this, I was thankful.

On the other hand, I was not prepared for the level of acceptance my students demonstrated. I heard not a single note of skepticism in either of my two sections, totaling about 35 students. In one section, students were seriously talking about starting a campaign to inform teenagers about the dangers lurking within their cell phones! I had expected some acceptance. I was shocked at the complete lack of skepticism.

Perhaps it was their faith in me: Our teacher surely wouldn't be providing us with some nonsense! Or perhaps they simply gave into their fears of having to abandon their most precious toy? Or, quite likely, once the discussion went in a certain direction ("Big Phone doesn't want you to know!"), it was too socially difficult to take the counter-position.

This points out a huge issue for teachers, perhaps particularly science teachers: we need to find ways to help our students check their credulousness and develop a healthy sense of skepticism. But simply teaching science doesn't necessarily do that for students.

  Student Belief Systems
  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: Student Belief Systems
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What is "Radiation?"

Unit 4: Electromagnetics
Lesson 1 of 17

Objective: Students will access prior knowledge about the concept of radiation as a way for us to frame the study of electromagnetics.

Big Idea: To properly assess health risks, it is important to understand the transfer of electromagnetic energy.

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