Friday, January 25, 2008

It's like an Operating System...


Mac OS X Leopard
Originally uploaded by [mac][mac]
I was listening to the Today programme on the way in to work this morning and I heard a chap called Dr Craig Venter describing his team's advance towards the creation of synthetic life.

I thought the report was interesting for a few reasons. Firstly, I thought it was an interesting topic. I find the science and the ethical issues interesting. Secondly, I thought it was interesting how hard the scientist found it to explain what had been achieved in a way that made sense to people outside his field. He couldn't help himself - he kept lapsing into science-speak. It reinforced what I already knew: good teachers should be smart and know their subject but being smart and knowing your subject does not in itself make you a good teacher.

Thirdly, and the main reason I decided to write this blog post, I thought the analogy that was used to explain what they had achieved was interesting. After trying a couple of times (unsuccessfully) to get Dr Venter to explain the breakthrough in simple terms, the interviewer gave him a very big steer and the Doctor picked up the analogy that had been thrown at him. He described the very complex biochemistry they had worked on as like writing an operating system but that they still had to install it on the computer and boot it up.

Why did I think that was interesting? It struck home to me just how mainstream computers have become. It's not that long ago when computers were strange and mysterious machines, surrounded by incomprehensible jargon like... well, like "operating system" and "boot". Yet, here complex science was being made more accessible to the listeners by using computers as an analogy. Interesting - no?

Have you come across other examples where computers have been used to explain difficult to understand concepts?


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3 comments:

Adam Sutcliffe said...

You might find my post interesting with regard to what makes a good teacher.
http://thegordonschools.typepad.co.uk/asu/2008/01/are-you-a-good.html

David Garza said...

Hey, I like your blog. I am always looking for good blogs about the teachers and colleges. I wanted to recommend you look at College Codex and Campus Explorer, a couple of good sites I've discovered that are great resources for teachers and students. I'll check back with your blog regularly to see what you've updated. Thanks! Keep it up.

David said...

Hello Adam

Thanks for the comment. Interesting blog you have yourself and I did enjoy reading the post you list in your comment.

Hello David

Hmm! Feels like spam...