Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sugar and spice and everything Zeiss

I had a chance to go to the Newark Museum planetarium, and I jumped on it. I fell in love with the Zeiss projector the last time I was there. Hard.

I spend most of my time in Bloomfield, NJ. I love my town, but we cannot see the stars. The Zeiss ZKP 3/B projector gives me as close a rep as I can get. It's a fine machine because it mimics what I have already experienced.

It's still there, but today's show was driven by "a state-of-the-art full dome digital projection system"--glitzy, flashy, sexy, and just plain wrong.

The Zeiss orbs sat there fixed at 180 degrees, useless as an astrolabe on a NASA Space Shuttle (or teats on a bull). Our students do not know what they missed. They have never truly seen the stars.

Our models have fallen prey to modern disease. We have forgotten that they are models, shadows of a greater universe. They now are the universe, a human universe, a limited universe.

My human hand is imperfect. My scrawl on the board betrays my age, my frailness, my humanness. I trust my drawings because they reflect something bigger than me. They are the shadows on Plato's cave, a means to a truth larger than the human that hopes to share the truth with yonger humans.

The SMART Board that replaced my whiteboard reduces the universe to human forms. It can translate my handwriting into perfect fonts. It professionalizes my humanness. The universe is not about us. Not even close.

My imperfect whiteboard  was a tool, not an end.

I love tools. I do not love my SMART Board.

What are we trying to do in the classroom? What do we need to get there?

OK, this one may not last long--just frustrated by our upward and onward dive into a very limited human universe.
Picure of the Zeiss ZKP 3/B from the Newark Museum.


Kathryn J said...

Last year, I had a SmartBoard. This year a projector running Smart software and a slate - think tablet mouse. I dislike all of it. The projector, I need. The rest of it doesn't do anything for students learning science once they get over the 10-second long "gee whiz" moment.

We have a Zeiss projector in a our local planetarium - nicknamed, appropriately, Carl. It is a fantastic resource, 10 minutes from my house, and because of my membership accessible always. It isn't the same as sitting on a hillside on a summer evening watching the stars rotate around Polaris but... it substitutes nicely when that isn't possible.

doyle said...

Dear Kathryn,

I'm jealous!

Last night the sky looked like velvet, the stars were in their glory. Tonight, however, it's raining.

Isn't it phenomenal watching the universe revolve around Polaris?