Looking forward to panels at Science Online 2011

Thursday morning I’ll be flying down to North Carolina to attend Science Online 2011 – the fifth annual international meeting on Science and the Web.  Not only will this provide some delightful respite from the cold and snow of Edmonton (left), but I am honoured and excited to be participating in two panels.

On Saturday morning, I will join Stacy Baker (an outstanding science teacher from Staten Island), eight of her students, and Sophia Collins (director of the online outreach program I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here!) for a panel to discuss the value of the online science community to science education. Specifically, I’ll be talking about the projects that my science education students completed last term using science blogs as inspiration for science lessons but mostly I’ll be listening and learning from Stacy, Sophia and all of the students.

Saturday, January 15th: 11:30am-12:30pm, Room D

Still Waiting for a Superhero – Science Education Needs YOU! – Stacy Baker, Marie-Claire Shanahan, Sophia Collins and 8 high school students:

Stacy Baker is bringing her students again to discuss online science and education. Her eight students ranging from age 14-17 will join a panel of educators and scientists to discuss the problems and possible solutions to the science illiteracy crisis in schools. For example, what does the importance and prominence of blogging etc. mean for students and teachers/professors? Are the processes and people of science more visible because of blogging? Does that matter? What would bloggers, journalists, and scientists want students to learn to read and engage in online science and online science communication? One approach is to realise that a real barrier in science education is students feeling science is ‘for boffins’ and ‘nothing to do with them’ – if you can change students’ feelings it makes all the difference. Showing students that scientists are real people (which you can all do, by showing your real selves in whatever medium), and giving them a say over something (as, for example, in I’m a Scientist, Get me out of Here!) can make all the difference.

Then on Saturday afternoon I get to indulge my other academic love – science communication –  in a session with science writers, journalists and communications scholars. In the panel session Blogs, Bloggers and Boundaries I will be discussing boundary work and blog audience boundaries with Alice Bell (senior teaching fellow in science communication at Imperial College, London), Ed Yong (science writer and blogger at Discover Magazine blogs), Martin Robbins (science writer and blogger at The Guardian) and Vivienne Raper (science editor at BioNews). I’m very excited for the diversity of perspectives on this panel – being a part of it will be as much a learning experience as anything else.

Saturday, January 15th: 2:00pm-3:00pm, Room D

Blogs, Bloggers and Boundaries? – Marie-Claire Shanahan, Alice Bell, Ed Yong, Martin Robbins and Viv Raper

Science blogging is often seen as an opportunity for science and science communication to be made more open and in doing so, help connect people. Blogging thus might be seen as a chance to break down cultural boundaries between science, science journalists, and various people formerly known as audiences. But do these traditional roles still affect blogs, bloggers and their readers? Are blogs still producing a rather traditional form of popular science, one that largely disseminates knowledge, maintaining a boundary between those who are knowledgeable and those who are not? Or do they provide new opportunities for these boundaries to be blurred? Similarly, do blogs help foster cross-disciplinary communication or simply allow bloggers to keep talking to ever more niche audiences? They allow science writers to connect with more people, but do they end up as an echo chamber where writers only talk to more of the same people? And how can bloggers tell if their writing is actually making a difference? This discussion will explore the boundaries that are maintained and blurred through science blogging, including the value of some of these boundaries and the importance of being aware of them.

I’m really looking forward to being a part of both of these sessions and to meeting everyone on the panels, most of whom I’ve only met online so far. Science Online is a very rich conference in terms of idea sharing and generation and I anticipate coming back with inspired new directions for both research and teaching (and hopefully not a cold like last year…)


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