ScienceOnline Day 1: generalised ramblings

Since I’ve yet to develop the sort of mind that can blog the last sentence whilst listening to the next one, I’ve mainly kept the laptop closed and just listened and/or pontificated in most of today’s sessions. But I thought I should record a few initial thoughts and impressions, whilst they’re still fresh, of the sessions I attended today.

  • Blog-To-Book: You are a science blogger but you want to publish a pop-sci book?:
  • Yes, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book; I even have one or two half-formed ideas. But this session really brought home the fact the time and work that has to be focussed on fleshing out that idea and turning it into a sellable and then a physical reality. And given that my blogging takes up most of my non-working, non-vegging time, I’m not sure I’m really in a position to put in that effort – and even if I could to pull it off, that doesn’t mean that it won’t look like I’m slacking off on the day job – and I love my day job.
    Transitions – changing your online persona as your real life changes: Lots of good discussion on this session (even if certain people made the poor decision to stick me on the panel), but I’m still sorting through it all – everyone’s blogging and career paths has been different, as are their blogging voices, meaning that their blog and their real life have interacted in many different ways – hence I think some of the collective advice we tried to amass at the end was a little contradictory in places. The most common themes were the difficulties and pressures of maintaining an online persona separate from your professional life, and the various experiences – largely indifferent, but sometimes negative – people have had when they’ve been discovered, either intentionally or not. I’ll probably devote a post to this later.
    Teaching College Science: Blogs and Beyond: A slightly different format in this session, with smaller groups reporting back into a group discussion. It worked pretty well, and there were lots of good ideas about how interaction though blog-esque tools and the use of things like pod- and video-casts, could work in an educational context. I’m especially taken with the idea of field trip blogs written by the students, and perhaps developing field trip wikis for students and staff. My only regret is that we didn’t have the time to discuss one of the core issues: what strategies and approaches actually encourage students to buy into these sorts of activities.
    Blogging adventure: how to post from strange locations: I’ve already kicked off a good discussion about this.
    Open Notebook Science – how to do it right (if you should do it at all). I’m somewhat ambivalent about the whole Open Notebook thing, but the reason this session was interesting was that it wasn’t just advocacy, but also got into the mechanics of it – and this idea that you can use online tools to automate and manage your workflow (for example, getting your machines to write their data as blog-posts), which I think has tremendous potential.
    Online science for the kids (and parents): a nice relaxed session where Janet and others discussed how to bring kids up to understand science as a natural part of their thinking processes, rather than a scary thing done by weirdos, and examples of various good online resources. I’ve got some vague ideas in this direction, since geology is one of those things that naturally fascinates kids – ever met one who doesn’t like dinosaurs and volcanoes? – and its interdisciplinary nature means you can use geological processes out there in the world as a vehicle for lots of different scientific concepts. So food for thought.
    Best conversation of the day was after the adventures in blogging session:
    Other person: “So you’re a geologist? I don’t think there are really any geology blogs out there.”

Categories: bloggery, conferences, general science, public science
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Comments (1)

  1. Kim says:

    That last conversation says something about how geology blogs are a separate community from other science blogs.
    Ron had his students blog from their field camp two years ago. I don’t think he did it last year, though – maybe he would be willing to say more about the experience?
    I’ve found that some online tools are easy to adopt, because they seem like a tool that was perfect for the job. (Just to show how old I am: the most obvious example that springs to mind is e-mail. It is such an easier way for students to contact a professor than the telephone is – it’s the default except for contacting the most intransigent Luddite professors.) And some things that seem obvious don’t work unless they’re forced. (I’ve used discussion boards for classes. Students post when they’re required to, and don’t when they aren’t. They work for discussion prep, but they don’t create the kinds of spontaneous communities that similar technology devoted to a hobby might.)
    I’m not committed enough to various new technologies (whether they are wikis and podcasts or electronic mailing lists and chat rooms) to spend extra effort selling the students on a certain technology. I would rather do something old-fashioned (like drawing on a piece of paper, or going outside), if it’s an efficient way to get students into the class’s content.
    (There’s also an article in a recent Journal of Geoscience Education that makes me wonder if online tools lack something fundamental. The article talks about how students and teachers use gestures to communicate, and how the act of gesturing can be important in the process of learning. If I remember to bring the article home, I’ll blog about it.)