Thursday, March 17, 2011

WebWise 2011 - Baltimore

So, last week I attended WebWise 2011 and was very impressed by the wide variety of speakers. Hooray free conferences and hooray science and hooray technology! I had a lot of fun live tweeting the sessions, however I thought I'd sit down and think a little more about what I learned. For this one I'll more specifically focus on my favorite session (sorry, but it really was my favorite): STEM and the Participatory Web: Everyone's Invited! So for a little background, the theme for this WebWise was Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) In Education, Learning, and Research. It seemed particularly relevant to my new position as a science librarian, hooray new career (I feel like there might be an overabundance of cheering in this post)! Social media is the hot new topic on everyone's mind. Yes, yes, we all talk about facebook and how integral the interweb has become for our global population. If you don't know about the internet then I don't know how you got here and I recommend you watch this video:

Most of the time I feel people are doing a lot of complaining about information overload and not enough recognition for how these new technologies are creating possibilities. It is necessary to consider how you are using web 2.0 technologies on a professional and personal level, because if you don't create an online identity for yourself, someone else will. And why let all that potential audience power go to waste? Which brings me back to this WebWise session which focused on moving past using social media to market science and to make a bigger impact through collaboration.
First and foremost, the tools are great and fun and amazing to use, but it is hard work making them. So, be prepared to get your hands dirty in a little bit of everything, from web site design on up. Speaker Bridget Butler spoke about her work with Voices for the Lake and how in their design they considered Nina Simon's design exercise for online/onsite engagement. The project is part of Echo Lake Aquarium and Science Center and is a great example of how a museum's online identity can shift from informing the public to including the public. It is an important yet subtle distinction to make when you are considering your educational goals. It always surprises me how everyone knows that most people learn better through participation, but we so easily fall back into the common lecture mode of teaching.

Making something fun and interactive is a wonderful teaching method, and a hard one to master. Bringing games into the classroom is an avenue which many people are currently exploring. When it comes to science and math however, this can be extra challenging. While I fondly recall my MathBlaster days, there are just so many games out there today, it's hard to compete. Speaker Seth Cooper introduced us to his game, FoldIt. The game makes protein folding into a puzzle. The game is addicting. What is it about a basic numerical reward system that compels us to obsess over scoring the most points? But what also makes the game succesfull is the community that comes along with it. It's not just biochemists and their students solving the puzzles. These players are actively on forums, helping each other and discussing game strategy. This ties into a webinar I watched recently from Blended Librarian titled "Improving the Reference Interview: An Instructional Designer Introduces Video Game Design for Staff Development" (If you are a part of the Learning Times Library Online Community, you can watch a recording of the event). Basically what I'm pointing out here is learning occurs everywhere, on all sorts of levels, and games can be brought in to help teach almost anything. If you want the game to do well, you need to consider what types of interactions the game will provoke.

Now I just have to hope that my creativity will kick in and I can start figuring out how to make my information searching lessons more interesting. From the blogosphere is sounds like I should consider bringing in a little Jersey Shore. I generally like to start off with this TED clip and tell the students it can be confusing finding information if you don't understand the context, but once you've been given the right tools you can find information on anything.

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