Friday, October 05, 2007

Teaching science with Web 2.0

Back in the days when I was an undergrad at the university of Ottawa, the web component of classes was limited to lecture slides or papers thrown in on a university server somewhere, and it was usually hard to get to. With the advent of web 2.0, some professors have started taking advantage of these resources to innovate in teaching. On an interview of Dr B. for the bayblab podcast, which unfortunately was lost because of technical audio glitches, we had an interesting discussion about how he was using web 2.0 to teach which earned him some awards for innovation. Here are some of the most useful applications I've come across:

-Podcasting: increasingly universities offer podcast of courses to their students. Back in undergrad there was always the odd student bringing in a voice recorder to class, and the infamous live video feed where you could watch Carleton classes on TV. But podcasting makes the whole thing more efficient and more convenient. Some profs have gone even further. Dr. B for example encouraged his students to make their own podcast, and would answer questions he received by email on his own podcast. Ben at the university of Chicago school of medicine has started a podcast about admission to med school and student orientation.

-Blogging: Blogging is a great way to add some extra information on the side for your classes. But more and more teachers, such as PZ myers from Pharyngula and Dr B from biological obsessions have brought it a step further by encouraging students to blog. In fact Dr B awards a mark based on what the students blog about on the official course blogs (microbiology) here and (evolution) here. It may sound strange but in fact blogging encourages the student to assimilate science information, be critical and learn to communicate ideas, all of which are necessary to be a good scientist.

-Social networking: Lets face it, most young adults are on facebook, even those that are not too web-saavy. So why not go to them to reach out. Making a group on facebook like Dr. B did for his class is a genius idea in my opinion. For one, most people check facecrack often, often multiple times a day. Updates are hence highly visible. It's a great place to post anything, simply for the visibility it can get. Facebook is not just about keeping in touch with friends anymore, it's become a virtual gathering place, so why not have a virtual classroom?

Any other ideas?


Lim Leng Hiong said...

You've been tagged.

Oh, another idea for using Web 2.0 is - Vlogging!

Not only does it allow students to organize their resources to make a snazzy video presentation, it also gives them a window of opportunity to make movies that are filled with sex and violence.

Just like Paul Verhoeven(PhD Physics, University of Leiden 1964).

Bayman said...

Wii-Lab. Do your lab courses at home on the couch through your Nintendo Wii.

Somehow using technology to improve how students are evaluated/examined would be good. Since it seems like they'll rarely be directly interacting with their peers or profs, and using the web is an easy way for universities to justify making classes bigger, and bigger and bigger, exams would be the only way left to exert some educational quality control.

Dominic B. said...

One can not teach critical have to critically think. This is a hit-or-miss type of thing. The more you think, the more you blog, the more you talk...the more your brain thinks of new ways of thinking.

Critical thinking is about ideas and the best way to teach it is by asking students to blog. I truly admire your blog because you do it in such a passionnate way. You are better scientists because you blog. I just want my students to develop their true potential and if blogging might help....well then it is worth to try!

Thanks to you Bayblab dudes!

bethg said...

Dear degenerate grad students,

Speaking of the virtual classroom, if you want a free virtual room to experiment with, Elluminate vRoom is available for up to 3 users at a time. It's got a lot of functionality (VoIP, public/private chat, interactive whiteboard, app sharing, high-res video, file transfer, web tour/push, and more). Plus, you can use as many rooms as you like for as long as you like. Check out

- Beth, Elluminate Goddess of Communication