Notes from Dr. Shawn Rowe’s seminar

On February 25th, I attended an HMSC Research Seminar led by Dr. Shawn Rowe. The seminar covered public science communication in a virtual world. Dr. Rowe did an excellent job explaining various tools that educators can use in their transition from face-to-face learning to a virtual classroom. Here’s what I learned:

In general, science communication and teaching have a trend of decontextualization. What makes it even more difficult is when the teaching isn’t being done face-to-face. This is dangerous because it makes science and technology difficult to use in the world, and seen as unrelatable and unachievable. 

What works in the traditional face-to-face classroom?

People orienting going from their own world to yours. For example, the setup of a science lab classroom gives students contextualization of real-life applications of what’s being taught. The arrangement of furniture in a traditional classroom serves as a resource for focusing and making sense of the content. It creates an artificial world for focusing and learning something which is heavily relied upon.

What isn’t working in virtual teaching?

Virtual teaching leaves room for much more decontextualization in education. It’s a challenge for students to remember only what they hear or see on a screen when compared to objects they can touch or feel in a lesson. Auditory stimulation does not lead to students remembering a topic as opposed to reading, touching, seeing, or writing something. 

What can we do to become successful presenters?

Use stories and storytelling, it is a very good human characteristic. It leads students to create meaning and make a connection. When you have a template ready for what you are going to teach, less is more. For example, use one big idea related to the moral of the story, two to three supporting ideas, and accessible visual evidence. Another resource that can be used is a concept map. A content map includes the main idea, what’s important about it, and helps students figure out how different ideas can relate to each other. A concept map prevents you from going down a rabbit hole.

It’s important to note that experts interact with and make sense from visualizations of data differently than non-experts. You need to learn how to teach without sounding like you are talking down to students. A way to support this is by incorporating activities that are hands-on, problem-solving, and open-ended. Along with data visualization, you need to use culturally relevant colors and images. Tables and graphs can’t stand on their own, they need to be recontextualized with images and guides. 

The public needs to have trust in you to be able to listen to you. You need to be talking for yourself and not from an organization. For example, when on Zoom you don’t want to have a company background. They need to know that you are a trustworthy storyteller. They need the perception that the story is being authentic to themselves, have integrity, and the perception that the data and tools presented in the story are authentic.

Overall, teaching is not only about giving information. It’s about interpretation. Interpretation gets the audience excited and curious about something they want to learn more about, which leads to provocation and inspiration.

You can find more information about Dr. Shawn Rowe at the link below:

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