Since this is the first post in a series which will run the length of this semester I will start with a short introduction of what Grad 5114 is and why I am writing blogs for it. Grad 5114 is a course called Contemporary Pedagogy which I am taking as part of the “Preparing for the Future Professoriate” certificate I am pursuing along with my masters degree in paleontology. As with the title course of the certificate, this class will utilize blogging to promote communication between the students on the topics we’re discussing. In addition to this, the course presents us the opportunity to put together teaching statements, diversity statements, and other useful pieces of writing for the future when we start to look for employment in academia.
This first week was left very open. Other weeks there will be prompts, but a series of media were provided for this week’s blog entry and next week’s discussion. The theme which stood out to me was use of social media and blogs to promote an online presence as a researcher. I recently joined “science twitter” so this was, of course, at the top of my mind as I read the thoughts of Tim Hitchcock on the social media and blogs and a short list of rules for engaging on the web.
I am, as evidenced by the fact that I joined twitter at all, aware of the outreach potential of social media. It is a very low energy input high potential output way to publicize your work and your field. Twitter gives paleontologists a weekly opportunity to share what’s so cool about our field (the fossils, obviously) through the #FossilFriday hashtag each week. Another area where social media could benefit scientists is in promoting transparency in how research works – what does a scientist do day to day? Letting the non-scientists of the world see us spend days writing – grants, talks, abstracts, papers – provides a window into a part of our job that isn’t discussed widely in press releases on new research. The cover photo is taken at our lab bench, not at our rock-strewn paper-scattered desks.
My non-scientist partner frequently says “science is nothing like I thought it would be in school.” Work-related activities of mine that have elicited this include cleaning the bones of the duck we had for dinner in our kitchen sink and baking volatiles off tin foil in our oven. Our social media allows us to share this experience outside our families by sharing some of the unexpected parts of our job; it lets the world into our actual labs and into other spaces of science, like our kitchens.
Most of my teaching experience has been in a very low-tech environment, so I’ll look forward to seeing what pedagogy-related thoughts my colleagues have. I also look forward to picking up on how to get more utility out of this website and the media it makes available to me in terms of visibility of research and outreach. One measurable outcome: this week got me to finally link my twitter feed up to this website, so feel free to check out my and many other paleontologists’ #FossilFriday from around the world.