Teaching and Communicating Science in a Digital Age (Conference)

December 15th-17th 2014 saw me at Charles Darwin House (London) for the Society of Experimental Biology’s Education and Public Affairs symposium Teaching and Communicating Science in a Digital Age (click link to see full programme). This looked like a valuable event from the outset, but I can honestly say it turned out to be even better than expected. A pdf file (35 pages) capturing the Twitter feed for #SEBed2014 can be seen via this link. [UPDATE: I have also produced my first Storify from the tweets, which removes the retweets in the PDF, and puts them into a more logical order.]

It was good to catch up with old friends, to have the first face-to-face meeting with various Twitter friends and to make other new friends. Indeed, one of the striking things about the attendees was the lack of overlap with the HEA Bioscience regulars.

It would be invidious to pick out any one talk for special mention, but I would say the two sessions from which I got the most inspiration were “Engaging with the public and schools” and “Students as creators and communicators” (CoI declaration: my talk was in this session). At least two of the presentations were primarily delivered by current undergraduates, which was also refreshing.

I made three formal contributions to the symposium – a talk on our bioethics video-production assessment, and two posters (one on the Careers After Biological Science work, and one on Biology on the Box, my more recent project developing a library of recommended television clips for teaching biology). Links to all three can be found here:

The CABS programme involves Leicester alumni giving talks about their diverse careers which are then made available online.

The CABS programme involves Leicester alumni giving talks about their diverse careers which are then made available online.

Biology on the Box is my latest project, developing a library of recommended TV clips and programmes for teaching Biology

Making the Most of Broadcast Media (Conference summary)

On 14th January 2014, the University of Leicester played host to a day conference on Making the Most of Broadcast Media in your Teaching. The event was organised on behalf of the Higher Education Academy STEM network, and we are grateful for the financial support that enable the meeting to take place.

The purpose of the day was to promote the use of television programmes and clips in bioscience education. There has always been huge, but often untapped, potential for use broadcast media in teaching. However, several recent developments have made it very much easier to identify appropriate materials and/or obtain copies in an easily usable format.

Slides from all of the presentations on the day are available below. The intention was to combine these with audio recordings from the day. Unfortunately Slideshare have recently announced that they are withdrawing their Slidecast facility and so, at present, only the images are available.

“But we’re not a media course!”: the relevance of broadcast materials to bioscientists (and others)

To start the day, I gave a presentation outlining some of the ways in which we have used TV and film in bioscience teaching. These include clips to set the scene, to convey factual information and/or as discussion starters. Delegates took part in an activity in which a clip from the populist science show Brainiac can be used to kickstart discussion about experimental design (see here for a fuller write-up of this task).

Copyright, the Education Recording Agency and all that: you can legally do more than you think!

Murray Weston (former CEO of the British Universities Film and Video Council) talked us through some of the evolution of the UK rules governing legal use of broadcast media for education. He explained what the current rules are, but also highlighted that important changes are expected from April 2014.

Short presentations offered by delegates

The next phase of the day allowed delegates to describe existing ways in which they use broadcast media in teaching. Three case studies were offered.

1. Critical reviews of TV science documentaries

First up, Prof Jon Scott (University of Leicester) outlined an exercise in which final year students are required to conduct a critical review of TV documentaries on neuroscience topics.

2. Using cold case files TV shows to develop forensic students’ scientific approach

Dr Ian Turner (University of Derby) then described a tutorial in which video clips from cold case series, and associated resources, are used with forensic students to help them improve their crime scene methodologies.

3. Headline grabbing: Using BBC news clips as an essay springboard

Dr Steve Maw (University of Leeds) described an activity he conducts with his foundation-level students in which they write an essay on ethical aspects of a biological or biomedical mews story. More details regarding a similar task can be found here.

Looking for resources? BoB’s your uncle!: An introduction to the Box of Broadcasts

Dr Sandy Willmott (University of Lincoln) gave a demonstration of Box of Broadcasts (BoB), an exciting new resource developed by the British Universities Film and Video Council and their technical partners. BoB allows academics and students in subscribing institutions to access an enormous catalogue of previous and current television for educational purposes. Sandy showed programmes can easily be selected and how the package allows users to select clips within episodes and, if appropriate, develop playlists.

Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching: making the most of TRILT to know what’s on and when

To complete the day, we had a computer-based session allowing delegates to set up or develop their own accounts using the Television and Radio Index for Learning and Teaching (TRILT). TRILT allows users to check what has been on UK television (including a longer time period and broader range of channels than BoB) and to set up a weekly email alerts based on keywords of their choice.

Student-generated video as a means to teach bioethics

The second phase of my November tour has taken me to Naples, for the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics 9th World Conference on Bioethics, Medical Ethics and Health Law. I hope to find time to reflect more fully on the conference in the next few days.

In the meantime, I’ve provided a link to the slides from my presentation on the work we’ve been doing over the past six years, in which second year Medical Biochemists (and Medics) produce short videos about different aspects of biomedical ethics.

Teaching about “Ethics and Risk”

Back in March 2013, a group of intrepid bioethics education enthusiasts braved the snowy conditions to battle their way through to the University of Northampton for what proved to be a stimulating day [Conflict of Interest declaration: I organised the programme, but this was no guarantee that the day would turn out to be as interesting as it was!]

As has become the pattern for these annual HEA Special Interest in Teaching Ethics to Bioscientists events, the morning was given over to a couple of presentations to bring delegates up to speed on some of the latest developments in a particular aspect of bioethics. This year, the theme was “Ethics and Risk” and we were treated to two highly informative sessions. First up, Prof Alastair Hay from Leeds led us through some examples of the use of biological and chemical weapons which emphasised the importance of actively opposing their use.

Completing the morning session, Prof Joe Perry (formerly of Rothamsted Research) talked us through some of the regulatory processes employed by the European Union and other parts of the world in regard to genetically modified organisms, especially plants. Joe’s talk was particularly informed by his work with the European Food Safety Authority.

After a sumptuous lunch, there was a danger we might all nod off. However, this was not to be the case since Alastair Hay took over again, running a workshop to model how the issues of chemical and biological weapons can be used to illustrate various sliding scales relating to ethical and unethical practice, legal to illegal, necessary to dangerous activity, unquestionable to questionable, routine to innovative.

The day finished with the traditional series of short “swapshop” presentations by delegates. Barbara Cogdell (University of Glasgow) gave a short talk on their use of presentations with peer assessment in bioethics teaching.

Following this, Lyndsey Wright (University of Leicester) introduced a set of resources for teaching about ethical aspects of epigenetics.

Finally, Merryn Ekberg shared some reflections on biorisk and bioethics. However, the slides for this presentation are currently embargoed whilst the session is being further developed for publication.

Action Learning Sets: Improving projects with a little help from your friends

Marathon Finish LineI’m just staggering over the finishing line at the end of a marathon round of residential education conferences in which a nine-day burst saw me attending the Higher Education Academy STEM conference (#HEASTEM2013), the Society for Experimental Biology meeting on Tools for Evaluating Teaching (#SEBTET13) and the Heads of University BioSciences Spring Meeting (#HUBSSM2013). It will be months before I’ve had time to ruminate on all the various new ideas that emerged, directly or indirectly, from these sessions. This post will focus on just one “quick win” which I picked up from the middle event. In a short session, Peter Lumsden from the University of Central Lancashire modelled the use of an Action Learning Set for sharpening up the design of an educational research project. Continue reading

More on “Headline Bioethics Commentaries”

Following on from last week’s post about our Headline Bioethics project, here is a poster about the assignment and repurposing which I presented at the University of Leicester Learning and Teaching conference on January 10th. The poster is shown here, with a pdf version avialable via this link.

HeadlineBioethicsJan13

Use of social media in careers education

At the Higher Education Academy STEM Conference in April 2012 I gave a presentation about our Careers After Biological Science project at the University of Leicester. The focus of the talk was the pivotal role played by social media in recruiting speakers for careers talks, archiving various resources associated with those careers, and advertising their existence to a broader audience.

Slides from the talk are available below (or, in the event that they haven’t loaded properly, via this link )

  • Awards

    The Power of Comparative Genomics received a Special Commendation

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