Musings and professional dossier of an educator, geographer, and educational developer

Month: April 2017

Rethinking Access: Issues, Challenges, & Creative Approaches

A stonemason, a student, a superintendent, a dean, a pre-school director, a faculty member, a not-for-profit executive director, and a data scientist walk into a hotel.  They’ve come together to  share their ideas about access to education at “Rethinking Access: When Non-Traditional is the New Normal” a conference put on by HEQCO (Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario).  Most sessions were set up as panels surrounding a given topic about access – each panel was ripe with ideas and well-articulated challenges. Given the breadth and depth of issues around access, each panel could really only scratch the surface of the research and on-the-ground work being done.  Even so, I gained an appreciation for the systemic issues around access to education and some of the creative solutions for improving access from a variety of perspectives.

My big questions

I took the early train from London and arrived at the Delta Chelsea with my shirt on inside out and a lot of big questions: Who is accessing post-secondary education, and who is not? What are the barriers to accessing post-secondary education? What can and is being done about differences in educational access?

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A week as the host of the rocur account @iamscicomm

For a week in late March, I guest-hosted the rocur (rotation curation) account @iamscicomm.  My initial motivation for hosting the account was to disseminate recent research on science communication and graduate training. Hosting this account would allow me to have a greater reach than the reach of my and my colleagues twitter followers. My hope was that by engaging with a community that’s already excited about #scicomm, I could move past sharing our work into engaging in a dialogue.  I’m so pleased that our work was discussed with such excitement and that it was shared over 75 times during the week.

Amanda Freise started the week by introducing me to @iamscicomm followers.

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For real though, develop a science communication strategy

My colleagues and I recently argued that scientists-in-training would benefit from developing an individual science communication strategy.   We’re not the first to suggest this, and we recommend reading Practical science communication strategies for graduate students (Kuehne & colleagues, 2014) and Considerations for effective science communication (Cooke & colleagues, 2017) to help early-career and in-training scientists start to
create such a strategy.  But I’m feeling like it needs to be said again: scientists would benefit from developing an individual science communication strategy.

I’m a little troubled by workshops and resources that teach scientists how to do #scicomm (that is, web 2.0, social media heavy science communication) without any consideration or even a brief mention as to whether this is a fitting strategy. By jumping immediately to how to build a personal brand, choose a hashtag, and decide how often to post on 7 different social media platforms,  the assumption is made that developing your own social media brand is the best strategy.

Building a lively and energized following on multiple platforms is an effective strategy for many scientists, and it may also be a valuable strategy for you.  But, have you given enough attention to other possible modes of science communication that may be a better fit with your goals, available energy, and personal strengths?

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