Last week, I had the opportunity to attend two events on presenting research to broader publics given by Tim Miller of Spoken Science, held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on February 26, 2013. The advice was too useful not to share.
First came “The Elevator Pitch: Selling Your Story in Two Minutes or Less.” According to Miller, you are trying to sell someone on the desire for something. In the case of a researcher, that’s your project, ideas and papers. You need to give your audience (whether one or many) a desire to seek more information about you. And, here are Miller’s tips for doing just that:
Tip #1: This is hard. Your are not going to be good at the elevator speech right away.
Tip #2: Why trumps what. The what is easy but the “why” creates emotional investment. “Why is what we care about,” according to Miller.
Tip #3: Think big. Lead with impact and one sentence starting with “I am _____ and I study ______.” Give specific examples and talk about yourself in relation to what you study. Lead with “I’m a grad student” if you are talking with someone in academia who can contextualize that information. Use “I” to talk about your research, even in case of joint projects. Continue reading
Following-up on my blog post from August 19, 2012 (“‘Microblogging’ Science in 140 Characters or Less: A Twitter Primer”) I gave two microteaching lessons on science communication to my Delta Program summer course The College Classroom. Below is a reflection on that experience. Thanks to my fellow learners and colleagues for being an engaging audience and for the very insightful feedback.
In planning for the microteaching activity, my goal was to develop a lesson, on the theme of “Using Social Media to Communicate Science,” that would be salient to an audience of graduate students in the bench sciences. To make my lesson learner-centered, I engaged in backward design to first develop the learning outcomes:
1. Students will come away from the lesson with an appreciation for the “science” of communication and the value of communicating science with broader publics via social media, specifically Twitter.
2. Students will understand the principles of “tweeting” and be able to write about science for Twitter.
I wanted to focus on using Twitter and its utility for communicating science. However, I recognized the need introduce the underlying communication theory. In the interest of time, I decided to focus on deliberation, framing and trends in news consumption via social media platforms (see here for a blog post based on my lesson). I outlined the lesson to first give a short introduction to science communication, social media usage trends and Twitter best practices, then engage in a Think, Pair, Share (TPS) activity to have students chose a life sciences news story and write sample tweets based on the content. I had planed to have students discuss the exercise with a partner, based on the following questions, but we ran out of time:
1. How did you choose what content from the article to highlight? Did you focus on the facts and/or add your own opinion in the tweet? Why or why not?
2. How would you hashtag (index) this material?
3. Where did this activity fall on the continuum of easy to challenging? Why?
4. How might you apply (or not) social media to communicate your own research?
One of the strengths of my first round of microteaching was that I started out my presentation by asking the class how many of them had heard of Twitter (a handful) and how many used Twitter (no one). One thing I could have done better from that point would have been to narrow focus to either the key communication theory concepts or the mechanics of how to use Twitter (e.g. set-up an account, what are hashtags, etc.) Continue reading
One of the fun things about preparing for my prelim exams was the opportunity to dig through old notes and I found a few “gems.” What follows is some advice on doing international fieldwork I drafted after spending ten weeks in Ecuador conducting research for my masters thesis, which is a case study of a community radio association headquartered in Quito, Ecuador. I ofter it here in case it might be of use to readers. In particular, I’d like to give a shoutout to my friend and colleague Jackson Foote who will soon be embarking on fieldwork in Chile.
Be a better version of yourself.
Learn how people greet each other, social norms, etc.
Be prepared to make a total fool of yourself (often…).
Expect a rough adjustment period in the new place (setting, country, social situation, etc.). Stay in touch with people at home so you don’t go too crazy. Remind yourself often that it was your choice to be there and undertake the project and that things will probably get better!
Be honest about who you are—your values and worldview—but think about how what you say and how you present yourself will be perceived with in the cultural context of the country you’re in and the people you are with. (Talking about the Bush administration, views on abortion, difficulties of getting visas to visit the United States, etc.)
Be a good listener (not just when think you’re “on” as a researcher because in a sense you always are when in the field). Also, remember that you’re being judged holistically, not just on how you act in an interview or when presenting your research pitch, etc. How you act in social situations is probably more important than when you’re searching for sources at a library, etc.
Our union is at a critical juncture. The next year will be a pivotal moment in the TAA’s history. We have fought hard over the course of the last year against the attacks on our rights to have a voice in determining our working conditions and higher education funding in this state. Our union is still strong, but the fight is far from over. We need to get Scott Walker out of office this June and work to rebuild what the right-wing has dismantled in the past 16 months.
The university works because we do. We are the voice for graduate student employees and for all graduate students who desire tuition-remitting employment. As graduate assistants, we teach almost half of all the lectures, discussions and labs combined on campus and are integral to the university surpassing the $1 billion mark in research expenditures for the first time in 2010 (data from the UW-Madison Data Digest 2010-2011).
The fight back against cuts to higher education. At the same time that UW-Madison is ranked 27th among universities globally, in the past year we have seen unprecedented cuts to funding for the university’s basic educational mission. Within this context, we need to do a better job at articulating why we are better off advocating together for fair working conditions and draw connections to undergraduate learning.
Last Friday, March 16, 2012, I attended a workshop, “How Stories Teach,” on integrating cases studies into science education to internationalize curriculum, sponsored by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) International Programs office, along with the UW’s Division of Information Technology’s Engage program.
Coming from a background in radio, I am keenly aware of the power of storytelling and was interested in its application to teaching science. I was not disappointed in the least.
It is not an easy time to be an educator in Wisconsin, so it was reinvigorating to to hear about concrete examples of what passionate instructors in the sciences across campus are doing to make science accessible and heighten critical thinking skills in students. In her opening, CALS Dean Kathryn VandenBosch reminded attendees of our mandate to prepare students for the realities of the twenty-first century economy where they will need to work in internationalized and/or multicultural settings. The question is, how do we help our students move in these directions? VandenBosch’s answer, tell them stories and think about innovative teaching methods.