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Responsive, Flexible and Scalable Broader Impacts
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In many educator professional development workshops, scientists present content in a slideshow-type format and field questions afterwards. Drawbacks of this approach include: inability to begin the lecture with content that is responsive to audience needs; lack of flexible access to specific material within the linear presentation; and “Q&A” sessions are not easily scalable to broader audiences. Often this type of traditional interaction provides little direct benefit to the scientists.

The Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence - Ocean Systems (COSEE-OS) applies the technique of concept mapping with demonstrated effectiveness in helping scientists and educators “get on the same page” (deCharon et al., 2009). A key aspect is scientist professional development geared towards improving face-to-face and online communication with non-scientists. COSEE-OS promotes scientist-educator collaboration, tests the application of scientist-educator maps in new contexts through webinars, and is piloting the expansion of maps as long-lived resources for the broader community.

COSEE-OS has developed and tested a workshop model bringing scientists and educators together in a peer-oriented process, often clarifying common misconceptions. Scientist-educator teams develop online concept maps that are hyperlinked to “assets” (i.e., images, videos, news) and are responsive to the needs of non-scientist audiences. In workshop evaluations, 91% of educators said that the process of concept mapping helped them think through science topics and 89% said that concept mapping helped build a bridge of communication with scientists (n=53).

After developing a concept map, with COSEE-OS staff assistance, scientists are invited to give webinar presentations that include live “Q&A” sessions. The webinars extend the reach of scientist-created concept maps to new contexts, both geographically and topically (e.g., oil spill), with a relatively small investment of time. Initiated in summer 2010, the webinars are interactive and highly flexible: people can participate from their homes anywhere and can interact according to their comfort levels (i.e., submitting questions in “chat boxes” rather than orally).

To expand scientists’ research beyond educators attending a workshop or webinar, COSEE-OS uses a blog as an additional mode of communication. Topically focused by concept maps, blogs serve as a forum for scalable content. The varied types of formatting allow scientists to create long-lived resources that remain attributed to them while supporting sustained educator engagement. Blogs are another point of contact and allow educators further asynchronous access to scientists. Based on COSEE-OS evaluations, interacting on a blog was found to be educators’ preferred method of following up with scientists.

Sustained engagement of scientists or educators requires a specific return on investment. Workshops and web tools can be used together to maximize scientist impact with a relatively small investment of time. As one educator stated, “It really helps my students’ interest when we discuss concepts and I tell them my knowledge comes directly from a scientist!”

A. deCharon et al. (2009), Online tools help get scientists and educators on the same page, Eos Transactions, American Geophysical Union, 90(34), 289-290.

Presented by: Annette deCharon, Carla Companion, and Medea Steinman
2010 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA

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