About Me

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I'm an assistant professor of neuroscience at Washington State University in Vancouver, where I use tiny zebrafish (the size of an eyelash!) as a model system to study human hearing loss and how we can prevent it. I'm also a long-time Toastmaster and I teach communication workshops. This blog represents the merging of my two passions - science and communication, which has really become one central passion - the science of communication. There's a revolution in science right now...the idea that we scientists should sometimes leave the lab and talk about what we do, and why we do it, to real people. This blog looks at why we should do this, and how to actually talk about science with non-scientists (and with each other!). Portions of this blog are also featured on Qualia, the AAAS MemberCenter blog site.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Science communication: It’s kids’ stuff

Why is the sky blue?  Why is water wet? Kids ask the really tough questions, questions we adults aren’t brave enough to voice anymore! To really communicate our science, and engage the next generation with real science, not just collections of facts, we need to talk to kids on their level. If we can explain our science to a kid and hold their interest while we teach, we’ve succeeded in our communication efforts.

From Wikimedia Commons
Enter Alan Alda (remember M.A.S.H.?) and the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Mr. Alda offers up the Flame Challenge, an international contest where scientists submit their best answers to a question posed by a kid. Last year’s question was “What is a flame?”. This year brings an even tougher question, “What is time?”. The kicker is in the judging - answers are judged not by scientists, but by 11-year-olds, and they aren’t shy about offering their opinion. Talk about trial by fire! (or perhaps, by flame)

If you want more help building skills before subjecting yourself to the Flame Challenge, or to any group of scientifically curious kids (or adults!), check out the course offerings by the Center for Communicating Science. They have a great line-up of science communication courses and workshops and even offer a certificate program. Check out the improv workshop…looks like fun!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Learning Style = Presentation Style?

By Janine Castro, PhD

Several years ago, one of my colleagues recommended that my prospective field course students take the Index of Learning Styles (ILS) Questionnaire.  Her contention was (and still is) that instructors must expand both their learning materials and delivery style to address the needs of all students … hence, the need to know my students preferred learning styles. The ILS was developed by Richard Felder and Barbara Soloman of North Carolina State University.  In a nutshell, learning preferences are evaluated on four dimensions -- active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential/global. 

New Communicatalyst blogger!

I'd like to introduce Dr. Janine Castro, a geomorphologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service in Portland, OR.  I'll post Janine's full bio soon.  Janine has several years experience teaching science communication workshops and will be a regular contributor to Communicatalyst. We are also developing a website with science communication resources and will be offering workshops.  Very exciting times-stay tuned!