Category Archives: General

Teaching science

structure by Vik Nanda

Rethinking Outreach: Teaching the Process of Science through Modeling:
[Via PLoS Biology: New Articles]

How can we get high school students interested in science? Here is a program that matches students with researchers, with the purpose of building a physical model of the protein being investigated in the lab.
What an outstanding idea! Not only did these students learn a great deal about how research is actually done but they also were instrumental in helping the researcher have some of the tools he needed.

These sorts of interactions will always be needed. Humans like to interact personally with others. But, Web 2.0 technologies can make it easier for these sorts of interactions to take place. Meetup is a great example of this.

There are already hints that scientific meetings may take a similar path. Again, not to replace the conferences already taking place but as an adjunct.

Update: Of course, Web 2.0 approaches can also expand the reach of teaching and communications. A great example was the recent EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative Online Focus Session.

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Slides gone bad

This is pretty hard to believe. 65 slides! And there are so many things wrong with each slide: horrible colors, too much clutter on slides, fonts too small. Just to name a few.

Each slide would have to take several minutes to get through, by which time everyone is zoned out and does not get the message. And, with no context, the slides can not be understood by anyone who was not present.

These are nice examples of what not to do.

Your moment of (slideument) Zen:
[Via Presentation Zen]


Coke3_3 Coke_ppt2_3

Three sample slides for your contemplation courtesy of a 65-slide PowerPoint deck from the world’s biggest brand.

Source: Coca-Cola Japan. Go to the site (investor relations page) and download the presentation slides (1.5MB pdf) and enjoy the journey yourself. The slide deck is ‘the real thing.’ H/T Samuli.

What’s a Slideument?

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Going Live, Slowly

construction by m o d e

This site will be coming alive over the next week or so. We have a lot to cover and want it to be done without overwhelming anyone. SpreadingScience will make it easier for researchers to deal with the tremendous amount of information that threatens to overwhelm their efforts.

We do this through a teaching approach dealing with both Science 1.0 techniques to transmit information (papers, oral presentations and posters) as well as Science 2.0 ones.

What most scientists know about Science 1.0 comes from on the job training. We have developed some areas of good practice which permit much more effective use of their time for transferring information.

Science 2.0 approaches using online collaborative tools (wikis, blogs, podcasts) hold the promise of lowering many of the barriers to effective information transfer.

However, these tools must operate in a social network, even if it is online. Without an understanding of how the social networks of researchers are similar to those of other groups, and how they are different, the tools of Science 2.0 will not flourish.

This is where SpreadingScience has its greatest impact. Contact us to find out more about what we can do for your research organization.

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Some important ideas

jet trail by kevindooley

Can Software Make You Smarter?:
[Via A Journey In Social Media]

No, but I think it can make you more successful.

Yesterday, I was talking to our HR group — an “all-hands” type of thing — and I wandered into a few interesting areas that I thought important.

One of the things we’re noticing on our platform is that people are becoming, well, better people.

You’ve Probably Never Heard Me Present

When I’m comfortable with the topic and the situation, one of the things I do well is “channel” — I can dynamically improvise presentations. Much like a musician who improvises (BTW, I do that too), sometimes you end up in a very fascinating place — if you’re lucky.


During one of his recent talks, Chuck Hollis, a Vice President at EMC, channeled this – online conversations appear to generate leaders faster than normal approaches.

It may be that those people with leadership capabilities were already there but that many businesses have developed processes that shut them down (i.e. Not Invented Here or We have always done it this way).

Online conversations do not seem to shut off these ideas; the natural human feelings of helping the group overcome hierarchical dominance. Just as the old Internet saw states that “On the Internet, no one knows you are a dog”, they also do not know that you are a very important person whose ideas MUST be listened to and whose opinions REALLY matter.

The ability to stop discussion by appealing to position is much, much harder online. Thus we have things like this appear:

As everyone knows, one of the fastest ways to shut down an original thought is for someone to say “we’ve always done it this way”, or “we tried that before”, or “it’ll never happen”.EMC is not immune to this kind of thinking. But, for some strange reason, it has essentially disappeared from the discussions online.

The thread is more “how could we do this differently”, or “here’s what we learned the last time we tried this”, or “maybe, just maybe, this could happen”. A spirit of positive optimism has emerged, which has in turn infected most (but not all of the participants).

The more people use the platform, the more this behavior emerges. I’ve gone back and looked at early conversations from the same people, and I can see a definite positive, optimistic bias in people’s mindsets.

Conflicts arise faster but get resolved quicker, with much greater buy-in from all the stakeholders. People understand why a decision was made.

They may not agree but understanding goes a long way. Knowing that your opinion has had a proper examination or seeing how your input altered the path chosen make people feel better. Chuck ends his post with this:

I told our HR team that our social environment is like a very interesting piece of audio equipment. It tends to filter out all the “bad noise”, and encourage the “good sounds”.

In terms of interaction, it minimizes negative behavioral tendencies, and encourages and rewards positive group behaviors.

I can see how people are essentially becoming better people the more they use the software, myself included.

Strange, isn’t it?

So much software is sold on the basis of improving productivity, or solving specific business problems.

How about making people better people?

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Paper in the service of social media

paper cranes by Shereen M

The CommonCraft Show:
[Via Common Craft]
I posted Common Craft’s video about Twitter earlier. Here are many more describing Web 2.0, and other, technologies. Their medium, Paperworks, is very unique and it is fun watching and hearing how the production values improve as they get a better understanding of this medium. Some of my favorites are:

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Social network analysis

by jurvetson
Six degrees of messaging : Nature News:
[Via Nature]

I’m not sure if anyone can see this or if you need a subscription. But, this being the Information Age, you can read the abstract of the paper itself and download a PDF of the paper. It discusses work done at Microsoft examining the connections used by its IM customers. The researchers examined the data from one month. this worked out to “255 billion messages sent in the course of 30 billion conversations among 240 million people during June 2006.” A lot of data.

After crunching the data they found some interesting numbers regarding this network – the average number of connections between people on the network, its width, was 6.6. This is very similar to what others have reported, even though the approaches were quite different.

Interestingly, these other reports used much smaller groups of people. One, in the 1960s, used only 64 people. Another in 2003 used 61,000. All three, using very different methodologies arrived a similar numbers for the width of the human social network. This is not too surprising since human social networks adopt a scale-free configuration. The hallmark of a scale-free network is that the average number of links connecting any two nodes, or people, does not increase substantially as the size of the network increases. Here the scale increases almost 4 million-fold, yet the average width of the network is still about 6.

Information in a well connected social network can percolate very rapidly. Using Web 2.0 approaches can harness the power of the Internet (another scale-free network) to disburse the information into an even larger social network much more rapidly than by utilizing face-to-face approaches.

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