Showing Scientists at Work, Through Technology

By Sean Cavanagh — September 29, 2009 1 min read
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I write in this week’s issue about how schools and organizations are using technology to put students in direct contact with scientists in the field (on a remote research vessel in the Pacific, for example). The idea is that students get a much deeper understanding of science—maybe even a love for it—when they interact with somebody who’s actually doing it.

The takeaway point here, I would argue, is not the technology. Many of the tools described in the story—blogs, Webcasts, videos—are not new, and probably won’t strike the techies out there as especially impressive. You’ll find fancier and costlier tools elsewhere. What will probably interest most scientists and science teachers is the application of it, and the promise of presenting their favorite subject the way they see it: as a fun, dynamic way to explore and understand the natural world. The comments of Alan Friedman, a longtime museum director who I interviewed for the story, are instructive. Students don’t want to just read about scientists, he said. They want to see and hear and communicate with scientists, as those researchers struggle and push forward.

In this respect, scientists in the field and students in the laboratory, who taste success one day and cope with setbacks the next, have a lot in common.

Photo from the New England Aquarium.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.