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Communication in Science (and how to get an online class out of it)

One of the aspects of the Junior Cert Learning outcomes that I really like is the one pictured here. Long after most of our students have left any formal study of science long behind them they are going to be assailed daily with 'media based arguments concerning science and technology'. And if the only thing we do for them is to leave them with an ability to read those arguments with a critical eye, then we will have done a good job.

Agreeing that its important is one thing, but finding a way to address it is another. In class, I've had them read various scientific articles online and from a stack of the New Scientist magazines that we are lucky enough to possess, and then share what they've found interesting. And we note too if the article quotes research and does it say where that research was carried out and by whom etc. All done in the hope that by reading quite good scientific writing, they will learn to recognise it. And in time come to spot bogus, pseudo-scientific arguments for what they are.

Early on, I tried bringing in a few really bad 'science' articles and having them read them too, so that we could spot the flaws and learn to see the hallmarks of bad science. The only problem was that in doing so, I was exposing them to some pretty awful arguments and I'm sort of worried that they just absorbed the nonsense in its totality and missed the point I was trying to make.....

But how to do any of this online? I've come up with this system, but I'd love to hear how anybody else does it. I send out copies of the Forms Quiz linked to below. They can click on any of the links included (which I hope to expand over time), read the article, and then work their way through the questions - as a way of forcing then to be somewhat reflective about it all. It doesn't have to be done during a class, of course - but it can be. And I think it produces a reasonably productive class at that: I briefly outline the plan in a zoom meeting, flick through a few of the links to explain what we're looking for, share the Forms and let then at it. Re-open the meeting half an hour later, review a few of their comments and let any of them not finished, finish it for homework.

I have it set up so that I can quickly grade it as I go through it. I'm not sure that's needed, but I think it gives them a degree of feedback.

It works for TYs too. Which is a blessing....

Any other ideas, please let me know and I can share the ideas here.

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