Albert Einstein, one of the most prominent scientific minds this world has encountered stated "If you are out to describe the truth, leave the elegance to the tailor." His message was clear: with science there is no clear answer to all the questions; collecting data is a rough journey that requires investigation, tests, and many errors. No inquiry can be solved without certain members of society bringing it to the surface for the general population to debate and possibly try to resolve. The Science 200 class here at Penn State University uses blogs as a tool to bring attention to different scientific, health, socials issues to Nittany Nation, along with personal life stories. More intriguing is the relaxed feel of the blogs, the humorous posts of the professor and students, and the way there is a connection between State College and the world beyond Happy Valley.
From questions about the real healthiness of organic foods to the shocking reality of some individuals being allergic to cold weather (hopefully not in State College), the Science 200 class of fall 2010 gave way to numerous topics that intellectuals and the average citizen can observe and comment on. Christopher P. Long, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies for the College of Liberal Arts at Penn State, describe two types of blogs in his Pedagogy of Blogging: personal and common course. This course takes advantage of the common course outline, allowing the whole class to post in one forum about stories that may change the world to stories that are inside jokes between teacher and student.
The professor of the course, Dr. Andrew Read, uses the blogs as part of students' grades and gives them the space to investigate stories that will cause debate and have controversy attached to them. Controversy sparks conversation, and that is how you bring attention to important topics. Chris Stubbs, and individual from Information Technology Services that helped create the course, mentions that the class was meant for non-science majors who were interested in the topic. "Andrew Read wanted students from all majors to come to the class and connect what their respective majors to the field of science." Read came to Stubbs to figure out a way to give the students a new learning experience. He wanted his students to improve their interaction and participation in with classwork. Blogs seemed to be the best fit because it allowed students to work in a space that wasn't too structure and offered a less intimidating environment. The course has been a way for students to research and investigate stories and read into them for the scientific value and the underlying message. Allowing students to personalize the message is what makes it unique. Students can relay the message of their post in any format they choose, including pictures, videos, or simple text. There is no structured format as long as their posts have some significance to science. The font and size of the text can be their choice, and issues can be written in paragraph or list form. Ultimately, its the student's choice.
Blogs at Penn State have broken the barrier between the intellectual minds of professors and the freelance mentality of students. Students in the Science 200 blog found it amusing that their professor's wardrobe was unpredictable and amusing during class. About ten years ago and beyond, that would've been in a note passed around class, but today's world uses technology and social outlets to allow students to be the young, fun loving people they are and for professors to see that and become that same type of person. Students will be more inclined to participate and be involved when they see that a professor can relate to them.
The benefits of blogs and other forms of technology have unlimited barriers to an overwhelming majority of our population, and when put that in a classroom setting it becomes easier for professors to let the shy young man in the back of the classroom explain groundbreaking technology, or the talkative girl in the front who loves to text to type her mind away. What the Science 200 class has done may seem simple, but is really a testament of where technology and social barriers have been, and where they are going. Classes can communicate with each other not only here at Penn State but at other institutions around the globe.
Have a voice, speak your mind, and explain it with your heart. It could be something that changes the way we think.