LACOL was proud to co-sponsor Haverford’s Teaching with Technology Forum for Fall 2015 which was organized by Instructional & Information Technology Services (IITS). Eight Haverford College faculty members shared their approaches and experiments in using digital teaching and learning tools that help to increase student engagement with course material, their classmates, and faculty. Hiroyo Saito, Director of IITS’s Instructional Technology Services and her team work closely with faculty in planning this semi-annual event.
When undergraduate biology students read scientific papers, they see a tightly woven story connecting a set of data. However, not evident—and just as important for young scientists to recognize—are the ideas behind the experimental design and the challenges, failures, and triumphs of the scientists running and writing about the experiments. At Williams College, Assistant Professor of Biology Matt Carter and his students learn about this hidden world of biology research by engaging authors of the papers they read in classroom discussions using Skype videoconferencing.
After reading the research paper on their own, Topics in Neuroscience senior seminar students spent the first 45 minutes of the three hour long class time discussing the paper and generating a list of potential questions to ask the authors. Then, the authors joined the discussion by Skype using laptops and a room microphone. According to Carter:
This part of the discussion was not scripted or organized and became a free flowing conversation about science, experimental work, and personal engagement with the process. Students were able to ask spontaneous questions such as, “Which experiment in the paper was the most satisfying?” This question triggered a fascinating and lengthy answer about how difficult it was to carry out a key experiment and how tremendous they payoff was when it was achieved. Such insights are not contained published paper and would only emerge in this type of discussion session.