Apr 6, 2013

ScienceOnlineTeen - An unconference

Next Saturday (April 13), ScienceOnlineTeen – a conference bringing scientists, students and teachers together to share ideas – will take place in New York. Since some members of Queer STS repeatedly work on research projects with teens (Engineer Your Sound!, Picture.it and currently useITsmartly), we like this idea and would like to share some more information about it in this blog. So we contacted Stacy Baker, the creator and organizer of ScienceOnlineTeen, and had a little Q & A with her.

Q: ScienceOnlineTeen is a conference addressing scientists, students, and teachers and is about how the Web influences the way science is done and communicated. Why this conference, what would you like it to provide the target groups with?
Stacy Baker: Typical conferences involve speakers talking to the audience, not with the audience. They use presentations and not conversations. ScienceOnlineTeen aims to provide more of an informal, conversational, networking experience for teens and teachers. We believe very strongly that the teens and teachers have just as many great ideas to communicate to the scientists as the scientists have to communicate with them. So, what really sets us apart is this idea of equal sharing of ideas and giving power and a voice to teens. Discussions will be centered around how science is communicated via social media and how the Web is changing the way we think about science. Social media has made it easier for people to interact and we hope to get more teens interested in getting involved with online science communities.

Q: Looking at the program, there are many names and topics listed in the sessions. How does the design of the conference work?
S. B.: Yes, there are four session blocks with concurrent sessions running during each block. So, participants choose one topic to attend in each block. There's one exception; the third block is a blitz session and involves more free form discussions and participants floating around to different "idea" rooms. They are more about quick bursts of imagination and idea sharing. This includes an online streaming room where we'll be using Google + Hangouts to interact with the online audience. The final session is a workshop where participants try to put into action some of the ideas they've developed earlier on in the day. Another thing that really sets our conference apart is that we have built into the program many, long break periods to encourage mingling and networking. We want participants to converse one-on-one with each other and not be limited to a group discussion.

Q: There is an amazing variety of people participating in the conference and moderating sessions. How did you win them for contributing in ScienceOnlineTeen? Or put differently: What is their motivation to join ScienceOnlineTeen?
S. B.: ScienceOnlineTeen is the first topical, regional event inspired by the main ScienceOnline event that takes place in North Carolina each year. That event is directed at adults and only a small number of teens attend each year. So, I wanted to create an event just like the one in North Carolina that reaches more teens and teachers. A lot of the people who jumped on board for ScioTeen have met me over the years at ScienceOnline and have even worked with my students in the past. They already know what a great community ScienceOnline is and they are eager to be involved in new projects associated with it. So, it wasn't too hard finding a lot of amazing people to get involved. I think many of the new moderators wanted to join the event because they really appreciate what we're trying to do. Convincing teens and teachers to attend was a little harder at first as most have never attended an "unconference" before and so they weren't quite sure what to make of the event. But, now we're completely full and the teens and teachers who are coming are very excited to attend.
Q: ScienceOnlineTeen takes place in New York City but, as the title suggests, the conference is about science and the Internet. How can non-local teens, scientists and teachers get involved in the event?
S. B.: There are multiple ways to interact with participants online. We'll have a Google+ Hangout from 2:00-2:50 EST [that’s 8:00-8:50 p.m. CET] during the conference where participants will chat with the online audience about what they've been discussing at the event. Several of the session moderators will go online for a few minutes each to interact with the online audience. The link to the Hangout will be published on the conference website the morning of the event and it will be streamed on YouTube.
Another way to interact is to use the hashtag #scioteen to join the conversations that take place on Twitter during the event.
And yet another way to interact is to comment to the Learnistboards where we'll be live posting notes from each of the sessions. The online audience can comment to the notes and ask questions. You have to sign up for a free Learnist account in order to leave comments. The link to all of the session Learnist boards will be available on the conferencewebsite.

Q: Are there any plans yet for another ScienceOnlineTeen-event, maybe with a more international audience via Web-based participation?
S. B.: If another ScioTeen event is held in the future I hope to have more of the sessions streamed online. I have to be careful about privacy concerns considering many of our participants are minors, so a 100% online streamed event is unlikely. But, I'd also like to consider doing it in a different city just to broaden the outreach. If anyone is interested in holding a ScioTeen event in Europe or somewhere else international they should definitely get in touch with me!

About Stacy Baker: She is the creator and organizer of ScienceOnlineTeen. She is a science and technology teacher in NYC. She started a class blog with her biology students seven years ago called Extreme Biology which led to her ongoing involvement in the ScienceOnline community. Stacy’s students have appeared on NPR and in online magazines and countless newspapers for their science writing. Contact Stacy Baker:

Find a German translation of this Q & A in our EYS-blog

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