When technology works (our first #microhangout)

We had our first #microhangout today! I really enjoyed getting to chat with other microbiologists (all of whom were hundreds or thousands of kilometers away from me, geographically). A huge thanks to the folks who participated!

I’ll likely post on some of the stuff we discussed (and topics for possible future discussions) soon. More generally, I just found myself reflecting on all the technologies we used in setting up and having our chat … Some early musings posted on Twitter to see who might be interested in a virtual meeting, a Doodle poll to find a suitable day/time, and Google+ Hangouts for the actual conversation (with some documents shared on Google Drive relating to our topic). It wasn’t all seamless – I’ve now learned that I must check and double-check time zones in Doodle, and there were some hurdles using Google+ Hangouts.  Still, within a few minutes of our start time, we had folks interested in microbiology education from Canada, the U.S.A., and the U.K. all having a conversation in real time.

When the technology works, and allows us to make these kinds of connections, communicate, and collaborate, it’s awesome.

Getting ready to try Google+ Hangouts

Google+ Hangout logoTomorrow will be the first Microbiology Educator Google+ Hangout. I’m a little nervous about using a new technology (especially given that I recently made a silly mistake with a technology I’ve used a lot over the past few years!!!), but am also keen to see if this works better than other online collaboration/conferencing systems, like BlackBoard Collaborate. (The maximum of 10 participants is one limitation that I can see with the G+ Hangouts – not an issue right now, though.)

To prepare, I’ve been trying to verify the email addresses of the folks who participated in the Doodle poll – I’ll need the email addresses to send invites. For anyone who’s interested, I’d be happy to do a “mini-hangout” later today or tomorrow morning, so we can test the system.

If you haven’t used Hangouts before, please visit: https://tools.google.com/dlpage/hangoutplugin to download the necessary plugin.

Here’s a post that seems to be a nice step-by-step of how to set up a Google+ Hangout: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/google-in-the-enterprise/quick-tip-set-up-a-google-plus-hangout-for-web-conferencing/

If anyone has suggestions or tips, please feel free to share them (here, or via Twitter or email) …!

CORRECTION: Microbiology Educator Hangout – July 31, noon (EDT) (which is 5 PM BST)

Apologies for my confusion – my Doodle time zone settings were off

Thanks to all the folks who participated in the Doodle poll (now closed) for our first #microbiologyhangout! Wednesday, July 31 from noon-1 PM (EDT)* was the only time slot chosen by all who weighed in.

I’ll post info about Google+ Hangouts once I’ve had a chance to learn (and play!) more …!

*Update – here are the times in various zones – let me know if I missed anyone!:

Windsor (Canada - Ontario)                     Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 12:00:00 Noon EDT UTC-4 hours 
Newcastle upon Tyne (United Kingdom - England) Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 5:00:00 PM    BST UTC+1 hour  
Edinburgh (United Kingdom - Scotland)          Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 5:00:00 PM    BST UTC+1 hour  
Montreal (Canada - Quebec)                     Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 12:00:00 Noon EDT UTC-4 hours 
Raleigh (U.S.A. - North Carolina)              Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 12:00:00 Noon EDT UTC-4 hours 
Hamilton (Canada - Ontario)                    Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 12:00:00 Noon EDT UTC-4 hours 
Glasgow (United Kingdom - Scotland)            Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 5:00:00 PM    BST UTC+1 hour  
Corresponding UTC (GMT)                        Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 16:00:00

Doodle poll now up for first microbiology hangout!

If you’re interested in chatting (online) about introductory microbiology concepts (including common misconceptions, troublesome knowledge, threshold concepts), please participate in the Doodle poll to decide on a day/time next week (July 31, Aug. 1 or Aug. 2):


Oh, and if anyone would like to help me test-drive the Google+ Hangout system earlier in the week, please let me know! 🙂

Microbiology misconceptions, troublesome knowledge & threshold concepts

As mentioned in the previous post, I’m hoping to start some online conversations with other microbiology educators soon. As I work on materials for my fall intro micro courses, I’d really appreciate the chance to talk about threshold concepts and misconceptions in microbiology. Here I’ve included some information about what these are, and what I’ve pulled together so far about introductory microbiology concepts.

Threshold with Giant Microbes
A threshold, if not a threshold concept.

I’ve been seeing more published evidence and increasing attention to the need for addressing student prior knowledge/misconceptions for effective learning, and the idea that there are key threshold concepts that must be mastered in order to proceed past the “threshold” to subsequent concepts in a discipline.  Threshold concepts have a number of characteristics, including that such concepts are considered troublesome, transformative, irreversible, integrative, and bounded. (Check out the references below, especially those from Meyer and Land, if you’d like to know more about threshold concepts.)

Some work has been done in a number of domains to identify threshold concepts and common misconceptions (TC/MC henceforth). (An interesting workshop “Troublesome concepts ACROSS the sciences” was offered earlier in the month at the Western Conference on Science Education by researchers at Dalhousie: http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/wcse/WCSEThirteen/july09/14 ) A number of people are working to identify TC/MC in biology – see Modell et al 2005, Taylor 2006, Ross et al. 2010, Smith 2012 for just a few examples. However, there is not a lot available (at least, that I have found) in microbiology, with the exception of interesting work by Marbach-Ad et al on host-pathogen interactions (e.g., see 2009 paper and others from this group).

The ASM has published a curriculum guidelines for introductory microbiology (http://www.asm.org/index.php/guidelines/curriculum-guidelines ; see Merkel 2012) which I found incredibly helpful in identifying what students should be learning. Identification of TC/MC could help us (as instructors) develop effective learning activities so that we can better help students progress through the curriculum.

So far, I’ve been collecting some TC/MC that I think are worth focusing on in course development. I’d really appreciate the input of other microbiology educators to expand/clarify this list … and, ultimately, share ideas of how to best address these items in our classes.  Below are my notes, such as they are (i.e., probably with many gaps/omissions).

Continue reading “Microbiology misconceptions, troublesome knowledge & threshold concepts”

Google Hangouts for Microbiology educators – soon!

I really appreciate the opportunity to talk to other science/biology educators (as I recently was reminded, at WCSE2013 and the annual oCUBE UnConference). At the moment, I’m working on revamping my microbiology courses for next year, developing online versions of them, along with online resources. I’d like to do more with threshold concepts and addressing common microbiology misconceptions in my teaching, and I am sure that I’m not alone.

Twitter has allowed some interesting/useful conversations on microbiology education, but I’m thinking I’d like to chat with microbio educators beyond 140 character chunks. I don’t know how much interest there will be, but I plan to set up some Google Hangouts (or some other collaborative communication system) where we can discuss some of the educational issues/tips/questions that we might share.  I would also like to find ways of sharing some of what we come up with – being as open as possible.

I’ve mentioned this Twitter, and will likely email some folks who come to mind. If you’re interested in this, please drop me a line!