One time, I suggested in a list-serve that science teachers make more use of primary scientific literature. Naturally, I learned all the reasons why teachers don’t do this-lack of access being one of the biggies- but I also learned something surprising.
One teacher wrote that she re-writes a lot of research articles to make them easier for her students to read. I can understand that notion, in principle. My students struggle with scientific language, too, even those that have bachelor’s degrees in biology.
What surprised me was thinking about the amount of time that activity would take! Yikes! When would you find time for teaching if you were busy re-writing articles?
Still, the idea of having students read articles that have been pre-chewed and digested a bit, plus summarized in easier language is attractive.
Well, now we’re in luck. Researchblogging.org is there to help. This is a wonderful resource created by Dave Munger, and assisted by several others, and powered by technology donated from Seed Media Group.
How does this work?
Bloggers who write about scientific literature use a special icon to identify those posts. They also register at the Researchblogging web site with their credentials and favorite topics. When those bloggers write about a research paper, the information gets referenced in Researchblogging.
How would I use this in my class?
Send your students to Researchblogging.org. They can search for articles by keyword or by topic and get a set of links to blog articles on those topics. Each article will contain at least one link to a scientific paper.
Let’s say you have a student who’s interested in the genetics of Neanderthals. Your student could enter the phrase ‘genetics of Neanderthals’ in the search box, click the search link, and get a link to a very nice, informative, post on FOXP2 by Daniel Ocampo-Daza. Plus, you have all the links to the articles themselves (or at least abstracts) so the student can go look up the original work after they’ve used the blog post as a starting point.
In my classes, I used to assign Scientific American articles or the summaries from Nature or Science, as starting points, but I think students would probably prefer blog posts. I might be prejudiced, but I find bloggers are usually less stuffy and more fun to read.