A couple of weeks ago, I “attended” a webinar hosted by WEPAN (Women in Engineering ProActive Network) on their recently unveiled Knowledge Center. I had never participated in a webinar — I called up a conference call phone number, and logged into a website, and saw what the presenters had on their computers. Different presenters at totally different locations could also take charge of what everyone was seeing; it was a neat experience.
I was attending with participants from a few other organizations, including MentorNet, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (which is the professional society for organizations like science museums), the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), and a few WEPAN folks who maintain and assess the effectiveness of the Knowledge Center.
The Knowledge Center really is worth checking out, particularly because WEPAN has set up arrangements with some engineering organizations (such as ASEE) to provide content to WEPAN members that would otherwise be accessible only by (for example) ASEE members. So it opens up access to data in a useful way.
WEPAN is particularly proud of the way they have indexed their Knowledge Center information. They have both “topical terms” and “cross-cutting terms” that allow you to zone in quickly on the piece of information you need.
In addition, the Knowledge Center invokes the idea of “communities of practice” to host an login-based (although logins are free) internal professional community for practitioners and researchers. It makes use of many of the resources that other social networking platforms have, but focused on the topic of “women in engineering.” I confess I already have too many community places online so I probably won’t make too much of this feature, but we’ll see.
Finally, you can add your own resource to the Knowledge Center. I think it gets vetted by the KC manager, but they do index blogs, so head off now and submit your blog, if you like.
WEPAN’s main goal with this tool is bridging the divide between researchers who study gender and engineering, and those professional practice folks who are actually trying to do something in schools and universities to increase women’s underrepresentation in these fields. However, while they have 600+ resources already preloaded, for the KC to really be effective, they really need is people to submit good quality content for all of us to share. I’m looking forward to sending in some submissions from my group, and to seeing what other researchers submit and can learn from practitioners.