ScienceOnline'09 - interview with Elissa Hoffman

The series of interviews with some of the participants of the 2008 Science Blogging Conference was quite popular, so I decided to do the same thing again this year, posting interviews with some of the people who attended ScienceOnline'09 back in January.

Today, I asked Elissa Hoffman, a blogging biology teacher, to answer a few questions.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Who are you? What is your (scientific) background?

My name is Elissa Hoffman and I'm from Wisconsin. I'm a high school science teacher at Appleton East High School. Specifically, I teach biology and AP Biology. I have a BA in biology with minors in environmental studies and education, and when I was in college we divided biology majors into two categories - "big thing biologists" and "little thing biologists". I was definitely in the "big thing" group - I had a huge focus on aquatic ecology and spent many happy hours mucking through rivers, Secchi disks and phytoplankton sampling bottles in tow. My senior research project actually involved the feeding behaviors of Daphnia, which required me to do a lot of microvideotaping! Now that I'm teaching, though, my interests have broadened. I still love ecology, but I'm also really passionate about teaching evolution, genetics, botany, and anat/phys.

i-24be6eecccbaa971a2c52db165e2a74a-Elissa Hoffman pic.JPG

What do you want to do/be when (and if ever) you grow up?

I added a master's degree in Educational Leadership a few years ago, so I'm considering a move to school administration. However, given my penchant for setting goals, I'm currently looking at other options as well - debating the merits of various doctoral programs vs. getting another master's degree. At the moment, given school budget cuts, I'm pretty happy to be where I am!

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

I just love the ability to make connections with real people! Getting the chance to communicate directly with people who are doing actual scientific research or have cool science-related jobs is really, really invigorating.So often we in K-12 education are isolated from people who aren't part of our school network, and not being connected to current scientific research means that our students aren't hearing about it! I've had several guest bloggers on my class blog who have done a fabulous job of reminding my students that scientific research is still going on - that not all of the cool discoveries have already been made - and that researchers are real people who have social lives and fun personalities.

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook?

I have a class blog - I started it in January 2008 on a whim, thinking that since no one at my school was currently blogging with students I might as well try it out. After a few issues with making it work on our server, I unveiled it to the kids who were - well, unimpressed. Most of them had no idea what a blog was. When I talk about it with my new crop of students this fall, most of them STILL will have no idea what a blog is. But they catch on pretty quickly and I think they really like it! I've had them write posts, read posts, comment back and forth on each others' posts, and in general become comfortable with blogs and blog etiquette. I am thinking about using some guest bloggers again this year and anyone who's interested can email me (hoffmanelissa (at sign)

I've also got Twitter accounts (both personal and work-related) and a presence on Facebook. We do set up a class group on Facebook - the kids can join the group (i.e. "Mrs. Hoffman's AP Bio 2008-09", etc.) without having to "friend" me, which removes any ickiness or awkwardness. The group lets me distribute email messages to the kids really quickly and also lets me post links, photos, etc. that all of the kids can access.

When and how did you discover science blogs? What are some of your favourites? Have you discovered any new cool science blogs while at the Conference?

Probably sometime in 2007 - I really have no idea how I wandered into it. I do know that once ScienceBlogs picked up steam, it became a very exciting place to lurk! My RSS reader has a mixture of science blogs, health & medicine blogs, education blogs, and mommy blogs - there are an awful lot of favorites in there!

Is there anything that happened at this Conference - a session, something someone said or did or wrote - that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

I can't really pinpoint any one particular thing. It was a really great weekend - I was definitely not sure what to expect going into it, wondering if I was going to be in over my head with all of these uber-bloggers, but it worked out pretty well! I loved meeting everyone and having great conversations about science, blogging, and education.

It was so nice to finally meet you in person and thank you for the interview. I hope to see you again next January.

It was very nice to meet you - thanks for all you do for blogging and for the conference!!


See the 2008 interview series and 2009 series for more.

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