Saturday, August 1, 2015

"Never Really Alone" with Ed Yong!

As I described a few days ago here, the new semester looms upon the academic horizon.  I feel "antinomy":  a mixture of contradictory emotions:  excitement (at the subject matter) and dread (of updating materials).  

But I will do my best to have fun, and engage students.

I will be teaching my beloved microbiology at the University of Puget Sound in the Fall with sixteen eager micronauts to whom I can proselytize the One True Faith of Microbial Supremacy™...but I will be teaching another course as well.  This latter course, which I call "Never Really Alone:  Symbioses and Parasitism Around and Within Us" is a freshman writing course.  It is intended to introduce new students to critical reading, discussion, writing, and presentations.  Here is the course description.

We were EXTREMELY fortunate last Fall to have some pretty remarkable people visit our class via "telepresence" (Google Hangout, Skype, etc) to explore student questions.

The second "telespeaker" we had last Fall was the indispensable Ed Yong:  science writer of Solomonic fairness and Monty Python-esque humor (and just recently, science correspondent for the Atlantic!).  His blog, "Not Exactly Rocket Science," contains truly top notch (and fair minded) science writing, and remains a honestly superb resource for students (Ed Yong has a skilled ability to "distill down" complex journal articles without losing the rigor or relevance).  Relevant to my course, Ed Yong has made several fabulous videos about the role that parasites play in animal behavior (a topic that ALWAYS grabs student attention most firmly):  here and here.

As before, I had students watch some of these videos, and read some of Ed Yong's essays regarding unusual parasites and changes in host behavior.  The students came up with questions.  I collated them and sent them along via e-mail to Ed Yong.  Then (and I am still quite grateful for this transatlantic conference!), he visited my classroom.  Enjoy!

Some of my students took to calling Ed Yong "that chill dude,"which I believe can be interpreted as high praise indeed.

As before, an artistic friend of a student in that class created "cartoons" of each speaker.  Here is the one of Ed Yong.

Finally, here is the "thank you" poster that the students created for him. 

It was an engaging and informative morning for the whole class, including emphatically yours truly.  I am quite grateful for all of the speakers, and wonder who I will get for this Fall to chat with my students!

More to come!

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I am happy to hear your comments and suggestions. I hope to avoid spammage. We shall see how that works out!