Sunday, July 26, 2015

Unit 3: Creating Collaborative Communities

Kerry Magruder is Curator of the History of Science Collections at the University of Oklahoma, as well as Associate Professor of History of Science. More to the point, he’s an amazing person, a real academic rock star, and has one of the coolest jobs I can imagine.

He gets to play with really old manuscripts!

Kerry began his career as a science instructor, but eventually gravitated to History of Science as a way to address the fact that, too often, he saw science being taught without any connection to its discovery and practice, or without reference to the larger scientific community. As he says in our interview:
Manuscripts are windows into the past, the stories of these creative people with great determination and often times quite limited resources accomplishing amazing things.
If people think science is cold and impersonal, we need to awaken an interest, awaken an imagination so that they can see a creative and personal side that comes out from all these stories.
One way to define Kerry’s work is as that of a custodian of connections – someone who expands the context of learning by connecting past and present. In his own words, he’s about "connecting the viewer back to the content and the concepts," and about "recovering the lost connections that can bring out the real meaning and personal relevance of science."

Kerry is also a big fan of openness and sees it as a key component in both scientific advancement and in the way universities design learning. I think his observations in the interview below provide a nice framework for our discussions on openness as an important part of student engagement.

My conversation with Kerry raises a number of questions about student engagement.

How do we facilitate more "openness" across the curriculum? This seems particularly important in lower-level courses where we have groups of students with such diverse discipline interests. Can we engage them more deeply by helping them find connections to their personal learning interests?

How can we model Kerry’s "communities of collaboration" in our own course designs? What kind of problems or activities lend themselves best to bringing together diverse groups to solve them?

How can we use technology to reinforce or facilitate collaborative problem-solving? What technologies do you find most useful for collaborating to solve problems with a group or team?

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