21W.035 | Fall 2016 | Undergraduate

# Science Writing and New Media: Communicating Science to the Public

Communication Experiments

## Sessions 10-22

Note: There were no Communication Experiments for Sessions 12–16, 18, 20–21, and 23–27.

### Session 10

Defining deceptively simple terms

1. Each group of students receives a piece of paper with one of the following words:
• HARD/HARDIER
• NOISE
• EXPERIENCE
2. Group members write down their individual definitions of the term, and then share their definitions with each other.
3. They turn the page over and read the author’s definition of the term (see “Authors defining deceptively simple terms”).
4. Students discuss whether the specificity and accessibility of the definition ensures that all readers will understand what the term means in the context of the article or book.
5. Each group presents their deceptively simple term to the class, the range of initial definitions/understandings within their group, the author’s definition, and why they think the author’s definition is effective or ineffective.
6. Students review their own drafts for deceptively simple words and attempt to generate more precise alternatives and/or explanations.

### Session 11

Translating units

1. The class is presented with a unit of measurement, and, working in groups, students answer the following:
1. What does this unit abbreviation mean, and what does it measure (e.g. Distance? Time? Weight?)
2. Compare the unit to another unit of measurement (e.g. square feet to acres)
3. Compare the measurement to an animate or inanimate object that would be familiar and accessible to the public reader.
4. Share an interesting factoid(s) related to your measurement that might interest your audience.
2. For example: “6mph”
1. 6 mph means “6 miles per hour,” so mph is a unit to measure speed
2. 6 mph = 31,680 feet per hour = ~9.7 kilometers per hour (km/h)
3. The average walking speed of most humans is ~3 mph, so to help visualize the speed of 6 mph, you can imagine everyone around you walking twice as fast all the time.
4. Olympic runner Usain Bolt was recorded at a top speed of 27.3 mph. Cheetahs are capable of running at 68–75 mph.
3. Units given to the class:
• 300,000 lbs
• 1nm
• 57,600 square feet
• mach 1
• 800 ppb
• 40 gallons

### Session 17

Learning from a typewriter?

### Session 19

Turning a topic into a research question

Students take the initial topics from the “Formulating a Research Question” section and generate as many different central questions as they can for each topic.

### Session 22

Describing color with precise language

Working in small groups, students choose a single color tile from the swatches pictured here. Each group must describe the specific color using metaphor, imagery, and precise description, without explicitly comparing their specific color to the other color tiles on the swatch.

Each group reads their descriptions aloud, and their classmates attempt to guess which tile has been described.

Color Swatches and Image Libguide (PDF)

HARD/HARDIER

“We’ve begun putting in our summer crops. Our first tomatoes and corn have been in for over a week, purple and fairly shivering with cold. Our earliest peppers and eggplants were planted this week, and those tender babies, the cucumbers and squash, unhappy in the extreme, have spent their first night in the cold soil. The hardier crops (when farmers use the words ‘hardy’ and ’tender’, they are almost always referring to plants’ tolerance to cold and frost) like lettuce, arugula, radishes, etc. have been in the ground for a good month now, with little growth to show. The spinach has really seemed to enjoy the protracted spring, and the peas seem quite happy as well.”

—Brian Cramer, Hutchins Farm Newsletter, May 2016.

NOISE

“So although this book has the word ‘noise’ prominently in its title, it is trying to stretch the definition as far as it will go – and in lots of directions, too. It encompasses not just music and speech, but also echoes, chanting, drumbeats, bells, thunder, gunfire, the noise of crowds, the rumbles of the human body, laughter, silence, eavesdropping, mechanical sounds, noise neighbours, musical recordings, radio, in fact pretty well anything that makes up the broader world of sound and of listening.”

—David Hendy, Noise: A Human History of Sound and Listening. 2013. Profile Books Ltd. Introduction ix.

EXPERIENCE

“Literally, an experience is anything that can be reflected upon. An experience could be anything from a few minutes listening to a song to an hour playing an in-depth simulation game. In this book, what I’m describing as an experience is generally any activity that engages multiple senses simultaneously and is reflected upon afterward both individually and as a group.”

—David Smokler, Interactive Learning Experiences. 2005. Corwin Press. 2-3.

All research begins with a question derived from a general topic that piques your interest. When coming up with questions related to your topic, avoid those that only call for one-word answers. Try using interrogative words such as why and how. The following examples illustrate how to narrow broad topics to create focused research questions.

 Broad Topic ➔ Narrow Topic ➔ Focused Topic ➔ Research Question Human health ➔ Smoking and cancer ➔ Smokers who are diagnosed with cancer ➔ Why is it difficult for some smokers who are diagnosed with lung cancer to stop smoking? Computer games ➔ Computer game identities ➔ Computer game identities and reality ➔ How does a player’s virtual identity in role-playing games impact her/his expression and understanding of self in the “real,” non-virtual world? Eating disorders ➔ Teenagers and eating disorders ➔ Teen cognition and eating disorders ➔ What is the cognitive impact, if any, of bulimia among teens in school? Energy sources ➔ Fracking for natural gas ➔ Impacts of fracking on health and the environment ➔ How has scientific discovery of the impacts of fracking inform the adoption, practices, regulation, and resistance to fracking? Classroom behavior ➔ Student participation in the college classroom ➔ The physiology of participating in class ➔ What happens in the body before, during, and after one feels they have performed the “right” or “wrong” answer in front of their peers and teacher in class?

## Course Info

Fall 2016
##### Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments
Instructor Insights