Education, not television, for science participation17 Feb 2013
Alice Bell comments on the non-interactivity of the most common means of science popularization: “Science on TV: it’s not dumb, but it could be smarter”.
I especially worry that science is often rendered as something to be simply consumed by the public. If we're using the metaphor of scientific "literacy", it's "read-only" research. Retelling science for explanatory or entertainment purposes might give us a great picture of what the scientific idea looks like but often removes a lot about how the scientists got to these conclusions. It doesn't show the workings of science or share the more slippery science-in-the-making, meaning it's harder to critique or get involved with (or simply enjoy these processes as entertaining and educational in themselves). I'd like to see an attempt to share the means of production of science, not just sell its products.
I note that actually participating in science is what we do in education. Transforming a television program from a passive experience to an active one would help transform its nature from informative to educational.
We can equally come at this from the other side. Why not take education and make broader use of storytelling, filming, and multimedia resources? Frozen Planet and other BBC productions have done much to show how technological progress in filming and broadcasting have enabled cinema-like qualities in long-form TV documentaries. These technologies are also transforming the classroom. We won’t have cinema-quality, highly-edited classroom productions, not without a radical reallocation of effort and resources on the part of faculty. But we can produce material that would have been broadcast quality several years ago, and we can make it available anywhere the internet goes.
The trick is maintaining, or even increasing, the level of interactivity as we engage larger numbers of students online, potentially across multiple institutions and the public. I have some ideas for that, some of which will be rolling out over the next few months.