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New Media at the Museum

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In the Museum's Urban Biodiversity Network program, students document urban biodiversity using mobile devices. © AMNH/C. Chesek.

This Thursday, February 16, scientists, writers, and educators will gather for a panel discussion of how social media change the landscape of science communication. Beyond a Trend: Enhancing Science Communication Through Social Mediawill feature Ruth Cohen, the Museum’s senior director of education strategic initiatives and director of the Center for Lifelong Learning, Carl Zimmer, science journalist and author of Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science ObsessedBen Lillie, co-organizer of The Story Collider, and BBC journalist Matt Danzicoas panelists. Jennifer Kingson, day assignment editor for the Science section of The New York Times, will moderate the discussion. Below, Cohen talks about a few of the Museum’s recent forays into social media.

What are some of the Museum’s recent digital youth initiatives?

Ruth Cohen: One project, the Urban Biodiversity Network, invites students to use web and mobile tools to aid their self-guided scientific investigations. In this case, they’re marking and documenting evidence of urban biodiversity and observing changes over time and in different environments. Students are excited to see how smart phones can be used as tools of science research; just as importantly, we need them to help us design and reflect on how these tools are most effective. We’re one of several organizations working on the project, which is funded as part of the Hive Learning Network in New York City, in partnership with Global Kids, Inc. and the Bronx Zoo.

How can social media help students envision themselves as scientists?

Cohen: One example is “Let’s Talk Sustainability,” another partnership with Global Kids. It’s a virtual talk show about sustainability issues created by youth for youth audiences. Students design their avatars as either experts talking about global warming or food security, or as audience members, and a lively conversation follows.

How else is the Museum using social media to enhance science communication?

Cohen: The Museum’s slate of public programs for adults benefits more and more from social media extensions. At our monthly SciCafe series, audience members can tweet during the scientists’ talk, posing questions and amplifying key points. In every instance, social media inform us about what it is that the public wants and needs to know about science, and how well that information is being consveyed. The tools also provide extraordinary ways of continuing important conversations beyond our walls.

To register for the event, click here. To watch the live stream of the panel discussion, click here on the evening of February 16.