Worlds of Connections Newsletter:
Volume I, Issue II
13 December 2019
Letter from Dr. McQuillan:
Hello Worlds of Connections community,
Since our last newsletter, the WoC team has actively progressed towards our project goals. For example, we organized and participated in community outreach events, developed informal network science activities for middle-school youth, hosted a Network Science Institute and a visit from our external evaluator, and created a network map of science teachers in Lincoln Public Schools. Please read about the WoC accomplishments and updates in this newsletter. You will also learn about upcoming programming and events.
Outreach: Network Science Institute
In mid-July, Dr. Wendy Smith led the WoC team in hosting the Network Science Institute (NSI) for middle-level science teachers. The idea for NSI came from LPS science curriculum specialist Dr. James Blake based upon his success with prior topics. Our undergraduate NE STEM 4U after-school club mentors led teachers in the informal activities that WoC has developed. The five participating teachers, three from our advisory board, also met and learned from six network scientists (Robin Gauthier, Tomas Helikar, Bilal Khan, Jeffrey Smith, Wendy Smith, and Tracie Reding) about their research. The team gained valuable insights about the potential for incorporating network science concepts into middle-school education in addition to worthwhile feedback on activities.
Research: Teacher Connections Survey
In July, co-investigator Trish Wonch Hill led a network survey study of middle- and high-school science instructors in LPS. The brief survey asked respondents to name colleagues they go to for different kinds of teaching-related advice. The Bureau of Sociological Research (BOSR) programmed the survey with assistance from WoC Project Coordinator Grace Stallworth. Graduate student Grace Kelly and Methodology and Evaluation Research Core facility researcher Miranda Melson analyzed the data to create advice-giving and -receiving network maps and presented a poster detailing the research—“Teacher Professionalization & Inquiry-based Pedagogy: A Social Network Analysis of District Science Teachers’ Advice Networks”—at the Computational Social Science Conference in Santa Fe, NM from October 24-26. A related manuscript is under development.
Outreach: Science Connector
We initially designed the network survey to increase teacher curiosity about network science in preparation for the Science Connector, an annual professional development workshop for all LPS science teachers. In collaboration with Dr. James Blake, the WoC team, led by Dr. Judy Diamond, hosted 150 teachers at this year’s Connector on August 7, 2019 on UNL’s city campus. PI Dr. Julia McQuillan presented the preliminary results from the survey, demonstrating considerable advice seeking from middle- to high-school teachers and the important role of high school department leaders for disseminating advice. As part of the Connector, the team, along with about twenty other scientists doing outreach, hosted a table with network science activities for teachers to explore. Teachers also visited the new Cherish Nebraska exhibit at Morrill Hall as part of the morning PD event.
NE STEM 4U
In August, WoC team members attended the NE STEM 4U mentor orientation and retreat at UNO. This event brought undergraduate mentors together with NE STEM 4U founder, Omaha director, and WoC co-I Dr. Christine Cutucache to kick off the 2019-2020 school year. Our current UNL mentors Amjad Awlad Thani, Amy Klar, and Alvaro Moreno Lozano learned about the history of NE STEM 4U and received training to ensure club attendees can explore network science in a safe, supportive, engaging environment. We continue to trial-test our newly developed network science activities at both the Lincoln and Omaha NE STEM 4U sites. By incorporating feedback from club participants and mentors, we are refining these activities in preparation to disseminate.
In mid-November we enjoyed a site visit from external evaluator Dr. Michelle Phillips. She met with grant team members and partners—including Science Connector coordinator Dr. Judy Diamond, co-Is and network scientists Drs. Kirk Dombrowski and Bilal Khan, Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts Director Megan Elliott, Dr. Eileen Hebets, Dr. Wendy Smith, and WoC graphic design and communications director Colleen Syron—about their contributions to the project and generated ideas for upcoming programs and events. Dr. Phillips also attended NE STEM 4U after-school clubs in both Lincoln in Omaha, met with undergraduate mentors and Dr. Cutucache, and shared insights for expanding and streamlining NE STEM 4U programming. Overall, the site visit provided an opportunity for the team to re-center and determine the focus for the coming years: refining our informal network science activities while sustaining NE STEM 4U and identifying the core concepts of network science.
Thank you all again for your involvement and support! Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions or comments.
We look forward to seeing you in the New Year!
Worlds of Connections Primary Investigator
Professor & Chair of Sociology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln