ShowYourScience - complex science visualization program for secondary school students

Optional Abstract: 

The slogan of our program is: Direct your mobile phone to science! The efficiency of scientific programs for the public using unidirectional transfer methods is getting lower and lower, science is facing difficulties when it aims to invite young people to its own world. We invert the direction of the process: we aim to take science to the existing communication environment of the students by delivering science to the hands of students in mediatised form! We involve them as active participants, not as spectators, so that they can create and share media-based micro content about scientific phenomena that they find interesting. In this way, we bring science out and away from the labs and the school desk, and give it into their hands so that it can be truly theirs.

Raising interest in the (natural) sciences among young generations can only be successful if we use channels that they use in their everyday lives, and respond to their changed habits of accessing information. University education and scientific research can thus reach out to secondary school students if it uses the language of their visual and mediatised culture, embraces portable info-communication technologies, and encourges the use of web.2 solutions. It is crucial to present scientific themes in a trendy, brief and visually powerful form, and make them accessible on all channels relevant to young people (mobile phone, tablet, PC, public displays, TV, digital boards).

Innovation of the program

The program enhances students’ knowledge by tools and media that comprise their daily communicational environment. During the past decade, the media consumption habits of the secondary school age generation have changed radically, and a virtual knowledge space took shape around those aged 10-19. The place of accessing information has shifted from the classroom to the interactive platforms of the PC, mobile phone (and increasingly often the tablet) that they carry with them everywhere.

Let us look at this as a possibility rather than a hazard! Our ShowYourScience program is a science visualization competition, which gives an opportunity for students to express themselves in these media, to develop their skills and increase their knowledge by using the Internet and mobile systems.

We initiate the upload and sharing of short videos about scientific phenomena, laws and relations from the natural and the social sciences. Our program has been running since 2010, and 3 competitions have been organised so far. The specialty of the program is that while it preserves the standards of scientific content, it mediates with the tools of the students’ playful, liberal world.

The program is driectly supported by the professional work of the research team operating at Hungary’s leading research university (Eötvös Loránd University), which deals with bridging the info-communication gap that also affects the scientific culture. Ongoing educational and research activities of the university are also utilised in the implementation.

Target groups and skills

The contest builds on the multiplication effect of opinion forming students and student groups: by its nature, the task does not allow direct participation by masses, but it requires full involvement and participation from contestants, while their peers can join by voting in familiar ways (like, Britain’s Got Talent, Megastar, American Idol etc.).
In this way, a possible outcome of the program is that students interested in science can become ’stars’.
Work is done in teams, and usually requires collaboration by students with knowledge in different fields of study.
It builds on the independence and creativity that has developed in the communication culture of community sites.
It democratises science mediation, as students may use any tool for recording and editing movies, and we especially encourage mobile phone and tablet solutions.

Content of the program

The program builds on a contest, calling secondary school students to make short, 3-5-minute videos with scientific content. The short films prepared by them are uploaded to a site with its own domain, and they immediately appear on the file sharing portals (Facebook, YouTube) as well. The contest has several stages: in the first round, the sequence of the uploaded films is decided by the number of votes/likes, and those who get the most qualify for the on-site finals. This is where the final ranking is decided.

The program is also supported by a media workshop series, organised in interested schools that undertake to host it, in three teaching hours. Students make their own scientific short films at practice-oriented workshops held in small groups, with guidance from experts.

The media workshop adopts techniques of participatory democracy, and comprise three parts:
1. Discussing scripts, selecting the best one; division of tasks; technical preparation for shooting (learning about the camera, the lights, cameramen’s techniques).
2. Students also used their own tools (camera, mobile) for recording the experiment(s), so they can utilise the knowledge acquired at the workshop later on, when making their own scientific short films.
3. Editing, post-production of recordings (use of the editing program, tricks and techniques).

The media workshops offering professional support are not a prerequisite to participating in the contest. Anyone aged 12-19 can apply to the competition, and they can freely upload their short films. The scientific content of the uploaded films is revised by a professional team of secondary school teachers, so that the program shall not popularise erroneous information.

In the first phase of the program, our partner was the Institute for Chemical Research of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. During this phase, we used our network built in other science popularisation programs (for example the secondary school science days) to popularise the initiative (2010). In the second phase, we promoted it through the network of the greatest Hungarian career orientation organisation, the Fáy András Foundation of the OTP Bank (2011). The third, ongoing phase of the project built on this, and will get to the finals through its own Facebook presence and the involvement of the Fáy Foundation at the 2nd Hungarian Science Festival (20-22 April, 2012).

Indicators

Number of short films made and uploaded on the Internet: 72 (still ongoing)( http://www.tudasfeltoltes.hu/tudasfeltoltes/album/ti_toltitek_fel; www.showyourscience.hu)
Students directly involved in the program: 360 persons
Secondary school teachers directly involved in the program: 70 persons
Schools involved in the program so far: nearly 60, in Hungary and the neighbouring countries
Participating (young) university instructors: 10 persons
Target audience accessed through voting: nearly 5500
Number of people attending our sites: around 35 000

Idea by: Dr. habil György Fábri PhD, research team leader and Vice Rector, Eötvös Loránd University
Implemented by: ELTE Social Communication Research Team, HUNSCAN, OTP Fáy András Foundation, Knowledge Society Foundation

Sustainability

The sustainability of the program is secured by professional support from the research team at Eötvös Loránd University and Knowledge Society Foundation, as part of their science communication and professional activities.
- To continue the program, we operate the Facebook page accessed by tens of thousands as an information channel where our experts and students can post visual materials from the Internet, interesting scientifically or as media products.
- The videos posted so far will be incorporated into an open video sharing portal that can also be used as a knowledge base, with built-in games and continuous informational activities that encourage young people to record and share phenomena in their everyday lives, and their scientific interpretations.
- In the summer of 2012, we shall organise a science visualisation summer camp, with media workshops and preparatory courses.
- In the fall of 2012, we shall cooperate with a TV channel on the 4th phase of Knowledge Upload, using the talent competition TV series format.

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