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Abstract Detail

Teaching Section

Struwe, Lena [1].

Teaching botany skills to a new student generation formed by our digital and instant world - learning how, when, and what?

We increasingly live in a personal world filled with digital tools, media, and online interactions. At the same time we are 100% dependent on living, non-digital organisms for oxygen, food, chemical processes, landscape formation, and love and sustenance. The presence of a fast and furious, instantaneous and screen-driven world is not going to be reduced or go away; and as science educators deal directly with the effects of such disturbances and creators of unfocused, busy minds. But we can embrace and use this digital world to our advantage. Successful teaching of botany in the modern world requires a strong connection between true hands-on experiences and digital tools, two-way communication, personal relevance for the student, and teacher flexibility. We need to create a new kind of educational marriage of printed and projected text and visuals with touching, tasting, seeing, and feeling real plants, which live around us all the time. Facts and questions should be linked to everyday lives, and not end up in 'abstract concept land'. Memorable stories and experiences will make concepts and facts interesting, remembered, and repeatable to others in students' larger social networks. Life and death are easily addressed through edible and toxic plants. At Rutgers, I have developed a wide variety of college class modules following these principles, from freshman to advanced graduate levels. Examples are: student-built digital time lines of food history, personal biodiversity projects as part of online iNaturalist observations, a web-based Flora of Rutgers Campus checklist, DNA barcoding of horticultural plants, anti-oxidant screening of weedy species, and investigations into the contents and botanical accuracy of herbal pills from local stores. In our biology classes we should bring in links to art, culture, politics, and design, to show that there isn't as big of a wall between the humanistic, social and natural sciences as often perceived - and plants are part of it all. Science should not just be boring, it should not just be fun, it should be interesting and spark curiosity. "Without plants you die!", will lead to thoughts and more questions. Similarly, "If tomatoes weren't in Italy before 1500, then what did they put on their pizza?" "How many plant species and families can you eat in one month?" At the end of a class, it is what botanical questions students continue to ask and investigate in the rest of their lives that truly matter for them and our society.

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1 - Rutgers University, Dept of Ecology, Evolution, & Natural Resources, 237 Foran Hall, 59 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ, 08901, USA

botany blogs
digital tools
plant blindness

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 34
Location: Salon 9/The Shaw Conference Centre
Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Time: 11:30 AM
Number: 34014
Abstract ID:973
Candidate for Awards:None

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