Countdown to VOICES, presenter profile #8: Sara Slagle

This post is the 8th in a series of brief profiles of people who will be presenting their work at VOICES, a first-of-its-kind online conference on using music to teach STEM, on Sept. 27-28, 2017.

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Sara Slagle has taught math at Fort Collins High School and Front Range Community College in Colorado. She has also developed a YouTube following with math-themed music parody videos (such as “All About That Base,” below) that feature ensemble performances by teams of math instructors.

The title and abstract of the VOICES presentation by Sara and co-presenter Eric Modlin are as follows:

GIRLS JUST WANNA LEARN MATH
We are a group of high school math teachers (and college math professors) that encourage the use of song to teach math concepts. We are specifically passionate about supporting girls in STEM classes and careers. We have made 4 videos now, and some are really gaining attention on YouTube. In our presentation, we will discuss how the songs we choose help facilitate math learning and promote excitement in math class.

Sara and Eric are two of over 40 people who will present their ideas, insights, and investigations at VOICES. To have full access to all presenters and their presentations, please register for the conference. It’s only $10!

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Countdown to VOICES, presenter profile #7: Dennis Pearl

This post is the 7th in a series of brief profiles of people who will be presenting their work at VOICES, a first-of-its-kind online conference on using music to teach STEM, on Sept. 27-28, 2017.

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Dennis Pearl is a Professor of Statistics at Penn State, and a Co-PI of the National Science Foundation grant (SMILES: Student-Made Interactive Learning with Educational Songs) that is sponsoring VOICES. Much, much more information about Dennis is available via a recent interview in the Journal of Statistics Education. Here is one excerpt that stood out for me:

I grew up riding a unicycle instead of a bike and I was pretty good at it as a teenager–for example, being able to ride backward while pedaling with one foot and going off of a curb. Now, I just go forward and backward and try to avoid breaking any bones. I do still do my unicycle challenge in every undergraduate class I teach. If at least 5% of the class gets a perfect score on a midterm, I will give a lecture while riding my unicycle. I’ve only had to do that once, right after my 60th birthday in 2011 at OSU–but the offer is still good here at Penn State.

The title and abstract of the VOICES presentation by Dennis and co-presenter John Weber of Georgia State University are as follows:

DEMONSTRATING AN INTERACTIVE SONG FOR LEARNING INTRODUCTORY STATISTICS
This video poster shares a walk-through talk-aloud demo of an interactive song, starting with the pre-song prompts the user responds to that yield inserted words in the completed song, roughly in the style of the Mad Libs word template game. Some of the student inputs involve making conceptual connections while others involve providing context or examples. With the support of our NSF-funded Project SMILES (Student Made Interactive Learning with Educational Songs for introductory statistics, as mentioned in the VOICES presentation by our fellow SMILES PI Larry Lesser), some two dozen interactive songs and a computer auto-grading interface were created and the effectiveness of the innovation for reducing college students’ statistics anxiety and increasing their learning is currently being assessed with randomized experiments. We will touch on challenges and tradeoffs we have had to negotiate (with the help of Penn State’s Bob Carey and University of Texas at El Paso’s Dominic Dousa and Steve Haddad) in terms of aesthetics, pedagogy, and technology. We will also provide data from our spring and summer 2017 pilot tests on the student reactions to the innovation and we welcome your constructive feedback as well!

Dennis and John are two of over 40 people who will present their ideas, insights, and investigations at VOICES. To have full access to all presenters and their presentations, please register for the conference. It’s only $10!

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Countdown to VOICES, presenter profile #6: Eva Amsen

This post is the 6th in a series of brief profiles of people who will be presenting their work at VOICES, a first-of-its-kind online conference on using music to teach STEM, on Sept. 27-28, 2017.

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Eva Amsen is a writer and science communicator, focused on the common ground between science and the arts. She runs a quarterly newsletter highlighting collaborations and overlap between scientists and musicians. Eva has written about science in culture and society for Nautilus, The Scientist, Spacing Magazine and other places — including the science blog she has maintained since her days as a PhD student in Toronto. Eva also works in the area of scientific community management and engagement. After six years at publishing companies, she is now Scientific Engagement Manager for the Transforming Genetic Medicine Initiative, based at the Institute of Cancer Research in London.

The title and abstract of Eva’s VOICES presentation are as follows:

WHY DO WE SING ABOUT SCIENCE?
Why do people sing about science? Science songs can be used as educational tool, but sometimes a science song has a different purpose. Singing about science can generate a sense of community, to build a connection with other scientists and science fans. In 2011, scientists widely shared a YouTube video of the Zheng lab at Baylor College of Medicine performing a science-themed parody of a Lady Gaga song. It was popular not just for the impressive performance and the well-known melody, but because it described familiar situations for anyone working in a biomedical lab. This sense of community building through STEM music is a bit like “filk” – a style of music originating at science fiction conventions, where fans create songs about their favourite sci-fi and fantasy universes. To what extent science songs and filk music overlap is a matter of debate, but comparing the filk and science songs communities may give us a better sense of the cultural role of science music.

Eva is one of over 40 people who will present their ideas, insights, and investigations at VOICES. To have full access to all presenters and their presentations, please register for the conference. It’s only $10!

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Countdown to VOICES, presenter profile #5 (Robby Ratan)

This post is the 5th in a series of brief profiles of people who will be presenting their work at VOICES, a first-of-its-kind online conference on using music to teach STEM, on Sept. 27-28, 2017.

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Rabindra “Robby” Ratan, an Assistant Professor in Michigan State University’s Department of Media and Information, has been a member of the VOICES organizing committee, and will also be a presenter at the conference. His primary research focus to date has been self-representation in social media — hence his nickname of “Dr. Avatar.” However, his interests also include communication via music, as indicated by a new course he’ll be teaching this fall: “Hip-Hop, Communication & Society.” Rumor has it that the students in this course will be required to attend VOICES. :-)

The title and abstract of Robby’s VOICES presentation are as follows:

SAINTS AND SCIENTISTS
I wrote a rap song about the intersection of science and faith — as an added verse to “When the Saints Go Marching In” — which I first performed with a street band at the March for Science in Lansing, MI. In a nutshell, the song argues that science requires faith, just like religion, and that the facts of science are often revised/updated, so dogma (in any direction) is dangerous. I’m not sure exactly what to do with the song … add a beat? update the lyrics? make a music video? move on with my life to other projects? Also, I am curious about how people respond to the song. Are both sides of the philosophical divide slightly offended … as intended? This would be a useful venue for feedback on all these matters. Thanks for your consideration.

Robby is one of over 40 people who will present their ideas, insights, and investigations at VOICES. To have full access to all presenters and their presentations, please register for the conference. It’s only $10!

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Countdown to VOICES, presenter profile #4 (Gary Grossman)

This post is the 4th in a series of brief profiles of people who will be presenting their work at VOICES, a first-of-its-kind online conference on using music to teach STEM, on Sept. 27-28, 2017.

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Gary Grossman would like to introduce himself as follows:

I am Professor of Animal Ecology in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia. I have published 120+ scientific publications on vertebrate ecology, behavior, evolution, and resource management. My research interests are diverse but all focus on population dynamics and behavioral adaptations used both within and among species, to survive in fluctuating environments. Most of my papers are available via my web site. I am very interested in communicating science to the public and have been a bimonthly columnist for American Angler magazine since 2009. Finally, a portion of my research efforts are devoted to developing innovative teaching methods for science courses, especially those involving music. Hobbies include writing and performing music on the ukulele, fishing, stone carving, gardening and running.

The title and abstract of Gary’s VOICES presentation are as follows:

USE OF ORIGINAL MUSIC VIDEOS AND STUDENT KARAOKE EXERCISES TO TEACH ECOLOGY/EVOLUTION
Since 2012 I have used music as a pedagogical method in ecology classes. I began by writing and performing songs based on class materials including concepts, habitats, and species’ biology and posting these videos on the web. This led to production of an ecology/evolution CD entitled Natural Voices. Questionnaire results indicated that the music videos significantly improved attitudes towards class and studying. I transformed this exercise into one involving active learning by having students make their own karaoke video. Students had to write the lyrics and sing/rap them but could use video and music from the web for their videos. I have used the videos in five undergraduate and one graduate class and evaluated effectiveness via 10-14 question, Likert-scale questionnaires and triangulation interviews. Undergraduate classes were dominated by non-science majors in their first or second year. Simple analyses for all classes indicated there were significantly more positive responses than negative responses to various aspects of the exercise. Students showed little preference for the different aspects of the exercise (writing lyrics, singing, research, video production, etc.). The karaoke exercise had a strong positive impact on student’s perceptions and performance in class.

Gary is one of over 40 people who will present their ideas, insights, and investigations at VOICES. To have full access to all presenters and their presentations, please register for the conference. It’s only $10!

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Countdown to VOICES: presenter profile #3 (Judy Twedt)

This post is the 3rd in a series of brief profiles of people who will be presenting their work at VOICES, a first-of-its-kind online conference on using music to teach STEM, on Sept. 27-28, 2017.

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Judy Twedt is a graduate student in atmospheric science at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she works on atmosphere-ocean interactions under the guidance of fellow VOICES presenter Dargan Frierson. She has interned at the PNNL Marine Science Laboratory (Sequim, WA) and NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (Princeton,NJ). The title and abstract of Judy’s VOICES presentation are as follows:

MAKING MUSIC FROM DATA
Data sonification is the representation of data with sound. It can be the first step in data-driven music composition and song-writing, or can be used in information processing. In this workshop I’ll introduce the concept of data sonification, show examples of how we have used it to create engaging music and infosonics about climate science, and give a short tutorial on how to sonify a simple dataset using python and garage band.

Judy is one of over 40 people who will present their ideas, insights, and investigations at VOICES. To have full access to all presenters and their presentations, please register for the conference. It’s only $10!

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Countdown to VOICES: presenter profile #2 (Rick Heineman)

This post is the 2nd in a series of brief profiles of people who will be presenting their work at VOICES, a first-of-its-kind online conference on using music to teach STEM, on Sept. 27-28, 2017.

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Rick Heineman is an assistant professor of biology at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania. His research specialty is the genotypic and phenotypic evolution of bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria). He also writes biology songs, and has published several of them as articles in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education (BAMBEd) and the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education. The title and abstract of Rick’s VOICES presentation are as follows:

MUSICAL ANNOTATION
Parody songwriting presents a number of constraints on performers which may impact student learning. I will discuss my use of annotations, written notes external to the lyrics but presented alongside lyrics, to bypass some of these constraints. Annotations can clarify concepts, provide definitions and point students to important ideas. I will present evidence that students enjoy this innovation and go through some advantages and disadvantages (with examples). I will also discuss some special challenges for educators (like myself) who cannot play a musical instrument.

Rick is one of over 40 people who will present their ideas, insights, and investigations at VOICES. To have full access to all presenters and their presentations, please register for the conference. It’s only $10!

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Countdown to VOICES: presenter profile #1 (Kristin Chavis)

A first-of-its-kind online conference, VOICES will explore the use of music to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) on Sept. 27-28. This post is the first in a series of brief profiles of people who will be presenting their work at this conference.

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Kristin Chavis is a biology teacher at Green Oaks High School in Shreveport, Louisiana. Her use of music in the classroom was recently featured on ABC News. The title and abstract of her VOICES presentation are as follows:

SCHOOL YOU IN BIOLOGY: LET MUSIC DO THE WORK
In the 21st century classroom students don’t just want to hear you talk for 20+ minutes. You may feel like you’re being informative or that it’s necessary, but for the learners not so much. Our society has created a generation of people with such short attention spans. People are more receptive to music, dance and videos. Combine those together and you get engagement and 21st century learning. Learn how to put your STEM lesson in an effective song format which will allow the song do the teaching. As the educator you will just have to facilitate, monitor and assess. If a mini-lecture does take place the learner has the song to reflect back to. However making a general song is not effective. You must study the culture, know your content and assess using your own material.

Kristin is one of over 40 people who will present their ideas, insights, and investigations at VOICES. To have full access to all presenters and their presentations, please register for the conference. It’s only $10!

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Submit your science song parodies to the Washington Post!

In addition to its reporting on the White House and other serious matters, the Washington Post runs something called the Style Invitational. The 1235th edition of this contest, running through July 24, asks readers to address the topic of science (broadly construed) in a song parody. So get to it, science songsters!

A quick Facebook exchange with Pat Myers, the Empress of the Style Invitational, clarified that previously written songs may be entered as long as they have not yet been widely distributed. For example, a song should not have appeared in a book or have thousands of YouTube views.

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“Which STEM musicals are real?” contest results

We recently held a little contest: identify the real musical(s) among five listed (“Bring Down Da Noise, Bring Up Da Signal”; “Fermat’s Last Tango”; “Hedwig And The Angry Centimeter”; “Les Phys”; and “Stats”).

The winner of the contest is Mary Williams (@PlantTeaching), who correctly identified “Fermat’s Last Tango” and “Les Phys” as the real musicals. The former was loosely based on Andrew Wiles’ quest to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem; the latter was created by Peter Dong, now a high school science teacher, as his undergraduate thesis.

The other three titles were based on real plays (“Bring In Da Noise, Bring In Da Funk”; “Hedwig And The Angry Inch”; “Cats”) but, to our knowledge, do not actually exist.

Congratulations, Mary! You will receive a free t-shirt once the shirts themselves exist.

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