March 20, 2018 by Dr. G
I wrote ten blog posts documenting my journey at OCEANDOTCOMM. You can find those posts through the tag #odotcomm18.
The OCEANDOTCOMM event at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) has concluded, and I’m writing this as I’m sitting on a plane, hoping to get back to Philadelphia before the worst Nor’easter of the year (so far) hits the city. We’re having engine trouble with the plane, so it may not be the snow that keeps me here!
With all the major semester projects in my courses, I require students to complete a reflection. There is much research into the highly-valued process of reflection, and specific prompts for reflection can prove extremely beneficial to students (see National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2015). I follow the reflection model of the Focused Conversation Method (Stanfield, 2000). The framework is defined as Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, and Decisional (ORID) and is more commonly referred to as the “What, Gut, So What, Now What” model. I update the framework with specific questions for students to respond to that connect the science content they learned and its relevancy and application.
So, I should practice what I preach! Here’s my reflection on OCEANDOTCOMM.
WHAT (Cognitive Description) — I applied and was accepted to OCEANDOTCOMM, an event were few of the details were revealed ahead of time. Sure, I knew the dates and location, and that the event would relate to marine science and science communication – but that was it. On site, the gathering of 40 students and professionals were told that the theme of our event would be “coastal optimism,” and that each of us were to work individually and/or in teams to create a product that would highlight success stories of the southern Louisiana coast instead of the “doom and gloom” that the media tends to report, such as sea-level rise, climate change, subsidence, habitat degradation.
GUT (Affective Description) — When the theme was revealed, I could see why coastal optimism was chosen. I agree that there is too much being shared through all forms of media on what is bad about our planet instead of focusing on what is good and what we can do. It was seeing Dr. Craig McClain’s reaction as he was explaining why this was our theme for OCEANDOTCOMM that I realized how important this was to him and this community. He was asking for help, and his open and honest response to our questions made it very clear we had a purpose.
But then myself (and others, I am sure) had a little panic attack. We only had a few days. How were we going to decide upon a topic? How would we decide who to work with, keeping in mind that the majority of us had never met each other before the event? Where would we (or could we) get the information we needed? We had complete access to the LUMCON fleet, and Dr. McClain and his staff used their networks and made arrangements for us to speak to whoever we wanted.
As the only Earth scientist at my campus, I work alone for most of my research and blogging activities. I’m not used to working with others, so being asked to work with complete strangers was something where I had great hesitation. Although many of the projects shared among the group were very interesting, and everyone seemed really friendly and willing to jump in and share the work, I held back from joining a group. I thought I could be most effective in generating a product working the way I typically work – on my own, and responsible only to myself. In the end, I did join up with another person for a project that is continuing on, focusing on representing coastal optimism through needlework.
As OCEANDOTCOMM continued and I went on fieldtrips and ate all of my meals with my fellow attendees, I felt more and more comfortable with the group. Not only was everyone committed to Dr. McClain’s mission, but we were such support for each other. On the last day, I was so proud of what everyone accomplished, including myself. It was difficult and sad to say goodbye to everyone. I feel that we just became a professional community, and now, we’ll have to rely on social media and other forms of communication to keep this professional network going. This will be a challenge as we each return to our busy day-to-day lives.
SO WHAT (Analysis & Interpretation) — I feel that what OCEANDOTCOMM did and will continue to do is important. This was a meeting with a completely different type of format – and expectation to get something done, not just to hear what others have already completed. This is an excellent model for an event. Asking us to come to an event where we didn’t even know the theme required us to have some trust and to take individual risk. The theme, the venue (and yes, even all living together in on-site housing), and the people were all the right combination. Having access to other scientists, field sites, and even the visit with the Indian Tribe was incredible. Personally, I feel that getting in the field and meeting face-to-face with individuals is the best primary source for research, better than anything I could read in a journal article or watch on a YouTube video.
Now that I know I can successfully participate in an event that is somewhat cryptic on the details, I won’t turn away from something like OCEANDOTCOMM again. And I would even encourage others to consider this type of format and how progress and products (still in-progress or completed) can be accomplished.
NOW WHAT (Application & Decisional) — I have many ways I can apply what I have learned. I need to make sure I share this experience with others, starting with my students on campus, through my AGU blog, etc. I need to help my peers from this event promote their work. Some of these products I cannot wait to use in the classroom with students and share with other teachers! I need to help others consider this type of format for their own events. I need to make an effort to keep in touch with everyone, as I feel that I formed some valuable connections (a “bond” if you will) with this shared experience. Most importantly, I need to be mindful that I include a message of optimism in all of my teaching, research, and service.
(And I need to thank LUMCOM and their sponsors for such an incredible event (and this amazing challenge coin (challenge accepted!), as well as thanking American Airlines for repairing the plane and getting this flight off the ground!)