I surveyed a select group of college biology faculty (faculty participating in Pearson’s Biology Leadership Conference or BLC) to gauge their level of interest in using on-line social networking tools in their professional life. These are faculty selected for their passion and innovation in teaching introductory biology courses. Forty-six participants answered an 8-question survey on Survey Monkey.
Here are the results:
We see qualified interest among this gorup. Although about 1/4 have strong interest, the majority express concern about whether it is worth their time.
By far the most popular tool that college biology faculty use is email. Twenty-five years ago, when I first started as a faculty member, many faculty did not have or use email – it took easy-to-use email clients like Eudora for email to become a universal tool. What will we be using 25 years from now, or even 10 years or 5 years from now?
Will it be any of the current social web tools, like Facebook or Twitter?
More biology faculty use Facebook than Twitter, possibly because Twitter is newer. But these are very different tools that appeal to different audiences for different purposes.
Finally, we see that blogs are just not on the radar for most. This is a shame, because I have personally found a wealth of material on blogs that excite me as a teacher.
I also asked an open-ended question: Some past attempts with email lists, discussion boards, etc. to establish an on-line community for discussion of teaching and learning issues in biology have not elicited much participation. What kind of tool might work for you, personally? What are your needs and wants, or are you happy with your current situation?
Many answered that they were happy with their current situation, and that they had no extra time. A couple of typical responses:
“I am happy as is. I really do not have time for anything more.”
“Time is the issue, and when I have free time, I want to do something fun, not more work. So maybe making it more fun?”
On the other hand, several expressed a desire for some tool that does not yet exist:
“I am looking for a site where instructors that teach Intro Biology courses, especially large enrollment courses, can disseminate and share effective course materials, such as active learning exercises, test questions (of all types), primary literature used in the classroom, news articles or video used to show real world applications of biology concepts, etc.”