Thursday, May 13, 2010

Good news...

I have been extra busy with the experiments and writing lately. I am just going to give two good news and go back to work:

1) We (a team of 4 translators) translated Richard Dawkins' latest book "The Greatest Show On Earth" from English to Turkish and it was finally published in March. We have been receiving many many good comments about how great the translation turned out. Very proud of this!

2) As "Hard-workers for Evolution" we applied to European Society of Evolutionary Biology's (ESEB) public outreach fund and were granted the fund for our proposal! This will be the first time our organization will have real funding for public education of evolution in Turkey. Feels great that our efforts are recognized by ESEB.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

“How Teams Work – and How to Work Better in Teams”

This semester I am taking an online class offered by The Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL). I wanted to take this class because I thought it would help me become a better organizer for all kinds of volunteer activities I am and will definitely be involved in. Besides, I had never taken an online course and I was deeply curious about how it worked and whether it would be efficient. (I could have had a really long paragraph here revealing my distaste for the conventional education methods, but I am instead planning to write a science fiction novel on that matter.)

Our instructor is Patricia Rankin, a physics professor from University of Colorado. The students are joining from the USA and Japan (I do not know why Japan only but no other country besides the USA). We use a virtual environment called Elluminate Live. Everyone connects to the virtual classroom with their headphones and webcams ready. The classroom looks like this:

As you might have guessed correctly, this is not our classroom, I googled it. On the top-left, there is a list of everyone in the room, below that is a chat window. In our class, only 6 people can have their webcams transmitting at a time. But we usually have only the instructor's webcam turned on. However, whenever someone wants to talk, they turn their microphone and webcam on. On the right is the white/blackboard (whichever color you like, it will be that color). The instructor can have the powerpoint slides up there, or it can be used as a board everyone can write on. This way you can brainstorm or list ideas or just be mischievous (I mean it really is up to your imagination, as with any board, really)... Right below the list of people, there are buttons to show your emotions or answer yes or no to the polls, results of which will be calculated immediately and posted on the board. (Awesome, no? You do not have to count heads, I am sure the instructors appreciate this feature a lot).

What I love most about Elluminate, though, is the fact that these sessions can be recorded. Have you missed the class like I did last week? You go to the class website, click on the session video and watch it in your bed. (Well technically, you could have participated the class in your PJs anyhow, this is seriously fabulous stuff I'm telling you).

Result: I am happy about taking this class. I have no other experience with other virtual education/conference environments, but I think Elluminate Live has a very user friendly and efficient design (I promise I am not getting paid by them). I am enjoying the class as well. Our instructor, Tricia, said she has been very interested in social sciences, especially women studies in the last couple of years. Before the classes started, I thought the course was going to have an "Orrriight kids, tell me how do we setup an efficient team, ideas?" kind of theme. Instead, so far we have been learning about diversity in teams, implicit associations, gender schemas, social studies that show how people or organizations have gender bias or bias towards certain ethnicity. Becoming informed on these topics that I actually was curious about but did not have time to read is great. I hope I'll write more later about the details of what we have been learning and my experience with this online class. I'll end this post by saying "Happy Birthday" to Darwin. He is 201 today and I cannot believe it's been a year already since his 200th birthday!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Hard-workers for Evolution meet Richard Dawkins

Just some good news and then I have to go back working on my paper.

A couple of weeks ago, we (Hard-workers for Evolution) had a conference talk on Skype with Richard Dawkins and his assistant Paula Kirby because Dawkins was curious to find out about our group! We were extremely happy about this opportunity. Our meeting went great, we talked about our volunteer efforts of translating the UC Berkeley's Understanding Evolution website. Dawkins suggested this kind of work should be done in other languages. We already knew there is another group who started making trasnlations of scientific texts on evolution for Arabic. He was happy to hear this. We are hoping to work on this in the future, starting with a "How to translate a website" document that our group will write and this document will be available on Dawkins' website. I will be updating you as we progress.

The other piece of news is, (and this makes me almost equally happy) the release of Turkish philosophy journal cogito's Fall volume which is dedicated to Darwin and his theory of evolution. I have an article there with Ömer Gökçümen: "Humans and philosophy under the light of evolution". Ömer Gökçümen is a post-doctoral researcher in Boston and without him, this article could not have been a quarter of what it is right now. It was a great pleasure working on this with him.

Considering the strong anti-evolution movement in Turkey, it is always refreshing to see a respectable magazine dedicating a whole volume to the celebration of Darwin and his theory. Other Hard-workers for evolution contributed to this issue as well, and we are very proud of the outcome.

I am planning to graduate in December. Very busy with the experiments because I am working on a manuscript. Next writing the thesis will begin. I always hope to write here more often but we'll see how it goes with paper and thesis writing.