June 24, 2010

Sustainable information design: check your flip-flops at the next station?

Not long ago, Alice tweeted about a couple of new artistic re-conceptions of the famous London tube map. The map itself has been subject to countless interpretations, to the point that the graphic idolisation of its aesthetic is becoming tiresome. Examples range from those that play on the medium (such as the links above, or this cross-stitch version), to others that toy with the map's distinctive visual syntax (keeping it sciency: like this view of human anatomy or the milky way). There have been too many parodies, spin-offs and visual-metaphor-borrowings to mention. Thinking constructively, these experimental formats hold a promise of being more than fanciful re-interpretations of that iconic piece of graphic communication.

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June 21, 2010

The NCBE at Reading

The Department of Typography at Reading takes up most of an old wartime edifice which also houses some music pratice rooms (not a bad thing, most of the time) and the small but highly acclaimed National Centre for Biotechnology Education . To the staff in Typography right next door, the NCBE is seldom seen, seldom heard; there are however some fascinating areas of overlap between the two entities, and plenty at the centre to interest several of us graphic communication people next door, especially the ones interested in science, education and diagrammatic representation!

The NCBE is a longstanding (and since the early 1990s, entirely self-funding) research centre at the University of Reading that specialises in the development of educational materials to teach areas of biology such as evolutionary biology and biotechnology. They develop and run workshops, produce (international) literature, and create kits for experiments and activities involving everything from splitting up DNA with various enzymes to growing mushrooms on loo roll (toilet paper for us crass North Americans).

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March 4, 2010

Science Hoaxes

A week or so ago I asked my students and the wonderful world of twitter for examples of websites showing some sort of science-themed hoax, or at least a bit of artistic play with credulity and/ or realism in talk about science. I promised I'd compile a short blogpost with some of the best ones, so here it is.

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February 25, 2010

Media Coverage of Science Education

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have just published a report on the state and possible future of Science and Maths Secondary-School Education. From a group headed by Sir Mark Walport of the Wellcome Trust, it is one of a series interrogating issues in science and society (see also one on engagement from Roland Jackson of the British Science Association, and another on the media from Fiona Fox of the Science Media Centre).

I've been in and out of meetings most of the day, so haven't had time to read any more than the executive summary. Well, the executive summary and the news coverage, which was pretty interesting in itself. So, I thought it was worth putting off reading the full report for a bit longer, and doing a quick blogpost pulling out the issues that the press seems to have decided to pull out of the report.

If you want to read the report itself, for yourself, you can download it here, complete with cover-pictures of hair-raising play with a Van der Graaf generator. Ah, where would science education imagry be without Robert Van der Graaf.

DBIS education report cover

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February 20, 2010

Science Bites

There was an interesting blogpost at the Guardian this week by Simon Underdown, an anthropology lecturer at Oxford Brookes: Teach the bigger story of science.

Underdown asks why so many young people become bored by science, and suggests an answer might be found in the way we have built our curriculum:

The "Google generation" is taught in bite-sized chunks throughout their school lives [...] the same old examples makes for boring lessons and unmotivated students (not to mention teachers). Perhaps if bite-sized subject syllabi were to be replaced with broader subject descriptions that rely on linking well-developed core principles, we could develop a much wider range of illustrations and examples to really motivate students.

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