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What does Citizen Science have to do with instructional design?

January 5, 2015

I’m not a scientist, but I am curious person. I am the type who reads voraciously, watches documentaries and nature shows and is amazed at the ingenuity of innovators who find solutions to both big and small things. Often sharing with people: “did you hear/read about …” and then rattle off the interesting discovery I found (usually via Twitter).

Today, I saw this article tweeted: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/citizen-science-salon/2015/01/05/scistarters-top-fourteen-citizen-science-projects-2014/#.VKsS7yvF8d8 and immediately clicked through. You see, I am quite drawn to the notion of citizen science for many reasons:

  1. Being part of something larger than yourself. As some of you who follow me on Twitter might know, I’m really interested in the Southern and Northern Resident Orcas (Pacific Northwest). The chance to participate in ways to learn more about them and improve their chances of survival is pretty potent.
  2. Learning from others. We don’t live in a vacuum. We don’t learn in a vacuum.
  3. Transferring learning across domains. What I learn as part of a citizen science project translate to a e-learning project. What I do in an e-learning project might enhance citizen science. Discoveries are not siloed.
  4. Science was always the domain of logic and structure. As a creative thinker, I struggled in traditional science situations, but in citizen science lets me participate in ways where I share my strengths. Maybe I can’t calculate the right answer, but I might notice something or see a connection or pattern that someone else doesn’t.
  5. Variety is the spice of life. For me, at least. Some folks can specialize in an area and go deep. I’m at my best when I can shift gears and do something different. With citizen science I could learn about bats, stars, fish, birds, you name it!

As an instructional designer, I think there are lots of great ways that participating in citizen science could improve your practice, increase your knowledge in a subject or even influence your learning designs. Really, it’s another way of developing an “Instructional Designer’s Mindset”, which I blogged about late 2014.  I encourage you to find a project to contribute to this year and would love to hear stories of instructional designers who have done so. Feel free to tweet your thoughts with the hashtag: #IDmindset.

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