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Thursday, November 6 • 10:20am - 11:10am
Science Education Gone Wilde: Creating Science References that Work

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"My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of triviality."
"On the contrary, Aunt Augusta. I've now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of being Earnest."
--Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

Science education suffers from more than a little bit of its own problem with earnestness and triviality. As politicians, education reformers, and social critics point out relentlessly, STEM literacy is crucial to the nation's well-being, not simply as an economic driver but because average citizens must increasingly grapple with the practical and ethical impacts of new science and technologies in their lives. Most conversations about science education and, indeed, most educational science works therefore come wrapped in a mantle of earnest gravitas—which is a shame because it only reinforces the joyless “eat your vegetables, they're good for you” impression with which much of the public regards science and makes students approach their science lessons with dutiful, doomed resignation. This is not a formula for success.

Some science communicators, particularly those in the general media, recognize this problem and try a lighter approach to explaining science. The danger there, however, is that they can flirt with triviality. They may succeed in making science seem appealing, but at the risk of portraying science as a carnival of disjointed fun facts. Neither extreme does justice to conveying the real vitality and substance of science, and neither does much to help students (and others) find careers or otherwise prosper in a STEM-dominated future.

John Rennie, editorial director of McGraw-Hill Education's AccessScience, a recipient of the Carl Sagan Award for Public Understanding of Science, and a former editor in chief of Scientific American, will discuss better ways to communicate science both meaningfully and appealingly. With examples drawn from his decades of experience working in print, online, and television, he will explore the significance of accuracy (and what that really means), relevance, context, credibility and authority, as well as the importance of (earnestly!) anticipating an audience's needs and expectations.

avatar for John Rennie

John Rennie

Editorial Director, AccessScience, McGraw-Hill Education
John Rennie is a science writer, editor, and lecturer based in New York. Viewers of The Weather Channel know him as the host of the original series Hacking The Planet and co-host of the hit special The Truth About Twisters. He is also the editorial director of science for McGraw-Hill Education, overseeing its highly respected AccessScience online reference and theMcGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology.

Thursday November 6, 2014 10:20am - 11:10am
Carolina Ballroom, Francis Marion Hotel 387 King Street, Charleston, SC 29403