A Social Media Experiment at #NABT 2010

For those of you attending the NABT conference in Minneapolis this year, you might have noticed this card (above) in your bag of goodies from the registration booth.  The card urged anyone posting content related to the conference to add the identifying “hashtag #NABT10 to their postings. A hastag is a short character string, preceded by the # sign, that serves as a marker.  A tag. An indentifier, so that others can find your stuff in the fast sea of information known as the world wide web.

For those of you who were not able to attend the conference, this hashtag makes it easier for you to tap into the stream of content coming from the conference – photos, blog posts, tweets (from Twitter), Powerpoint slide decks – any of those items posted online that include the hashtag “#NABT10″ can be easily found.

Screenshot of Tweetchat, displaying the stream of tweets with the tag "NABT10"

Here’s an example.  If you go the web site Tweetchat (a Twitter application that makes it easy to search Twitter with a particular hashtag), you can pull up all of the Tweets posted with that hashtag.  Here’s a glimpse of those (the real list is much longer and must be scrolled through:

In there, you’ll find tweets that I posted during Sue Black and Nancy Monson’s excellent “Biology Best Bets” talk – their fourteenth such talk at NABT. Sue and Nancy give their audience the benefit of their combined 40+ years of teaching experience and share the most incredibly creative ideas for demonstrations, labs and activities.  So, even if you weren’t with us in the room, you could get a “feel” for their talk from my tweets.  Not only that, I shared the link to their handout (the url of which they gave us during the session).  It’s the next best thing to being there.

Here’s another example.  On Saturday morning, Richard Dawkins gave a featured speaker address – a Q/A session, attended by every biology teacher there.  The room was packed.  Scrolling through the list of tweets, you can see that both Stacy Baker and I were “live tweeting” the session, passing along quotes and summaries from the points that Dawkins was making.

And another.  Brad Williamson took photos of all of the 4-year divisions poster session posters on Friday evening and posted them in a Flickr slideshow.  Since he added the conference hashtag, that slide show is a breeze to find.

A little hashtag like this….just seven characters long….might sound like a small thing, but it’s a big step forward for the NABT organization.  A sign of good things to come as our community steps into the future in order to begin to realize the benefits that social media and online communities can offer to the NABT membership.

What’s next?  Livestreaming NABT talks over the internet?  Communities of new and experienced teachers, tapping into each other’s strengths in online work groups?  The AP Biology community contributing and conversing on this NABT Bio Blog? Professional development webinars?

Written by rheyden in: Conference Info | Tags: ,

Richard Dawkins @ #NABT10

Richard Dawkins at the NABT

Richard Dawkins was the dinner speaker at this year’s National Association of Biology Teachers Conference. I didn’t attend the dinner (it was $85 – gulp) but I did attend his follow-up Q/A session the next day.

He started his talk with a few of vignette movies from his website, These are short (2-3 minute) videos of Dawkins speaking – some of them are from his infamous Christmas Lectures and some are more travelogue vignettes (shot in the Galapagos, for instance). The video vignette on Boobies and Gannets was one of my favorites – describing the “two egg” insurance policy of these birds. Another was a video of a younger Dawkins doing a demonstration with a cannonball pendulum that he holds right up to his face – and then lets go, allowing it to swing in it arc, right back to him, stopping just short of smashing him in the face. A beautiful, living illustration of his faith in science. “Yes you can have faith”, Dawkins says, “but have faith with reason.”

He went on to entertain questions from the audience. Most of the questions were about teaching evolution. Here are a few of them…

Q: What do you say to a student who says of evolution, “I just don’t believe it”?
A: Well, I think you need to explore why they don’t believe it. If their answer is something along the lines of “organisms are just too complex to come from random chance”, then you know that they just have the wrong end of the stick and help them with their misconception. But if the reason is a religious one (as in “my parents or my rabbi tells me it’s wrong”) then you could point out that it’s just random chance that they were born to this family, and have these particular religious beliefs. Another idea that Dawkins said came from last night’s dinner companions is to teach the concepts of evolution without calling it evolution and just “smuggle it in”.

Q: I teach in an inner city LA high school that is 95% Latino Catholic. When I teach evolution, I advise them to keep their faith outside of the classroom. Why do so few people in the United States refuse to accept the principles of evolution, as compared to other countries on the globe. “I see this as an attack on science.”
A: Is it possibly not only an attack on science but an attack on intellectualism itself? There seems to be a political movement in this country that resents intellectual ideas and anyone that might be more intellectual than you? (at which point the entire room broke out in laughter).

Q: How do we address the problem that there is really only one race?
A: Good question. We are a very genetically uniform species. The variation among humans is very, very low. The other misconception here is the Victorian idea of an evolutionary ladder – progression – from ancestral apes to chimpanzees, to black people, to white people. When, really, all humans are exactly equally related to chimpanzees and all mammals are equally related to frogs. The categorization that we all have to deal with on many government forms is total nonsense. “Hispanic?! What does that mean? I encourage everyone to refuse to fill out that portion of the form.”

Q: Sometimes I get students who accept microevolution, but have problems with macroevolution. What do you suggest to combat that?
A: Yes, that’s something that they’ve been taught to say. And, of course, what you say is that macroevolution is what you get when you add up lots of instances of microevolution together. The misconception here is that they think it’s happens over night and have no concept of the vast amounts of time involved. There are various metaphors that you can use to address this – his favorite is to stretch out your arm to the side and, moving from you neck to the tip of your fingers, explain that…. The origin of life is at your neck. The dinosaurs are in the palm of your hand. The first mammal is at your fingernail. The whole of recorded human history falls in the dust of a single stroke of a nail file.

Written by rheyden in: Conference Info,NABT News | Tags:

NABT Town Hall

One of the unique features of NABT is the ability of members to have a face-to-face meeting with the Board of Directors and “talk back” as it were.  I’ve attended several of these meetings and quite frankly, some have been rather contentious.  This year, however, was not one of “those” meetings. John Moore, this year’s President made a presentation bringing folks up to date about the state of the organization and generally explained the situations and decisions made this past year. Needless to say, 2009 has been a monumental year for NABT.  The economy has hit all non-profits hard and NABT is no different.  But when given lemons, you best make lemonade and the year has been full of tough decisions and hard work to re-structure for the future.  One bit of especially good news: we planned the conference based on a projected attendance of 850 and as of Saturday morning had over 1100 registered attendees.  Special kudos to the Colorado Biology Teachers Association for their volunteer efforts.  Some 70 CBTA members worked registration and handled AV needs for the conferenceIMG_5016

But the dialog is not one-way at the Town Hall.  Members can ask any question, challenge any decision, and offer suggestions as they see fit.  This year offered some good suggestions about potential future convention sites, member recruitment, NABT merchandise sales, and the annual banquet, which were dutifully recorded by yours truly to be posted to the Board of Directors and added to the ongoing discussion.

The Town Hall ended with Past President Todd Carter presenting outgoing President John Moore with a plaque to commemorate his year of service to NABT.

Written by bobmelton in: Conference Info,NABT News | Tags:

Survey on Stem-cell Education

Are you a 7th though H.S. Science teacher? Do you know any 7th though H.S Science teachers?  We are getting a request from the Director of Life  Science Outreach and Project BioEYES, the Institute for Regenerative Medicine  & The Netter Center for Community Partnerships to participate in a survey.  Please help this organization gather data.  After taking the survey, please reply to this post?  Was this beneficial?  Did it help me to participate and make me more aware?  Don’t forget that at NABT conference next month there will be a summit on stem-cell education.  Come and have your questions asked, understood and answered.


Together with the Genetics Policy Institute, the University of Pennsylvania is seeking funding to develop a new and innovative Stem Cell education website and live classroom demonstration that will expand on Project BioEYES. For those teachers who are not yet involved with BioEYES, it is a live classroom experiment that uses zebrafish to teach students about cell biology, development, and genetics. It has reached over 18,000 students since 2002 and we hope to continue to offer new and exciting classroom opportunities.

This survey will help us gain insight into your interest and knowledge about how
to best develop online and classroom-based stem cells resources for teachers.

Please complete this survey so that you can have a voice in the project’s
development. We truly appreciate you taking the time to complete this! It will
only take a few minutes.

The Project BioEYES team


A New Meeting Place for Biology Teachers

Welcome to the newly launched NABT BioBlog–a meeting place in for biology teachers,  a place to share ideas, methods, experiences, and hopes about teaching biology.  This blog is a multiple author blog modeled after the successful KABT BioBlog of the Kansas Association of Biology Teachers.  I’ve asked/recruited a number of distinguished biology teachers to be a part of the beginning of this NABT blog.   These teachers/biologists/authors share a passion for biology and students.  Each will introduce themselves as they make a first post to the blog.  Blogs work when posting is frequent and relevant.  To that end our authors have committed to contributing on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  That commitment along with the diverisity of authors should assure a quality, go-to resource for the biology teaching community.  We are starting with a small group of authors and will bring a few more on but if you or someone you know wants to have a presence here, shoot me an email and we’ll see what can be worked out.  Feel free to comment–that is the other thing that helps a blog develop into a community.

As you can see this community is already up and posting and commenting—please feel free to come on board.

As far as rules on this blog….

I didn’t like explicit “rules” in my classroom so we will try that here as well.  NABT is a professional society and as such we expect professional posting and comments here on this blog–just common sense.  Since one of the primary goals for this site is to serve as a resource for biology teachers we certainly do not want anything on the blog that would not allow a biology teacher to access this blog from school.  So keep that in mind–your posts and comments should pass school filters.  We don’t want this blog blocked by school IT departments like some group blogs are.  Partly for that reason I’m requiring that commenters register as subscribers to the site before they can comment.

Again–welcome to the journey.

Brad Williamson

Photo:  Brad Williamson, aka--ksbioteacher


NABT Conference Registration Now Open

2009 NABT Professional Development Conference

Wednesday, November 11 – Saturday, November 14

Sheraton Denver • Denver, Colorado

2009 NABT Professional Development Conference

In this tough economic climate, the best investment is the one you make in yourself and NABT has the formula for success.

(1) Information + (1) Hands-on Experience + (1) Collaboration +(1) Inspiration=
(4) Days at the NABT Professional Development Conference.

Sheraton Denver • Denver, Colorado,
from Wednesday, November 11 – Saturday, November 14

Whether you’re interested in ecology or evolution, STEM Education or the Stem Cell Education Summit hosted in conjunction with the Genetics Policy Institute, the 2009 NABT Professional Development Conference offers something for every biology educator at every level.

Join us November 11-14 in Denver, CO for the only conference designed to address the unique topics, concepts, and methods required to teach biology and life science in the 21st century.

It’s time to interact with your fellow professionals and be encouraged by your friends. It’s time to invest in yourself as well as your students. It’s time to register for the 2009 NABT Professional Development Conference.

Register Today!

Written by nabt in: Conference Info |