Communicating from the Field
Communicating from the Field

Communicating from the field encompasses on-line Web communications, e-mail with classrooms, and live video or audio broadcasts, to name a few. The audience can be very focused, such as a classroom of 4th graders, or more broad, including all who access the Web.

Connecting live from the field is exciting to the audience. Polar field sites are only one step closer than the moon to many people.

Connections to Existing Program Models

Photo by Betty Trummel, Husmann Elementary in Crystal Lake, Illinois.

Corresponding with Students and Others
Often researchers are asked, or volunteer, to correspond with a classroom, or scout club, etc. while in the field. This can break up the monotony of the day, but it can also be a significant time investment.

  • Determine what is expected of you and how much time you will have to contribute. Are you responding to questions from students? Questions posed by groups of students? How many questions? Are you describing the science experience in letters to the classroom? How often? Make sure everyone knows what is planned.

  • Not every field location - or classroom - will have the possibility of sending em-mail; check what resources are available. In some cases, the teacher has sent/received e-mail from home.

  • Have a back-up address for the classroom, and a way the teacher can find out what is happening if you cannot communicate (e.g., if the equipment fails or you enter a dark sector).

  • Get a feeling for the background and level of the audience; a high school physics class will need more sophisticated answers than an elementary class. However, the elementary student questions probably will be more broad in content.

  • Be consistent about sending / responding to the e-mail. Students get very excited about corresponding with you; be there!

  • If you respond to individuals in a widely distributed mailing, do not use their full names. Use "Karen in Ms. Baker's class asked....." or "Jordan in Billings, Montana wrote....."

  • Take resources with you; general polar research references, history and natural history of your specific region, etc. This will help you answer questions.

  • Posting Materials on the Web
    Consider keeping a log of your experience on the Web. You can access a wide audience if you like, and you determine the scope and time investment.

  • Posting periodic reports or journals offers a "chapter at a time" as the science is happening and can develop a significant audience following.

  • Not every location will have the possibility of sending em-mail; even fewer will have the possibility of posting materials directly to a Web site. Check what resources are available. You may need a colleague at your home institution to assist.

  • Be consistent about posting the materials; If you are random in your reporting, you will lose the audience. If you want one report a week, then always post it on the same day. If you are posting daily, don't miss days.

  • You can target a specific audience, but realize that others will access it (unless you password protect the site). If the site is for the general public, think "8th grade" for the level.

  • Determine what you desire for length, tone, voice, and features (glossary, question and answer, html links, pictures). Focus on one topic in a given entry.

    Check spelling, grammar, and scientific accuracy-- ask yourself if it is something you want your name attached to publicly and permanently

  • Do not assume that a reader has read previous entries. Give a short intro to a colleague in each entry in which he/she appears. Revisit the basic premise of the science.

  • Take resources with you; general polar research references, history and natural history of your specific region, etc. This will help you answer questions and give you ideas for journals.

  • Share what you are doing with your field team; they may have ideas, and can serve as resources.

  • Be sensitive to people and events; you are sharing information with the world - and you will find your family members are reading about your adventures. The Web is not the place for divulging someone else's inner-most secrets or the occurrence of inappropriate activities.

  • Rememer that this should be about science, the process of research, and science as a human endeavor. Elaborate on research: What is the experiment? What are the results? Why is the science important? What are researcher's doing now? Why? What are the implications of their findings? What questions are being asked and why? Describe successes/ failures. Who are you and why are you involved?

  • Include research, technology, engineering, tools, instruments, scales, etc.

  • Ask questions - students, in parcticular, love the challenge. Be sure to respond to the questions that you pose in the next entry.

  • If you respond to individuals on the Web, do not use their full names. Use "Karen in Ms. Baker's class asked....." or "Jordan in Billings, Montana wrote....."

  • Send data! Latitude, longitude, meteorological, and oceanographic information, etc.

  • Define words and acronyms.

  • Include images, figures, maps, etc. Make sure that some of the images are of you, doing science.

  • Give adequate descriptions of images. How does it relate? What does it show?

  • Chris Shuman, University of Maryland, connects with his daughter's class while at Siple Dome.
    Audio / Video Broadcasts From the Field
    RealAudio essentially is a radio broadcast over the Web from the field. Little is needed but a phone connection in the field. You simply call a site that has the software set up to broadcast the session from the phone over the Web. The individual at the host site can relay questions to you by phone. Ideally, the host site would be receiving e-mail questions before and during the session; these can be given to you during the session.
  • Think radio. Broadcasts essentially are a one-way conversation, or a conversation between you and the individual in charge of hosting the session, so come prepared with things to talk about! Introduce yourself. What are you doing? Why is it important? What is it like where you are? Have material to discuss in case things get slow!

  • Be clear in your communication. Define words and acronyms. Summarize your main points.

  • Bring a buddy who can join in the broadcast. This can make the session more relaxing and fun. Consider doing an "interview" with this person.

  • If involved in a live video production, the same suggestions apply. You now have the visual realm at your fingertips, however!
  • Have the session in a visually interesting place.

  • Bring images; maps, diagrams, etc. Use them!

  • Dress well and don't fidget! Wear your polar gear - it adds to the atmosphere.

  • Look into the camera or other appropriate place (at the interviewer); don't look down in your lap or at your feet.

  • Connections to Existing Program Models
    Blue Ice: Focus on Antarctica has explored several aspects of Antarctic life and earth sciences. Each session occurs in a parcticular time window, during which there are daily postings, access to classroom resources, interactive activities, and e-mail exchange between students and scientists, authors, and explorers.

    Live From Antarctica (Passport to Knowledge Series) produced by Geoff Haines-Stiles Productions Inc., transported classrooms to Antarctica on electronic field trips using television, VCRs, computers, CD-ROMs, modems, satellites, telephone lines, and printed products. Two sets of broadcasts, 1994/95 and 1997, were distributed over public television stations and other networks at no costs to schools. Researchers were interviewed and spoke, live, to students in selected classrooms. This interaction was broadcast across the network.

    Researchers with the United States International TransAntarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE) teamed up with the Boston Museum of Natural Science to share the experience through Webcasts and online journals in "Secrets of the Ice."

    Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic (TEA) Teachers parcticipate as members of polar research teams and share their experiences through e-mail and on-line journals.

    Project Oceanography Parcticipants in an oceanographic research expedition along the East Antarctic margin will maintain a Web page while in the field.

    Graduate student Jerry Bowling posted images and journal entries from the field.

    New ideas, suggestions for changes, recommendations for additions, etc. always are welcome and can be mailed to:

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