Peanuts and barfblog: Influential in Networked Learning

Before classes began last Monday, I decided to take a pre-fall course where I traveled to various farms, processing facilities, and Agricultural Research Centers (ARECs) throughout Virginia. Being a bit new to the state, I thought what a better way to get more familiar with what Virginia agriculture has to offer than by being physically present and seeing it with my own eyes. As a Food Scientist, my classmates and I are often taught about how to excel within the food industry in a classroom setting, however, it is not uncommon for Food Science students to have never set foot in a food processing environment. Through this course I was able to take peanuts right off of the line and watch them be packaged into their containers. This was experiential learning at its finest. I probably got more of out of this three-day course than I would have a course lasting the duration of the semester. I was also able to meet Weed Scientists and Plant Pathologists that I otherwise would have probably never crossed paths with. These individuals serve as microbiologists in some capacities and therefore our work intersects quite frequently although collaboration is just beginning between departments.

Gardner Campbell’s “Networked Learning as Experiential Learning” article connects both experiential learning with facets of the Wide World Web. I enjoyed the comment that “one does not need permission to make a hyperlink.” This is true. It takes intrinsic motivation to go out and do this on one’s own. Some things like this just can’t be taught and it often takes trial and error rather than reading from a manual.

My previous Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Ben Chapman, runs a food safety blog titled barfblog. This blog works to communicate food safety news and information to the general public in a way in which is quick and easily understood. Dr. Chapman first began to construct the blog format when he was a student himself. Him and his PI have since grown the blog to have about 60,000 followers. The blog posts are converted into tweets and other forms of social media outputs. Dr. Chapman is able to use the analytics to support receiving funding to continue to run the blog as the way we communicate our research findings is changing. In return, Dr. Chapman always encouraged his students to pursue these types of their endeavors on their own. I currently write for the Institute of Food Technologist Student Association blog, Science Meets Food, and additionally contribute to Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience, a science-based seeks to workgroup that seeks to make food easier to understand for everybody in a fun, personable, and relatable manner using videos and social media platforms.

This might be one of my favorite statements of all times.

[“The best (and most successful) academics  are the ones who are so caught up in the importance of their work, so caught up with their simple passion for a subject, that they publicise it with every breadth. Twitter and blogs, and embarrassingly enthusiastic drunken conversations at parties, are not add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion that underpins it.”]  -Tim Hitchcock

I will be honest in the fact that I Snapchat-ed this quote to my group of peers that I collaborative with on research. Even one of the individuals responded with “this is so us.” Hitchcock is spot on when he says that we become better and more successful researchers when we align with others. Through conference networking and being introduced via other students, we have created a small group of food science students involved in food safety work that remain virtually connected pretty much at all times. We have friends from across the nation and even in other parts of the world that I often call on when I get questions that I cannot answer.

I also enjoyed when Hitchcock acknowledged that social media provides an audience that is ready to “cite” your work. The work typically does itself when people become interested in the work you post on social media. Shares and retweets are simple and are almost second nature to the majority of individuals. Although Hitchcock seems to get it, there are still many researchers, especially in the hard sciences, that may not fully accept the idea of implementing social media and using daily life in general to promote research. It can sometimes be deemed as being unprofessional although I believe that these ideals are beginning to catch on.

5 Replies to “Peanuts and barfblog: Influential in Networked Learning”

  1. I really enjoyed your perspective on experiential and networked learning. I especially like that you were able to give concrete examples of ways you see those things benefitting you in your graduate experience! That’s awesome. I think that your experience will indeed inform your approach to pedagogy and classroom learning.

    1. Thanks Jaclyn!

      In my opinion, we can teach from a textbook all we want but actual application is what really connects the dots for some students (myself included). I currently TA the Intro to Food Science class where we learned about starches today. Most of the students are first semester freshman so I was happy to hear that the professor will be bringing in the materials to make pudding on Monday rather than just continuing to lecture about the chemical reactions occurring in gelatinization. I think it will help them to get a better grip on our food chemistry chapter since it is definitely a bit dry. : )

  2. I enjoyed reading every word of this! Thanks so much for introducing me to BarfBlog (who knew?!?), sharing your reflections about the experiential learning community of peanut production, and, most of all, for sending an idea from this class to your research cohort (h/t Henry Jenkins & Participatory Culture) via SnapChat.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post. I was also very taken by the Tim Hitchcock quote that you included. I think researchers need to be less worried about people stealing their work and more passionate about contributing to the advancement of their field. I am also glad to hear the sentiment that more people are becoming involved in this trend and beginning to accept it as a legitimate tool for disseminating research.

    1. Thanks! I agree with your comments about researchers being less worried about people stealing their work comment. I understand that some research and general work being done must remain confidential and/or is proprietary. However, from the experiences in my own field, it is very rare that someone puts out one paper that changes the whole nature of the field. It is usually many papers from various lab groups that make a strong case for something.

      I don’t feel like the social media trend will go away anytime soon. If anything I believe it is an older generation that is not as accepting of it or individuals that are not immersed in that type of culture themselves.

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