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Mark's presentation on creating educational podcasts

I’ve just finished watching a video presentation by Mark Pentleton of Coffee Break French and Radiolingua fame (see my prior post on Online French Language Resources), describing how he creates enhanced audio podcasts for language learning. This is an excellent roadmap for all kinds of educational podcasts (with a Mac), such as the Mechanics Minilessons I’m trying (slowly) to produce for my Physics 1A class.

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Mechanics Minilesson #1!

I’m trying a (yet another) new thing for teaching, putting together “minilessons” for my Physics 1a class at UCSD covering specific topics that I don’t get to in lecture, or are worth a little focused attention.  This was a somewhat intensive project as time is short (the quarter has already started!) and I’ve never made a “video enhanced podcast” before, but I think I’ve got must of the bugs worked out.  You’ll nevertheless clearly notice some audio edits.

The audio was recorded on my laptop (built-in mic) into Garage Band; the slides were made in Powerpoint and saved off as individual images, and then individually dragged into the podcast track in Garage Band.  The whole thing was saved off as a AAC encoded .m4a file that Youtube seems to be able to handle.

Have a look, let me know what you think and if you learned anything!  The lectures themselves are also being audio and video podcast from UCSD.

Demographic breakdown of our survey sample

We have finally finished writing up the results for our survey on perceptions of appropriate behavior between students and advisors for the 2009 Women in Astronomy and Space Science Meeting.  It was quite an effort – 10 scenarios, 579 respondents and over 2000 comments have been merged into a poster (presented at the conference) and a four-page write-up for the conference proceedings.  All the details can be found at:

A short summary of our results:

  1. Perceptions of appropriateness vary considerably in the astronomical community at all levels, even for situations that might be deemed “obvious”.
  2. Perceptions of appropriateness vary with age and professional status, with younger astronomers and those at earlier stages in their careers (students, postdocs) typically viewing behaviors as more appropriate.  In particular, there were frequently differences in perceptions of appropriateness between students and advisors.
  3. On average, scenarios were seen as more inappropriate for student/advisor pairs with different genders than pairs with the same genders. Given that female students are less likely to have a same-gender advisor than male students (see my last blog post on this), this trend may have a negative affect on young women’s student/advisor relationships.
  4. Our survey attracted a small fraction (8%) of highly negative and fearful criticism, overwhelmingly from men.  There unfortunately appears to be continued resistance to open discussion of appropriate behaviors between students and advisors.

Comments are welcome!


Genders of advisors and their students in our survey. These numbers are based on the 2959 students that 252 respondents reported they had advised over the past 5 years. The students are separated by education level (high school through postdoctoral) and gender (green for female, yellow for male), while the bar graphs indicate the fraction of students in each subgroup advised by a male or female (total numbers of students in each subgroup are listed outside each bar). The fraction of female students advised by female advisors decreases with later educational levels, as low as 26% at the postdoctoral level. Male students, on the other hand, are advised by male advisors 65-74% of the time.

I’m currently completing the write-up for a study Jacqueline Faherty and I did for the Women in Astronomy 2009 conference this past October, looking at perceptions of inappropriate behavior between students and advisors in astronomy (see the next blog post).  We polled 579 students, researchers, teachers, staff and other astronomy affiliates as part of an online survey to examine how perceptions of behavior change according to gender, age, professional status, etc.  Our results (when we’re finished writing them up!) will eventually be posted here.

In the course of analyzing the mounds of biographical data we collected from our respondents, there was one thing I realized we could look at: who is advising our female students? One of the issues that continually comes up in addressing the disparity in gender representation in professional astronomy is the problem that female students are less likely to have a female advisor.  I realized that with our survey data we could actually measure this, as we explicitly asked respondents who indicated that they were advisors how many students they had advised over the past five years, and what the genders of those students are.  By matching these statistics with the gender of the respondents, we get a measure of the gender match between students and advisors in astronomy overall.

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Daniella Baradalez Gagliuffi's poster at BURS

Daniella Bardalez Gagliuffi's poster at BURS

This past weekend I attended the inaugural Boston Undergraduate Research Symposium hosted by the Harvard College Undergraduate Research Association.  An interdisciplinary conference, undergraduates from MIT, Boston College, Boston University, Harvard, Northeastern, UMass, WPI, Emmanuel & Olin were there presenting their research on a wide variety of topics, from Astrophysics to Sociology. It was heavily science-oriented, but included non-science topics as well (including a interesting comparison of the author of Peter Pan to Nietzsche by Heidi Hirschl of Harvard).  The conference was dominated by poster presentations – I guesstimate there were roughly 100 posters, including one from my own UROP student, Daniella Baradalez Gagliuffi.  Eight very excellent undergraduates talks were given during the course of the day, including three from MIT students.  I was particularly impressed with how well these talks were given, absolutely clear and professional.  There were also three “keynote” faculty speakers, Robert Langer from MIT (who runs a humungous lab), Daniel Schrag from Harvard University and Bruce Walker from Harvard Medical.

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