19 July 2010

Why I Blog: Ed Adams (Geology Happens)

Posted by koneil

Guest Post by Ed Adams, geology educator

Several years ago, I started teaching summer field classes for teachers in need of additional science credits for their endorsements. To facilitate the exchange of information and to provide a repository of data links for my students, I created a series of web pages. This enabled my students, some of whom I only saw for a week, to access the data we used in class. This was not an unusual strategy, but it sure required lots of work. I am not a fan of Dreamweaver.

Ed Adams (photo courtesy of Ed Adams)

Fast forward a few years, and I began reading blogs from something called the Geoblogosphere. I was hooked. Finally, a medium where I could post the links my classes needed, could update easily and could accommodate comments from others without learning even more computer programs.  And, how much fun is writing with a group of people who play games using Google Earth to find areas of fascinating geology.

While I started Geology Happens as a means of communicating for that small set of public school teachers in Colorado, it has grown to be so much more than that. I certainly don’t have the biggest following – far from it – and I rarely post more than once a week.  But I now have colleagues from around the world that read my posts. Today, it has become an outlet to share my ideas and observations with others of a like mind. This is the community of geobloggers.

Most of my posts deal with the time I spend in the outdoors (why else did we become geologists?). However, I had become a lazy geologist, hiking or biking across the landscape and just paying attention to the big picture. Now, I look closer, observing as I would if I were teaching about the area, because I will be going home and blogging about my experiences. (Of course this drives my wife crazy, because the patterns of grains in a sedimentary rock really aren’t all that exciting, and she has to put up with my goings-on.)

Other posts deal with my own brand of outreach. Recently, I have been working with elementary and middle school classes and their teachers. Some of this work is simply taking the kids out and letting them see the story in the rocks. Other times I am working with National Geographic‘s JASON project. In all cases, I immediately share with the geoblogosphere about what I am doing.  It is my little soapbox about how we can all influence the next generation of scientists.

The geoblogosphere has also helped my own post-postgraduate geology instruction. I learn something every day, as if I were back in school.  I try to check my “blog roll” every day.  There seem to be writers for about every phase of geology work, and many writers have created a niche for themselves. There are volcanologists, hydrologists, mineral/economic geologists, geo-structuralists as well as geo-generalists who blog. Some writers specialize in a place. When planning a trip, I have used their blogs as resources for my explorations. In some cases, I have emailed them personally for information. I have never been disappointed, and have always come away with a boatload of information.

Finally, blogging is a great way to practice communicating in plain English. Early in my high school teaching career, I worked with the Keystone Symposia in Keystone Colorado. They held an event called “Scientist to Scientist,” where they invited top names in different disciplines to share their news. The catch was that the scientist delivering the talk could not use specialized vocabulary. This brought the vocabulary down to the level of a high school science teacher. Blogging is similar. It is not technical writing, it is writing so that our students and their families and all those others who find our blogs can understand our message.

Oh ya… one more reason. My students, they tell me that it is so cool that I blog.

– Ed Adams is a geology educator and author of Geology Happens