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Dipping My Toes into Online Learning

by Arianna Krinos

        In step with the random extra Shark Week TV specials we’ve been blessed with as an unintended positive side effect of the quarantine, this year’s shark-flavored HSSP was an atypical venture into extracurricular education for high school students. With serendipity, my area of study also happens to be Biological Oceanography, and my first real foray into online teaching with a full, real class was during Rainstorm early in the summer, wherein I taught a short course on coccolithophores, calcifying phytoplankton that leave a major mark on the global carbon cycle.

        From that point, the forays only multiplied, from one-on-one tutoring sessions, to Software Carpentries workshops, to e-meetings with advisees, and now HSSP. My HSSP experience as such has benefitted tremendously from early lessons. For example, a disastrous attempt at breakout rooms, to the chagrin of many students who preferred cameras and videos to be off, helped me refocus my interactive content to online polls and directed questions.

        Now, on the heels of the third week of HSSP, I feel much more equipped to be an online teacher, and excited about the future of education, particularly given the seamless grasp that young students seem to have on technology. Often, the students are better equipped to troubleshoot Zoom or share content than I am, and I find that to be a tremendous opportunity to advance and increase access to learning in the future. In particular, HSSP has been expanded to students across the country, without them having to step out of their homes. Further, many of the younger students I work with are interested in learning coding skills, and grasp those initial concepts (which were once totally foreign and difficult to me) with ease and grace.

        Specifically, I am co-teaching a class on Bayesian analysis for HSSP. The zeal that the students have for learning is absolutely phenomenal, and I am honored to be able to teach them. So many of them seem genuinely excited to come to class, and ask truly insightful questions. The online format seems to be no problem for these energetic students, who seem only excited about the ability to attend so many different courses at once.

        Embracing randomness and Bayesian inference with them has been a blast, especially to relate it to concepts that are really exciting to me from biology…and even to COVID-19. I am so excited to continue to explore more in the realm of posterior distributions, genetics, and the Bayesian basis of antibody tests with them in the latter half of our short list of sessions!

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