MOUNT VERNON — Whether those of us of a certain age like it or not, teenagers today are married to their social media devices and apps. That union has turned into an educational bonus for students in Bonnie Schutte’s biology class at Mount Vernon High School.
As part of a unit on cell structure, the class engaged in a sort of political campaign to determine which cell part, or organelle, is the most important. Working after school hours, the students would tweet each other with more information about their chosen organelle and do some mudslinging against others.
“It was really beneficial to use Twitter and social media mediums that we’re used to using, because that’s our realm (as teenagers). It was really cool to be able to go home and tweet things,” said student Leslie Day.
Suddenly, someone new joined in the tweeting — Anne Osterreider. A Ph.D. in plant biology, she is on the faculty at Brookes University, Oxford, in the United Kingdom, and currently studying the Golgi apparatus, an organelle found in most cells.
“Dr. Osterreider has been asking questions about the campaign and answering some of the students questions as well,” Schutte said. “Several of the students carried on a ‘conversation’ with Dr. Osterreider about calcium and magnesium passing through (cell) membranes. My students were very excited to find out that somewhere else in the world, someone was ‘listening’ to what they were saying.”
Students told the News that having someone in the international science community participating in the discussion was extra motivation for the students to do their best.
“She started tweeting us,” Day said. “My favorite part was she would ask questions. You don’t want to just go and look up something and get an answer off ask.com when a professor from Oxford is tweeting you. I feel like I learned a lot more because I took the extra time to read Ph.D. papers and check my resources and everything to try and answer the questions she was asking. It was really cool, though.”
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