Published May 1, 2014
Already known for merging proven science classwork with state-of-the-art technology, UB faculty member Randy Yerrick has taken on another role to help bring science educational resources into the digital age.
Yerrick, associate dean and professor of learning and instruction in the Graduate School of Education, is the new director of electronic communications for the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST), one of the country’s oldest and most respected science education research organizations. NARST publishes the Journal in Research and Science Teaching, considered by many to be one of the most prestigious journals in all the social sciences, including science education.
“We have years of member data speaking to the specific need to upgrade electronic communications of the organization,” says Yerrick, associate dean for inter-professional education and engagement in the GSE. “The NARST leadership team is excited about the new changes. We look forward to upgrading our tools of communication and working toward a more open and collaborative environment.”
NARST President Lynn A. Bryan said she chose Yerrick to direct the organization’s electronic communications with the goal of instigating major changes.
“With nearly 1,700 members, our organization was in need of a more dynamic, flexible and organized system of electronic communications — not only within the organization, but also with external constituencies,” Bryan says. “For example, in recent years, NARST’s online presence has been at a virtual standstill, with our website serving essentially as a repository for PDF documents.
“Dr. Yerrick has been instrumental in developing and implementing a long-term strategic agenda that will allow the NARST leadership to engage in more effective and responsive interactions with its members. He is leading major changes in the way NARST conducts its business and disseminates information — for example, by employing the latest Web-based technologies and social media to keep information current and accessible; facilitating the use of Web-based collaboration spaces for committees, research interests groups and the leadership team; and ensuring high-quality and consistent standards for all of our electronic communications.”
While Yerrick recognizes the need to upgrade communications within the NARST organization quickly, he also urges patience so that these changes can be made in a coordinated and thoughtful way that fit the priorities of the organization.
“While the plan is to transform NARST entirely to a digital age of organization collaboration, some steps take time,” says Yerrick. “Most people think of a Web page presence as digital communication, but it is so much more.
“One thing we have learned here at UB is that website development is a deliberate, thoughtful and often slow process. It will be incremental to design tools into the site that meet the needs of the membership. It is certainly a priority of the board, but it is non-trivial and analogous to changing a tire on a moving car.”
Yerrick says the group is developing some immediate responses, such as building a collaborative board member space and social media outlets.
“These are staged rollouts of larger visions for our digital presence,” he says.
NARST member suggestions included changes to the NARST Web page, video conferencing, social bookmarking of NARST resources, hosted podcasts, social media, videostream channels, firewall-protected communities to collaborate, e-publications and e-books, blogs and revisiting the eNARST News and hosting of the NARST Listserv.
“While we would like to develop and host most of these capabilities immediately, we need to have strategic priorities to assure that the rollouts of these upgrades are highly effective and responsive to members,” says Yerrick.
The priorities are driven by NARST leaders’ commitment to open and clear communication of the organization, and the need for transparency and responsiveness of the elected leadership to the membership.
Yerrick has long been committed to taking the extra cyberspace step to make science teaching tools as accessible as possible — for teachers and students. His podcasts of science teaching methods demonstrated in actual classrooms are posted on iTunes UB, an online repository that more than 900 universities use to deliver content for distance education and purposes. iTunes U is available free for anyone who has ever downloaded a song for 99 cents on an iPod or any mobile device.
Yerrick has been a passionate and tireless advocate for improving science education through technology, and recently has been asked to give keynote speeches and present STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) workshops in Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Jakarta. Having access to high-quality science education seems of particular importance for Asian countries at a time of global competition and when many universities compete for the best science students.
Other electronic changes NARST members can expert in the near future include more frequent updates from NARST president Bryan instead of more general Listserv announcements sent by email; an electronic NARST newsletter posted online rather than a posted PDF file; a video archive of presidential addresses given at the organization’s annual meeting, and an electronic program rather than the paper and CD program NARST has circulated at its annual meeting.