NParks PC&Frens Newsletter (Jan-Mar 2011)

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Talk at Teaching and Learning Centre, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, 03 Mar 2011: 1200h

“Using Google Docs and Maps in the university classroom: collaboration, spatial awareness, administration and research.”

By N. Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman

About the talk – Google Apps (docs, spreadsheets, forms and maps) has facilitated several aspects in teaching ecology, from administrative tasks such as group allocation and enabling transport choices to ensuring greater collaboration between students through shared field notebooks, and an increase in spatial awareness through the use and creation of maps.

These tools are used effectively in species-level biology research as a poor man’s GIS and has enabled results-sharing with the interested public.

The use of these free, accessible and increasingly responsive tools in the ecology module in particular has the additional intent of raising fundamental IT literacy in life sciences students. It is emphasised that the demonstration of problem-solving ideas are applicable to other areas as well as life after graduation. In this talk I will share examples of use and the specific motivation behind some exercises, the challenges I face and invite suggestions about encouraging student use.

About the speaker – Sivasothi a.k.a. Otterman has been an enthusiastic user of computers since the Apple ][. He organises macintosh meetups, managed numerous mailing lists, setup several webpages and has several blogs which support his interest in nature, the environment, heritage and cycling.

He has variously been a macaddict, firefox evangelist and is now a google apps enthusiast, as these IT-innovations have been the backbone of his efforts in conservation, teaching and research. He is a lecturer with the Department of Biological Sciences at the National
University of Singapore where he teaches biodiversity, ecology and
animal behaviour.