Botanists need to be more sociable…

Image: Mark Nowotarski/Wikimedia Commons.
Image: Mark Nowotarski/Wikimedia Commons.

As we start another new academic year in the UK we have probably already revised our lectures (or should have…). Well, even if we have there’s still time to consider using ‘social media’ as additional/ supplementary tools and techniques for the delivery of our plant biology pedagogy. Whether we as educators like it or not, it is clear that our students are usually highly ‘tech-savvy’ and used to using such tools as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Having been brought up on those digital/social media tools, it is likely that they expect to see them used in delivery – and maybe even in assessment – of their botany teaching. So, maybe it’s time for those of you who have not yet used such technological tools (not me, you understand; hey, I’ve been known to embed video clips into PowerPoint!) to give them a go. If you remain to be convinced of their value, I encourage you to read Anne Osterrieder’s Open Access article entitled ‘The value and use of social media as communication tool in the plant sciences’. Anne is Research and Science Communication Fellow at Oxford Brookes University, UK (as well as being a regular contributor to this blog), and knows whereof she speaks, so read and learn. Although with an emphasis on disseminating research, the commentary’s message is equally relevant to more teaching-based situations. And although it may seem a case of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ , this brave new world is unlikely to go away (and you know what happened to the original dinosaurs…). Plus, any and every trick and ‘gimmick’ is worth exploiting if it helps to promote the message that plants are really rather important (i.e. in the hopes of reducing ‘plant blindness’). So, go on, try it (you might even enjoy it…)! Your students expect it (and just think of the expression on the wide-eyed, open-mouthed faces of the little darlings when you deliver your first hi-tech-enhanced teaching session…).

Written by Nigel Chaffey

Nigel is a botanist and was a full-time academic at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK) until 31st July, 2019. As News Editor for the Annals of Botany he contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ (until March 2019). He remains a botanist and is now a freelance plant science communicator who continues to share his Cuttingsesque items with a plant-curious audience. In that guise his main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.

SEB still has space on their last two courses of the year (

Mutualistic ants contribute to tank-bromeliad nutrition

Mutualistic ants contribute to bromeliad nutrition