SWIN 2012 Lectures Over

Last year I wrote and delivered a lecture on the use of simulation in swarm robotic systems as part of the swarm intelligence (SWIN) computer science module. It was a valuable experience for a young academic, an insight into what life as a lecturer can be like. Whereas research associates (RAs, me) spend the bulk of their time engaged in research, lecturers have a (if the numbers are to be believed) 20,% 40%, 40% split across admin, research and teaching.

This year I prepared 3 and presented 4 lectures: an introduction to collective behaviour; an overview of simulation in swarm robotics; statistics and sensitivity analysis; and preliminary research on underwater shoaling using no communication. Again the lectures were well received. Even the stats lecture, traditionally a sleep-inducing subject, went better than I expected. The experience of doing all this has been valuable to me, and I would encourage other RAs to try their hand at it. Looking at my possible carear paths, I was unsure whether teaching would be something that drives me. Having done a bit, I enjoyed it more than I expected, however a life in academia will still be mostly research-motivated for me.

I now agree with an estimate I once heard that it takes 20 hours to prepare a lecture. I thought this was an exaggeration, but if you include literature survey, writing the lecture and materials, and reviewing it in restless hours before you deliver it, I suspect it’s about right. It was also fun to develop your presentation style a bit. This is important, and perhaps not always fully appreciated in academia. I have been near sleep in many conferences, where 8 hours of talks is pretty draining. Some physical animation mixed with humour and anecdote (as well as the material) seems to work well for me. And I suspect that students can be even harder to keep attentive than academics who have taken time out of their normal working life to be at a conference. Of course, if you really want to keep the crowd awake, you can try turning up like this guy. I haven’t resorted to this… yet.