Sunday, July 28, 2013

Videos in the classroom, revisited

Movies in English class; videogames in math class; there are all sorts of educationally wasteful ways in which today's preference for visual over verbal dynamics has overtaken K12 schools. But what about that most visual of all the core academic subjects? I'm thinking, of course, of science. Geology, biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy: all of these are infused with complex systems of motion that defy easy verbal description. In science, of all subjects, videos could speak a thousand useful words, accelerating learning considerably.

Tracking down good videos is still tricky, but consider:

phases of the moon
plate tectonics
continental drift
the most recent ice age
glacial erosion
glacial deposits
the evolution of a river's course
electric motors and generators
basic chemical reactions
mitosis
and even (sort of) photosynthesis (here, here and here)

The possibilities are endless. What I've found on Youtube represents a tiny fraction of what could be. But as for K12 science classes, their learning materials, oddly, still mostly seem mired in static diagrams and tedious and unenlightening verbal explanations. Let's stop showing movies of Shakespeare plays in college prep English, and instead show lots of animations of cellular processes in college prep biology.

7 comments:

Deirdre Mundy said...

I've found my kids really enjoy the old David Attenborough Living Planet species.

And learning about ecosystems and animals is much easier when you can SEE them.

(Also, for the little ones, Wild Kratts is actually a great show.)

momof4 said...

Yes! I've said that for years. Just a few minutes of good video is a great supplement to the (hopefully already covered) theoretical knowledge base. So many things in science are visual. When I was in ES, I remember my class going out to the playground to act out planetary motion, with kids rotating and revolving as the appropriate planets and moons but a good video clip would be much easier to see (and a more efficient use of time!), especially with repetition so easy.

There are also excellent videos available for art history and various historical topics. They shouldn't replace books and other written sources, but they can be an excellent supplement. I wouldn't use the David Macaulay DVD versions of his books (Roman City, Cathedral, Castle) in class, but they're an interesting supplement to study of those periods- particularly in an afterschool or homeschool session.

Auntie Ann said...

I'm a fan of Magic School Bus for young kids. I surreptitiously set it to record on our DVR and left it there without a word to our boy. He found it on his own and watched each episode multiple times when he was in 3rd or 4th grade.

He learned more science from that show than he did in school, and our school's science program was one of the school's strong points.

I grew up watching documentaries on PBS and cable. But they have noticeably declined in quality. Not only do they do pseudo-science (from Sasquatch to fairies,) but if you distilled the shows down to the facts they present, there would be about 3 per hour. The old shows seemed to do much, much better than that. Now it's all fake-drama and atmospherics.

As for great old ones: I like James Burke's "Connections", and I took Ancient Greek in college because I loved Michael Wood's "In Search of the Trojan War."

Auntie Ann said...

This is also a good one on the American Revolution: Liberty from PBS. I've watched it repeatedly.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

The AP Physics and AP Biology teachers certainly use a lot of videos: they collect and share pointers on the College Board resources list for AP teachers.

Look up http://phet.colorado.edu or
http://prettygoodphysics.wikispaces.com for some examples.

lgm said...

Some of the Regent's science teachers here use animations and post them on their websites for student review. imho all of the courses could be improved by actually using a quality textbook instead of having students take notes from verbal descriptions that can't begin to describe what a good visual does. Try Spring Valley High School's Earth science site:
http://www.eram.k12.ny.us/education/components/docmgr/default.php?sectiondetailid=17500&catfilter=452#showDoc

Jennifer said...

Khan Academy has been valuable to our science co-op; I send out video links for almost all of our topics after we've gone over them in class.