The third post in our mini-series on science as seen on screen.
We’re all aware of how indispensible the Internet has become in the daily working lives of scientists; from the convenience (or distraction!) of email to aligning gene sequences to downloading PDFs of papers. But, in addition to providing useful practical tools for carrying out scientific research, the Internet is also a great forum for sharing scientific-related user-generated content, creating a limitless repository of often lively, entertaining and educational material. Science video, in particular, holds a lot of promise for science education, both within the school system and for the general public. Video content can be both informative and witty, offering the opportunity to demonstrate by visual example and in some cases, also taking advantage of musical effects. Let’s take a look at a selection of the online science video content that we’ve found…
Are textbooks being replaced by videos?
Science films online are a relatively new development and arguably it was the introduction of YouTube in 2005 that really helped their dissemination; there are currently over 33,100 science ‘channels’ on YouTube. But what are these science videos online used for?
Films can also be an invaluable resource in the classroom. The Internet is host to a wide range of educational tools and websites, and many use video to their advantage. SciVee, for instance, has the mantra, ‘making science visible,’ and provides a video sharing website where researchers can upload, view and share science video clips and connect them to scientific literature, posters and slides. The BBC website, hosts video clips specific for school children learning science. It seems it is only a matter of time until viewing science clips online will be an integral part of classroom learning. Teachers are able to use this medium to show dangerous experiments, visualise topics not seen in everyday life and demonstrate hard concepts.
Generally, school learning forums are constantly being changed by technology. We have already seen the replacement of the blackboard with the whizzier electronic interactive whiteboard. Are we entering a new realm where audio visual teaching will eventually replace textbook teaching? As learning gradually becomes more interactive, Kindles may start to replace textbooks, and, with the advent of portable wireless devices such as the iPad, there hasn’t been a better time for online activity to be readily available and easily accessible.
Internet Video Impact
Online science videos have been shown to heighten levels of engagement, allowing students to learn and understand scientific concepts more easily. Research also suggests that an immersive audio and visual medium can contribute to increased interest and motivation for learning. Measuring the educative value of videos on the small screen, however, does have its hurdles. A recent article in Nature Chemistry delves into this difficulty, revealing that measuring the ‘impact’ of such outreach activities is complex. Using their YouTube chemistry channel, The Periodic Table of Videos as an example, they mention some of the obstacles faced:
The most obvious statistic is the number of ‘views’: that is, how many people actually watch each video. However, one ‘view’ cannot distinguish between a high-school teacher showing the video to an entire class or one individual watching the same video numerous times. Moreover, some teachers download the videos, thereby taking them offline and making their use untrackable. Nevertheless, views have some qualitative value because a video with 425,000 views is clearly more popular than one with 7,000 views. YouTube viewing data also come with a crude age/gender profile of the viewers, but just how reliable is it, given that subscribers choose their own age?
Navigating the stream(s)….
One of the lures of the Internet is the ability to jump from one stepping stone of information to another, in a journey directed by our fingertips. To assist in navigating the key resources we’d like to share a scientific video vault. This list is by no means exhaustive, and we encourage those who know of any other great science video resources to make us aware so we can add them too.