Monday, March 10, 2008

Viewers Wanted: Science Videos Online

The alarm has been sounded over the need to engage middle school students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects. More and more, visual tools for the classroom and home use have popped up to make this easier. Not only do they make science something done by real people, students also get to see things happening, changing, forming, dissolving and reacting.

eSchool News reports on some of these science video websites. A recent addition to the mix is SciVee, started by Phil Bourne, a pharmacologist at the University of California-San Diego. He saw how popular YouTube is with his students and wanted to create a "reputable virtual place where researchers could trade techniques without the potpourri of topics found on general video-sharing sites" like YouTube. At SciVee, researchers can upload "pubcasts" that summarize published articles. The goals of the site, according to Bourne in an introductory video, are to expose scientific work to a larger audience, to create communities of knowledge and to reduce the hierarchy often found in scientific research and the dissemination of findings.

JoVe, the Journal of Visualized Experiments, aims to look and behave more like a peer-reviewed journal. Instead of researchers making their own videos, JoVe sends professional videographers to different labs to record interesting work. The editor-in-chief, Moshe Pritsker, said that JoVe was meant to solve a particular problem:
For most of his academic career, he was flustered by what he called the “black hole” of science: Despite attempts by well-intentioned scientists to explain their experiments on paper, some procedures are so complex to mimic that a person must physically explain them.

Pritsker said he once flew to Scotland for a week when he was a Ph.D. student just to see how a research group performed an embryonic stem cell technique. He couldn’t help but wonder if there wasn't a way short of jetting across the Atlantic Ocean to reproduce a two-hour procedure.

“We need to show our experiments—and show, in our age, means video,” Pritsker said.
JoVe sparked another science video website, LabAction. Siddharth Singh, a computer science graduate student in India, started it to focus on biology. LabAction functions more like a community than a peer-reviewed journal of research. Members can subscribe to groups and channels aimed at specific biological techniques or processes. The videos range from illustration of basic concepts to dissections and real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Another community-like site is DnaTube, which encourages uploads of research, lectures and seminars. The goal is to make scientific concepts easier to understand. There are taped lectures, interviews, animations, demonstrations and more. (DnaTube has ads but you can usually click to skip them and go straight to the videos.) One video shows schoolchildren simulating how infectious agents spread in an epidemic.

Whichever you might choose, many agree that these videos make science research more accessible to students at many levels and the public at large. Some sites and videos may be too much for middle school but all of the sites above use tags to categorize videos and with a little searching, some great videos can be found for almost any science class. Even if students do not grasp every single concept, these science video sites male science more about real people doing and sharing exciting things from around the world.

SOURCE: "Video sites make science more accessible" 12/06/07
photo courtesy of procsilas, used under this Creative Commons license

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