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YouChem Blog

Lisa Lindert's blog

Stepping away from the chalkboard


This past week I was away from my class for family reasons and took this opportunity to do a small experiment in using YouChem Tutorials in combination with other web-based resources in place of a physical lecture.  Although I've taught online quite a bit, it made me nervous to step away from the chalkboard (and my projector) in my bricks and mortar class to let the internet do some teaching for me.  

I constructed an assignment that gave some review in molecular structure stepping students through web-based exercises on the Molecular Workbench involving molecular geometry and modeling of electron behavior in atoms and molecules.  I followed this review with the use of my YouChem Tutorials on resonance and calculating bond energies to introduce these new topics.   

These activities were accompanied by a worksheet that gave students structured questions based on these exercises and then extended this with some more challenging problems.  

The feedback from my students was overwhelmingly positive.  They enjoyed the active learning and did very well learning these topics independently.  They gave me excellent work on the worksheets they turned in and came to my office with deep questions on these topics. I haven't gotten the feedback from a formal survey yet, but I was impressed with the success of this experiment.  Many have said to me, "do more things like that" and "I liked working on my own and being able to replay the videos and learn at my own pace."  They were also pleased that they could go back to these videos and review for the final exam.

This speaks to Harry Pence's CCCE Newsletter article on the Clash of the Titans and the use of media by students. Why should students only hear a lecture once and rely on notes that may be imperfect?  Why can't they replay it at home at their own pace?  There are new ways to deliver content that may not just augment our traditional classes but replace the podium as a content delivery platform.  Much as I love to lecture, I see the value in this mode of learning, especially in the age of limited educational budgets.  I can leverage my student's investment in technology (their smartphones, computers, iPads) to enrich their experience.  

I had an inverted classroom when I taught exclusively online (content-rich lectures delivered as videos on students own time), and that felt very natural.  However when I meet my students in a physical space designed around this featureIt feels odd to step away from the chalkboard.  Perhaps we also need to change our physical spaces to facilitate new media.

Skip Twilight, check out the YouChem Tutorials series!

Today I've surpassed thirteen videos on YouTube! I'm excited to have started some series on YouChem Tutorials as well.  I now have series on chemical nomenclature, and Lewis structures.  A series on electron configurations is in production and coming soon.

I am getting caught up with the pace of my class and need to fill in some very important videos on skills like balancing equations, stoichiometry, solutions, gas laws and thermodynamics.  Look out for series in these areas as I break down topics into key skills.

The nice thing about using the Doceri program for some in-class work as well as for these videos is that I can pass materials back and forth between the projects. For some of the material I "missed" as my class has progressed through the quarter, I will be "recycling" some of my inclass materials.  I may modify, clip or add on to them when I go in to record an audio track for these but I do not have to write something completely new.  I am doing this a bit in the interest of time, and would like to have unique materials for each of my audiences for reinforcement.  However, this time around, the setup of the blog, the YouChem site and standarization of a process for making these videos took a bit more time than I would have liked.  I'm looking forward to implementing a model next quarter where I follow the material I present in class with little summaries online.  This is hopefully more doable in that course because the pace is a bit slower and deeper (I know... the best laid plans... but I'll try!).




Here's a video that got me thinking about what's possible and new in delivering ideas and also a little bit about my and my students motivations. This is a great example of the power of freeform illustration (and a great artist).

Behind the Scenes at YouChem Tutorials

My growing inventory of tutorials is found on the YouChem Tutorials Channel on YouTube. I've started to post these in the order they might be used in a curriulum. These are getting easier to make and I will be posting them with greater frequency as I get practice making and editing the videos. It has taken some time to develop a process, format, color scheme and decide on standard features for the YouChem Tutorials. It is a bit like creating a brand. I'll talk about this in future blog posts. The first thing I want to cover was my process for creating the videos.

Here's my process for making the tutorial videos:

1. Write the video content in my iPad using Doceri.

2. Use Quicktime to do a audio and video screencapture of me working through the doceri interactive video and talking over the animated drawing.

3. Import the video into iMovie. Edit the video to remove the screen capture tag ends (me starting the video, ending the video). Add the standard YouChem Tutorials ending "credits" clip.

4. Have iMovie process the video into the format required for YouTube, I choose the "mobile" option that allows playback on most devices. It is lower resolution but has more available viewing options.

5. Automatically upload to YouTube through iMovie. This takes from 5-10 minutes depending on the length of the movie.

That's it! The biggest challenge is authoring a video that will end up being under 10 minutes. This is no longer the limit to the length of YouTube videos, but it is a good length for YouTube, any longer and the videos tend to get cut off or take a long time to post or load. I've decided to keep my videos under this length as a rule.

It's tough to do lessons with a sharp focus on one skill, as we know chemistry is interrelated. I found it tough in my initial video on atomic symbols not to talk about isotopes and ions. But I wanted to separate the idea of understanding and writing the symbol from the idea of an isotope or an ion. It is a real challenge to include only the relevant information for a "tutorial" focusing on a set skill or idea and not make this a 10 min "lecture" focusing on a topic. I've found these are vastly different exercises from the perspective an instructor.

If you find my tutorials lacking in background or theory, that's because they're not intended to provide this. Students go to the internet to "learn to do" something, they don't want a lecture. I feel that's the purpose of their "live" course (wherever that may be). My job in these tutorials is to give them a brief look at the skills they need to build. Perhaps it will give them the boost they need to complete an assignment or gain some understanding before an exam. Some videos will contain more content, but most will be focused on doing something: a problem, some naming, etc. I just don't have time in 10 min to give more than that and I want a tool rather than an online course for students.

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