Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Science Videos: Useful or not?

I love the serendipity of information sometimes. This week as I’ve been sorting through all the various places I follow for science information the common theme has been science videos. It started with TEDED Braintrust. This recently formed online forum stems from the famous Technology, Education and Design (TED) Talks which bring together some amazing inspirational speakers and publishes most of the talks online. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you really should. The people at TED realized the online videos were much more than fun to watch. The videos were being used as teaching tools in classrooms. With that in mind, TEDED Brain Trust is informally creating a space where people can discuss all the different ways video can spark conversation, and supplement education. What and how are videos already being used? Where is there a need? Why are certain videos successful? I’ve just been lurking to see how active the forums will be, but quite a few interesting science videos have been posted. The most interesting one however, was this one which discussed how effective science videos are at actually teaching.

Videos are great, but that alone isn’t enough. I was amused by the complaints which were voiced by the students who said the second set of videos were confusing. In order to insure that critical thinking and growth are occurring, you have to actually challenge yourself. Guess what, that can be hard! What these videos are making possible though is making the “hard” science more fun and approachable, well at least most of the time.

As I was reading through some science blogs I came across this one titled Bacterial Burglary. The research sounds interesting, but what caught my eye was the video the authors had created as supplementary content. It is essentially a video abstract of the authors work. The content is very dense, I had to pause and replay the video a few times to understand all the steps the researchers are explaining. So, while the video did not make the research more accessible to me (or perhaps I just didn’t feel like challenging myself), I would be curious to know if other people within the field valued the video summary. This also sparked my curiosity and I wanted to find more articles with supplementary video content. After some minor poking around I found quite a few with short clips of cells, a few with 3D models, some with similar video summaries, and a few others with integrated video showing examples of the paper topic. This one in particular from Cognitive and Behavioral Practice titled "Using Behavioral Parent Training to Treat Disruptive Behavior Disorders in Young Children: A How-to Approach Using Video Clips" was both interesting and amusing to watch. Obviously the videos cannot be watched in a paper journal, but with most research articles available online it will be interesting to see if videos become a regular part of article content and how journals and databases will regulate the accessibility of those videos.  Perhaps instead of being placed with online journal text they will move to make entire journals composed of videos like the Journal of Visualized Experiments.

In addition to supplementing science education and adding dimension to articles, video also creates opportunities for global communication. Science Online 2011 was a conference held in early January. Recently the video archive of many of the sessions were made available. The ones on science blogging in academia were the first ones I watched, but I hope I’ll eventually make my way through all of them. Conferences are a great networking opportunity, but most of us can’t afford to travel that much. And while I appreciate conference proceedings, as a librarian I shudder at the idea of sorting through and finding anything in them. The video archives are useful for those of us who could not attend, and also for those who did and want to remember something from a session they attended. Live streaming also makes it possible for the virtual attendees to even participate in the conversation. Although I have qualms about this, as it often seems to interrupt the flow. We haven’t quite figured out the logistics of integrating twitter and other social media communication with “normal” discussion.

The versatility of videos has caught my attention this week (and also given me an excuse when I’m caught watching nature films). Perhaps it all comes from my fangirl love of Bill Nye and David Attenborough. Or maybe I'm just happy it's Spring and am feeling inspired by the return of green in my life.

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