Launching "Science Cast"

I'm a little concerned by the word, "pilot."

I'm in the midst of ramping up my students for 5 solid weeks of self-directed learning related to climate change. Uncharacteristically, I cleared the proposal with my principal and the science curriculum director before going forward with the plan. I was given "permission" to pilot this program.

Despite all the recent "21st Century Skills" and "self-directed learners" talk around school, the standard-driven CAPT (our state standardized test) reigns supreme. My 9th grade Integrated Science class has a rather extensive list of content standards I'm supposed to cover. I know my 5-week self-directed unit won't cover as many official standards as 5-weeks spent teaching a traditional curriculum.

I'm attempting to more efficiently use class time by exporting some of the content delivery outside the classroom. I saw a video some time ago about chemistry teachers who did something similar, and was recently reminded of the video by a tweet from Ben Grey.

After playing with several options of how to record & publish the video podcasts (I found Wes Fryer's recent posts on LectureCasting very helpful), I created a new subdomain (http://sciencecast.benwildeboer.com), recorded video through UStream using CamTwist, then published the podcast to a WordPress blog & uploaded the video to Vimeo as a redundancy backup. I've submitted my podcast to iTunes so the video will be viewable on students' mobile devices1.

A few observations about the process:

  • It took longer to prepare, record, edit, and post than I would like. I know it'll get faster the more experience I have, but I'm not sure I have the time to do this for every section.
  • There were lots of failures. I can't tell you how many times I had to sit down and work through some issue I was having.
  • The end result is pretty boring. Some students said they parts of it funny or interesting, but I think they were just being nice. To be fair, it'd be boring in class, as well, right?

The first episode (The Periodic Table [& valence electrons]) is below. What do you think? Is this worth the effort?

The Periodic Table (and valence electrons) from Mr. Wildeboer on Vimeo.

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  1. Update: The podcast has now been approved and is available on iTunes. I'm waiting to hear back from iTunes about its approval.      (back)