Take 2: Student produced video projects

I previously vented my frustrations about the losing so much time to preventable problems while doing my first video project, though despite these issues I decided to give it another go. I feel the project design is pretty strong, so I didn't want to just scrap it because of some technical issues. After today's "Grand Premiere" of student videos, I'm very glad I didn't give up on it.

Why did it go so much better this time around?

I'm not entirely sure, but I'm going to suggest it was mainly due to two factors:

  1. I was better able to anticipate where we'd run into problems. Last semester I was blind-sided several times leading to lots of scrambling and inefficiency. We ran into similar problems this time, but I already had a protocol in place for how to deal with these issues1.
  2. I had exemplars. I could point to some well-made videos from last semester to illustrate my expectations. More than anything, I was impressed by the overall increase of video quality this semester.

The Grand Premiere

I haven't always done a great job at championing my students' work. One thing I admire about Christian Long is how frequently he tells his students how awesome they are. (especially visible during the Alice Project & the 1984 project). I'm generally proud of my students, but I felt I needed to celebrate their work in a more special and obvious way.

Today I popped 12 bags of microwave popcorn during my prep and stitched together their finished video projects complete with introductory fanfare, the THX sound, an opening red curtain, and a fun intermission song. We spent about half the class simply watching each others' videos2.

The videos

Enough of me. More of them. Here are every one of my 2nd block's video projects. Feel free to leave comments on this post or on the the YouTube video pages. I'll be sure to share your comments (both praises & critiques) with my students.

(Update: This post has received a lot of attention by people doing Comments 4 Kids. While I'm grateful for that, unfortunately the kids really don't read this blog. My suggestion would be to leave comments on each video's YouTube page. That way the students are much more likely to see your comments. Thanks!)

Alkali Metals:

Alkaline-Earth Metals:

Transition Metals:

Metalloids & Semi-Conductors in Plain English:


Noble Gases:


  1. For a more detailed explanation, see my guest post over at the Free Tech 4 Teachers site.      (back)
  2. We later did, and are still doing, some self- and peer-assessments.     (back)

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.


  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)

Element card results

A big thank you to all of you who voted on my classes' element cards. In general I would say the project was a success. The front of the cards were generally decorated, though the backs of the cards were usually pretty lacking despite my appeals to make both sides visually appealing.

If you missed my earlier post where I explained the project please visit. I've also updated that post to include links to files of the handout I give students.

2nd Block

1st place: Plutonium


2nd Place: Carbon


3rd Place: Fluorine


3rd Block

1st place: Neon


2nd place: Aluminum


3rd place: Sulfur



4th Block

1st place: Potassium


2nd place: Calcium


3rd place: Tin


Now I just need to do this for a few more years until I get a complete set of element cards. 🙂

Vote Now! (Element Trading Cards)

This isn't one of those super-tech-integrative activities people swoon over- but it's one I enjoy (and if you just want to vote on the cards and not read this, scroll down to the bottom).

After going over the basics of the atom and the periodic table, each student selects a different element off the periodic table. When doing this with multiple classes I don't let any two students use the same element (I've never had over 117 students do this in the same semester).

There's often some grumbling they so-and-so couldn't get the element that sounds like their name (Samarium is picked by a significant number of students named Sam), and always the fun of having male knuckleheads always select Holmium, Thullium, and Platinum (Holmium's symbol = Ho; Thullium's atomic number = 69; Platinum for the bling, natch), but all in all they seem to enjoy getting their "own" element.

I used to do this project every year mainly to reinforce effective online search techniques, and didn't do it when I moved covering atoms and the periodic table later in the semester- after we'd already gone over effective internet research techniques. The project isn't super-rigorous on the science end. I give the students a list of information to find for their element, they find it and design the front and back of their cards. Half the grade for this assignment is in the design. I thought of making design worth less, but all this talk of visual literacy floating through the intertubes made me think it's worth that much. If they can't display the information so it's easy to find and read, then the information is worth less.

As a result, I always have had classes vote on the best designed cards from each class to earn a few bonus points for the winners. Typically I'll have my 3rd period vote on my 2nd period's cards and vice versa. This year I figured I'd up the ante a bit by using one of those fancy online polling sites for the vote and invite anyone who'd like to vote to do so. So, you're invited!

Each class has it's own poll, so feel free to vote in all three polls: The polls are now closed. 🙂

  • First Block (this is the poll I posted to Twitter. If you've already voted you can skip it)
  • Second Block
  • Third Block

I used PollAuthority.com (as recommended by @Dsalvucci via Twitter), as it was the only site I could find where I could have images used as answers in the polls. I had a little trouble getting the poll to work properly the first time around, but overall the poll creation process was pretty easy. It turns out that once the poll is finished and saved you are unable to further edit the poll, which is what I was trying to do. Once I figured out that issue things went swimmingly.

Thanks for voting! I'll give an update this weekend or early next week when voting is completed.

UPDATE: I've closed the polls and tallied the result. I've posted the winners in a more recent post. In addition, here are the handouts I give to my students for this project: