Thoughts with Richard Bleil
Lately, I’ve been using online technology to teach basic chemical principles to a friend of mine. It occurred to me that parents might be interested in it as well. My basic assumptions is that parents might want to help their children with homework, or find themselves homeschooling their children, and that many of them are uncomfortable with the physical sciences (which I define as chemistry, physics and mathematics). The course that I am teaching is modeled after a university course, one that I’ve taught in a few different institutions. It’s basically chemistry for non-majors, so we’re skipping most of the calculations and focusing on the principles. The course is being taught twice a week, for 75 minutes. This is the same as a Tuesday and Thursday class at a college or university. Note that this is 150 minutes, which is identical to courses taught on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for 50 minutes each.
The online technology that I am using allows me to record the lessons. Afterwards, I upload the videos to my YouTube channel so anybody interested can view them. But this time, I noticed something that I hadn’t before.
See, you can put in the video the category of the video. The default is “People and Blogs”, which I didn’t notice earlier. There is a “Science and Technology” category that I have been using for this latest series.
But this is not my first series of videos, so last night, way too late, I went through (hopefully) all of my videos and changed the category.
I’ve done three major series of videos. The first was a series of math lectures, following a textbook found by my friend who had asked me to do them. These videos cover basically college algebra, and again, although my friend requested it, I posted it publicly thinking others might find it useful.
After my “Mathematics Demystified” class, I put together a series of short videos called “Seventy Second Science”. This covered topics in chemistry and physics, again geared towards serving parents. The concept was that if they had a particular question, then they could find (based on the video title) the specific file they needed, and I cover the topic, very briefly, in seventy seconds. The inspiration for this series was something NI had read suggesting that the typical person will stop watching videos after about eighty seconds, so I wanted to make the videos short enough to keep focus for the typical viewer. Obviously, none of the topics were covered in any great detail, but it’s just a brief overview. To be honest, I kind of gave up on these videos prematurely. The only feedback I got was well-intentioned but critical that they weren’t polished enough, with like an opening graphic, but as I was doing it alone, I just couldn’t see putting more effort into it than I was, so the criticism hurt more than I would like to admit. I would be willing to start it back up if somebody wanted me to or asked me to put some together on specific topics.
My seventy-second science series was based on an idea I tried to get my math and science people to try when I was dean, suggesting a series of brief videos on how to solve problems that can be put online for students to view at any time. It would just be examples of problem types and their solutions, in very brief videos creating a kind of library. Of course, they didn’t do it because, apparently, they are smarter than I am. So, it was a bad idea.
In all, I counted about 85 videos, some (like math and chemistry) about the length of a university lecture, and many just seventy seconds long. In all of them, though, there is a common thread, specifically the desire to reach out and help people to better understand and feel more comfortable with the physical sciences.
It’s hard to gauge if I’ve been making any progress in this goal, however. Some of these videos have, quite literally, zero views, even those requested by my friends. A few have a lot of views. No, not in the millions, as none of them have gone viral, but to have fifty or more views I consider to be quite a lot. They drop off fairly quickly; a few have views in the fifties and twenties, then it drops to single digits.
In the end, I doubt that anybody will ever really notice this cache of videos. I’ll never be recognize3d for my efforts, and I’ll never win any awards, but I won’t stop either. I know somebody is watching them, and I hope that at least a few people find them helpful. But, if not, it’s not from lack of trying.