We didn’t have multimedia presentations in school. We didn’t watch movies in class, and there was nothing projected anywhere on any kind of a screen. I didn’t even see an overhead projector until my AP Biology class my junior year in high school – because up until that time, anything that my teachers wanted to show me, they would write, painstakingly, in chalk, on a chalkboard. My biology class required the quick display of lots of complicated pictures and diagrams, and by the time those could have been drawn, class would have been over. Hence, the use of the projector.
Things didn’t change much for me in college. I went to Caltech in the 90s, where professors still loved to use chalk – I remember the mathematician Tom Apostol using ALL of the chalkboards and he remembered what was written on every one, pointing to them like an orchestra conductor – and one poor chemistry professor who needed to wear a glove when he wrote because of his chalk allergy. It was really only in my Biology classes that I saw projected complicated images. My professors used the available technology when it was needed – but most of the time, you might not be able to tell the difference between our classroom and one from the 1920s. Well, except for all of us girls in class.
Welcome to Powerpoint on PowerPoint (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It wasn’t until I was working in my first post-undergraduate job for a pharmaceutical company that I used PowerPoint in company presentations. I had charts, I had graphs, I had data to discuss – it made sense to be using PowerPoint.
By the time I started teaching, the game had changed. There was an arms-race on in teaching – who could use the most technology in one lecture? PowerPoint was the business, and all my lectures were PowerPoint-based. My lecture notes were full of interesting and unusual visuals, and we used clickers to make the lectures interactive, but the next step was to include video. OH MY GOD my students loved videos.
There was just one problem – there wasn’t much good video out there – a few fuzzy recordings of teachers at a whiteboard. Plenty of pretty chemistry explosions: long on spectacle, short on substance. A few good molecular biology animations – behind a textbook paywall.
Later came the KhanAcademy recordings – unedited, full of mistakes, that ramble on sometimes for twenty minutes…if I used those, there would be no time for my own class. And could I expect my students to watch them at home on their own time? No way. My students groaned as if in actual pain if a video was ever 5 minutes long…3 minutes, maybe, they could handle. It was the 30-45 second quick definition we really wanted. All the time, what was really holding my students back was – they couldn’t remember the difference between anion and cation. Or what’s the definition of an acid or a base. What we needed, basically, was a glossary, in a palatable form.
What I really wanted was a library of mini-videos I could plug into my lectures, or a nice set of short videos I could send to my students. But there was nothing like that out there.
So I made them myself, with Socratica.
That’s why our videos are so short. There was a need for exactly that.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re not stopping there. We’ll make longer videos, for the students who need more, but we’ve started with these little nuggets first. That’s why a lot of our videos have ” – a quick definition” in the title or description.
So subscribe to the Socratica YouTube channels, and stay tuned!
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