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Voices of Authority

Doctor, Doctor!  Will you check my vital signs?

Doctor, Doctor! Will you check my vital signs?

 

I just finished editing a series of videos I wrote called “Doctor, Doctor!”  This is a video series intended to help people who are confused by the way their doctor talks, but are embarrassed or afraid to ask questions.  Personally, I can’t relate to this problem AT ALL, but I saw it happen to my sweet mum all the time.  She had ovarian cancer, and I would go with her to her doctor’s appointments and all sorts of words we had never heard before would be flying around the room.  My mum would be smiling politely and nodding.  I would take notes and ask questions.

Afterwards, I would ask my mum what she thought, and it was painfully clear that she didn’t really understand what the doctor had said about her treatment.  “Why didn’t you say something?!” I would say, exasperated.  My poor mum was from a time and place where the doctor was Boss – the person in the white coat knows best and you simply didn’t question him.  But we know now you really have to be an active participant in your own health care if you want good results, and how can you do that if you don’t know what’s going on?

These videos are short and to the point, and intended to provide a friendly face to de-mystify those obscure words and phrases. I’m trying to remember – what did I do to help my mum when she was in that situation? She didn’t need a big biology lecture – she just needed some familiar non-scary language.

It was great fun to work with Omi, an up-and-coming Bollywood star – and to try my hand at “The Parent Trap” style film editing.  Don’t forget to subscribe, and let us know in the comments what other terms you think would be good in this series!

KHH

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FAQ: Why are your videos so short?

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.

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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

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!

KHH

Here’s our English YouTube channel:

Socratica Studios

Our other channels are

Socratica Español,

Socratica Français,

Socratica Deutsch,

Socratica Русский,

Socratica Português, and

Socratica Kids.

And here are our phone apps in the Google Play store:

Socratica Phone Apps

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Please be a teacher: A Response to Warnings and Resignation Letters

Please be a teacher: A Response to Warnings and Resignation Letters.

This is a blog post I read recently that got me thinking a lot about things I had put out of my mind. Namely, how and why I left classroom teaching, and do I still consider myself a teacher.

I used to teach Biology and Chemistry – first at the college level as a grad student, and then at an exclusive prep school.  I loved being a student, and I loved being a teacher. I loved the classroom.  I loved my students.  I loved the work.  It was the best job I ever had – and I would still be doing it, if it were possible.  But it isn’t.  I found myself pushed and prodded and bullied and micromanaged to such a degree, it made doing the actual job, the work I was so crazy good at*, impossible.  Why would they hire an expert, and then not allow her to function?  It was an obscene farce.

I soldiered on for eight years, believing in the work I was doing.  But finally, what amounted to the last straw was an ethical dilemma, where I found administrators more intent on maintaining their power than doing the right thing for some kids who were bullied.  I was disgusted.  I couldn’t bring myself to be in the same room as those people for one more day.  All I could think was – “You don’t get to work with me anymore.”

That meant – no more being a teacher for me.

Or did it?  I entered what I called “semi-retirement” – I puttered around at home, went to the library, went for long walks in botanical gardens, swam laps.  But I couldn’t turn off the teaching part of my brain. I found myself still mentally composing lectures and activities for my students – but I had no students.  I used to teach about 50 students a year, intensively. I missed them.

Well, I found a way.  Now I teach thousands, through Socratica, all over the world.  I can still be a teacher.  I still am a teacher.

KHH

*not to tootle my own horn, but I was awfully good at my job.  Presidential awards and other commendations. Unbelievably high test scores. After taking my class, kids got lab jobs and into top colleges – the works.  But nothing was ever good enough.

Welcome to Socratica

A year ago, I left classroom teaching and focused my attentions on creating content for Socratica Studios, a company started by Michael Harrison (my tall dark and handsome husband).  We’ve been making “green screen” videos out of our own studio – on a variety of subjects (math, chemistry, art, opera, etc.) and in a variety of different languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Portuguese).  We are dedicated to making beautiful, high-quality learning materials available to everyone.  This is an offshoot of our original venture, making educational phone apps.

Here’s our English YouTube channel:

Socratica Studios

Our other channels are

Socratica Español,

Socratica Français,

Socratica Deutsch,

Socratica Русский,

Socratica Português, and

Socratica Kids.

And here are our phone apps in the Google Play store:

Socratica Phone Apps

Please subscribe, tell us what you think, and stay tuned for more developments!

KHH

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Our Spanish actress Liliana De Castro in the studio

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After a little work with Adobe Premiere and After Effects, Liliana is now in the French countryside, talking about art.