SERIES PREMIERE: BIOLOGY

 

We’re launching a new series on Socratica! Today we released our first video about Biology. 

We’re starting with that most important molecule, DNA.  DNA provides all the instructions an organism needs to develop, survive, and reproduce.

Before you can really appreciate how DNA works to do all these vital tasks, you must understand the structure of DNA. That’s why we’re starting with this video!

We had a secret weapon for making this video. We knew we wanted to build a model of DNA, but we didn’t want to just buy a kit that snaps together. Honestly – that’s just too easy. It’s all too easy to snap the pieces together without really digesting what you just built.

Our special tool?  A 3D Printing Pen!

MorphPen was kind enough to send a 3D printing pen to Socratica for us to try.  It’s like nothing else we’ve ever tried before. Sort of like an incredibly pliant, quick-drying clay that goes right where you want it to. We can make 3D sculptures! 

giphy

We’ve always known how vital it is to draw something, if you want to really understand its shape. Think of all those maps you drew as a child.

But to be able to draw in 3D is a game-changer!

If you’d like to #trymorphpen yourself, here’s a link:

Thanks for checking out our new series! Let us know in the comments what you think! 

KHH

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SERIES PREMIERE – Study Tips – How to be a Great Student – Cornell Notes

This is the FIRST EPISODE of our new series on How to Be a Great Student! In this episode, we learn about the CORNELL METHOD.

 

This is a great method for taking notes in class (or from your textbook, or watching a video). There’s no way to remember every word of a lecture. But taking great lecture notes is the first step to getting good grades and being a great student.

The most important rule is don’t write down every word. Listen carefully, then write simplified and abbreviated phrases that capture the main ideas.

When you get home, RE-READ your notes! Proofread them, making corrections as needed before you forget. Check your notes with a friend! In the margin, write brief headers that will cue your memory of each section of your notes.

Finally, write a summary at the bottom of the page so you can quickly tell what this page of notes is all about.

Do you have a different method of taking notes? Let us know what are your favourite study tips in the comments!

KHH

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Related:

Are you curious about how we filmed these videos?  Check out our episode of Socratica Backstage about this video shoot:  Socratica Backstage: Overhead Mirrored Shots

Watch the trailer for our Study Tips: How to Be a Great Student series

 

Socratica Backstage: Behind the Scenes look at Mirrored Overhead Shots

We’re launching a new series on Socratica called “Study Tips: How to Be a Great Student.” An essential part of the videos in this series will be overhead B Roll and Insert Shots, to demonstrate things like how to take notes, how to use flashcards, etc.

overhead camera rig

Where do you put this thing when you’re not using it?

Many people use a large frame and suspend a camera overhead in order to do overhead shots. It’s one thing if you’re using a GoPro, but this isn’t something you really want to do with a larger camera with a nice lens. Other drawbacks include the amount of space an overhead frame takes up, and the fact that the camera is not easily accessible. You can’t zoom in during a shot unless you have a sophisticated remote control setup. You can’t easily move the camera from its fixed position, which limits the kind of filmmaking you can do (no pans, tilts, or slider shots).

Today on Socratica Backstage, you can watch how we mounted a large mirror in order to do better overhead shots. We immediately put it to use, filming B Roll and Insert shots for our first video in the Study Tips series, “How to Take Great Notes.”

 

We release our Backstage Videos early to our Patreon Supporters.  Thank you for being our super-fans!  Your support means so much to us.

If you are not yet a supporter of Socratica, please visit our Patreon Page and consider joining our team. You’ll be supporting our efforts to make more high-quality educational videos. Thank you!
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KHH

 

 

For COSMOS lovers: What are neutron stars?

All of us at Socratica grew up watching Carl Sagan and his groundbreaking series Cosmos.  Most people think of it as a series on astronomy, but it was really more about our place in the universe as thinking, exploring creatures looking to understand who we are and how did we get here.

When I taught biology, I regularly showed Sagan’s episode about evolution as an introduction to the topic. My students would laugh about his pronunciation of “yooman” and his odd speech patterns with unexpected….PAUSES. But by the end of the episode, they were completely won over and wanted to see more of this fascinating man.

Sagan and his tree

This line always got a big laugh.

Carl Sagan’s enthusiasm and broad knowledge of so many subjects made us want to learn almost everything from him. The work we do at Socratica is maybe best considered an homage to great teachers like Sagan.  There’s no way we could ever capture his special sauce – but we do get inspiration from his candor, his love for teaching, and his quest to know.

We’re over the moon to start a new playlist on Astronomy. Our first video:  What are Neutron Stars?

 

Over the moon, see what I did there? I crack myself up sometimes.

 

We recommend, obviously:

 

Cosmos DVDs

Cosmos: Carl Sagan
This is the 13-hour set of DVDs – one of the best programs in television history.

 

 

Cosmosbookcover

Cosmos

And this is the companion book with a new foreward by Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

 

KHH

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Socrates. Put to death for corrupting the youth of Athens. Our hero.

Socrates is considered one of the founders of Western Philosophy, and the inventor of the Socratic Method which is still widely used in classrooms today. He’s something of a mystery, though, because what we know of him comes from second-hand accounts. What?! It’s true, the great teacher left behind no writings of his own.

Our hero and namesake is the star of our latest “Great Thinkers” video.

 

We recommend the following works from Socrates’ students, Plato and Xenophon:

 

Plato

The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin Classics)

 

Xenophon

Conversations of Socrates (Penguin Classics)

 

And just for fairness, we’ll include Aristophanes (although Plato called the account of Socrates in the play “The Clouds” slander):

Aristophanes

Lysistrata and Other Plays (Penguin Classics)

 

KHH

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Video

My first screen-cast for Socratica: “Balancing Chemical Equations”

I’ve been writing and editing and producing videos for Socratica for a little over a year now.  That’s been all behind-the-scenes work.  It’s been gratifying to see my ideas take form and finally appear as a finished little movie on YouTube.  Every now and then, however, I think maybe I have been a little too behind the scenes.  We get comments on our videos sometimes – that are being performed by actors – “You’re so smart! How do you know all these things?”  Errmmm.  Our actors are very bright and thoughtful people, but it is a bit of an ego blow to think that the audience doesn’t realize there is a whole production team writing and editing that material for our actors to perform.  I guess I know how most screenwriters feel.  When was the last time someone fawned over the brilliant minds behind our most beloved movies?  We give all of the attention to the faces on the big screen.

Not that I want to be signing autographs or anything. I think, for instance, that the cult of ego is taken to the extreme in some cases on online personalities.  Look at Sal Khan, for instance, who Bill Gates called “the best teacher I’ve ever seen.”  I guess he doesn’t know many teachers. That’s what happens when someone becomes an online celebrity instead of – well, instead of what I’m trying to be – a maker of beautiful, quality educational materials.  It’s really okay if people don’t know my name, as long as they have found the best videos that help them learn.

This week, I made my first attempt at a screencast video, on one of the most common problems for chemistry students, “balancing chemical equations.”  In this video, I work through 5 examples using the “inspection” or “trial-and-error” method.  In a follow-up video, I’ll demonstrate solving the same examples using the algebraic method.

My latest foray into educational videos is still somewhat anonymous – I won’t appear in these screencast videos except for my voice.  Maybe one of these days I’ll actually show my face in a video.  And then WATCH OUT WORLD!

KHH

Link

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.