A woman wearing an MIT shirt being filmed by a crew.

MIT Sloan Fellow Andrea Desrosiers makes an educational video about orthodontics. (Photograph courtesy of Elizabeth Choe.)

By Joe Pickett, OCW Publication Director

Pretty much all kids have a natural curiosity about the world—how things are put together, how they work—but somehow in the course of many kids’ education this natural inquisitiveness and sense of wonder gets squelched, and kids end up intimated or bored by science and engineering.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could help change this?

Students taking 20.219 Becoming the Next Bill Nye: Writing and Hosting the Educational Show aspire to do just that. In three short weeks, they create and star in their own educational videos.

Here’s a trailer about the course:

We all know that there are lots of educational videos already in the world, and students in 20.219 must quickly suss out the difference between what makes one engaging and effective, and another not so much.

The lead instructors of the course are Elizabeth Choe and Jaime Goldstein.  Choe, a colleague of the folks at OCW in MIT’s Office of Digital Learning, has plenty of experience helping MIT students make science videos in her video series Science Out Loud.  Goldstein is an instructor in the Communication Lab of MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering.

What Goes into Making a Good Video?

The OCW course site is bursting with video resources. All class sessions were video-recorded, including lectures, discussions, and workshops. Guest lecturers include George Zaidan (the creative force behind OCW’s reality video series ChemLab Boot Camp), Chris Boebel (co-teacher of MIT’s 21A.550J DV Lab: Documenting Science through Video and New Media), Joshua Gunn, founder of the animation studio Planet Nutshell, and Natalie Kuldell, President of the Biobuilder Education Foundation. The topics cover the entire gamut of video production, from scripting, table-reading, and hosting to filming, audio, and editing. Naturally, the course emphasizes pre-production—coming up with a good script and creating a compelling visual narrative.

Who’s Watching?

The videos created in this class are aimed at middle schoolers, the kids whose natural curiosity hangs in the balance. In the interest of getting honest feedback, the instructors invited a group of sixth-graders to come to a class session and share their opinions about what works in video and what doesn’t.  They don’t hold back.

How’s It Going, Students?

Screengrab image of video with a young man, hands raised and seeming to hold animated rocketship and person.

Student Kenneth Cheah’s video project: “Is Time Travel Possible?

Students taking the class also share their reflections and opinions in blogs and vlogs created for each course session. The course site has many examples of student work—drafts and revisions of scripts, shot lists, screenings of rough cuts and final cuts. The course site gathers the various steps and iterations for all student projects in one place, so you can see how each student’s project developed from start to finish.

So, What Do You Think, Instructors?

Screengrab of timeline window, with a video player and blocks highlighting each day's content.

Elizabeth Choe shares her reflections on teaching in an interactive timeline.

No doubt about it, 20.219 is an intense experience, and not just for the students. The lead instructors reflect on their experiences in a conversation on their Instructor Insights page, whose topics include Planning Backwards as a way to move forward, Grading and Feedback in a course focused on students’ creative work, and Cultivating a Healthy Classroom Culture. And in a series of six videos, Elizabeth Choe and her guest lecturers discuss additional topics of interest to educators, including Teaching as a Team, Digital Media Literacy, and Teaching through Workshops. There is also an interactive Timeline of Teaching Reflections, in which Choe speaks honestly about her experience in a series of vlogs recorded throughout the three week class period.

There are few sites on the web that present such a rich educational experience with so many perspectives. You could even make a video about it!