Learning in Stereo

Things like Kyle Finchsigmate's great series of blog posts on running columns , Org Prep Daily, and chemistry demo posts on Mitch's blog have got me thinking about the process of learning how to do stuff in the lab, and how technology is changing that process. Back in the day, I would read the instruction book before going to undergraduate labs, but I really learned the nitty gritty details about lab techniques from talking to people (my lab TA's, my undergraduate mentor, senior grad students, and postdocs). From time to time, I also got tips from a website (Not Voodoo). What fascinates me most about the blogs is the useful discussions that each post engenders.

There are a smattering of universities who are looking to technology to help students learn their way around the lab- they're producing videos of lab techniques, some available on YouTube and/or for downloading onto an iPod, like a video podcast. Watch videos at MIT, Cal. State U. Long Beach, and Indiana U. South Bend for some examples. Searching Google for "lab demo video" brings this one up.

Does your college or university make use of video podcasts for teaching students proper lab techniques?

Would you use podcasts/ videos to learn lab techniques or brush up on skills, or do you think learning from a real person is better?

Where do blogs fall into the equation? What’s their role?

What do you think is the best way to teach someone how to properly use lab equipment or perform a certain lab technique? Does it depend on the technique in question?

Author: Carmen Drahl

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  1. Yes, we’re going to be using web demos for chem UGs at Sydney. There’s immense value in videos of common techniques to back up what the students see in class. We’re also going to go one step further next semester, and allow for student uploads of their own experiments. This trial/chaos starts in 3 months.

  2. I think posting instructional videos before lab is a great idea. I know I spent a lot of time in undergraduate chemistry labs (especially in organic chemistry lab, when I didn’t have a lab partner to argue with) paralyzed by confusion about what on earth I was supposed to be doing. An instructional video online would have allowed me to prepare before lab on my own time, so that I could have spent my time actually in lab more effectively.

  3. No lab coat!

  4. @mitch-Good point. I haven’t watched all the videos I linked to- any other similar protective gear errors? What kind of standards should be in place for these vids? Something else I’ve noticed is that there is a lot of overlap topic-wise- necessary or not?