Periodic Videos

Seen me lately?
Seen me lately?

When I was growing up, “Video in the Classroom” meant one of two things – a filmstrip or an educational film on the film projector. Anyone near my age remembers being put in charge of the filmstrip projector and advancing it on the “beep”. Every room in elementary school had students trained as “AV Monitors” who helped technologically challenged teachers with tasks such as threading the film into the film projector.

The end of each week, or days with substitutes (or both) seemed to be particularly popular days for the “plan in a can” – a lesson based on films. Often, the film’s subject was at best tangential to the subject(s) being studied. I still remember the titles – classics such as “I Am Joe’s Stomach” and “Our Mr. Sun” often found their way into the curriculum at multiple class levels.

When my teaching career began in 1986, many of the video tools from my own years in public school were still central to the classroom. In fact, some of those same titles from my childhood were still finding their way into the classroom. When the school lost it’s film contract with the County Library, a number of teachers were nearly lost wondering what they would do in class on a Friday. Some of those old classics found their way to video tape, but many (thankfully) entered obsolescence.

My school district pays for a contract with an online video streaming service. I’ve never used it in class. There is a much better source of educational video for the classroom. We call it YouTube. Now, the caveat is that you should never show a video that you have not previewed completely prior to showing it in class (voice of experience!)

My favorite resource for Chemistry videos is without doubt A videographer and faculty at the University of Nottingham have produced videos for ALL of the elements on the periodic table. The videos are generally no more than six or seven minutes, very well done, and often contain chemical reactions or demonstrations that cannot be done in the classroom for reasons of expense, safety, or both. Gone are the days of having to show a thirty minute movie to a class in order to have them see the three or four minutes you actually cared to have them see. We now have professional quality instructional video at the click of a mouse. Yes – the videos are streamed through YouTube, so you may need permission to bypass your school’s filters if they block YouTube in your district.

These videos are high interest, and introduce students to the fun and reasoning of chemistry. Take a look and see if you don’t agree. If you still want to show your students the 1956 classic “Our Mr. Sun”, you will find that on YouTube as well (and you won’t have to worry about the film breaking while your showing it, either).

Published by

Andy Allan

I am the owner-developer of and a science teacher at El Diamante High School in Visalia, CA.