Friday, June 24, 2016

Educational YouTube Channels: Mark Rober

Mark Rober started his YouTube channel to show off a Halloween costume that he made. Since then he has made many more interesting videos including one about his time as a NASA engineer working on the Curiosity Rover. What I like about his channel is that he works through ideas and shows proper ways of doing simple home based experiments. The topics of his videos are geared towards a general audience. Some of his videos have gone massively viral, including one where he explained how to "skin a watermelon".

Below is one of his videos that my nephews used to win their Cub Scout pack Pinewood Derby.

If you want to win an egg drop competition then this one will help you out.

There are many other interesting videos on his channel and there will be even more interesting videos to come.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Educational YouTube Channels: NurdRage

There are plenty of random YouTube channels out there that specialize in just about everything imaginable, including channels dedicated to blowing things up. NurdRage is one of those channels. But what makes NurdRage different from many of the other blow things up channels is they actually explain and demonstrate how to synthesize various chemicals. And they do not always do the cool, or popular chemicals either, such as thermite. The have videos about things like how to recycle copper chloride, and how to make chloroform. The reactions and processes are more applicable to college level chemistry than high school chemistry.

What I like about this channel is that because they do not focus on the common or popular chemical reactions, they tend to show things that you do not find on many other YouTube channels. They also occasionally get into the weeds of different processes and reactions to test different ways of producing the same product. Some of these processes are used in industry for making chemicals also used in other processes and manufacturing.

This channel won't be for everyone. Some may find it incredibly boring, because let's face it, most people will not be interested in watching a 10 minute video about making propionic acid. But for anyone who has an interest in chemistry beyond explosions and the iodine clock reaction, then this is the channel for you.

I saw this video and instantly went out and found a laser and a jar of peanut butter to test this. It really works.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Educational YouTube Channels: The Bible Project

Over a year ago one of the artists for a web comic that I read mentioned that they were doing artwork for something called The Bible Project. Since then I have been following their channel and watching their videos and I can honestly say that their work and explanations of the Bible are top notch. There are many channels on YouTube that attempt to discuss religious topics, but there are very few that manage to do it without either being over critical of religion, being so blindingly faith promoting to the point of churning out kitsch, or being so academic that they could raise the dead, just so the dead could be put to sleep out of boredom.

On The Bible Project channel they manage to hit the sweet spot with explanations that both the highly educated and novices would find interesting. Last year they produced a video on Holiness which I enjoyed greatly, so I took concepts from it and incorporated into an Elder's Quorum lesson. I think I got more comments, compliments and questions from that lesson than any other.

What makes these videos so valuable is they cover the history surrounding the Bible as a history of a faith, and a history and the development of a theology. It places all the parts of the Bible into a faith context while not losing the broader historical, cultural and social context in which the Bible was produced. I highly recommend this channel both for personal enrichment and for ideas of how to better teach about the Bible.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Educational YouTube Channels: The Great War

Telling the history of World War I is a rather ambitious undertaking, but producing videos every week explaining the war as it happened is a truly monumental task. The premise of the channel The Great War, is to tell the history of WWI a week at a time, exactly 100 years after it happened. To explain the channel here is an NPR interview with the creator Indy Neidell.

Currently they are half way through the war, but you can still catch up (here is the complete, week by week, list of episodes in chronological order). The episodes are generally only a few minutes long, but very informative. What really sets this series apart from all the other documentary series is you get a sense of how the war progressed from the perspective of someone who only has the small day to day, week to week, details. Usually history documentaries focus on topics, or single events or important series of events such as a battle or campaign. But this series by covering the war a week at a time immerses us in the true scope of the war and how it would be perceived by someone who lived it.

Indy Neidell also covers topics or events generally ignored in most history classes, because he has the time to address the small things and to build a narrative around them. For example he had an episode about Poland in WWI, which isn't talked about much because Poland wasn't an independent country at the time. Or his episode on South Africa and their involvement with the war. On the channel they also put out special episodes to cover specific topics such as Lawrence of Arabia, or Shell Shock.

This series is both an incredible introduction to WWI, and a great resource for learning about the war in depth. Most educational video series only serve as a good introduction to a subject, but this series goes beyond that into a great academic resource. It is not something that should be missed.

As a note, this series deals entirely with WWI, and as such may not be appropriate for small children. The series uses historical footage from news reels which occasionally includes the aftermath of battles.