Happy Birthday Video Science!

Joe Dyer trying one of his Video Science experiments at home in the UK

Recently we received the below email from Phil and Deb Dyer from the the city of Chester in the United Kingdom, with the above picture of their son Joe. On a visit to New York City the Dyers met Dan Menelly, Science House education advisor and host of Science House’s Video Science app who told them about the app.

“Our 9 year old son Joe has since been fascinated by experimental learning through the Video Science media. As parents Video Science has allowed Joe the opportunity to be given a one to one enriching science experience through digital media. Dan Menelly’s engaging lectures have caught Joe’s imagination and, as Joe says ‘There is really fun stuff to do and, it makes you do amazing things’.

As parents it is sometimes difficult to find a media that engages with your child’s learning process, but we are really pleased that Video Science has achieved this Joe is taking his Alien egg to school soon and will be presenting his experiment to the class, not bad for a 9 yr old!

Kind regards, Phil, Deb and Joe”

Dan Menelly demonstrates a "Light Physics" experiment for the Video Science series.

For the past year Science House education advisor Daniel Menelly and Science House CEO and Founder James Jorasch have spent a few weekends per month at Science House recording new videos for Science House’s Video Science app.

This month we celebrate the release of Video Science 3.0.

Saturdays at Science House

In the early days of Science House Dan Menelly and James Jorasch were discussing how they might collaborate. Dan envisioned a “virtual toolkit” of science teaching tips, tools and experiments for new science teachers based on some of the experiments he does in the classroom. But he didn’t have the technological capability to produce and disseminate this content.

“Science House was looking for ways to leverage cutting-edge technology to reach a larger audience,” James said. “So, Dan and I converted a room in Science House into a mini-studio and started capturing video.”

“Dan would arrive at 11am on Saturdays, usually exhausted from his work week as a full-time science teacher at the United Nations International School, and we’d spend hours setting up the studio. Some days we’d have to pause recording to go get an obscure missing ingredient usually available from a grocery store down the street.”

At Science House, a closet contains artifacts from past Video Science segments, and shelves full of materials purchased for use in future segments, “including ones involving the chemistry of soap, a working model of a turbine and some higher level biological science material,” Dan said.

Originally the videos were uploaded to the Science House website. But, James adds, “being serious Apple fanatics, we decided that it had to be on the iPhone. And when the first iPad application came out, we decided it had to be on the iPad, too.”

The Video Science you see and experience on your iPhone or iPad is the handiwork of Jesse Tayler, CEO and founder of Object Enterprises, a company specializing in mobile applications for business. In the early days, Jesse worked with Gabi de Wit from Science House Foundation (who recently left to pursue her PhD in Molecular Biochemistry at Oxford) to edit and produce the videos and bring them to life on iPhones and iPads.

“Gabi and Jesse together added the digital wizardry and coding that transformed Video Science into media that could be shared by anyone with access to the Internet or an iPhone,” Dan recalled. “Gabi offered her formidable science oversight and excellent editorial guidance to the concept notes we drafted for each new segment, and Jesse shared invaluable data to show which segments drew the largest audiences. We can use Jesse’s data to help shape and produce our next season of Video Science content.”

In the past 25 weeks, Video Science has been downloaded by more than 50,000 new users with some days reaching around 800 new downloads per day or 3,000 per week. It has been downloaded in every country for which there is a store, and Apple adds new stores regularly. Jesse estimates that there are nearly 200,000 downloads by at this point. (The system only allows you to see 25 weeks of download history.)

Not bad for no promotion! Jesse tells us this is unusual on the AppStore since Video Science has never been presented to any of the big tech blogs like TechCrunch or been involved in any promotions, and even still, “it does far better than any other app that I’m aware of that have had silent releases.”

Jesse’s team worked to program the app for a “super-fast release,” which allowed Video Science to get out into the app world quickly and well in advance of other science education apps.

This is when Video Science really took off.

Video Science and Education

Video Science has also been reviewed and recommended by teachers and education strategists as one of the go-to solutions for science teachers looking for curriculum suggestions on the web.

Edutopia blogged about Video Science as being a critical app for engaging students in new ways of learning. How Stuff Works listed Video Science in its top 10 apps for teaching kids about science. And YouthFirst, a resource for teachers included it among their classroom resources.

Dan Menelly described what he hopes people will gain from Video Science, reflecting on his 25 years as a science teacher, scholar and researcher.

“Teaching is a great pleasure. I’ve always enjoyed discussions with new teachers who are building their repertoire with STEM. I decided I could share my ideas, tips and experience with other teachers in cyberspace. My hope is that new teachers will not only interact with these ideas but build on them.

“I always viewed Video Science as a little ‘Tips of the Trade’ resource. Scoutmasters have emailed me saying they really like the “nuts-and-bolts” aspect. Others have described it as “garage-like.” And that’s what it’s intended to be: a nuts-and-bolts garage-like description of science lessons I’ve learned in my career. It’s not a simulation as much as it is a tool for teachers to build on. ”

The Future of Video Science

“The future is international for us,” James told me. In fact, on our recent speaking trip to Brazil we were thrilled when Ana Zeri of the Brazilian National Biosciences Laboratory told the audience that she had a special surprise that she was excited to share with them. That surprise was one of her favorite clips of Dan Menelly’s Stomata experiment.

We’re in early discussions now to create a Brazilian version of Video Science to make the lessons more accessible to non-English speakers.

As for the technology, we’ll continue to evolve with the times, James said. “And if there’s a new holographic display, you can bet Science House will be one of the first organizations to build an app for it.”

“If there are two words I’d like science teachers or parents who are watching video science to take away,” said Dan. “It’s ‘Try This.’ Show these to kids and they’ll teach you how to turn it into something else. “

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