262953 Chemical Process Videos: A Long-Distance Partnership for Outreach and Communication Skills Development

Wednesday, October 31, 2012: 1:27 PM
328 (Convention Center )
Shannon Ciston, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA and Lindsey Own, The Evergreen School, Shoreline, WA

Modern communications technologies create new opportunities for learning and collaboration while demanding new skills of engineering students of all ages.  This project is a partnership between seventh graders at The Evergreen School and chemical engineering undergraduates from the University of California, Berkeley that leverages these opportunities for mutual learning and exchange. 

In this video project, teams of junior-level chemical engineering students were challenged to create an educational video to teach a chemical process or science concept to a middle-school-aged audience.  The project was set in the context of a Technical Communications for Chemical Engineers course, in partnership with seventh grade science students at The Evergreen School.  The seventh graders acted as consultants for the undergraduates, drawing on their previous experience watching educational videos in school and their life experience and interests as middle school students.

There were three learning objectives for the undergraduate students: 

1)      Tailor technical content to the interests and needs of a non-technical audience

2)      Use verbal and visual channels to effectively communicate ideas through modern communication tools

3)      Contribute to the community by teaching science and engineering concepts to children

This project was an interactive process in which the students worked together to guide the video creation process, from idea generation to final production:

1)      Undergraduates suggested ideas

2)      Seventh graders chose ideas based on interest and appeal

3)      Undergraduates Received training in audience analysis of middle school students and fair use and copyright of videos and audio materials

4)      Undergraduates developed story boards

5)      Seventh graders rated story boards and provided feedback during a Skype video conference with the undergraduates

6)      Undergraduate teams developed videos

7)      Seventh graders watched and critiqued videos

8)      Undergraduates reflected on the experience

Fifteen teams total created video projects in the Spring 2012 semester, including video topics such as “Specific Heat Capacity,” “Biofuels,” and “Schrödinger’s Cat.”  When asked to reflect on the project’s effectiveness for attaining each learning objective, the undergraduates rated the effectiveness at averages of 4.2, 4.4, and 4.4 out of 5, respectively.  During the process, undergraduates learned to adjust the level of technical detail and terminology in response to seventh-grader feedback, and to respond to specific audience questions and requests.  They gained a functional working knowledge with using Skype for video chat, and effectively combined multiple media and story-telling elements to create effective informational videos, but reported a need for more support in the technical details of video editing.  The undergraduates were pleasantly surprised at the responsiveness and interest of the middle school students, and were impressed that outreach is easy; they are enthusiastic about doing more science and engineering outreach to pre-experts.  The seventh grade students engaged fully in their roles as consultants and advisors, and enjoyed the interaction with the chemical engineering students.  They learn interesting new science content, and felt accomplishment and pride in having supported older students in furthering their communication skills.

In the course of two semesters of this video project, the instructors learned several valuable lessons for successful implementation of a project like this.

1)      Start the process early

2)      Find interested and engaged partners with the curricular flexibility to incorporate the project

3)      Make resources including video cameras, video chat-ready laptops, video editing software and resources available for student use

4)      Facilitate student interactions with focused questions


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See more of this Session: K-12 Connections and Advising with ChE Education
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