Educational ‘Pop Science’ Videos Gaining Favor

By Liana Loewus — January 02, 2014 1 min read
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The number of subscribers to educational YouTube channels tripled in 2013, according to an end-of-year NPR story. And a major contributor to that growth has been increased interest in “pop science"—or what YouTube calls “explainer"—videos.

You’ve probably seen these kinds of videos before—in just a few minutes, a narrator breaks down a seemingly complex or technical topic, often using animation to do so. For instance, the most popular YouTube video from an education channel last year, NPR reports, was one from AsapSCIENCE called “How Old Are Your Ears?” It’s a minute-and-a-half long hearing test and description of why higher frequencies are harder to hear with age—and it has nearly 7 million views.

While it’s unclear from the NPR piece how exactly these pop-science videos are being used, there’s a good chance at least some are being shown in the classroom. Instructional models that rely on video—such as the flipped classroom and blended learning—have gained traction over the last several years, and, of course, devices for showing online videos have proliferated.

Take a look at the hearing-test video below to see whether you think it has classroom value or is the kind of thing students should just watch on their own.

Also, for loyal Curriculum Matters readers, you may notice the new face in the top right corner of the page. It’s mine. As of today, I’m taking on the curriculum and instruction beat and joining veteran reporter Catherine Gewertz as co-author of this blog. I’ve previously worked as a special education teacher and as the associate editor of Education Week Teacher. I look forward to getting to know you all through the comments section, Twitter, and, of course, personal outreach.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.