Lots of science demonstration videos for home and school


Note: post below has little to do with the videos. TL;DR I think the videos are great! The site could just use a bit of help.

These seem pretty neat, but as someone who has lots of experience with science teachers (writing software for them and being married to one), I’d say this isn’t well targeted at them.

The site is great as a blog, for someone who is just interested in scrolling through lots of science videos. But a teacher who wants material for their lesson is going to have no idea how to find this stuff. Sure, a Physics teacher could scroll down and find the first Physics-tagged video (assuming there is always one on the front page), click on the Physics tag, and scroll through a bunch of other videos, but most teachers aren’t going to know how to do that. They’re just going to scroll through lots of unrelated content and get annoyed.

The tagging system itself doesn’t make sense either. Many videos are tagged with both a subject and a grade level, but if you click on the tag you see that these are actually more like categories, because you can only click on one. So this makes tagging something with both “Physics” and “A-Levels” almost pointless, because as an A-Level Physics teacher you can’t find all the A-Level Physics videos – you either find all the Physics videos or all the A-Level videos.

I think this site could be really great, but if they’re going to get bigger then they really need to sit down and think about their metadata, and how teachers find the resources they want. An example of a possible good resource finder would use optional filters (subject, grade-level) which can be used to find all resources within a subject and/or grade, alongside an optional search box (or even tag cloud) that would respect the filters.

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That’s absolutely fair, SamSam – and thanks for taking the time to write (glad I found your comments, they may come in useful down the line!).

There have been several attempts in the last decade or so to catalogue science demos, some large efforts and some small. All have failed, in some cases taking quite a lot of money with them. Few reached content scale; none really solved the metadata problem; none reached critical mass for audience or contributors.

Most recently the UK has built a huge library of all the STEM education resources they could lay their hands on, and while the result is impressive, it’s not yet solved the ‘people actually want to use this’ problem. I’m not convinced it will, which worries me because some of my own work is trapped within it.

ScienceDemo is itself an experiment to see what a minimum-effort site might look like, and to find out whether that solves any of the problems. So, yes, it’s a bare-bones WordPress site, running the (new) default theme, with all the positives and negatives that entails. You’re absolutely right that as the site grows the taxonomy will go from ‘barely adequate’ to ‘utterly hopeless,’ but that’s only a problem if people actually use the site.

That’s a problem I want to have. And if people do find it useful – particularly, but not exclusively, teachers – then I have to hope that I’ll find a way to pay for some proper design and data model work.

There’s a horrible problem in science teaching around the use of practical work. So far, ScienceDemo.org is but a modest contribution. It could end up being a huge asset. We’ll see.


Sure, that all makes sense. For what it’s worth, here are a couple of sites that I think do the cataloging data pretty well (in both cases their own content): PBS, Concord Consortium.

Ah, yes. We went through a lot of this with the RiChannel, too. Part of the problem is working out to what extent the site should be a resource (make it easy to filter, but potentially at the cost of obscuring new stuff and certainly reducing serendipity/crossover), vs. a magazine (opportunities for cross-fertilisation and discussion, constantly-refreshing front page, but at the risk of obscuring the archive).

We’re feeling our way with that, and indeed with the extent to which this is a formal education site. You may notice that the basic categories (‘Discuss’/‘Performance’/‘Equipment’, etc.) are functional rather than conventional biology/chemistry/physics. So far I’m liking the way that takes us, but we’ll see.

I think you can look for videos that appear in two categories.

For example, http://sciencedemo.org/tag/a-level+physics/ seems to bring up videos that are in both A-Level and Physics. Adding the motion category, http://sciencedemo.org/tag/a-level+physics+motion/ further filters to only posts that are in all three categories.

I agree that a “category explorer” would be nice, and I only thought about trying this because this syntax is also used on MetaFilter and Reddit.

Hah! Thanks for that Kevin. That implies WordPress can handle the sort of filtering we want, I’m just not currently exposing an interface for it. Which at least means it should be relatively straightforward to incorporate as and when it’d be useful.

Damn, that means I have to continue tagging everything. Bah! :smile:

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