One of These Things is Not Like the Other—Or Is It?

Ah, Chapter 3: one of the longest and most daunting chapters in our anatomy & physiology text, illuminating the wonders of cell biology.  Having just slogged through some challenging biochemistry, my students just want to get on with learning bones and muscles and the other stuff they thought they had signed up for. This might be a good time to use a little surprise, with a dash of humor, to present an achievable challenge. So I start by showing this clip:

Then this slide:

Typically, a few students offer some insightful suggestions: “The guy can’t see and doesn’t realize all the cool stuff happening inside the machine.”  “A lot of different processes and gizmos go into making a Coke.”  “Things get put together, taken apart, and put together again.”  “Every little thing has a purpose.”  And so on.

Finally, I unveil this beauty from Harvard Bioviosions:

I ask that the students simply enjoy the film, and I promise them that at week’s end they will understand much more about what they are seeing.  Then I keep my promise by helping them grasp the importance of all the structures and processes that take place inside our trillions of cells.

The Coca-Cola clip, with its puzzling follow-up question, throws learners just a bit off-kilter. It provides a bridge from a familiar product and situation to the new information in the BioVisions film.  Both videos combine sensual beauty, both visual and auditory, making them more memorable.

Students often mention this as the most memorable part of the class.  A young woman who moved on to pharmacy school emailed to tell me that one of her professors showed the Harvard film to her class.  She surprised everyone by already knowing exactly what was being depicted.  It was so kind of her to write, and such validation of the strategy.  Doesn’t that just make a teacher’s day?


What video clips have you used in your classes to make learning a pleasure?  Have you used surprise as a strategy to engage your students?

(For more information about Harvard BioViosion’s Inner Lives of a Cell, click this link to Studio Daily.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s