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Video Visionary Award – Education Recipient: IB Chemistry

by Joni Blecher on April 16, 2013

Video Visionary Education Smart BubbleLast year we announced the RealPlayer’s Video Visionary Award – Education. The award recognizes those who are using video to create world-class educational content for the masses. We’re happy to announce the next recipient of the award is IB Chemistry.

Available on YouTube, IB Chemistry is dedicated to helping kids and people understand and learn chemistry. Led by Richard Thornley, a chemistry teacher at the United Nations International School in New York, uses video to help teach viewers a complete specific Chemistry course. Thornley was educated in South London and graduated with a degree in Environmental Chemistry from the University of East Anglia. In his first year of teaching chemistry he began to appreciate all that teachers do and how hard it can be. The videos have become a way to help students and viewers learn chemistry in a fun way – many of the videos have a video game feel to them making them all that more engaging. Watch the video below to get an idea of what you can expect from the IB Chemistry channel on YouTube.


We caught up with Richard Thornley, teacher and sole creator of the IB Chemistry channel, to learn more about the goals behind the IB Chemistry channel and about how video is being used to help teach chemistry. What follows is our interview with the Video Visionary Award – Education recipient:

RealPlayer (RP):
 How long has IB Chemistry been producing videos?

Richard Thornley (RT): For three years and we average one video every three days. I live in a poky apartment and can never have on any loud music. So I would go to school, crank up the cheesy 80’s rock and get to work on the videos.

 What gave you the idea to make chemistry videos?

RT: The school I teach at set aside some teacher time for a computer based IB project (only about an afternoon a week, though). We had found a niche on the Internet creating videos for a complete specific course made by someone who has actually taught it for years and therefore knows how to teach it in a way to avoid common misunderstandings.

RP: Some of the videos are reminiscent of a video game (such as the video below that describes Collision Theory), what is the motivation behind using this medium and is it effective?

RT: Kids can learn from quirky narratives. I thought maybe linking this to video games would be a novel idea. Also, I try to have a “Where’s Waldo” recurring character, Dr. Atkinson, who meets an untimely end related to the chemistry involved. My mother claimed that the time spent playing video games, as a fresh-faced youth, would never pay off. Thirty years later I have proved her wrong!

RP: How do you decide which topics to cover and should people view them in any particular order?

RT: I decided to cover the ENTIRE course – as taught at the school where I teach. Chemistry builds upon itself more than any science. In physics, if you do not understand Newton’s Laws you might still be fine with radioactivity or optics. That’s not really the case with chemistry – so it is easy to get left behind. Hopefully these videos help those who are behind to catch-up. I got left behind in French class and could never get the present tense in the first 6 months. Took French for 5 long years! Now, I would catch up using YouTube videos.

RP: Have you found a video style more effective than others?

RT: I genuinely have no idea which videos will be popular! One video took me two years of working on and off to complete it and no-one really watched it. Another video I did in an hour is one of my top ten most watched videos.Overall, I’d say my irreverent attitude towards the subject, exam board and “let’s just get this done – with the least you need to know – but hey this bit is kinda cool” style seems to work.

RP: Can you tell us about the video team?

RT: We all work at the United Nations International School in NYC. Along with myself, the other members of the team include: Brian Kahn, a veteran teacher and author, who had the original idea “Why not put the entire course on the Internet?” and got the teachers the time off to make the videos. Stephanie Castle is the site creator of IB Biology, the sister site to IB Chemistry.

RP: Where can people go to learn more about IB Chemistry and spread the word about the video services?

The IB is the internationally recognized program for schools. It highlights an all round international education from primary school through high school. People can learn more about IB Chemistry by visiting our YouTube channel.

Click here for instructions on how to nominate a series of educational videos to receive a Video Visionary – Education award.

What do you think of the IB Chemistry videos? Does it bring chemistry principles to life? What’s your favorite video? Let us know in the comments below.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Peter Atkinson April 17, 2013 at 11:40 am

I love it — must be the masochist in me.

My only contribution to the study of Chemistry, I fear.

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