Sunday, May 22, 2011

An inspiration for teaching videos

As part of the application for the provost's award for Technology in Education I wrote a short narrative about finding academic technology no matter what I do. In the narrative I briefly recounted the live satellite-delivered graduate class I taught from the Software Engineering Institute at CMU (but didn't talk about a mistake I made with an algorithm live in class, whoops). But until recently I'd forgotten that during those record cold -20 degree F days in Shadyside I'd watch TLC back when TLC showed programs like James Burke's Connections and The Day the Universe Changed instead of, well, what it carries now.

Burke is famous for bringing history and science to the masses, but there are two shots that made him legend among "television people": the 300-something foot narrated continuous tracking shot, followed by the perfectly-timed launch. You can see the video here (it's only about two and a half minutes long).

More interesting, in Re-Connections Burke explains how they did the shots, and the flak he got about how they were "vulgar". The explanation is here. At 3:30 he talks about using humor to make learning interesting, and at 4:44 he explains the tracking shot, the launch shot, and the criticism he took from television people ("it must have been back projection") to the critics pooh-poohing the work.

You can watch everything online through the magic of YouTube.

Amazing guy, I was glad to see him when he spoke as part of the San Joaquin Valley Town Hall in 1995.

BTW, during one of the summers I was at KSC we went up on to the pad, and they never told us about this place. Amazing. Another good Burke video about the Apollo suit.