Student Reflections

Andrea Desrosiers' Reflections

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Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 11 | Final Reflection

Link to Andrea Desrosiers’ Page on Tumblr

Day 1 - Andrea’s Struggles

The theme here is a) “we are experiencing technical difficulties,” and b) fear of the camera.

  1. New camera, new tripod. Mac computer. Sigh. I’ll work on it again tonight.
  2. Much bigger issue actually. This fear took several forms, starting with the thought that it’s all been done before. Then I read entrepreneur Seth Godin’s blog, which stated, “Originality is local. The internet destroys, at some level, the idea of local, so sure, if we look hard enough we’ll find that turn of phrase or that app, somewhere else. But no one is asking you to be original. We’re asking you to be generous and brave and to matter… Sure, it’s been done before. But not by you. And not for us.”

So I stopped being nervous about being original. Once I was able to do that I was able to discard my first idea - how to teach kids about system dynamics. I actually had no clue how to present that material, even though I believe strongly that it should be taught as a key aspect of STEM education from a young age. Using the tenet of “Talk about What you Know.” I did then come up with an idea.

So, my pitch, keeping my middle school audience in mind, settled on describing what happens to your teeth when you have braces. It’s a common enough problem with kids that age. Also, I recently worked for an orthodontic company that makes braces, so this is actually something I know a little bit about.

OK, fine. Well, then, where’s my pitch? See above.

Goals for class: My primary goal is to become more comfortable with video as a format for expression of complex ideas. I’ve always loved science shows. In high school (in the 80s, remember I am Old), my Latin teacher showed episodes of the original Connections once per week. I loved how it tied science and history together, which made science more approachable and “human.” I think we saw that a bit in NDG’s interview regarding Isaac Newton. Who Newton was as a person was even more compelling than what he discovered. And I think that is one of the primary roles of science education - to convey its “human - ness” and thereby its accessibility. I don’t think we will ever want to be taught by robots - there will always be a person somewhere to make it relatable.

On the various videos on class: I loved the Veritasium format, and I confess to some nostalgia watching Carl Sagan. I could listen to Sagan’s voice for hours, which somehow managed to convey a sense of beauty and wonder in his tone. While I’m not a huge fan of Nye’s video, I could see it being very popular with 10–15 year old boys. This underscored the importance of understanding who your audience is. The Veritasium host appeals to me because it’s pitched at a somewhat sophisticated adult audience. I could see him seeming a bit boring to a 12 year old girl.

So that’s why I tried to pivot my idea for a pitch to something more for a 10–14 year old audience.

Link back to Day 1

Day 2 - Andrea’s Struggles

If there is one thing I have gotten out of my MIT experience, it’s the importance of running your ideas by the audience / customer early, and often. The 6th graders that were brought into the class for that purpose were surprisingly well read and engaged. I was happy to see a few shy ones coming out of their shells to talk a bit - mostly because these kids are reflections of me at that age. I enjoyed the skipping from topic to topic that the kids tend to do - it keeps me on my feet and I like trying to follow their thought processes as they respond to various stimuli. I will try to remember this “frequent cut” process as I put together my video. I’m hoping this can keep people engaged.

One kid (boy) in particular I really got a kick out of. His favorite phrase is to add - ish to anything (Yes - ish, like - ish). He was also the kid who made up a character when I asked about favorite superheroes - it’s nice to see so much imagination. I also liked how blunt the kids were with each other, and it’s a reminder that there is such a thing as being too diplomatic.

As for process, I managed to get the tech difficulties out of the way. Most of the barrier was psych - sometimes I feel too old to learn the new way of doing things (kids these days…). But I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could learn deep down inside. Right?

I also worry in the class that I’m a bit intimidating because I’m older. Also, “Sloan Fellows” sounds really “important” (and the program office has drilled into us to self - identify that way), but this isn’t really the right venue for that. Oddly, I seemed to have dodged that bullet with the 6th graders, where I found more of my sense of humor coming out. Maybe i just need to project as “less serious”. Or maybe just impress on people how impressed I am with *them* - and really I am!

OK, on to script writing….

Link back to Day 2

Day 3 Reflections

This audio is courtesy of Andrea Desrosiers on Tumblr and is provided under our Creative Commons license.

Link back to Day 3

Day 4 - Andrea’s Reflections on Storyboarding And More Scripts

I really love animation. Sadly, I have just about zero artistic ability, so maybe that explains why I’m so fascinated by it. I can appreciate how much work goes into even one frame, never mind the hundreds that go into even a 2 minute clip. So, hat’s off to you Planet Nutshell folks!

I’ve used a very rough approximation of storyboarding for some of my programming projects, so the concept is a little bit familiar to me. I do tend to use whiteboards, however, so certainly using the technique for video imposes more constraints in terms of size. The tricky part seems to be getting the “Level of Granularity” correct. It seems like John likes to use a high level of detail / granularity - and I did find this helpful to really convey the storyline. I liked the advice to start in the middle of the action. I also find that the iteration between scripting and drawing it out can be very useful.

I also found class today to help out with concentrating on the science. The F= ma example reminded me of fun facts about tooth forces. So I think I’ve found a way around the “after school special” aspect, since I was concentrating too much on the braces and not on the science. I do tend to tell more human - centric stories, and fell into that trap here. It’s helped to watch a bunch of the SoL videos to get a feeling for how / when to zoom in. The science aspect can be one of two: Either the Pdl as a cushion of forces (the script I’m currently working on), or concentrate on the osteoblasts. This one I just started thinking about - it has a nice tie - in with some implant work being done here at MIT. Very promising.

Maybe I’ll even be ready with another trailer by tomorrow. Or two.

Link back to Day 4

Day 5 - Andrea And the Camera

My main takeaway from the class on camera techniques was that it represents a Lots of variables. No wonder it takes dozens of shots to get what you want! It seems like it really is all about perseverance. I was not able to get any footage over the weekend since I was laid up with this pesky cold / bronchitis. I realize that I’m relying too much on animation (but it’s so cool…). So it’s interesting to try to get creative about what you can substitute. I have a shoe - sized glass tooth sculpture that I can maybe use to demo some points, maybe get some play dough to model some of the other structures. I also hope to get in touch with my old colleagues to see if I can film a little bit in their demo dental office. Health permitting of course.

I loved the comments on the script and I’m encouraged. I had another idea for going at it from the perspective of “Bionics” which strictly speaking implants represent. But I think what comes more to mind are the mechanized things like prosthetic arms / hands / feet. Well, a bit late to change up the concept that much.

One of my goals in this class was to get more comfortable both behind and in front of the camera. I’m not photogenic (being squat and pasty - faced with flat bone structure), so I’m unsure how I’ll get over how much I cringe whenever I look at pictures / video of myself. My demons to fight, I guess.

Link back to Day 5

Day 6 Vlog

This video is courtesy of Andrea Desrosiers on YouTube and is provided under our Creative Commons license.

Link back to Day 6

Day 7 Vlog

This video is courtesy of Andrea Desrosiers on YouTube and is provided under our Creative Commons license.

Link back to Day 7

Day 8 Reflection - Andrea on Video

Wow, actually got some footage today! Just logged it all after giving them all a quick look. Feels good to know that I got something done. Hopefully tomorrow will go faster / smoother.

Still pretty daunted with everything that needs to be shot over the next 2 days… And I’m a bit nervous about the animation and editing. I might have to drop the animation for the rough cut, unless I can master the editing this weekend. We’ll see. As I said, I know it won’t be perfect, far from it. Just important to get the general gestalt of the video down.

Nathan is a pretty good cameraman! Many thanks to him for his patience. I hope we can get great footage of him tomorrow. We both have some stuff to shoot in a supermarket setting (Start Mkt for him, Harvest for me).

I emailed me old co - workers to see if I can shoot at the operatory in the office. My props weren’t delivered today since UPS needed a signature, so they should be delivered tomorrow. Might get some random footage of that stuff tomorrow evening, or Friday at the office setting if possible.

I still am not quite sure how to end the script. I’m giving myself the rest of the night to think about it. I’ll also try to upload a rough shot list by tomorrow AM before we start shooting.

Tonight is a rare night that I have actual internet access at home (husband is working). So I can actually upload my daily reflection early - YAY!

Link back to Day 8

Day 11 - Andrea’s Final Thoughts

First off, many thanks to Elizabeth, Jaime, and Ceri for the great instruction and help. The goal of the course was to learn about new media techniques, and you really delivered on that. I continue to believe that this video format will play an increasingly large role in both ed and business. I’m very happy I took the course and when I look back I’ve learned a tremendous amount.

I’m also incredibly impressed with the talent of the students - David, Yuliya, Nathan, Kenneth, Joshua, PJ - you are all pretty awesome. I loved the visual styles you all came up with. The scripts were compelling and your delivery was genuine. Thank you for the many helpful comments - you were a critical part of the learning experience (pun intended ;-)

Looking over the comments on my video, it seems you all liked it more than I did. To combat its boringness I’ll be making many of the suggestions, but also cutting a lot more out! Also, I had added in stuff in the script that you all had earlier said was extraneous - now I agree, out it goes. I’m hoping to get this down to below 2 minutes. When we viewed the videos on the first day, I tended to get bored at about the 45 second mark. Don’t know if I can cut the video down to that, but shorter with this kind of material is better if there isn’t much art to it.

And final comment - as I’ve said I don’t have an artistic bone in my body (remodeled or not). But I still enjoyed putting together the video. One thing I’ve learned in my old age - don’t let lack of talent stop you from doing something new, something you enjoy!

Have a great spring semester everyone!

Link back to Day 11

Final Reflection on Making Videos

I did want to wait to write this until after I had the experience of working with a pro crew. Wow, exhilarating and exhausting at the same time - I had to take yesterday (and some Toscanini’s mimosa sorbet) to recover.

Out of the entire experience, from ideation to script writing to shooting to editing to repeat, it would be easy for me to stick with the part I feel most comfortable with - the script writing part. But we only get growth when we throw ourselves at the things we suck at. It was reiterated when my sister-in-law (an artist) posted something on Facebook that was a riff on the Ira Glass piece that Elizabeth showed (here: What Ira Glass Explains In 1 - Minute Will Change Your Life Forever. Seriously.), namely that when you create art, often it’s pretty bad when you first start out. And because you have good taste, you *know* it’s bad. And often, that’s when people quit, because of that gap between what you want to accomplish and what you did accomplish.

I’m so glad I didn’t quit this class. But it was close there for a while…

As for the parts that I didn’t do well (camera work in particular), I did enjoy editing. The advice to wait overnight before working with the clips was especially relevant. Often after filming, I thought stuff was great. Then the next day, I was able to view it more objectively. This also applied to the editing I did. While I was editing, it seemed to go well. But when I viewed the final product the next day, I could more easily see how it could be improved. While I can’t say I’m happy with my final product (I think I went a little crazy speeding up my speech - should have backed off from 115% to maybe 110%), I can say that it was much improved over the rough cut. And looking back I’m somewhat proud of what I have learned.

I’m also super - impressed by my classmates! You all have great taste, and came a lot closer to realizing that than perhaps you believe.

Back to working with the pros - I didn’t see any of the clips they filmed, but I did gain an appreciation for the importance of lighting to set a mood. It’s more important than the physicality of my movements, and rivals the impact of tone of voice. I also thought it was ironic that I was called “The Talent.” - it seems to me that all of the talent is in the script, camerawork / direction, and lighting (and editing!).

And finally, just one more confession: I had always dreamed of hosting a science / natural history show since I was in middle school! But sometime during high school, I got it into my head that I was too unattractive to even be on camera. Nonetheless, I loved watching PBS (Crockett’s Victory Garden, This Old House, etc.) and I especially loved how the hosts were such approachable people. They weren’t drop - dead gorgeous, but they had a kind of authenticity and gravitas (leavened with humor). I struggled with my camera - phobic block during this class. But then I read an article on the defense lawyer for the Marathon Bomber. The lawyer, Judy Clark, has the kindest face, almost sad. The article talked about how she is very effective at gaining her clients’ trust, and in conveying her clients’ humanity to a jury. That power lies partly in her appearance and demeanor. And I thought I wouldn’t mind having that kind of power - the power to make people trust and understand. I hope that I managed to convey just a little sliver of that in my video (and the one for Science Out Loud as well).

Thank you 20.219 for making me feel more empowered!

Link back to Day 13

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