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Demonstrating Diversity in Physics Content Videos

Roberta Tevlin, teacher at Danforth CTI

I like to use videos that are just a few minutes long in my classes. I use them to supplement the hands-on activities and show physics that is too dangerous, difficult or expensive to do in the classroom. However, I recently noticed that almost all of the videos I use are hosted by people who are white and male. This reinforces a pervasive stereotype about what sorts of people do physics — which is not a message that I want my students to receive.

I went on a hunt for videos that could change that perception and I have put together a spreadsheet of what I have found so far.

Putting together this resource was much more difficult than the previous one, which helps demonstrate diversity in physicists. A Google-search of ‘diversity and physics’ will provide physicists but not videos of physics content that just happens to be hosted by a ‘non-traditional’ physics host.

One source was rather obvious — the Physics Girl! The host, Dianna Cowern, is a very enthusiastic and capable presenter who has made over a hundred videos. She takes the time to build up understanding, which makes her videos a bit longer than I want to use in my classes. I usually play just a key minute or two in class and then encourage students who are away, confused or just plain keen to view the whole thing on their own.

Another obvious source was Neil deGrasse Tyson. Unfortunately, this wasn’t as fruitful as I had hoped for. Most of his videos are either full-length documentaries or they are talk shows. However, I managed to find a number of clips that are useful.

Things got much harder after this. Whenever I found a good video from an appropriate host, I tried to find other videos from them. Some excellent hosts with multiple videos are:
Next, I looked for institutions that make science videos. These included the Perimeter Institute, the Exploratorium, the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society, Sixty Symbols and TedEd. I noticed that their more recent videos tend to feature a more diverse selection of people. They have noticed the lack of diversity and are trying to improve things. I was able to find many useful videos from these sites.

Altogether I have managed to find about 150 different videos which you can find in this spreadsheet.
I also found a series of 46 videos called the Crash Course in Physics, hosted by Dr. Shini Somara. Each episode is around 10 minutes and makes good use of animations. Unfortunately, they cover a lot of material at a rather fast pace, there are no suggested activities or questions for the viewer and they do not contain any video of the real physics in action. For these reasons, I don’t recommend these for use during a class and I didn’t include them in the spread sheet. However, they might work well as an alternative to reading a textbook, either as an introduction or a review of a topic.

I suspect that there are many more videos out there that fit my criteria, but I need help to find them. If you have found a good video with a ‘non-traditional’ host that is ten minutes or less in length and is not in the spreadsheet, please send it to me: roberta@tevlin.com. Once I have collected a significant number of extra videos I will make the spreadsheet available as a resource on the OAPT website https://oaopt.wildapricot.org/resource. Including additional videos will be much easier for me if you enter your suggestions into this mostly empty spreadsheet. This will put your suggestions in the same format, and I will be able to just cut and paste them into the master copy.
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