In Pursuit of Animations and Videos

17 Sep

Have you ever thought, ‘Gee, I bet I can knock out an animation of that process in no time!’ only to find, 15 hours later, that a 5- minute animation isn’t yet perfect?  Okay, well, maybe that’s just me, then.

I’ve tried my hand at different media to record animations and videos for students. I’m very sensitive to copyrights (see my last post), so if there is a clip I can make myself, I’d rather do that than ‘borrow’ someone else’s.  Or, better yet, I’ll coax Pam Gregory, my office neighbor and resident graphics whiz, into making it for me.  She taught me how to use Macromedia, back in the day.  I still have some of my first primitive animations.  Unfortunately, a lot of the original files are lost. (See my last post about keeping better track of files!)  But, I still have access to Pam’s very sophisticated Flash files.  I’ve posted a sample of some of them here, including Pam’s wonderful Flash animation of a sweat gland duct cell:

Part of my problem is that I don’t want any inaccuracies in my animations.  It may take me longer to find out what we know about the actual shape of a carrier protein than it would to animate the entire process with a ‘blob’ standing in for that carrier. And, of course, an accurate animation takes longer to create than a moving blob, too.  What this usually means is that I start a really neat project, get sidetracked looking in Alberts’ Molecular Biology of the Cell, and don’t get it done until after final exams are over.  Ah, well, maybe I’ll have them for next semester, I think. In this way, I have gradually accumulated a small library of resources, plus the ones that Pam has made.

I’ve also tried just recording a straight lecture. I am not entirely happy about listening to my own voice; it seems unnatural when I slow down my speaking, but I feel that I talk too fast, otherwise.  Feedback from my online students indicates that they appreciate hearing my “lectures,” even if I don’t think they are well done.  I’m sorry to report that it takes at least 2.5 hours to record a one-hour lecture. Part of that is stopping/starting, due to the phone ringing or the parrot squawking. The rest is the editing/processing/publishing time, and the addition of closed captions.  Ask Wendy Riggs some time (or read her posts from last year) about how much fun it is to record a lecture late at night, because you promised you would.

I have found some great resources online, but lately I find myself looking at the style rather than listening to the substance.  My hands-down favorite source is Youreka Science (  The style is engaging, the pace is invigorating, and the substance is just right.  I want my videos to be like that.  I took a cue from them, in trying to keep the focus on the visuals rather than my talking head.  I just don’t seem to be able to pull it off. See my feeble efforts in this short video.

I also have problems figuring out the best way to post animations.  I use SoftChalk ( for my course content, but those lessons are all password protected, except for the one linked above, that I created just for you! And, I’m using my college’s web space, which they pay for.  So, I’m still searching for the best place to park content.  Juville Dario-Becker suggested, in reading my last blog post, using creative commons ( to protect my copyright, which is a really good idea. But I still have to figure out how, and where, to post the work itself.   Wendy Riggs commented on my last post that the Life Science Teaching Resource Community ( is a repository, but I think it’s mostly a collection of links – not a stand-alone repository.  So, I’m still working on hatching a plan, and I definitely haven’t given up my pursuit of elegant animations hand-tailored by me and my associates, for the good of our students.

And, I’m wondering, as I did last week, what other HAPSters are doing when you get those creative urges?  Do you have some resources you can share? Any interest in collaborative hosting?

HAPSweb 2: The Email Listserv

14 Sep
Bag of gold

The HAPS listserv is as fantastic as a bag of gold!

The HAPS email listserv is where some of the most interesting conversations in A&P are taking place!  The listserv is a members-only benefit that is an extremely valuable resource.  If you are a member of HAPS, but have not yet joined the listserv, you are missing out on one of the best parts of membership.

For example, Ken Saladin, author of three A&P textbooks, wrote, “I have found the HAPS-L listserv to be an invaluable resource. Occasionally I know something edifying to other list participants, which is gratifying, but more often, I learn from others brighter or better informed than I. HAPS-L discussions have alerted me to many new perspectives in A&P that have found their way into my textbooks, and to issues where I’ve needed to re-evaluate my assumptions and correct or update my information. As a rich source of ideas for improvements and corrections, HAPS-L ranks at least as high as, or maybe higher than, the peer reviews we commission for each new edition.

“As an active classroom professor, I mention new information from HAPS-L often in my A&P lectures, explain my teaching and testing with reference to what I know the nationwide US-Canadian norms to be, and occasionally check with my HAPS-L colleagues on questions my students ask that I can’t immediately answer. My students seem to appreciate that I’m actively engaged in this network of A&P instructors, sometimes referring their questions to the listserv and always formulating my teaching practices not in isolation, but in the context of the expectations of A&P courses everywhere. “

The current HAPS President, Tom Lehman, added, “I smile on Fridays when I see multiple posts shooting out from colleagues who are trying to find reasons not to grade their latest exam.  Some of the posts are goofy and some are serious, but they’re almost all – on those Friday afternoons – a chance for educators to brainstorm and vent and share.  Even when we’re swamped with work, they give us a chance to flesh out some idea that has been percolating in the back of our minds, knowing that we have several colleagues who we can trust to consider our crazy idea and help build it into something amazing for our students.  The list-serv is one of the best aspects of being a member of HAPS.”

Well said, Mr. President.

A Cautionary Tale about Online Repositories

10 Sep image of a Google search

When I first pondered what I would share in the HAPS blog, I considered my prior forays into online resources. I’d like to tell you about my first, not only so you can make use of it, but also for the lessons learned from it. For many years now, I’ve maintained a website with photos of microscope images, dissected specimens, and anatomical models. You can check it out at but I need to warn you, it’s seriously out of date and not long for this world.

Actually, the site is not as out-of-date as it was about a month ago, when I was musing about what to say about my website. I decided I really ought to look it over. Coincidentally, about that same time, I received 2 emails from colleagues, telling me my website was down. That meant I had to contact the webmaster at my college and ask what the problem was. It seems they had forgotten they had arranged to ‘park’ my materials on a small server, and when they needed to shut that server down, my stuff went with it. When I inquired, the IT staff agreed to reactivate the server until we could come up with a plan to move the content, as the server was running on an old operating system and needed to go. As of now, no actionable plan has been developed, but the clock is still ticking.

My web guru at the College was concerned not only with outdated material and broken links, but also with complying with college standards for online materials. I have some time-consuming work ahead of me, if I wish to maintain my space on the College’s server. I also have to change my work habits to include getting approval of material from the web gate-keeper, I’m sure.

So, what I’ve done so far is delete extraneous material (outdated faculty directories, expired schedules, out-of-date degree plans) and leave up only the biological images that are popular with faculty and students around the world. Unfortunately, the software I used to build the site (FrontPage) is no longer available. And, some of my fanciest ‘footwork,’ such as hotspots in images, don’t work anymore.

Here’s the moral of my story – Keep up with your online resources! I should have kept better archival files, so that I can’t inadvertently delete the only high-res file of irreplaceable images, such as the aortic aneurism we found when dissecting a cat. I should have learned to use a more modern program than FrontPage before losing access to my own site. I should have migrated to the cloud by now!

In a happier vein, my web resources have led to interesting contacts with people requesting permission to use, or to publish, some of our images. My colleagues and I (primarily Pam Gregory, who is a whiz at graphics) have had images published in a textbook in France and a professor’s notes in Ireland. We’ve also discovered unauthorized versions with English labels replaced by other languages, or posted without attribution on other people’s websites. I have mixed feelings about that last – we do give free permission to use for educational purposes. I’m not sure what proper etiquette is on using someone else’s work online, but it was disconcerting to see our images posted on someone else’s page, with no mention of our ownership.

Here are some questions I’d love to hear answers to:

What are other Hapsters doing online?

What do you think is the proper way to acknowledge when you are using someone else’s images?

How do you keep track of your online materials?

How can HAPS help us share, and keep current, our treasury of resources?

And, finally, for those who wish to use our images, our request is that you let us know (so we can justify keeping our website as ‘marketing’ for the College), and attribute to “Betsy Ott and Pam Gregory, Tyler Junior College, Tyler, Texas.”

HAPSweb 1: Become a Member!

8 Sep
Treasure chest full of glittering treasure.

HAPS is a treasure trove of teaching resources.

Welcome back to another semester of Anatomy and Physiology fun. This semester, the Communications Committee will share a series of posts describing the many resources available to HAPS members via the HAPS website.  If you aren’t yet a member of HAPS, this series might encourage you to join.  If you are a member, you will probably be reminded of how many treasures are available to our members.  We all think HAPS membership is a really great deal!

The resources found on the HAPS website are divided into two categories:  public and members-only.  The public resources are freely available to members and non-members alike.  While we are extremely proud of our public resources (like David Evans’ “What’s New in A&P“), we really want to encourage folks to take advantage of the benefits of membership.  This list is long and the benefits combine to make HAPS the most welcoming and useful membership organization for an Anatomy and Physiology teaching professional.

You can join HAPS by visiting the webpage and selecting your member type.

Dues schedule for HAPS membership.

Join HAPS now! There are many ways to get the most out of your membership.

Next week, we’ll begin the conversation by reminding ourselves of one of the most valuable membership benefits: The HAPS email listserv.

Moving Forward: A Blog Plan for the Fall

17 Aug
We're making new BLOG-er-ific plans for the fall...stay tuned for all the reasons you are happy to be a member of HAPS!

We’re making new BLOG-er-ific plans for the fall…stay tuned for all the reasons you are happy to be a member of HAPS!

I love this time of year.  Even though I am sad that summer is winding down, I feel refreshed from the summer activities involving family and fun and sleep (!), and I start getting excited to gear up for a whole new semester.  Just like the rest of us, the HAPS blog is gearing up for a fresh set of posts.

So here’s the plan for the fall.  After a brief break, the Communication Committee will be doing a new series on all the cool things YOU can find on the HAPS website.  These posts will be published each Monday and our goal is to inspire folks to either renew their HAPS memberships or join for the first time.  HAPS is a really amazing organization that supports its members in such a personal and meaningful way.  Ask any HAPSter: The value of a HAPS membership goes FAR beyond the cost of the annual dues.   It will be fun to follow this set of posts and be reminded on a weekly basis just how many ways HAPS membership supports YOU.

We are also excited to start hearing from HAPS President-elect Betsy Ott .  This will be a great opportunity to learn more about Betsy and some of the exciting things she’s got planned for her time as HAPS President next year.

With this plan in place, if you get a wild hair and want to join the Communication Committee, I’d love to recruit you up to write for our blog!  Just shoot me an email and I’m happy to make it happen (I’ve got skills like that).  And in the meantime, enjoy these last few days of summer and happy new school year to all!

HAPS-I: Rational Course Design

10 Aug
Image from

Maybe I need some lessons on being RATIONAL.
(Tshirt available at

I am sometime surprised by the way I can squeeze time out of an apparently packed week. But just like students often “need” the pressure of a quiz to remain diligent in their studies, I find tasks easier to complete if they are linked with looming deadlines.

So! In a moment of brilliant justification, I decided to sign up for Margaret Weck’s HAPS-I course on rational course design. Ready for the justification? It is simple. I will be teaching Human Physiology in the spring semester and have already decided to re-work the entire course. I’ve taught Physio many times in the past and feel it needs a giant overhaul. This means new labs, new lectures, new projects…the whole deal. And of course, I’ve been wondering where I would come up with the time to DO this overhaul—(insert heroic music here!)—HAPS and Dr. Weck to the rescue!

The course description states:  Participants will produce syllabi for new or existing courses that demonstrate the principles of rational course design.  As part of this process sample assignments and assessments will also be developed that could be used in any course to demonstrate student achievement of the A&P Learning Outcomes.  Clearly, this is the perfect opportunity to learn from the amazing Margaret Weck, complete a comprehensive overhaul of my course, and  take advantage, yet again, of all the ways HAPS helps me become a better teacher.

So join me!  This will be a fun class!  You can earn two graduate credits for the course, or just take it for professional development.  And remember—you can still apply for a HAPS-I scholarship to help you pay for the course.  The deadline to apply for this generous award is Friday August 15.


HAPS-I Scholarships

4 Aug
The HAPS Institute offers working Anatomy and Physiology instructors the opportunity to earn graduate credits or just gain Professional Development in a variety of flexible formats tailored to their busy schedule.

The HAPS Institute offers working Anatomy and Physiology instructors the opportunity to earn graduate credits or just gain Professional Development in a variety of flexible formats tailored to their busy schedule.

This might surprise you (!) but we Anatomy and Physiology instructors are usually pretty busy people.  HAPS, as usual, aims to support us by offering opportunities for professional development via HAPS Institute (HAPS-I) courses.  These courses are designed to broaden our understanding of our subject by enabling us to participate in interactive learning communities made of peers who are also teaching anatomy and/or physiology.  HAPS-I courses include both subject-specific content as well as practical teaching and learning methodology and in this way exemplify the mission of HAPS as a whole.  Additionally, each course provides participants with the opportunity to publish their work in the peer-reviewed Life Science Teaching Resource Community.  Courses are available in two separate tracts to maximize flexibility for participants, allowing them to earn graduate credits or simply participate in the course for professional development.

The next round of HAPS-I courses are scheduled to begin between August 24 and September 15.  I’d personally like to take all of them.  Dr. Margaret Weck’s course on Rational Course Design “briefly reviews the major concepts associated with the “backwards design” model of rational course development, which stresses the value of thinking through the ultimate outcome goals (both in content mastery and cognitive skill development) for a course as a first step the course design process.”  I want to take that class!  And Dr George Ordway’s course on Advanced Cardiovascular Physiology will “provide college-level instructors with an opportunity to develop their understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the cardiovascular system, including key cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for function of the heart and blood vessels.”  Oooh!  I want to take that class too!  And then Dr. Chad Wayne will be offering THREE classes on reproductive physiology.  Whaaaat?!?!?!  I want to take ALL of those classes!

And not only does HAPS offer these amazing courses, they also offer scholarships to support you in TAKING these cool courses. In fact, the next scholarship deadline is August 15.  To be eligible for this scholarship, you need to be a HAPS member in good standing, you must be a regular full-time employee teaching anatomy and physiology, and you must have a teaching load that includes at least one section/class of anatomy and/or physiology.

So pick the fall HAPS-I course you’d like to complete, and apply for that HAPS-I scholarship by August 15.  And then vote on which class you think should I take!

HAPS and Twitter

28 Jul

HAPS_TwitterSo I think I might be finally starting to figure out Twitter.  I have been trying to climb aboard the Twitter train since January.  I took my first step and created an account in February.  (My twitter handle is @wendyriggs47.)  I tweeted my first shy tweet in March, and was hacked a week later.  Slowly my tweet-rate increased as we neared the HAPS annual conference and peaked somewhere during the middle of the conference. My tweet-rate then plummeted shortly after I returned home from the event.  I’ve been trying valiantly to re-tweet the twitterings of Kevin Petti and the Anatomia Italiana crew as they adventure through Italy (@AnatomiaItalian), but until recently, I continued to feel generally baffled by the whole Twitter scene.

And then, for some unknown reason, everything seemed to click and instead of dreading my Twitter-time,  I actually started looking forward to seeing who said what on my Twitter feed.  I think it took me awhile to figure out who to follow and who to NOT follow.  For example, back in February, (under the advice of my young brother), I started following the tweets from “Politico.”  I’m not kidding—those guys must have been tweeting something every 30 seconds.  I was horrified and overwhelmed by the massive quantity of their tweets and couldn’t even begin to sort through what things I might be interested in exploring more fully.

But lately, I’ve honed the list of tweeters I follow (bye bye Politico, hello Valerie O’Loughlin) and I actually enjoy checking out what is reported.  In the last few days of Twitter-time, I found an interesting blog post on flipping the classroom entitled 4 Tips for Flipped Learning by Joe Hirsch, a fantastic TED talk on the adolescent brain by cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, and a set of classroom-ready case studies for A&P from the Life Science Teaching Resource Community.  (Seriously?! How is it possible I’ve never seen this before?!)  It is exciting to see potential like this and I’d love to see the HAPS twitter feed (@HumanAandPSoc) become such a valuable and dynamic source of ideas.

So take this week’s poll to share how YOU engage with Twitter.

Musings on Video Lectures…

21 Jul
In this lecture, I received 2 phone calls,  1 text message, dropped my phone, and had a sympathetic nervous response when something fell off the wall in my office.  I think I should re-record this lecture.

In this lecture, I received 2 phone calls, 1 text message, dropped my phone, and had a sympathetic nervous response when something fell off the wall in my office. I think I should re-record this lecture.

Summer is such a luxurious time to reflect on my teaching and get fired up to make improvements.  It is so nice to feel my excitement growing as I get my class materials together for the fall semester, which is only a month away.

After settling into the decision NOT to flip Human Biology this fall, I decided to make use of all the extra time I would have to re-record my Human Anatomy video lectures.  I feel this is a little bit insane…this will be my 4th time teaching (and flipping) Human Anatomy and my third time re-recording my flipped video lectures.  It seems more than mildly insane to re-record lectures this often, but I understand that I am not only ironing out the wrinkles in my flipped pedagogy, but I am also ironing out the wrinkles in my presentation of CONTENT.  I have taken it for granted that in a traditional classroom I get to re-work my lectures and improve on my craft every time I teach the course.  This is a fantastic assurance that I will constantly GET BETTER.  But in the flipped scene, improving the lectures is much more time consuming.  Nonetheless,  I am clearly in need of creating a “new edition” of my lectures, though I am sincerely hopeful that THIS set of videos will last more than one semester.

As I prepare to record lectures, I can already tell that the videos will be better.  I have a better understanding of the big picture, which will make the individual pieces fit together more cleanly.  I have more experience with the tricky parts which allows me to emphasize the concepts that will be most helpful to my students.  And I am hoping to record the lectures at a more leisurely (and reasonable) pace, without the imminent deadlines that inevitably means I end up trying to present content in front of a video camera in my office by myself, exhausted and delirious, at two in the morning.  Ahem.  My fingers are crossed.

Why Join HAPS? So Many Reasons…

14 Jul
Join HAPS.

Check out the list of reasons why you should be a member of HAPS.

Are you a member of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society?  If not, it is time to make it happen.  Being a member of HAPS is, without a doubt, the single most important thing I’ve done in my career to become a better teacher.  Two years ago, when I was deciding to flip my Anatomy class for the first time, I posed several questions to the email listserv, requesting input and pedagogical advice that helped define and hone my approach.  Once, I asked the list about the wisdom of comprehensive exams.  Dee Silverthorn sent me a copy of her comprehensive exam as an example.  And I can’t even count the number of times that Valerie O’Loughlin has pumped me up with enthusiastic pep talks.  My students get wide-eyed when I tell them the authors of their textbooks are answering my questions (and theirs).   To me, this alone is worth the price of membership.  And yet this is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the benefits of being a dues paying HAPSter.

We will soon begin a series on the blog describing all the benefits of joining HAPS.  You might be surprised at some the resources you have access to as a HAPSter.

As the chair of the Communication Committee, I am excited to help increase membership.  So tell me true.  Why are you a member of HAPS?


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