Dr. Whitney Holden teaches AP Biology and Pre-AP Biology to students around the state of Arkansas through the STEM Pathways Program at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts (ASMSA) in Hot Springs, AR. She also teaches Infectious Disease in History and Culture, a particular favorite of hers, to residential students at ASMSA. In addition to a background in scientific research with publications in several academic journals, she also teaches chemistry at National Park College and runs the YouTube education channel Biology Professor.
What’s your background in education?
I have a B.S. in biochemistry from the University of Arkansas and a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology from Vanderbilt University. In addition to a background in scientific research with publications in several academic journals, I also teach chemistry at National Park College. Finally, I care a great deal about education outreach. It is this passion that has inspired me to run the YouTube education channel Biology Professor and to coordinate the annual Summer Research Institute, a program for students pursuing STEM undergraduate research in Arkansas at one of several partner colleges.
What have you published in iTunes U so far?
My particular specialty is virtual labs. When I can’t bring the student to the lab, I bring the lab to the student! These lab videos emphasize hypothesis-driven experiments while ensuring that students have an appropriate introduction to the material before watching the experiments take place. And, of course, I am there to explain each step. So far, iTunes U has published my labs on diffusion and osmosis, cell respiration and photosynthesis, enzyme activity, transpiration, and horizontal gene transfer in addition to other lecture-based modules, like those on the characteristics of life and the process of phagocytosis.
What value do you think your iTunes U content has for educators?
There is never as much funding in education as we educators want for our classrooms. This is especially true in lab-based disciplines like biology. In my virtual labs, I use a range of equipment (special reaction chambers, different kinds of chemical sensors, digital interfaces, etc.) that the average high school lab simply does not have access to. Thus, my virtual labs give teachers and their students the opportunity of having several lab experiences that are otherwise unavailable to them. My lab videos are also set up in such a way that students are required to keep a lab notebook of measurements and observation so that teachers can choose to assign lab reports where students do their own calculations and draw their own conclusions based on the actual data collected in the video.
What special tools have you used to create this year’s videos and how do you think they add value to the lessons?
I film virtual labs in ASMSA’s state of the art biology laboratory using a Samsung 52X camera with HD recording. I edit videos using Techsmith Camtasia Studio software. I particularly love the Camtasia program because it allows me to add written captions where appropriate, splice videos together, zoom in to crucial components of larger shots, and more.
What’s the latest iTunes U course you created? What inspired it?
I have just completed a module on phagocytosis soon to be added to iTunes U. Why did I choose this topic? Because there are cells in our body that can literally EAT dangerous pathogens that invade us to save us from infection. How cool! But, you might ask, how is this module different from any other lecture on phagocytosis? In addition to a lesson on the importance of phagocytosis and the steps of the process, students will also get to see a fascinating video of real-life cells engaged in this life-or-death battle…including when bacteria sometimes win the battle. This additional focus on ways that bacteria evade phagocytosing cells, either by having ‘bigger weapons’ or by being furtive and sneaky, is something that has always fascinated me.
What else should we know about you professionally?
Students who like the way I teach and have a particular interest in biology will want to subscribe to my YouTube channel Biology Professor (http://www.youtube.com/biologyprofessor). With over 6,000 subscribers and over 700,000 views from 160+ countries, you know it has to be good! I create and post videos on microbiology, immunology, cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, and more. It feels incredible to get questions from students in my own backyard and on the other side of the world. I have even had people watch my videos and leave comments in other languages (Arabic, Spanish, etc.). Thank goodness for Google Translate!