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Canadians among finalists for YouTube’s Next EDU Guru contest for educational videos

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When Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown were completing their biological science degree, they tried desperately to convince their “less nerdy” friends at the University of Guelph that science could be fascinating.

They often failed at that, their friends laughing at their attempts.

“We fell in love with science and we found ourselves always trying to inspire our friends with the coolest things we learned to try to get them to be a part of that interesting community,” Moffit, 24, says from his Guelph home.

Moffit and Brown, along with Carleton University math professor Kevin Cheung, are the only three Canadians in a group of 10 finalists in YouTube’s Next EDU Guru contest for innovative educational videos.

Moffit and Cheung will be flown to YouTube headquarters in California on Wednesday and will be part of an educational seminar. (Brown won’t be able to attend as he is teaching overseas.) Then, a grand prize will be awarded to the winner — an opportunity to work with the website to develop their YouTube career.

Cheung created the Math Apptician channel with videos on the mathematics behind popular apps called Mathappatics.

For Moffit, creating the AsapSCIENCE channel with Brown, gave him the chance to convince people other than his friends that science was interesting.

“I think kids often think it’s boring or hard and we wanted to inspire them outside of the traditional classroom setting and we saw YouTube as a medium for that generation,” Moffit says.

The videos on AsapSCIENCE are not the usual topics covered in stale science lessons. Each short video, all under 4 minutes, explains the science behind a topic that Moffit says he and Brown thought was interesting.

For instance, “Your Brain on Marijuana” and “The Science of Procrastination.”

The 21 videos that the duo started creating and uploading in June are peppered with humour and break down the science behind the concepts in a matter-of-fact way.

Moffit says he got the idea for the channel after he saw other people in the science community sharing what they knew and he said he felt there was an appetite for it.

According to YouTube spokesperson Wendy Bairos, he was right.

She said subscribers to YouTube education channels have doubled in the last year.

The contest was created to highlight that appetite for educational learning, she said, and encourage more of that content online.

“Some of the most popular videos we’re seeing on YouTube are actually education videos,” Bairos says, adding she thinks video learning is the platform of choice of the younger generation.

Leslie Chan, a University of Toronto Scarborough professor whose research is focused on how technology affects learning, says that he sees the shift toward learning from video as a positive thing.

“It allows kids to stop, rewind and repeat concepts that they may not understand,” he says, adding that the current education structure works mostly on a one-size-fits-all approach that isn’t suitable for different ways of learning.

He says he has seen more students gravitating towards learning on the web in the past few years and expects that trend to continue.

Bairos said the contest winner will be announced sometime this month.

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