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Edumecation

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by hotwheelz, Mar 30, 2011.

  1. hotwheelz

    hotwheelz
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    Everyone, meet Salman Khan, he founded http://www.khanacademy.org/ a few years ago.

    He has some pretty awesome ideas regarding our education system. I've used his website numerous times when studying for a test and I've gotta say, his lectures are awesome.

    FOCUS: Discuss his ideas. Are they good? If so, what's stopping schools from implementing it? .
     
  2. DrFrylock

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    You know, I used to be able to keep up with all the "things" on the Internet. Now there is so much shit on the Internet that I cannot keep up. Apparently Xtranormal is like three years old? I just saw it for the first time a month ago. Fuck.

    Anyway this is another one of those "things." If you want to know what the deal is, you should watch this video. I watched the whole goddamn thing last night. Summary for those of you that don't want to spend 20 minutes of your time watching a man fellate himself on stage:

    • Guy graduates from MIT
    • Guy goes to work for hedge fund
    • Guy gets guilted by family members into tutoring far-away nieces and nephews, so he does it on Yahoo! Doodle for a while
    • Guy begins recording 10-15 minute segments of himself teaching all sorts of basic subjects and posts them on the Internet for free. One innovation is that none of them actually show him talking, but he instead narrates over drawing on a board and showing images and stuff.
    • Guy is now up to something like 2400 free videos on all manner of things. All made by him.
    • Guy eventually quit his hedge fund job with only like $1M in the bank and started doing this, kind of for a living, except he's not selling anything. He seems to live off donations.
    • Everyone rejoices at the nice guy and how awesome he is. He gets lots of donations from lots of people. Some big ones.

    I haven't watched too much of the content, but what I've seen is better than I expected. I'm inherently skeptical about things like this. Also, I get a weird vibe from the guy - like there is a thin veneer of false sincerity hiding a mountain of douchebag. Just a personal observation.

    I worked for a guy once who said that we should just hire Harrison Ford to give all the lectures in a class and show the videos to the class. He didn't really mean Harrison Ford, but basically his assertion was that there was some extraordinarily good lecture out there, and so we should just record that and show it to everybody rather than having individual teachers teach it. Ultimately, I think I'd rather have a good video than a bad teacher. I'd rather have a good teacher than any video - good or bad. But the law of averages says that a lot of teachers you're going to have are not going to be very good, so why not just rely heavily on videos?

    I think there is great potential for videos like this, especially for self-motivated students. I may watch his series on statistics, as it's the one class I regret not taking. Good teachers cannot be everywhere all at once. However, I think that this is the sort of thing that's inherently disruptive to the educational system, and not all disruptions have entirely positive outcomes.

    I have taught college courses, and I still give a number of guest lectures in them every year. My girlfriend is a secondary school teacher by trade. So I have a little insight about teaching. The one thing I have seen with my girlfriend's work is that pre-college teaching has changed a lot in the last 20 years. When I was a kid, being a teacher meant showing up on time every day, coming up with lessons, assigning homework, giving tests, and doing report cards. Now, there is far more rigor to how all that happens. K-12 teachers are expected to be familiar with dozens of macroscopic and microscopic methods for doing the things they do. They are expected to be constantly doing assessments and adjusting based on quantitative metrics. They are expected to be facile with government standards for what must be learned. My girlfriend uses a whole vocabulary that I'm fairly certain did not exist for my teachers growing up. It seems to me that all this has probably normalized teaching a lot - the bad teachers are better scrutinized, but the best teachers have less room to be creative. More people are getting a more average education.

    I personally find teaching to be an extremely peculiar sort of social activity, characterized by a lot of subtlety. As a student in a classroom, it often appears that the teacher is nothing more than an advanced automaton going through a set of prescribed motions, especially in an environment where there are lots of students involved - sometimes 100 or more. As a student, it would be easy to claim that much of what a teacher does could be replaced by a video.

    When you're actually up there talking, it's not really like that. If I see the students falling asleep, I will pick up the pace or maybe increase the level of interaction. If I see students frowning or looking confused, I'll slow down or go over the material some more. If I catch myself rambling or not explaining something very well, I'll go back and see if I can do it better next time. There's all kinds of non-obvious things going on in a classroom and a live lecture - even if there are 100 students in the room. As Richard Feynman famously observed, you learn a lot about a subject (and your own knowledge about that subject) when you have to explain it to other people.

    As such, I'm extremely wary about the consequences of taking this part of the teaching experience away from teachers. For a teacher that's not introspective, maybe there's little harm in doing so. But for a teacher that is paying attention to what is going on, there will be a loss. Some people have said that videos like Khan's are only useful as supplementary material. I can give him more credit than that - they are clearly useful for more than just supplementary purposes. I'm just not sure what the right use of them is.
     
  3. Frank

    Frank
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    I've been taking online seminars for my exams for a while and for me personally, being able to learn at my own pace, rewind when I space out and so on has been VASTLY superior to learning in a classroom setting. I space out pretty much every ten minutes, in a college lecture this meant missing out on the rest of the class material, with online videos I can rewind and close the gaps, I learn so much better this way.

    Also, if we go with this approach we'll finally have a standard education system, it would help equalize the rich and the poor by giving them the exact same education. That way when poor kids still fail people can stop bitching about them not being given a chance by schools and realize it's shitty parents.

    Try to get a meeting with members of a teachers' union and tell them you have an idea that can help significantly reduce wages spent on teachers and save costs across the board, see what happens.
     
  4. Harry Coolahan

    Harry Coolahan
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    I'm not sure why video lectures are always considered as substitutes for actual lectures. That's like saying, "Why go to lectures when we can just give every student a textbook and let them figure it out from there?" In my experience the value of a lecturer is that they can field questions and tailor their lectures around that. Which means you can ask for specific clarification; ask them to expand on topics they aren't really covering; and most importantly you can benefit from the questions of other students who will think of something that never occurred to you. Not to mention discussion-based lectures.

    The greatest value of lectures is getting insight from adjunct professors who have real careers and are teaching to basically just give their perspective on an issue that the students have already read about in books. I don't need a professor to summarize my textbook, I need a professor to explain how to think about the content I just read and learned. I don't know if a video can do this to the same effect as a lecturer. (Though to be fair most professors are just summarizers, what a waste of my time and money.)
     
  5. bewildered

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    Our school has "web-enhanced" classes that use a system similar to his. For instance, I am taking a genetics class. In a traditional class, you would meet either MWF or TR, but we meet Tuesdays for lecture only and she posts problem solving podcasts for us to watch on Thursdays (or anytime, really).

    The podcasts consist of her writing on some fancy apple application and narrating her actions. It's like a whiteboard, but she isn't physically writing on it. She's a good teacher and the podcasts are very logical in the way she presents them.

    Overall, I am pleased with the class. Her podcasts are not ungodly long (usually 10-12 minutes per, and then maybe 2-4 per chapter) and are straight to the point. She also has a professor skype account set up so that we can talk with her over a distance. I do appreciate that.

    When I was in nursing school, they published podcasts as additional lecture material, but they really fucked that idea up. They had a little library that we were expected to watch of about 50 podcasts, and each one was around 45-1 hour long. The majority of the lecture was a huge time waste and contained no real information.

    The only possibly negative part about this system (this is what the professor told us when we were talking about the new setup) is that this system really does separate the "self-learners" from the others. Some people are able to go to class, absorb the material, take a few notes, and pass the class. With this new system, you have to voluntarily download and take in the new material. You cannot be passive with this new system.

    That being said, I'm not the greatest "self-learner" but I still feel that I benefit from this system. It allows me to access the material at any time I wish, and I only have to wake up for an 8am class once a week.
     
  6. Noland

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    Because lecturers vary from dynamic to "I'd rather eat glass than sit through another 10 minutes of this guy droning on".

    At the end of last year I had to get 8 hours worth of CLE credits to maintain my license to practice. Most of it was the garden variety interesting stuff that you might actually use in a day to day practice. (I don't practice anymore, but I still find it interesting.)

    There was one lecture I was actually excited about and one that I planned on reading the paper through. The lecture on intellectual property (yawn) was amazing. The speaker was funny and informative and I walked away with enough information on intellectual property to make me dangerous. Pretty good for a 60 minute lecture.

    The lecture on Sports Law by the chief counsel for the New Orleans Saints (what stories she could tell) was so boring I walked out of it.

    This guy is good. He's one out of a hundred. That's why.
     
  7. hotwheelz

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    Well if the students have questions then they can ask the teacher in class. And, no one said that they have to be HIS videos. It'd be really easy for a teacher to record a lecture and assign it as homework.