Alexi Perkins

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Alexi Perkins
Posted about 1 year ago
Does the lack of accuracy outweigh the benefits of truly understanding the information?
In my opinion, the short answer is "absolutely." But here's a longer answer. You mention the phrase "truly understanding the information," as if what DeWitt is advocating is somehow the opposite of true understanding--false understanding? But what is true understanding? DeWitt was talking about viral replication in the video, and there are probably only five or six people in the entire world who "truly" understand viral replication, and by that I mean there are only five or six people in the world (who are likely professors at major research universities like MIT and Caltech) who know every single tiny detail of how viruses work. This is what George Lockwood was getting at I think with his comment about models. For even those very knowledgeable professors, every single day the researchers in their labs discover new information about viruses, so in order to continue to "truly" understand the information, every single day they have to check in on the new discoveries from the day before. The point is that we can't possibly expect every 13 year-old who's learning about viruses to understand everything that the MIT professor knows about. That's a fair thing to say, right? That it's OK to say that a 13 year-old "truly" understands viruses without making them memorize 100 books worth of content and spend 25 years in a research lab? So doctors deal with viruses all the time. But they probably know only a fraction of the information about viruses the MIT expert professor knows, and they focus on what's important--how viruses spread between people and how to treat people who are sick with viruses. Nurses know even less. Students who are studying to start med school know less than the doctors and nurses. The point is, at each level there is an appropriate amount you need to know to "truly understand" a topic. For 13 year-olds, that's very elementary. For a doctor, it's more. For a Caltech researcher, that's a ton. And everywhere in between.
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Alexi Perkins
Posted about 1 year ago
Tyler DeWitt: Hey science teachers -- make it fun
Michael, I completely agree that the most engaging teacher will be the one who throws the textbook in the trash! Hands-on experiments, analogies, and passion are absolutely the best weapons against boring instruction and uninterested students. That being said, as a current high school science teacher, I HATE the Khan Academy. I realize that Sal Khan has gotten has gotten a lot of press recently, but his videos are the exact opposite of what Tyler DeWitt is talking about here. Khan Academy videos are dry, humorless, monotone and disorganized. Khan Academy may be very successful for students who are already very engaged and interested in learning, but I couldn't bribe my own students enough to watch them. I try to incorporate them into my curriculum, but the kids click on them and watch about 20 seconds and say, "Wow this is boring; who cares?" There's no joy, no fun, no analogies, no motivation. Khan Academy is essentially like a spoken textbook. We need to do better than the Khan Academy. I love the discussion of vampire numbers! Can't wait to check it out. There should be online resources that describe all of math and science in fun, exciting, engaging ways. Khan Academy doesn't come close.
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Alexi Perkins
Posted about 1 year ago
Tyler DeWitt: Hey science teachers -- make it fun
I feel that one of the main problems is that the people *funding* education (or even inviting teachers to give TED talks) aren't the ones teaching kids on the ground every day. So Bill Gates sees Sal Khan's videos and he thinks they're great, but he cannot accurately assess whether they would be useful for young teenagers. But it's not just Bill Gates, it's all the foundations that fund education stuff, and it's also all the textbook companies--I think the latter is what Tyler DeWitt is getting at here. The textbooks and other educational resources are all written for middle-aged smart people who already understand science. They're not being written for the 14 year olds in my classroom.
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Alexi Perkins
Posted about 1 year ago
Tyler DeWitt: Hey science teachers -- make it fun
As I current high school teacher, I admire Sal Khan for his devotion to making education accessible to many students around the world. But--at least in my opinion--his videos don't address many of the problems we currently face in education. For example, Khan Academy videos do little to get students excited about science, and they do little to make it fun and enjoyable. Sal Khan covers the information in a very dry manner. Honestly, even I get bored by his lessons. Sure, this works great for highly motivated students (like yourself, I bet), but for the majority of the kids I teach, they watch about 20 seconds of a Khan Academy lesson and say, "Wow this is boring. Who cares?" I don't agree with everything Tyler DeWitt says in this video, but I applaud him for his efforts to make science engaging, accessible, fanciful, and fun for his students. Khan Academy does none of those things, and that's one reason why my students don't benefit from it very much. I don't think Khan Academy is teaching anyone to *love* science. Maybe I'm wrong--the only data I have is what I see with my own students in my own classroom. Secondly, most of the science content on Khan Academy is too advanced for high schoolers, or at least the ones who are struggling. In other words, I find Khan Academy not much different from a textbook. I assign the kids to watch a video for homework, and when they show up in class the next day, most of them still don't understand the concepts because they couldn't follow the video--it went too fast or was too complex. I don't teach college, but if I did, I might find Khan Academy a really great resource for my students. But for high school students who struggle and need a lot of boosting up to get them to understand and to love science, Khan Academy isn't the answer, at least not for my students in my classroom.