Monday, April 30, 2012

How TED-Ed and Khan Academy Work

By Sean Scarpiello

Earlier today, I was browsing the internet for different topics to blog about, I found I was struggling for ideas. So, I turned to the Straube Twitter site (straube_nj) to try to find some ideas. I saw two posts which struck some interest, one involving TED-Ed and the other Khan Academy. Intrigued, I went to the link of each tweet and read about what each had to say, and learned a lot about each of these education sources were all about.

I first went to the TED-Ed website and found a lot of education videos. I watched a few of these videos and they were not the type of education videos I had expected to be typical of learning. These were animated videos where the narrator was a character in the clip. The characters were funny and interactive with the viewer. As I went through the site finding videos that interested me, I noticed few things about the video which made them successful as learning tools. First, they were clear, concise, and to the point. When teaching young students, this is especially important. Also, these videos were colorful and well animated, plus they gave the students a physical sense about what was going on. To demonstrate the size of an atom, the video used everyday objects students run into, such as marbles, blue berries, and baseball stadiums. This is a fantastic way to teach students because educators are taking abstract ideas, like atoms, and making them tangible and easy to see.

Probably the most important aspect of the videos I discovered had to do with the material being taught. I found that there was relatively little information packed into a five minute video; however, this doesn’t matter at all. I found that the purpose of these videos weren’t to cram information into students’ heads, but rather to make them interested. This is the key to students’ success. If educators can get students interested in chemistry, math, English, or even philosophy, students will be successful. I must admit that after watching some of the chemistry videos, my interest in the field was increased, despite currently taking a chemistry course where the material is a bit dry. With so many other distractions in students’ lives’, such as sports, television and videogames, educators need to focus more on developing an interest in students rather than forcing information into their brains. If students have an interest or passion in a field, they will more readily do homework for the class and success will come naturally.

This same idea of developing students’ interest in a subject was the same basis for success for the Khan Academy link. The case studies where different schools saw success was not based as much on higher test scores, but rather an increase in the students’ interests in each subject. Some teachers and parents describe how their children found that math was more fun because of Khan Academy. By turning schoolwork and homework into a game, students don’t view it as work. It is important for students to find a passion for a subject at an early age. This allows students to become interested and set goals for them to reach. These goals give students something to work towards. Plus, finding a passion in a particular class is much easier at a young age because it is easier to fall in love with a class like chemistry or physics before the subject matter becomes tough or dry.

Overall, the success in our students does not depend on these new innovative technologies cramming information into students’ heads, but simply increasing their interest in a particular field. Then students can develop a passion for the material and success will come naturally.


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