Turning educators into learning engineers

10 YouTube channels that will make you and your students smarter

Capture I only wish that these were available to me when I was in school.  The Internet and the ease of creating video have unleashed these creative geniuses on the world, each willing to share what they know about all sorts of things.  Here’s my list – what are your favorites?

CGP Grey – Collin cover a huge array of topics in a way that will make you both laugh and learn.

Numberphile – Math! Not just your ordinary math, but math is explained in a way that is quite approachable by all. Check out their website too.

SciShow – Another great channel that discusses science news, history and concepts.

Minute Physics – As their channel states: “Cool physics and other sweet science."

Veritasium – Veritasium is a science video blog featuring experiments, expert interviews, cool demos, and discussions with the public about everything science.

It’s Okay To Be Smart – Yes it is! This channel is all about some of the most mind-blowing science facts you have wondered about.

Smarter Every Day – Destin makes some of the best and most entertaining science videos you might find online.

Crash Course – Hank and John Green provide brief explanations of some of the worlds most complex topics. They are very engaging, and could work very well as materials for your blended learning course.

The Brain Scoop – Great behind the scenes work from the Field Museum in Chicago

The PBS Idea Channel – a PBS show that examines the connections between pop culture, technology and art.

Bonus… The Internet was created for cat videos – so if you think I’d forgot them, here’s my favorite:

Big Cat TV – this animal rescue group has some very educative videos about big cats.

What are your favorites?  Share them in the comments.

Concept Mapping vs Retrieval – What Works Better?

I came across an interesting article ( Reading Techniques Help Students Master Science)  from Scientific American and study (What Works Clearinghouse) on the difference between reading science vs ELA texts and a technique that might help learners make better sense of the materials.

The article has several links to additional research about how students grapple with the differences in ELA vs science texts.  This passage stands out to me as something to explore:

Research into techniques for mastering science text has evolved over a generation. Concept mapping was popular in the 1980s, for example. You might have made some yourself. They’re those charts with the main ideas all written inside circles. Lines connect the circles and labels identify the relationships between the circles. A photosynthesis concept map might have “plants” and “photosynthesis” in different circles, plus a line from the first to the second labeled “make food by.”

Since then researchers have found several strategies that seem to be even more effective than concept mapping. In one compelling study researchers at Purdue University tested four reading strategies on 80 college students. One fourth of the students were told to type everything they remembered from a passage they read about sea otters. Then they repeated the read-and-type cycle. A week later those students recalled the sea otter info better than any other group, including one that made concept maps, one that reread the passage four times and a group that read the passage once.



2014 Internet Trends

Each year Mary Meeker from KPCB presents a signature State of the Internet speech with a crazy amount of data on everything from how we use the net to implications across the world.  Yes… it’s a 164 slides of stuff – but it’s work a peek, especially the education related items starting on slide 24.

Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos

Is it more effective to start with a focus on common misconceptions learners have? Will this increase the likelihood that they are going to pay attention and actually learn something? 

My PhD:…
It is a common view that "if only someone could break this down and explain it clearly enough, more students would understand." Khan Academy is a great example of this approach with its clear, concise videos on science. However it is debatable whether they really work. Research has shown that these types of videos may be positively received by students. They feel like they are learning and become more confident in their answers, but tests reveal they haven’t learned anything. The apparent reason for the discrepancy is misconceptions. Students have existing ideas about scientific phenomena before viewing a video. If the video presents scientific concepts in a clear, well illustrated way, students believe they are learning but they do not engage with the media on a deep enough level to realize that what was is presented differs from their prior knowledge. There is hope, however. Presenting students’ common misconceptions in a video alongside the scientific concepts has been shown to increase learning by increasing the amount of mental effort students expend while watching it.

Your School Librarians Are Key To Student Success

Ever wonder how important your school librarians are to your student’s successful transition to college?  A new report from the ALA, “Factors Affecting Students’ Information Literacy as They Transition from High School to College“, lays it out in some detail.  From the abstract:

Despite the considerable attention paid to the need to increase the information literacy of high school students in preparation for the transition to college, poor research skills still seem to be the norm. To gain insight into the problem, library instruction environments of nineteen high schools were explored. The schools were selected based on whether their graduates did well or poorly on information-skills assignments integrated in a required first-year college course. The librarians in the nineteen schools were asked to characterize their working relationships with teachers, estimate their students’ information-literacy achievement, and provide data on their staffing and budgets.

Findings suggest that school librarians are seldom in a position to adequately collaborate with teachers and that their opportunities to help students achieve information literacy are limited.

Make sure to read the conclusion, where this troubling statement is written by the authors:

The key insight gained from this study is that school librarians are relatively powerless to effect change from within or on their own. Although Table 7 identifies many of the barriers to successful IL programs, including librarians’ own limited concept of their role, there is barely any mention of the part that should be played by school administration. Even those librarians who come across as strong promoters of IL in their schools do not talk about how they try to advocate with their principals or with curriculum committees. Reading the transcripts leaves one with an impression of the librarian as isolated and dependent on the cooperation of individual teachers. Broad collaboration with teachers and information literacy integration with curricula are not held up as priorities. A sense of acceptance of the status quo is pervasive.

It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens by danah boyd

SNAGHTML29d01bReading: It’s Complicated: the social lives of networked teens by danah boyd.  You can download the PDF of the book for free, or buy a dead-tree copy from the usual suspects.

The topics covered are: 

  • Identity – why do teens seem strange online? 
  • Privacy -  why do youth share so publicly?
  • Addiction – what makes teens obsessed with social media?
  • Danger – are sexual predators lurking everywhere?
  • Bullying  – is social media amplifying meanness and cruelty?
  • Inequality – can social media resolve social divisions?
  • Literacy – are today’s youth digital natives?

I would highly recommend this book to you no matter how much your teaching and learning practice touches the issues of social networking, digital identity, and trying to help our kids create positive digital footprints.  At the very least, make sure to review the 22 page introduction as It give a great deal of insight into this complicated world we live in.  

Rubrics help your learners build speaking and presentation skills

A few weeks back, I had a conversation with an elementary teacher about the types of feedback he could give to better let his learners know how they were doing on their presentations. This discussion led into how important the ability to stand in front of people and talk is to long-term success both in school and in the workplace.  We talked a bit about how the students at that age don’t quite know what elements of a presentation are important, so providing them a framework will help them think about and work on those skills. In addition to the framework, we thought it was important for student to self-assess, or predict, their level of proficiency before they did their presentation.  Enter the rubric.

One of the better resources for pre-created rubrics (and much more) I’ve found for students is at the Buck Institute for Education or BIE.  They provide a plethora of resources around Project Based Learning that can be adopted into your general and special education classrooms.  The K-2 rubric is a great entry-level document to help your learners understand what elements they need to include or demonstrate.   To download any of the documents, you will need first to create a free login.

K-2 Presentation Rubric


3-5 Presentation Rubric 

6-8 Presentation Rubric

9-12 Presentation Rubric


Additional Rubric Sites and Resources – RubistarRubrics from UW StoutRubrics from teAchnologyRecipes for SuccessKathy Schrock’s Rubric Collection

The $0.85 Apple Keyboard Repair


Apple sells these really nice wireless keyboards ($69) that we use in our Assistive Technology Lending Library, but they don’t sell a simple replacement battery cover… So when one that we’ve loaned comes back without the simple cover, we now have a $69 piece of finely sculpted aluminum.

Because I’m always looking for a way to fix things like this, I took the keyboard to the local hardware store and found a 5/8” hex cap that fit the hole perfectly – almost.  The end sticks out a bit, but other than that, it’s functional.  As someone once said, “If it’s stupid and it works, it’s not stupid.”

This nice little 5/8” hex cap cost $0.85 and needed only to have a small amount of the black oxide finish scuffed off on the end that contacts the negative side of the batteries.  Once installed and turned on, the Bluetooth keyboard showed up immediately on my iPad and Nexus tablet, and we’ve saved a otherwise useless device from the trash.


Sal Kahn Keynote at the Hoover Institution’s Symposium on Blended Learning in K-12 Education

Sal Khan, the founder of the Khan Academy, recently delivered the keynote address at the Hoover Institution’s Symposium on Blended Learning in K-12 Education.

In this keynote, he describes his vision for “education reimagined.”