Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Here is the entry I just submitted to the Khan Academy Talent Search...

What subject do your videos teach, and what level do they target?

Long division, 3-12 math

Video #1

Video #2

Why are you interested in sharing your videos with the world through Khan Academy?

Usually I measure success in teaching on a fairly personal level, when I'm communicating concepts to an individual or a small group, and I can see the glint of recognition in human eyes (sometimes prefaced by the crinkled brow of confusion) right before me. But YouTube and Khan Academy give another way to find success in educating people. While I could just measure it in the raw "number of views" that a tutorial video gets, with YouTube I can also get direct feedback from people, sometimes with students asking for clarification, or requesting that I do another video on another topic that they're learning about. (See the comments section on my "Long Division With a Two-Digit Divisor" video to see what I'm talking about.) My presumption is that getting my content out on Khan Academy as well as YouTube would heighten the possibilities for this kind of interaction.

But here's what I really LOVE about this medium of learning: People come to get it when THEY need it, at the precise moment that they WANT to. Hungry, self-directed minds like these are the most open and receptive to a concise and intriguing explanation that can quickly lead to that "a-ha, now I get it" moment!

Is there anything else you'd like us to know?

The first video that I'm submitting, "Long Division With a Two Digit Divisor," was literally made for a single classroom-full of Grade 4 students that I was then working with. I posted it publicly on YouTube because I figured it might be of benefit to somebody else besides my students. After it started getting lots of views I decided to make two "prequels" explaining the basics of long division (one of which is my second submitted video, "Why Long Division Works").

In further-flung-yet-curiously-related matters:
Edit 2015-05-26:
Here's a cocktail napkin sketch of some ideas for projects I'd like to work on in the future (with folks like those at Khan Academy, or on my own) --
  • Numeracy project = learning resources for self-tutoring in numeracy skills -- geared toward adults who are at the very lower end of the numeracy spectrum. Would need to be built with an eye to overcoming (or steering around) the fears that drive the innumerate to remain innumerate. (We dare not underestimate the overwhelming, self-defeating power of the "I'm no good at math" mantra.) Goal: elimination of innumeracy in the adult population.
  • Literacy project = same as numeracy project, but with focus on literacy.
  • Object Oriented version of MIT’s Scratch = for learners of all ages, a game-building mechanism like MIT’s Scratch, but one that is built upon valid Object-Oriented (OO) principles and which has a direct path into working with genuine, mature programming languages in a real IDE (integrated development environment). ScratchOO must get junior programmers working with valid OO concepts from day one of playing in the environment. Given that the path leads toward mature programming in a real IDE, perhaps the learning environment should be available as a plug-in to an IDE (like Eclipse or NetBeans). If, for example, ScratchOO were built on top of Java, then all the ScratchOO tools and widgets would be built in Java. The beginner would work with a simple set of these tools to build games, but as they advance, then can get into the actual Java code that lies "behind" the simple tools they've been working with, to customize and extend them, and become fully competent Java programmers.

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