« March 2008 | Main | May 2008 »

April 22, 2008

Journal talks on YouTube

A colleague of mine forwarded on an announcement from the Journal of Number Theory staff about their new YouTube channel. The basic idea is that, once you've had a paper refereed and accepted, you can post a short talk of the paper so that people can get the highlights of it -- sort of like an ongoing virtual conference. I like it -- I think its a great idea. Another colleague who I shared this with suggested that this should also be the model we use for talks at conferences -- that is, you put up a short version of the talk before you go, so people can shop around a bit for the talks they are most interested in. Again, I think this is a great idea. Thoughts?

April 18, 2008

Teaching fractions on TeacherTube

A colleague sent me this video on TeacherTube. I have very mixed feelings about it. First, the title I find off-putting. "Want Test Scores To Go Up?" Sigh. Really? Double-sigh. I know this is the reality of our current teachers and students, but...really? Is that all we are aiming for now? No mention of teaching or learning, just a focus on the test? I don't need any big, lofty idealistic goals (although those would be nice) about teaching and learning, but how about a simple "Want Kids to Learn Fractions?" Triple-sigh.

Regardless, I think that the instructor should be lauded for trying to teach in a way that kids will find engaging -- to "speak their language", I suppose. And the comments are generally positive. The pedagogical challenge I find to this approach is that a) it seems to lack any sense of context, b) it makes some pretty strong claims (really -- you're teaching me *everything* I need to know about fractions?), and c) has absolutely no notion of transfer. Of course, I doubt this instructor is *only* using this method to teach, and skills training is important -- basic factual knowledge is a building block for deeper things. But the pedagogical approach, coupled with the title, makes me very concerned that the real goal of education is to give kids a "rap" that goes off in their heads when they see a fraction on a standardized test. So, sure, start with a rap (or better yet, let's actually see if we have evidence that the kids who get the rap learn more about the mechanics of turning fractions into percentages), but please let's not stop there. Why is a fraction the same as a percentage, and what do those things signify in our world? Let's test on that, what do you think?

Video presentations for Academic Journals

Yesterday a colleague sent me an email from the Journal of Number Theory explaining that, for the future, the authors of all accepted papers will be invited to submit a video presentation of a "talk" of their paper for the Journal's YouTube channel. To me, this makes so much sense I am sort of surprised that no one has thought of it before. We're all so busy, and watching a simple video presentation of a paper seems as if it would really provide a nice cognitive organizer for the paper, providing another "type" of learning opportunity that could deepen understanding of the paper when you read it. I like it. But will it just make reading of papers obsolete? Will the talks become like Cliffs Notes, actually replacing the reading of papers altogether? Possibly, but I think the risk is worth it. Personally, I never have time to read all of the papers that I should be reading; this would give me the opportunity to actually connect with a much wider body of research than I am able to currently.