My #mtt2k Submissions Graveyard

Yesterday was the deadline for the #mtt2k contest and I don’t have an entry. All summer, I waffled back and forth about doing an entry. I’d have a great idea one evening, start working on it, but by morning I was second guessing myself and the whole idea of the contest in general. Then a conversation on Twitter would spark another idea, only to be discarded the next day. Wash, rinse, repeat.

So before I come to my senses and decide to axe this post, here’s a brief description of my #mtt2k ideas that never came to complete fruition:

1. Khan Academy Classroom Mashup

There’s a playlist of unlisted videos produced by KA’s President and COO Shantanu Sinha that (I assume) is used in training teachers at KA pilot schools. One of the videos is about how to use class time effectively. In it, Mr. Sinha discusses how there’s a misconception that KA is about kids sitting in front of computers, but that the real power of KA is that it frees up class time for activities and projects.

However, KA recently had a series of 6 promotional videos produced, each featuring a different pilot school. And in all of those videos, we see kids in front of computers, watching videos and working through exercises. Student-student and student-teacher interaction only happen when a kid has a question about a problem. The only project/activity work that is shown is just one small portion of one video with kids working on some kind of geometry activity with string and drinking straws.

My entry would be a mashup juxtaposing clips from the “effective use of class time” video and the KA promotional videos of kids with laptops.  I understand that when the mainstream media does a piece about KA, they tend to focus on the videos and exercises, and that is out of the KA team’s control. But if KA says they are really about freeing up the classroom, why do their own promotional videos show kids working through modules on laptops in class?

2. Khan Academy Exercise Module / Student Tweet Mashup

Khan has a video where he gives a tour of the KA exercise modules and discusses its “motivating” point/badge system. However, as the summer winds down, there have been a lot of students tweeting about their dissatisfaction about doing KA work. My entry would be a mashup juxtaposing video clips of Khan’s exhalations with frustrated student tweets. I think this speaks volumes about our country’s approach to math education and that some computer exercises aren’t really helping. I’ve been collecting the student tweets in a Storify, which you can see here (warning: teenagers using very NSFW language).

3. How I Used To Teach

Before #mtt2k, I was toying with doing a video series aimed at teachers called “How I Used To Teach.” The purpose was to help teachers incorporate specific mulitiple representation approaches in physics, like motion graphs, energy bar charts, momentum bar charts, system schema, and color-coded circuit diagrams. For example, for a video about teaching kinematics, I would present a typical textbook problem and how I used to teach it — making a table of knowns and unknowns and then choosing the Big 5 equation that would solve the problem. Then I’d follow up with how I teach it now — drawing a velocity-time graph for the scenario and using slope and area relations to find the answer.

The #mtt2k connection here is that many of Khan’s video are perfect examples of how I used to teach, particularly in my first 3 years. So my #mtt2k entry would start with Khan solving a problem the traditional way, and then I would follow-up with solving it the multiple representational way.

4. Limitations of Blackboard-style Videos Mashup

Another mashup of Khan explaining concepts like Hooke’s Law and Newton’s Third Law with clips of physics demos that beautifully illustrate them. These would also double as a criticism of Khan deferring to authority in his explanations, rather then deferring to experiment.

5. Dr. Seuss Parody

A story about kids struggling to eat gross school food (rotting vegetables, mystery meat, etc.) for lunch. In a Cat-in-the-Hat-like fashion, a man named Al magically appears to coach kids on how to eat, working through different disgusting entrees one at a time. Al also brings over 3,000 different sauces to put on the gross food. He even rewards kids who eat it with energy points and badges. Soon, schools across America are using Al’s sauces and badges to transform cafeterias into serving “world-class lunches.” In the end, it’s a silly approach — the real solution is to serve better food. Swap Al for Sal and swap food for math and you see the crux of my argument.

6. Khan Academy Exercises vs. Wolfram|Alpha

A video showing how many of the exercises can be gamed using Wolfram Alpha. I’m surprised students haven’t crowdsourced these tricks and created a Cramster for Khan Academy. (Digitial natives, huh?)

My #mtt2k Picks

A masterlist of all #mtt2k entries are listed here. These are my two favorites:

“Khan Academy Does Angry Birds” by Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer)

“What if Khan Academy Was Make in Japan” by Michael Pershan (@mpershan)

And if you haven’t heard, Khan Academy just released a series of interactive computer science modules. They look pretty cool (like this bouncing ball one) and I’m wondering if the platform could be used in my college-prep level physics course. So there’s that.

UPDATE Aug 18, 2012: At the request of a friend, I’ve decided to post the video I created for the first idea above (Khan Academy Classroom Mashup). I don’t narrate any commentary, but rather let the words and actions of KA speak for themselves.

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11 responses to “My #mtt2k Submissions Graveyard

  1. I love the idea of the Dr. Seuss parody, even if I only get a description of it. You rock.

    – Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)

  2. Didn’t you actually make the first one?

  3. Isn’t your Dr. Seuss argument based on a premise that’s the same as what you’re trying to prove, i.e. Khan = rotten?

    • Not quite. Math ed (and science ed) = rotten. Khan just gets kids to eat the rotten food (3000 sauces = his videos) rather than trying to supply better food. The quality of the sauces can be debated, but at the end of the day, the kids are still eating poorly.

  4. All of them would have been awesome, but then there was the time factor. Can’t you just “wing it” and put together a fabulous world class learning experience for your faithful fans??

  5. I would love to see your series on how you used to teach. I’ve used other methods for explanation, but for problem-solving I still fall back on equations.

  6. I agree that any of your 6 ideas would have made a fine and thought-provoking #mtt2k entry. (Yesss, you saved the students’ tweets!) I had a few submission ideas too, even bought a nice USB mic for the project, but then thought it was more time and energy than I’d cared to put into more criticism of KA.

    Ultimately I do hope that all the attention, including the contest entries, given to Khan and Co. will help all teachers and KA itself to do a better job of delivering instruction. Let’s continue to share great lessons, share our struggles and our students’ struggles. I think by writing this post you’ve made all 6 ideas come to fruition! Bravo and thank you, Frank!

  7. I really like the idea of “how I used to teach” videos, and I think you should make them! I’m a new teacher and I see all of these generalizations for how to teach more effectively, but get overwhelmed trying to figure out how to apply them. A concrete video showing “i used to do this… this is better” would be awesome!

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