[ExI] khan again, was: RE: david statue coincidence

spike spike66 at att.net
Mon Aug 22 01:29:18 UTC 2016



From: extropy-chat [mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of William Flynn Wallace


>…Are we through discussing teaching?


Not at all, but keep in mind we are discussing two different things in a way.  You are writing about teaching from a teacher’s point of view.  I think I am hearing your argument that if a teacher’s job is to coach students to work online resources, that would be unrewarding as a career path.  Entirely possible, but we are then discussing two different things, for you are a college professor, and I am thinking of an elementary school teacher with entirely different challenges.  Not the least of these is that he has some of her fifth graders who are already waaaaay past her in some fields of study, while others struggle to read at their grade level, where the standards are modest to the point of being nearly comical.


College students’ goals haven’t changed and will not change.  You know better than most of us that real interest in the topic you are trying to teach is rare.  You are lucky to have a single student in a class of 25 who is genuinely interested in the topic, who will hang around after class and talk about the subject.  I know this for in chemistry and some of my math classes, I was that guy.  


>…That's what I did starting sometime in college, and it worked well for me.  But they used the old way:  read the book the night before the test…bill w


Ja, because your goals were to learn the material, and perhaps become a professor.  I suspect most of your classmates had other goals.


College students have a goal of getting sufficient credentials to get some mundane office drone job while freeing up as much time as possible for getting laid.  I had a huge advantage in that department.  I already knew that even if I had as much free time as had passed since the mid Jurassic period, my chances at getting laid were still so negligible as to make the investment scarcely worth the effort.  I didn’t bother.  This freed up money, spared me from embarrassment and heartbreak, freed up that time to think about actual course content.  


If there was some deal available to students whereby they could pay their entire tuition today and collect a diploma four years from now with no further requirements or demands on their time, plenty of them would take that deal in a heartbeat.  This makes students perhaps the worst consumer group in history.  This business opportunity was not lost on one of our current candidates for president.


So BillW, you noted repeatedly that regardless of your efforts, students really wanted to just come to class, listen to your lectures, do nothing else, then the week before the midterm and final exam, read the material, cram in everything and hope for the best.  That isn’t going to change my professor friend.  It’s human nature.  My guess is that regardless of what you did, you could never get very many of your students to actually get good value out of your course by reading the material beforehand.  College students just don’t swing that way.


This is a good argument for what I have been pointing out with my observations of an open-ended curriculum: it takes advantage of students actual interests and methods of study.  It recognizes that study is an activity done only after the biological urges are satisfied.  This isn’t meant as a criticism.  I remember what it was like, struggling to concentrate while semen pressure threatened to blow the top of my head off.  College is the age when that happens.  The heavy lifting in the learning process should be mostly finished by that time.


Our notions might at this time diverge, for your professorship was in areas not generally known to me, and not readily broken down into a number of discrete skills, such as Khan Academy’s 1040 identified skills necessary to claim mastery of mathematics through first semester calculus.  I don’t know how that would be done for English literature, psychology, political science, or journalism.  I don’t even know if it can be done.  Those mysterious arts were taught up on the east end of campus.  We math, physics, and engineering geeks didn’t go there, didn’t know anyone there, wouldn’t know of its existence other than being occasionally reminded we were banished to the west end of campus and we were weird.  I don’t think we really were; we just dressed that way.  Well, OK I was weird.  But I like me like that.  Besides my sweetheart was one of us.


But back to reality, which can also be a fun place.  My notion is that teaching the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) disciplines can be done at triple the efficiency if the entire curriculum is designed end to end by one guy.  We have been discussing a stunning work of art which was designed not by a fractured committee by one brilliant mind, one.  I am not an artist myself, never carved anything other than soap.  But I never cease to be amazed at the thought of a guy looking at a huge pillar of marble, envisioning David standing inside it, then freeing him of the overlying rock so effectively the result can practically get even hetero men turned on.  Now that is an accomplishment.  It was done by one guy with a vision.


An example I was thinking of was a particular invention to which I am well acquainted: the saxophone.  Other instruments evolved over time, but the sax was invented in 1846 by a singularly talented guy, Adolphe Sax.  I played a replica of his original 1846 version and found it most remarkable how very similar it was to the modern version.  He did a great job, just terrific.


OK then, my real thrust in the Khan Academy thread was that given a sufficiently talented designer such as Sax and Michelangelo, a single designer could put together a complete curriculum which would be so much more efficient than the design by fractured committee alternatives that the result could teach children at triple the efficiency.  It could allow them to achieve a similar level of mastery in a third the time investment, which leads me back to a concept I will introduce in my next post on the topic, after you have had time to think and respond, recognizing that we have two completely different topics running more or less in parallel.







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