Wrath of Khan

There’s little debate in the Star Trek community that Wrath of Khan was the best Star Trek move of all time. This is despite what your students will tell you about the new one that came out a couple of years ago. And, if you talk to a lot of educators out there, there would be a lot of votes for the Khan Academy as the best new way to get through to kids. After all, kids love watching math on their iPads, right?

Umm, let me just check the “Most Viewed” category of Youtube for a second…nope. I was wrong. The kids are watching “Thug Pug: Gangster Dog”. Its no wonder all the stores have those new change dispensing machines now.

So, I do like the idea of the Khan Academy. I’ve been making videos using the old Promethean Board for the last while now in the same kind of style and they serve their purpose. They’re great when a student is away, or when I’m away, or when they want to go over something 20 times in a row until they get it. But they can’t ask their computer a question, or ask it to explain something a different way. And their computer doesn’t get them back on task when, after 10 minutes, they start looking at something more interesting than math or history or whatever.

So where does that leave us? Well, I still think the medium is worth pursuing. The little video with someone talking and explaining something. But why not make it short. And why not make it interesting. And leave the teaching to the people in front of the kids as much as we can. At least until we’ve got those robots who will do our jobs figured out (come on marking robot!).

So enter Minutephysics. I’ve talked about this guy before. Henry Reich has recently gotten a gig at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario and has made a name for himself making short, informative and above all easy to watch clips on physics. He’s bagged about a quarter of a million subscribers and over 20 million views, so I’d say his stuff is pretty good. And he doesn’t try to answer every question a kid might have about physics. He’s lighting a spark in them to get them thinking about things. Asking questions. Actually thinking about physics at home on their own time. To get them excited to come to class and pay attention to what’s going on.

Plus I really like his style. I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to recreate it, so I gave it a shot over Easter.

With my old 10 megapixel camera taped to a music stand, some lights, Crayolas and paper, I hammered out a short video in about 15 minutes of drawing, 30 minutes of video editing (just iMovie) and 5 minutes of uploading to Youtube. Granted, I’ve done all of those things before, but I’m thinking it would make a great project for kids in your class: make a short video on something that interests you, then show it to the class and see if you can get any feedback/answers to your questions. I know there are programs out there like Showme that can do the same thing without any of the grunt work,  but I guess I’m the old school guy who still likes the sound of CD to mp3. Plus, can you get a cool upright bass backing track on Showme? I didn’t think so.

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