EP 141: The Value of Music Infused Science Education featuring “Science with Tom”

The Meredith Vieira Show was a daytime network talk show on NBC that had a solid run of two years. During the show’s existence, Meredith invited various panels of esteemed guests on air to discuss a range of political and social justice topics. One of her most epic decisions, in my opinion, was to devote a segment of her show to a rising star in the world of science education. Meredith invited a gentleman named Tom McFadden, science teacher and creator of the YouTube channel “Science with Tom,” to share some of his science inspirational lyrics and beats with the world. Tom did just that, but it wasn’t a solo effort. The notorious edu-rapper was accompanied by none other than Lil’ Jon. The show was a victory for both music and education, and the final message was clear: musically charged lectures deliver potent information while engaging young minds. Win, win, and win.

Tom McFadden is a longtime biology and science teacher. He is a stalwart advocate of the Next Generation Science Standards, which is a revolution in science education that deemphasizes rote memorization and instead focuses on the processes of scientific work. The general goal of the shift in standards is to empower students to “apply STEM principles to their lives,” even if they choose an academic or professional pursuit that does not lie directly in the realm of standard scientific pursuits.

Tom first began experimenting with music videos in the classroom after he received a Fulbright Scholarship to study in New Zealand. It was there that he completed a thesis on the impact of music videos in education, spurring him forward to become a prolific content creator in the realm of edu-tainment. Today, Tom’s YouTube Channel has nearly 15,000 subscribers and a collection of professionally produced science music videos. Tom often parodies existing popular songs in order to create his musical stylings. Some of his recent hits include a song about vaccinations entitled “My Shot,” a lesson on genetic material entitled “DNA,” and a track all about water conservation entitled “Drought.”

To hear the full rundown about this revolutionary educator, check out the entire interview! For more information about Tom McFadden, check out his awesome website


EP 140: Video Tutorials as a Pathway to Becoming a Lifelong Learner

Duane Habecker has nearly 30 years of experience teaching mathematics. When it comes to classroom math education, Mr. Habecker is a master. His successful track record and trajectory have led him to the position of Mathematics Coordinator for all of Merced County. But Mr. Habecker is more than an impressive educator with a wealth of experience; he is a pioneer.

In the late 90s, well before YouTube had launched, Mr. Habecker began an experiment with video tutorials. He started recording himself giving math lectures on all sorts of topics. He then stored his videos on a Macintosh computer in his classroom. When students arrived at a new lesson, he would encourage them to watch a video from his math library. After reviewing the video, the students would then take to the textbook and begin solving practice problems. The experiment was a success, and Mr. Habecker’s students were mastering the material in an automated fashion.

When YouTube finally launched around Valentine’s Day of 2005, Mr. Habecker saw an opportunity to store his treasure trove of video tutorials online. By doing so, he empowered students from around the globe to watch and learn at their own pace. Fast forward to present day, and Mr. Habecker has an impressive 27,000 YouTube followers (and counting). His passion for education is palpable, and his video explanations are clear and to the point. He has spent a great deal of time building video modules for the Eureka Math curriculum, which is a hugely popular set of math textbooks used around the U.S.

While Mr. Habecker believes that video tutorials can be extremely effective for teaching mathematics, he maintains that there is a larger purpose at play with his YouTube channel. He contends that his method of teaching is training young minds to be lifelong learners. The world is changing rapidly, and the current way to imbibe information and learn skills is to figure things out on the web. We no longer require classroom instruction to build things and make products. Instead, all we need to do is run a quick Google search, find a solid video, and take notes. This means that the more frequently teachers make use of online learning, the better prepared their students will be for independent entrepreneurial pursuits as adults.

To learn more about Duane Habecker and his awesome YouTube channel, listen to the full podcast interview! To check out his YouTube channel, click here


EP 139: Optimizing Online Learning - A Conversation with Cerego’s CEO

In Episode 135 of the Scalar Learning Podcast, I spoke with Ross Jones, CEO of an edtech company called Emotuit. Jones is on the forefront of online learning with his revolutionary software that tracks and measures interest levels based on facial expressions. The purpose behind Emotuit’s powerful and sleek algorithm is to help educators better hone their lectures and assessments to maximize learning. Cerego is another ground-breaking education company with a similar purpose. What, exactly, is Cerego’s contribution to the eLearning space? In four short words, it’s this: masterful curriculum design guidance. Cerego has developed software that meshes with all sorts of education platforms. It allows educators to custom build lectures and assessments to optimize learning. What’s even more impressive is the software tracks how deeply various bits of knowledge are ingrained in a learner’s mind.  Why is this especially important? Because there is no “one size fits all” formula for learning. Different students learn at different rates via different methods. In order for a learning system to be truly effective across the board, it must be fluid and dynamic. Anything less will only work for a subsection of the student population.

Andrew Smith Lewis, Co-founder and CEO of Cerego, believes that his supercharged eLearning optimization tool is changing the face of education. Personally, I agree. But don’t take my word for it, take a look at the amazing partnerships Cerego has already managed to form. Major players in the education field like edX, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, McGraw Hill, and Harvard (to name a few) have integrated Cerego into their online learning tools. To learn more about this amazing company and how to get your students involved with Cerego backed learning platforms, check out the full podcast episode! To learn more about Cerego, go to https://www.cerego.com/.


EP 138: YouTube Star Professor Dave on Teaching Science Effectively

As YouTube science teachers go, Professor Dave is the cream of the crop. His channel, Professor Dave Explains, has over 88,000 active subscribers to date. Professor Dave, also known as Dave Farina, has a lengthy background in science education. But what makes Professor Dave truly stand out is a combination of two characteristics: humor and precision. His videos are extremely entertaining because of his onstage presence and great sense of humor. Yes, he is an amazing lecturer and can disseminate complex ideas with ease, but what keeps kids hooked into his channel is Dave’s terrific personality.

Another huge reason why his channel is popular is his dedication to high-quality videos with stellar animations. Science is an extremely visual subject, and Professor Dave knows how to effectively use editing tools to convey subjects in an engaging way. If your child is learning science in school and wants a fresh look at their curriculum, I highly encourage them to explore Professor Dave’s YouTube channel. It will not only provide an alternative means for explanations and tutorials, but it will most certainly inject some excitement into the process. To check out Professor Dave Explains, follow this link. To hear all about science and the importance of making it fun, listen to the full podcast episode.


EP 137: Teaching Financial Fluency with Pennyowl

One out of two families in the U.S. are financially fragile. What does that mean? It means that an unexpected expense of $2,000 would be cause for panic. A random doctor's bill or school related expenditure of this magnitude would force a financially fragile family to seek a small loan or take on credit card debt. If you’re not shocked by this fact, then I’ll just have to be shocked for the both of us.

Why do so many families tend to live on the edge with respect to finances? According to Seamus Matthews, CEO and co-founder of Pennyowl, the root of the issue is a lack of financial education. To remedy this problem, Seamus and his team designed Pennyowl, a mobile app that teaches kids how to collect, spend, and save money. It’s a revolutionary system that trains the mind using virtual currency so that kids will understand how to handle money as teenagers and adults. As the app evolves, it will eventually use real money so that parents can dole out actual allowances and payments through the system.

What’s interesting about the market for Pennyowl is that both low-income and high-income families seem to love it. The low-income folks want to train their children so they avoid debt and eventually reach financial stability, while the high-income clientele seek to prepare their children for the risks and troubles that come along with inheriting reasonably large sums of money. It’s obvious that there is a massive need and demand for this product. If you’re interested in learning more, make sure to check out the entire episode! You can read all the specifications of the product at http://www.pennyowl.com.


EP 136: Starting a YouTube Channel as a Student with Lauren Lee

As a teacher and private tutor, I interact with both middle and high school students regularly. One immutable fact that I have gleaned over the years is this: kids love YouTube. It provides a platform for videos about music, video games, fashion, and comedy to name just a few topics. Most of my students can recount every factoid about their favorite YouTuber. But my students don’t simply adore their digital role models, they seek to emulate them. In the last year, I’ve had at least 5 of my students between the ages of 10 and 16 launch their very own YouTube channel. Some have made channels about slime while others about sketch comedy and pranks. Kids today are fearless about putting themselves behind a camera and sharing their personalities with the world. Parents, however, are not so bold.

Many parents worry deeply about the images their children are projecting across social media. There is good reason for this. As the job market evolves in this highly digital time, scanning social media as part of the hiring process will only become more commonplace. Parents worry that without proper supervision and guidance, students could be setting themselves up for failure in the future.

I, of course, am a massive fan of YouTube and often encourage my students to put themselves on the platform. I recognize the concerns of parents, and admonish students that they should collaborate with their parents to avoid sticky situations in the future. I recently met a very talented individual who has done just that while in high school. Her name is Lauren Lee, and she is a YouTuber on the rise.

Lauren started her channel nearly two years ago during her sophomore year in high school. The deal she struck with her parents was that everything had to be reviewed before it could go live. It was an easy agreement to abide by because her channel was initially devoted to beauty tips. As the channel grew and evolved, however, the focus eventually shifted to travel. Again, her videos are upbeat and clean, so no issue has ever presented itself between her and her parents. With a subscriber base of over 4,000, Lauren is definitely an expert in the world of YouTubing. Tune into this episode to hear about Lauren’s journey and figure out how you can best guide your child in the quest for YouTube stardom. To learn more about Lauren, you can check out her amazing YouTube channel


EP 135: Optimizing Online Learning with Emotuit

Online learning is more than just the future of education; it’s fast becoming the modern methodology for learning. Virtual learning platforms like Reading Plus, Aleks, IXL, and Khan Academy are implemented in school curriculums across the board. We know these tools work, and not only do they deliver potent lessons, but they allow for self-pacing. Once students are able to learn at their own pace without distraction, they can flourish as learners and reach their true potential without inhibition.

As robust as these programs are, there is always a question of how to make them better. It’s a tricky conundrum because feedback is hard to come by. Sure, we can ask students what they like and don’t like, but those answers aren’t necessarily pure. They can be clouded by a distaste for a particular subject or online instructor. Moreover, it is difficult to self-assess and truly distinguish between productive and problematic pieces of a program. In the world of video courses, I am faced with this challenge constantly. As content creators, what are we to do?

Someone has found an answer. Ross Jones, CEO of Emotuit, has pioneered a way to extract real-time data from students about engagement for e-learning products. Here's the best part: students don’t have to do anything extra to submit feedback. Emotuit’s software is able to utilize the embedded camera in a computer to snap photos of a student’s face intermittently in order to gauge engagement. By analyzing this data, Emotuit can tell content makers what works and what doesn’t. This pure data is untainted by any sort of bias. As content makers are able to utilize this information, course production will be optimized in a whole new way.

To hear the full scoop on Emotuit, make sure to check out the entire podcast episode. For more information on Emotuit, go to http://www.emotuit.com


EP 134: Lisa Tran on Teaching Kids to Find Pursuits of Passion

After completing her training to become a pharmacist, Lisa Tran had second thoughts. Although her educational path had been long and costly, she had deep questions about whether her life was moving down the right path. Sure, her family was proud and her financial future seemed set, but she couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that she was meant to do something else. As her enjoyment for the profession began to fade, she was overwhelmed by an urge to pursue a different avenue. That avenue was in the realm of education, a path that she had already begun to plow.

While in school, Lisa Tran started an online company and YouTube channel called VCE Study Guides. For those unfamiliar with the Australian education system, VCE is a certification for those who successfully complete their high school studies in the state of Victoria. Lisa aptly noted long ago that there was not a reputable source for study aids with respect to VCE preparation. Accordingly, she launched VCE Study Guides in 2008. It has now grown to possess a healthy staff and a thriving YouTube channel with over 13,000 subscribers.

One of the most interesting pieces of Lisa’s story is her current focus on advising students regarding career choices. Since she herself had to struggle with choices and major transitions, often to the chagrin of her family members, she now devotes a great deal of time consulting young minds with regards to finding a pursuit of passion. In this episode, Lisa explains precisely how she mentors young students to make well-informed decisions about professional pursuits. For parents, this is a great episode to glean tidbits on how to best guide your own kids with respect to future endeavors. To get more information about Lisa, check out her YouTube channel and her company page, VCE Study Guides


EP 133: Active Learning in Math - Education Expert Rae Pica’s Recipe for Maximum Engagement

We all want learning to be fun. Students hope for exciting and interesting lessons because they want to enjoy the process and be happy at school. Teachers seek enjoyable curriculum options because it means that students will be more dialed in and receptive to new information. But the quest for engaging lessons goes beyond what students and teachers want. The truth is that fun curriculums lead to higher rates of retention. When teachers are able to wrap lessons around play, mental development is bolstered. According to a study conducted by the Child Life Council, “Play was found to significantly promote cognitive and social aspects of development.”

For this week’s episode, I had a chance to speak with a true superstar in the field of education: Rae Pica. Rae is a huge proponent of “Active Learning,” a teaching pedagogy that utilizes movement and music to maximize student development and learning. Rae has cultivated an expertise in “the development and education of the whole child and children’s physical activity.” She is the proud founder and director of Rae Pica Keynotes & Consulting and  has authored 19 books in the world of education, including Experiences in Movement and Music, the award-winning Great Games for Young Children, and Jump into Math.

One of Rae’s main philosophies in life and education revolves around the notion that people learn best when they are having fun. The idea that movement and music should be used in education comes straight from her core initiative to infuse learning with enjoyment. Working with young children for many years, Rae has used a number of physical activities to help children make mathematical connections. When teaching students to distinguish between terms like “under,” “over,” “big,” and “small,” Rae uses active exercises that engage children visually, physically, and auditorily.

For parents and teachers alike who are seeking to modify curriculums and activities to improve engagement, tune into this once in a lifetime opportunity to hear from a true expert in education. During the interview, Rae delves into a number of strategies and games that can be implemented to make learning fun. To learn more about Rae Pica, go to http://www.raepica.com/


EP 132: My Story, My Vision, and My Advice to Conquer Math

For those of you that have been following me on my journey over the last four years, you know the struggles and great joy that I have experienced. You know my pain and confusion, my tribulations and revelations, an my eventual entrance into the world of math education. But for those who haven’t watched everything unfold, I want to provide a quick recap of my path thus far. I do this on the heels of a piece that was just posted about me in the Huffington Post.

I share this story for three key reasons. Firstly, I hope that adults and children alike can gain inspiration from what I’m seeking to achieve. There have been many ups and downs along the way, but it’s been 100% worth it. I hope that message resonates loudly and clearly. The second reason why I’m sharing this story today is I want my followers and listeners to know what is in the works over the next few years. I endeavor to build products and video courses that will hopefully make an indelible mark on the way mathematics is taught. At the core of my vision is a dedication to engagement, enlightenment, and empowerment.

Finally, I’m telling this story because part of this tale is the inherent belief that anyone can learn math. I would have never launched this business if I didn’t wholeheartedly believe that fact. Once you can accept that truism, you can address the real factor that negatively impacts most folks preparing for math tests: math anxiety. Recognizing that much of the obstruction in mathematics is caused from negative emotions helps students understand that the task at hand is doable. The barricade is a mirage, and with the right tutelage and learning tools, success is inevitable.