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.


EP 131: Top Online SAT Courses Compared

According to the College Board, the organization responsible for the creation of the SAT, nearly 1.36 million students took the SAT in 2016. This number is staggering considering the fact that 2.2 million graduating seniors in 2016 enrolled in colleges or universities around the country. That means that nearly 62% of college bound students are taking the SAT to gain admission to higher education. The SAT is not the only game in town; students have the option of also taking the ACT, a standardized test with equal weight in the college admissions process. But as the College Board revamped the format of the SAT in 2016 while simultaneously collaborating with Khan Academy to offer free test prep, students have been flocking back to the SAT.

In the last year, I have signed up and taken both official tests. I have documented my experiences on my YouTube channel, providing score reveals for the SAT and the ACT. The primary purpose of taking these tests was to compare and analyze the math portions of the exams. Although I received perfect scores on both exams for the math portions, I did find that I liked the SAT math better. Although the questions can be longer and wordier, I felt the layout of the test and clarity of the questions were superior. I also like that they have now included a no calculator section, giving an edge to those folks who have developed a steadfast mental math ability over the years.

When it comes to preparing for the SAT, there are innumerable options. Students can sign up for classes, private tutoring, and online curriculums. When choosing affordable options, the online curriculums are certainly the best. But how is a student or parent to choose from all of the existing programs and video courses? Since I am in the industry of creating video courses myself, I decided to share the results of my research. While it is true that I also have a math course for the SAT, I will not be discussing my course in this article. Instead, I will only be comparing and analyzing the available courses from larger companies in the test prep world. Without further ado, here is my ranking of the available resources.

 

 

When it comes to online SAT courses, I believe that presentation and format is paramount. In order to engage young minds, the production quality needs to be top notch. In this respect, Veritas Prep has put in the requisite work. Their videos are crisp and clean, and the instructors they use are polished and knowledgeable. Instructors stand next to a whiteboard that projects both slides and problems, allowing them to interact with the whiteboard on camera. The main teacher for math, Cambrian, is energetic and fun to watch. The course includes nearly 5 hours of video content and an assortment of books containing practice exercises. Of the courses reviewed in this article, I place Veritas Prep at the top.

 

 

If you enjoy the show Shark Tank, you may have seen Shaun Patel pitch his company to Mark Cuban. Mark liked the product pitch and decided to partner up with Patel.  The fruits of their collaboration is Expert Prep. The positive aspect of this company is that it was founded by a person who earned a perfect score on the SAT in high school. Another plus is that the video production is reasonably high. The lectures are given with a small talking head in the upper left hand corner as the content of the lecture is given on slides in the center of the screen. The engagement level is reasonable, though I would have to say that Veritas Prep’s cast of teachers is definitely preferable. My one issue with this course is that it emphasizes the importance of strategy over knowledge, and I personally believe that the math should be thoroughly learned and understood as opposed to utilizing strategies as workarounds.

 

 

In many respects, Khan Academy is actually superior to Expert Prep and Veritas Prep. All of the content is free, and the quality of the sample questions is top notch. The authenticity of the questions is almost guaranteed by the fact that the College Board has partnered with Khan Academy. The only piece that could be improved is the engagement of the videos. While they are extremely clear, the videos are simply whiteboard projections with no talking head. In order to truly engage students, a face or person should be visible during the lectures (as proven by analytics gathered from major online education platforms like Udemy). Aside from that small point, this is a fantastic resource with amazing value.

 

 

Princeton Review is one of the major players in the test prep industry. Their course contains 140 video lessons, 240 online drills, and 17 practice tests (though they are also counting the 8 practice tests made available by the College Board). The video content is comprised of teachers standing behind a glass wall using sharpies to write on said wall. Personally, I find this style of presentation to be slightly difficult to read, especially when the instructors are standing behind the writing. I found the teachers to have reasonable stage presence, and consider this to be a decent option given the fact that it is $200 less than Veritas Prep’s online SAT course.

 

 

This course boasts over 40 hours of video content along with over 1000 practice questions. They also have talking head videos, which contain narrations and explanations from actual Kaplan teachers. Like Princeton Review’s course, this class is on-demand and highly adjustable based on areas of strengths and weaknesses. It provides a great deal of content for its price, and should be considered for students seeking a low-priced option.

 

 

Ths SAT video course provided by ePrep includes 112 video lectures and 924 video explanations. While this course is fairly content heavy, I take issue with the presentation of the explanations. The videos simply show the problem on a piece of paper with narration and a pencil drawing the solutions. It is like Khan Academy in the sense that there is no talking head, but the narration is much drier than on Khan Academy’s site.

 

 

Lastly, Prep Scholar provides an online SAT course that costs more than Kaplan and Princeton Review. After looking through the course myself, I cannot recommend it alongside these other courses, especially due to its price of nearly $400. The first thing to note is that Prep Scholar’s course does not contain videos; instead, they have pages of explanations that students must read in order to understand concepts. With the abundance of great video resources, it does not make sense to use a product without videos. Another issue with this course is that the math problems seem to be modeled after the old SAT (before 2016).


EP 130: How to Reach and Teach Children with Challenging Behavior

Dr. Kaye Otten has assisted children with behavioral challenges for over 20 years. But she didn’t set out to tackle this niche area of education at the onset of her career. She began her professional journey working as a second grade teacher in the midwest. While she may have anticipated a collection of mild-mannered and reticent students in her classroom, she was instead endowed with a classroom that contained heavy proportions of children with problematic behavior. In order to thrive at her place of employ, she began to immerse herself in the study of behavioral issues to decode the complex matrix of problematic behavior. Today, Dr. Otten holds a P.h.D. in special education works as a consultant for school districts and teachers to help guide the process of curbing and controlling difficult behavior. She has credentials in teaching early childhood, elementary, and special education in several states.

In her latest book, “How to Reach and Teach Children with Challenging Behavior,” Dr. Otten provides a lengthy framework, replete with concise and clear explanations, regarding the process of dealing with children who are prone to misbehavior. During our interview, Dr. Otten explained a number of key principles, including the notion that suspension at schools is a poor form of punishment. What she encourages instead is specialized forms of in-school suspension that focus on modeling and reinforcing positive forms of behavior.

One of the main points in her book is that proper socialization education is a cornerstone of good behavior. Dr. Otten explained how social education and integration can be tackled, and moreover, why it is so important to the behavior equation. We also touched on the value of executive functioning abilities and how they influence the way children feel at school.

Lastly, Dr. Otten noted the importance of choice. All people want to feel empowered in some way. When given no options or alternatives, students can often feel trapped. This feeling lends itself to disobedience and acting out. Accordingly, she recommends always providing options for individuals, no matter how trivial, so that some feeling of autonomy can exist. To reach out to Dr. Otten directly, email her at kayeotten@mac.com. Make sure to check out the entire episode to snag all the valuable nuggets of information from this seasoned education professional.


EP 129: myON - a Revolutionary Reading Platform that Engages Children by Cultivating a Love for Literature

As an English teacher, Todd Brekhus noticed some issues with standard English curriculums. He could list a litany of intricacies that needed improvement, but one problem trumped all others: the love of reading was difficult to infuse.

This is an understandable problem given the standard dynamic of most classrooms. The typical protocol is to (1) assign a specific selection of books, (2) engage in coordinated discussions and activities regarding the assigned reading, and (3) assess students based on knowledge acquired from said books. The inherent problem with this approach is that certain children will not be drawn to the set of books assigned. This makes sense as interests are widespread. But how do you balance the aim to provide individualized content with the need to develop robust exercises to engage and assess understanding? Translation: how is it feasible for teachers to let their kids read anything they want and still teach?

In 2011, myON endeavored to answer this question. It was no small undertaking to say the least. While such a feat may have seemed impossible at the company’s inception, myON has risen to the challenge. Its quest and mission has evolved beautifully over the last 6 years, leading them to develop a robust online library of digital books and articles by partnering with over 60 publishers. The vast library of online material is not only spread across a number of interests and topics, but is bolstered by a suite specialized features meant to augment comprehension, including (1) customizable highlighting, (2) embedded dictionaries, and (3) and audio based reading capabilities. What’s special about the audio feature is that myON proactively dismissed the use of automated voice software, opting instead for a more authentic audio experience by employing professional actors to read the literature. The emblematic milestone of this company is its successful partnership with over 10,000 schools to date.

One of the most innovative and fascinating developments at myON is their newest product, myON News, which is a collection of self-created news content. Unlike most online reading programs that simply aggregate various resources, myON News is an actual content creator. The company employ writers to custom design news stories that are tied back into the resources contained in their extensive libraries. These custom written stories are perfect for classrooms because they are engineered to be fully in sync with lesson plans and activities included on the myON platform.

For schools aiming to bolster reading capabilities across a spectrum of grades and students, myON’s platform is an amazing tool worth exploring. For the full rundown of all available features and applications, check out the full podcast episode! To learn more about this trailblazing edTech company, go to http://about.myon.com/.