EP 156: A Way to Optimize Teacher Development

“School leaders spend nearly 10% of their time each week managing the mountain of paperwork that comes from teacher observations and feedback.” That can add up to as much as six hours a week dealing with feedback from countless sources across numerous locations.

But leaders shouldn’t have to waste valuable time on spreadsheets and data — it was from this simple premise that Whetstone Education was born. Founded in 2010 by two school leaders fed up with the nightmare of state reporting while tracking mounds of teacher feedback and data, Whetstone has since grown to a platform used by over 500 schools, resting on a foundation of providing an easy place for schools to store data on performance, observations, and feedback while also enabling administrators to spend more time with teachers and students.

The platform allows schools to work with data analytics to provide professional development and advice for growth that is backed by more than just word of mouth and “a hunch.” Instead, actual reports allow for feedback that makes sense. Whetstone’s algorithm uses both quantitative and qualitative reporting to home in on exactly what teachers need to improve upon and where instructional time can grow. The information is easily shared with teachers, thanks to video coaching and live connections to teachers. But the platform is still customizable to ensure that each school is getting exactly what they need.

This week, we spoke with Michael Richard to learn more about Whetstone and its implementation of technology to make education a more manageable. To learn more about this revitalization of teacher development, visit https://www.whetstoneeducation.com/ or listen to the full podcast interview below.


EP 155: Making Science a Sheer Joy with Veritasium

School can often feel like relatively impersonal, leading to a transitively worse educational experience. But in the age of the Internet, learning is no longer confined to the cement walls of a classroom. Instead, educational resources populate the web — one of the more popular ones being YouTube videos and tutorials. Nowadays, content creators use YouTube to form connections with viewers and take education outside of just the classroom and into a world where the viewership can expand to any audience. One of the largest and most entertaining of such YouTube channels is Veritasium, a science learning channel run by Derek Muller that has videos on topics ranging from interviews with experts to demos of experiments.

Derek Muller began making YouTube videos in 2011, and in the years since, it has grown into a channel with an avid fan base of nearly 4.7 million subscribers. This number is particularly noteworthy for a channel dedicated solely to videos focused on math and science, topics that are traditionally underrepresented in the YouTube sphere. But Derek deviates from many other popular science and engineering channels in the variety of videos covered and quality of content offered.

His most popular video, “Surprising Applications of the Magnus Effect,” boasts an impressive 36 million views and begins by showing how backspin affects a basketball falling from a height of 415 meters. It’s a three-minute video complete with a visual animation of how air and the basketball interact and the forces that result. Derek then goes on to explain how this Magnus Effect works and how it can be seen and applied in other areas of life — namely, plans and ships. When the video is over, you feel like an expert on a topic you knew nothing about three minutes prior.

Most of Derek’s videos are in the same vein — succinct, educational, and most importantly, interesting. The topics aren’t traditional proofs and experiments; they are videos that explain laser hair removal, why mosquitoes are attracted to certain people, or the morality behind self-driving cars. His other YouTube channel, 2veritasium, features videos on topics that are “a little less flashy but just as enlightening.”

In the end, it’s all about increasing the world’s exposure to science, engineering, and technology in a way that remains fascinating and mind-opening. Because as Derek so concisely put it, “sometimes the simplest questions have the most amazing answers.”

To watch Derek’s videos or subscribe yourself, check out his channels here:

Veritasium - https://www.youtube.com/user/1veritasium

2Veritasium - https://www.youtube.com/user/2veritasium

If you want to check out the videos discussed by Derek on the podcast, you can find them here:

World’s roundest object! - https://youtu.be/ZMByI4s-D-Y

Why are mosquitoes attracted to me? - https://youtu.be/38gVZgE39K8

A misconception about Science - https://youtu.be/Y5kLMVgv0Xg

Surprising applications of the Magnus effect - https://youtu.be/2OSrvzNW9FE

To learn more about him and his channel, check out the full interview below!


EP 154: Super Math World - A 3D Universe that Teaches Math through Game Play

How do you get students interested in a subject matter that is notorious for being boring and difficult? Turn it into a video game complete with number monsters, prime number devouring sheep, and fraction based castles to conquer. This is the goal of Super Math World, an online computer game that encourages students to learn math by making it fun.

The game is tailored to grades 2 through 8 and covers basic math topics such as integer operations, number lines, fractions, and multiplication. It’s available for purchase by parents and teachers, who can create classrooms for their students to play and track their progress. Rather than handing out worksheets as practice, students can now refine their math skills by fighting monsters and creating machines. Teachers can also create and edit levels for their students to get the most out of Super Math World as well as track the progress of their classes; the game is aligned with Common Core standards so that it’s compatible with all classrooms.

The most important time period for the development of math skills is at a young age. Students who fall behind early often never catch up, leaving them struggling with math throughout their school careers and consequently ending up disliking the subject as a whole. But if kids are learning from an early age that math can be fun, they are all the more likely to pursue it beyond their primary education and even see it as a potential career choice.

Super Math World avoids mindless memorization and instead pushes players to gain a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of math through experiential learning. Because there is no set solution, the game “lets creativity blossom as you find your own way to your next level.” By creating new levels and really using math instead of reciting facts, users can visualize the topics that they are learning and understand them in depth. The math is integrated into the storyline of the games in a way that makes learning math something to look forward to instead of shy away from.

For years, math has been seen as a traditionally unpopular subject instead of something that can be fun and exciting as long as it is taught in the right way. But Super Math World is on its way to changing that perception.

To learn more about Super Math World, visit www.supermathworld.com. To listen to the entire interview with Charlie Zannorman, check out the full podcast below.

 


EP 153: Getting into Harvard and Yale  

The college admissions process is often described as a crapshoot; a harrowing, stress-inducing experience filled with single-digit acceptance rates and essays upon essays. It's a difficult process to decode, and students and parents frequently feel like they're going in blind, with no clue what the secret sauce is to gain admission at an elite university. Today, we try to help listeners demystify that process by talking to two high school seniors, Alicia Abramson and Meredith Johns, who were recently admitted to Yale University and Harvard College, respectively.

Alicia lives in Los Angeles, California, and currently attends Palisades Charter High School. Meanwhile, Meredith hails from just outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and attends Kennesaw Mountain High School. The two have been friends since July, when they met at Notre Dame Leadership Seminars, a summer program for rising seniors at Notre Dame University.

Both have been involved in politics and government throughout their high school careers. Alicia is involved in Moot Court, Youth & Government, her local Democratic Club, the L.A. Mayor's Youth Council, and her school newspaper. She has served as an intern on several local and national political campaigns, and she works as a tutor — in fact, she currently does work for the Scalar Learning podcast. In a similar vein, Meredith is a part of Model United Nations, her school paper, Young Democrats, and student government. She has interned at the Carter Center and with multiple political campaigns. Both hold various leadership positions within those clubs and organizations.

In this episode, we talk about what it takes to get into some of the top schools in the country: a combination of grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and essays. Alicia and Meredith go into detail about their high school experience and the college application process that they went through in applying and being accepted into their top choice universities.

Tune in to the entire episode below to find out more about getting into top Ivy League schools!


EP 152: Create Breathtaking Projects with 3Doodler  

3D printing often seems like one of many esoteric scientific inventions that are elusive to everyone, especially students — inaccessible and apparently useless when kids are still struggling through geometry. After all, it’s difficult to imagine how 3D printing could help students memorize theorems. But the 3Doodler aims to change that.

This 3D printing pen doesn’t require excessive technical knowledge or scientific abilities. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: the 3Doodler is meant to be “affordable as well as fun,” encouraging students to engage with 3D printing technology without being hindered by a lack of experience. It’s easy to use and comes in several different designs — 3Doodler Start, 3Doodler Create, and 3Doodler Pro, each of which has a different style catered to a specific audience.

An easy-to-use 3D printing pen bridges the gap between theoretical and concrete. In the classroom, students all too frequently end up memorizing terms and concepts without any real understanding of what they’re committing to memory. But the 3Doodler allows students to model what they’re learning and see the concepts unfold before them. Geometry theorems are suddenly more than just a slew of math vocabulary terms; instead, they can be visualized using models that students create themselves, ensuring actual learning and absorbing instead of mindless memorization.

3Doodler has a rapidly growing online database of free lesson plans for teachers to implement in conjunction with the use of the 3Doodler pen. There are currently eight different curriculums online, each of which comes with a set of lesson plans. The engineering and design curriculum, for example, contains lesson plans for students to build a model roller coaster for a marble to roll down and to build a bridge of their own design. This is meant to help students grasp concepts that may otherwise elude them — the basics behind potential and kinetic energy. These concepts are much easier to understand once you’ve seen them in action from something you’ve created yourself. The design challenges curriculum contains 21 different designs for students to attempt to recreate with 3Doodler while applying math and engineering concepts.

In a school system where courses tend to get tedious and abstract, 3Doodler brings a bit of creativity and hands-on learning to the classroom. The concept of understanding by doing is reflected in every creation, whether it’s a coin purse or a mathematical model (and with this pen, both and anything in between are possible). With so many possibilities, as 3Doodler asks, “What will you create?”

To learn more about the 3Doodler, visit the3doodler.com. To listen to the entire interview with Leah Wyman, check out the full podcast episode.


EP 151: Making Curriculums Relevant with NEPRIS

“Why am I learning this? When will I ever need to know this information in the real world?” Teachers, please pause for a moment while these all too familiar phrases wash over you for the millionth time. Whether your speciality is science, math, or history, you’ve undoubtedly heard these questions time and again. While some students might throw these rhetorical questions out as a last ditch effort to avoid a particularly unappealing topic of study, many students ask this question in earnest. And why shouldn’t they? We all have a right to know why we are forced to absorb a particular set of facts. Moreover, understanding the relevance of certain facts to future endeavors and pursuits substantially enhances the learning process. No company understands this truism better than NEPRIS.

To bridge the gap between practical application and theoretical concepts, NEPRIS has designed a connection platform to link classrooms with professionals across the globe. The impetus to build this network is the realization that inspiration comes primarily through exposure. According to a STEM Perceptions study by Microsoft, “57% of boys and 68% of girls who chose a high tech career say they were inspired by one person, or one event, or one class during the middle or high school years.” This means that answering the “why” and connecting young minds with tried and true professionals is essential for the health and prosperity of our science and math based industries.

NEPRIS makes it easier than ever for teachers to connect with high level professionals across all industries. Once a user signs up with the service, they are able to post requests for professionals with particular skill sets. Leveraging a partnership with LinkedIn, NEPRIS then sends out a beacon to all professionals who might be able to help collaborate on a particular lesson plan. Once the date is set for the joint lesson, the professional is brought into the classroom virtually to discuss the real life applications of a particular concept. Architects may be brought in to discuss proportions and scale factor, roller coaster engineers invited to discuss linear equations, and financial analysts to speak about percentages and compound interest. Whatever the subject matter being covered, NEPRIS empowers teachers to make lessons relevant and palpable, providing students with satisfactory answers as to why they must know a particular subject.

To learn more about this amazing edtech company, go to http://www.nepris.com/. To hear the full scoop on NEPRIS, make sure to listen to the full interview with Sabari Raja.


EP 150: Technology and Education Intertwined Effectively with NUITEQ

Let’s be real: school can be boring. Long hours in a classroom bombarded by lectures and textbooks can often cause students to lose their excitement for learning. But founder and CEO of NUITEQ, Harry van der Veen, aims to change the perception of school and learning as a boring, mundane task by introducing interactive technology as a primary component of early education.

NUITEQ’s Director of Strategy, Dr. Edward Tse, spoke with us about their Snowflake MultiTeach technology that has been used in 70 countries to make technology an essential aspect of the learning environment.

NUITEQ was founded in 2006 to refine the concept of human-computer interaction. This quest included the complex idea of engaging several users on a singular display — a multi-user, MultiTeach display that now makes up the foundation of NUITEQ’s Human User Interfaces. This interface encourages teachers and students to cultivate a classroom learning environment where technology is a tool instead of a distraction.

NUITEQ and their Snowflake product use several features to keep students engaged. Among these are project-based learning, concept mapping, and student-based inquiry. Students are given problems that require critical thinking skills and technological literacy. Students and teachers can also curate their own content as well as collaborate on problems and activities with the help of the MultiTeach system. This involves a screen being divided into several zones, each of which focus on a different activity.

Students using NUITEQ’s products are given the chance to learn how to use screens and computers in a way that fosters education. Rather than shy away from new technology, as many schools and teachers do, NUITEQ advises educators to embrace their system, which encourages direct interaction between students and what’s on their screens. The MultiTeach technology allows for deeper and more immersive learning, encouraging students to bring technology from the classroom into the rest of their lives.

To learn more about NUITEQ, visit https://www.nuiteq.com/. To check out Dr. Tse’s YouTube channel, Ed on Edtech, visit https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4FY5hGOl7pBRqJ_TWDvhVA. To listen to the entire interview with Dr. Edward Tse, check out the full podcast here.


EP 149: STEM Preparation at Home with Creation Crate

There’s no doubt that a rapidly expanding technology industry poses a threat to millions of workers due to the automation of their jobs. But David Hehman, co-founder of Creation Crate, is working to change the misconception that the road ends there. In fact, automation and technology open up a whole new world of potential, one that will go largely unmet — by 2020, nearly one and a half million jobs will be left vacant because our education system is unable to keep up with the demand for computer specialists and programmers.

David and his colleagues at Creation Crate have set themselves a goal of filling 250,000 of those job vacancies through their subscription-based education model that aims to increase digital literacy and computer proficiency. Relying on parents and teachers to provide STEM education is not always successful, as many of them are part of generations that don’t have the same exposure to technology as we do today. So Creation Crate fills this gap and helps educate a new generation of computer scientists to become the innovators of tomorrow — or even today, as many of their subscribers are adults seeking to increase their own technological literacy.

Their curriculum is based on a twelve-month subscription box that emphasizes hands-on, real-world learning. Each month, subscribers receive a new Arduino project that gets slightly more difficult each time, complete with step-by-step instructions for how to complete the project. By the time all twelve projects are complete, they “will have more hands-on programming experience than 99% of current college-level computer science students.” Projects range from building a mood lamp (the first month) to creating an audio visualizer display (the eighth month). But regardless of the specific task, they all share the same trait of firsthand experience in pursuit of a tangible goal rather than mindless coding.

Launched in early 2016, Creation Crate has taken off quickly with over 3,000 subscription boxes purchased already. Recently, the company introduced several new features, including an augmented reality that allows students to interact with a digital teacher, Facebook Messenger tokens that provide access to tutorial videos, a free online classroom available to the entire public, and an “Ultimate Maker Kit” that combines all 12 boxes into one, designed specially for teachers and classrooms. All of these features are an effort to popularize Creation Crate and ensure that it’s keeping up with advancing technology so that it can continue to educate youth and adults that are suffering from a lack of sufficient STEM education.

So no, we are not losing more jobs than we are replacing. The problem is that we don’t have enough digitally literate people to fill all the new jobs that are being created because they simply aren’t being educated quickly enough to keep up with demand. But Creation Crate is beginning to chip away at that barrier — and they’ll continue to do so until technological innovation is not feared for the jobs it will replace, but for the ones, it will create.

To learn more about Creation Crate (or even get a subscription yourself), visit www.creationcrate.com. To get the full scoop about Creation Crate, listen to the full interview with co-founder David Hehman.

Article Credit: Alicia Abramson


EP 148: Variant - A 3D Video Game to Teach Calculus

The executives at Electronic Arts said it would never work. These gaming experts posited that kids would only want video games with exciting plot lines built around battles, conflict, and domination. Game players interested in fantasy worlds yearned for quests of glory littered with treasures and magical potions. Who in their right mind would choose to purchase a video game that taught... calculus? Although Andre Thomas still thought he could make a game to teach calculus in an engaging and effective way, he quickly recognized that the major video game manufacturers would never play ball. So, like most gutsy entrepreneurs with a vision, he decided to build it himself.

While working as the Director of the LIVE Lab at Texas A&M University, Andre Thomas founded Triseum, a game development company aimed at building education video games. Andre is the perfect candidate to tackle the arduous task of building an educational video game as he is no newbie in the entertainment industry. He has in depth experience across the board, possessing over 20 years in CGI production. Additionally, “he has worked around the [globe] on legendary video games, live action feature films and gripping commercials. He served as Head of Graphics for EA Sports Football and is also credited with creating graphics for such notable films as Men in Black, Con Air, Independence Day, Valiant, Ant Bully and Tomorrow Never Dies.” In sum, Andre Thomas is a seasoned professional, the perfect person to build a trendsetting video game in the education sphere. But he didn’t simply want to build a new way to teach calculus digitally; he wanted to make a real 3D game comparable to the likes of Zelda and Final Fantasy, replete with breathtaking graphics and vivid characters. The result of his team’s exhaustive efforts is Variant: Limits, the first ever video game of its caliber designed to teach calculus.

For those of you who agree that math is important, you might be asking the following question: why calculus? Why not build a game around a more commonly tackled subject like algebra or geometry? According to Andre, calculus is at the heart of STEM degrees and pursuits. Moreover, it is reported that nearly 38% of students fail Calculus I, a staggering figure considering that this course is often a prerequisite for most engineering majors. Andre wanted to ensure that students had the best chance possible to pursue a STEM career of their choice, and sought to develop an exciting mechanism by which to teach calculus to anyone. The results thus far have been phenomenal. Not only has Trisesum earned a litany of awards from EdTech Digest and SXSW, but they have also managed to garner a great deal of attention from schools across Europe.

To learn more about this revolutionary company, go to https://triseum.com/. To hear the entire interview with Andre Thomas, check out the full podcast interview.


EP 147: Interactive Learning Made Easy with Explain Everything

It all began with a podcast. Back in the early 2000s, two gentlemen, Bartosz Gonczarek and Piotr Sliwinski, were looking for a way to make podcasts come to life with fun yet simple animations. They searched and searched for viable software options, but alas, nothing workable turned up. As such, they decided to build the software themselves. This is how “PhotoPuppet,” the predecessor to “Explain Everything,” was born. While PhotoPuppet was not a commercial success, it drew the attention of an ambitious education professional named Reshan Richards. Richards began his career as a middle school math teacher, and eventually went on to earn a doctorate in Instructional Technology and Media from Columbia University. Richards had a deep interest in whiteboard software and how it could be used to enhance classroom education. After Richards, Gonczarek, and Sliwinski discussed their goals and ambitions, they decided that it made most sense to team up and plow forward together as a development team. And just like that, Explain Everything was born.

Explain Everything is an incredible app that allows teachers and students alike to use various forms of media to build high content presentations. According to their website, “teachers use Explain Everything for creating videos and interactive experiences for students. They both prepare materials in advance and start from a blank canvas.” It’s an amazing way to make education dynamic and customizable for all varieties of learning styles. As Reshan noted, the ideal usage in a classroom does not require universal deployment. A productive class would likely have some students reading, others engaged in a discussion, and only a portion using Explain Everything. It is a multimedia tool meant to enhance learning when its usage is warranted.

If you are interested in using Explain Everything for a class, a single student, or your own child, make sure to tune into the entire episode. Reshan goes into detail about the amazing applications of the app, and also dishes out some newsworthy information regarding the development of unveiled features of the software. For more information about Explain Everything, go to https://explaineverything.com/.