Thursday, September 30, 2010

Poor Teachers

Today I wanted to vent my frustration with one of the teachers I have.

Let's just call him Carter. Carter is a horrible teacher. He has a very difficult to follow teaching style which leaves me completely confused after the lecture. He seems to be under the impression that everyone in the class is very familiar with the material, which is simply not the case. The end result is that I feel like I am paying thousands of dollars to sit down and listen to a monkey 5 days a week.

The worst part is the testing though. Oh, god, the testing. First of all, his review sheets are incredibly broad in scope. Some of the topics are not even in the book or online, since he uses his own words, and if you missed it during his convoluted teaching style, prepare to get a B on his tests, and best. While the review is broad, his questions are incredibly specific. The average grade of his tests is F. And after all these problems, he still has the nerve to stand up in class and tell all the students how bad they are.

It's this kind of trash that makes me resent going to college. Why do I have to deal with this just to receive a piece of paper that will help me get a job?

To any teachers out there, don't destroy your students' desire to learn with insane expectations. Be understanding, and your students will make you enjoy your job.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


This is a demonstration of my program's powerful importation features.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Program, part 1

This is a program I developed.  I would comment on it, but the video speaks for itself.

The embedding isn't working correctly.  Maybe someone at youtube screwed up?

Monday, September 27, 2010


This here is an incredible program for the purposes of SRS studying.  While it is not a dynamic environment which I would like to see, it does offer a review period which is superior.  It is mostly used for learning foreign languages.  I used it for a year when I taught myself Japanese.  There is a wide variety of free material available for download, as well as plugins.  The program also supports importation from Smart.FM.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


So to conclude, I'll wrap everything up.

What we should do in one sentence:

Employ an SRS to create a dynamic and immersive learning experience using imagery to improve our ability to learn, thus creating an exciting and evolving system of achievement.

Yea, conclusions tend to suck. And I got tired of writing about this topic about a week ago - time to move on to much more interesting stuff.

Learning is Fun

4)Learning is fun

I am absolutely baffled by this solid, concrete fact of learning. Learning something new is a fun and enjoyable experience. It needs to be presented in the right manner, at the right time, and in the right amount. Force feeding students information they are not interested in will not appeal to them. I would like to outline a couple ways learning is fun.

Learning is interesting. The problem lies in the fact that most mediums of learning are slow, cumbersome, and boring. I've already gone over how to make learning more efficient. I firmly believe if the rate of new information which is acquired is increased, the learning will proportionally be more interesting. If we keep the flow of new, unique information high, then the enjoyability of the material is maintained.

Learning is rewarding. Most people like to feel like they have accomplished something. Unfortunately, it is hard for our brains to quantify and recognize the amount of new information which has been acquired. This is where an SRS is most handy. You can see, exactly, how many new terms, definitions, and examples you have learned. Based on my own experience, this is a very rewarding way to study, and since you won't forget, it encourages you to keep learning more. Without some frame of reference to understand what you have learned, it is hard justify exactly what you invested your time in.

Sorry, nothing really all that interesting in this note. However, it was an important point which needed to be addressed.

I'll conclude everything in my next note, I promise!!

Spaced Repetition

3) Schools should employ an SRS, or spaced repetition system

This isn't anything groundbreaking, but for those of you are unfamiliar with how an SRS works, let me explain.

When we first learn something, the memory is weak in our minds. While you may be able to recall it for a short time, that memory quickly decays. However, if you review that same item in a day or two, the memory strengthens. By spacing out our learning over longer and longer periods of time, we can remember more efficiently.

The purpose of an SRS is too organize all of this information. Managing such information by hand would be daunting. By employing an SRS to manage this information for us, we can learn far more efficiently by focusing on the stuff we need to learn. Using this, we can learn vast amounts of information quickly and in much less time.

I personally believe we should employ an SRS for most classes we take. While it wouldn't make sense in areas such as music or art, it would be incredibly useful for long term learning in the fields of math, languages, science, and any other area of study where memorization of words, definitions, and concepts is important.

I also believe an SRS can be used to explain ideas, step by step, by focusing and small details and slowly becoming more complex, which can then be utilized to explain difficult subjects. Everything is built up of simple ideas. By rapidly throwing simple concepts at a student, a basic framework can quickly be built to approach complex problems.

This may seem outlandish, but I personally believe the U.S. government and should employ this learning tool in our schools. A website should be set up to store sets of information which students can use to assist in their learning. Smart FM is heading in this direction, but it only supports memorization of vocab, and can not be used for complex ideas. A difficult concept in math or science would need to be carefully explained, but I believe if a good system can be found, the process would be much smoother and more enjoyable, and almost any student would be able to learn such difficult material.

The Learning Model

2) Learning is a process.

I would like to explain the ideal learning model. It is actually very simple. A student is asked a simple question. If the student cannot answer, the question is explained, and the student is exptected to answer the same question in a short period of time. If the student can answer, then the question is considered to be understood, and will be asked again over a longer period of time. It is very important to note that the question should be simple. It should not take more than a few seconds for the student to know whether or not they can explain it. The idea is that a student is actively involved in the question at hand, and is always being challenged to understand a concept.

In contrast, a college lecture usually does not use this method. While this somewhat usually exists in math classes, with lots of small questions being asked, it does not exist within the realm of reading, science, and many other courses. Typically, when a new idea is presented, the entirety of the concept is presented without the students being able to fully understand the details which make it up.

A couple examples would include:

An hour long lecture on history - The typical student becomes overwhelmed, the mind stops paying attention, and the student is left with only a few fragments of what was covered.

A physics lecture - I have seen far too often that the professor overwhelms the student with math without actually presenting the smaller pieces. The end result is that students with a background physics may be able to understand the material, but those without it leave the lecture with nothing but confusion and frusteration.

I would like to propose that a student should be presented with all of the needed vocabulary and concepts, in an easy to digest form, before being introduced to the bigger picture.

Also, in regards to this method, questions should be quick, and as I stated before, with as few words as possible. This sets up the basic building blocks to paint a bigger picture. By presenting quick, small questions, lots of small nodes are build in the brain to help make connections.

Ironically, I am proposing many lecture based classes to be taught more like math.

Changing the way we study

As I stated in my previous post, explaining a concept is much less useful than presenting it. I would like to shed some light on this issue. For the concept of explaining, I would like to divide our ability to learn into several categories. I would prefer not to use obscure words, as dividing into levels it much easier to understand.

Tier 0 - Our primal senses
Tier 1 - Physical reflexes - What we have learned through our senses
Tier 2 - Our language ability
Tier 3 - What we have learned with our language.

We learn much, much faster through our senses. It is linked closely with our brain at a primal level. Rather than explain, I would like to provide a couple examples.

A mother tells her child not to touch a pan because it is hot. While the child understands this, there will come a time when the child touches the pan. It greatly hurts the child, and the child quickly understands the consequences.

When you are a child, you hear stories about how to be a good person. You hear, and you understand them. And yet you probably hurt others. You did not understand the consequences of what you were doing, until you yourself were hurt, and could understand the pain. You became intimately aware and could fully understand your effect on others.

And yet, what do we learn from all the outside sources around us? From everything we have read and heard over our lifetimes, how much of that has had a profound effect on our lives? What advice from your friends has truly become a part of ourselves?

The truth of the matter is, it is what we experience which changes us most. It is not what we hear from others which shapes our lives, but rather what we experience emotionally, and physically, which lets us understand. This is how we became who we are.

One thing you may have noticed is that our language ability is at level 2. This level of understanding is completely built up from our senses. This may seem trivial, but it is in fact the most important part of this issue.

Looking back at my tiers of understanding, we can see how everything is setup. You may also notice that what we understand with our language is set at level 3. This level is very unstable.

What we traditionally learn in school is normally learned through our language ability. However, if you look at the tiers of understanding, it is located far away from our most basic method of learning.

Traditional learning is not based on what we have experienced, and is simply too far away from our primal understanding of the world to often be effective. And yet most of our educational system is based around this level. Don't you think we can change that?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hey Professor

A year ago I approached my professor regarding his class.  I was not pleased with his style of teaching, as I did not feel I truly learned anything in his class.  I inquired about his teaching styles, and he reacted violently.  Surely, a student wouldn't question the manner of teaching brought on.  I don't believe that we should need to search for an answer in school.  It should simply be given to us.  Thus, I began a long quest to gain knowledge about how to improve our learning system.