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Building A New Culture Of Teaching And Learning

10 November 2010 10 Comments

Are schools designed to help people learn? Are universities really institutions of higher education? Do people actually learn any science in science classes? Can skateboarding give us a better model for teaching and learning?

On YouTube:

On Vimeo:

Here are links to references and additional resources related to my talk.

“School Sucks”
If you’ve never seen Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” you should watch it here:

“Universities are not doing a good job.”
Watch the entire interview with Dr. Leon Lederman on The Science Network.
Education, Politics, Einstein, and Charm: a conversation with Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman.

Depersonalization 101: “They’re…checking Facebook or their email…”
Is the digital revolution turning us into delusional multitaskers who can’t focus?
Watch “Digital Nation” from Frontline on PBS

“Increasing number of educators found to be suffering from teaching disabilities”
The Onion

“Over 90% of middle school science teachers in this country have never taken a science course outside of high school.”
Watch the entire discussion between Dr. Lawrence Krauss and Dr. Richard Dawkins:

“…the difference between certifications and qualifications.”
Malcolm Gladwell has argued that if we don’t have a good way of predicting who will become great teachers, we must drastically change hiring practices in schools.
“Most Likely To Succeed: How do we hire when we can’t tell who’s right for the job?”

“I’m not telling you stories about shiny new buildings, or computer labs, or interactive wipeboards that really had an influence on me.”
Our priority should be finding great teachers, but we shouldn’t ignore the importance of environment in teaching and learning.
The Third Teacher

“…the most effective thing we can do to improve the quality of physics instruction…is to hire, honor, and promote good teachers.”
Dr. David J. Griffiths ( http://academic.reed.edu/physics/faculty/griffiths.html )
“Is There A Text In This Class?”

“Do they just sit there?”
Dr. Dean Zollman ( http://www.phys.ksu.edu/personal/dzollman/ )
“Do They Just Sit There? Reflections on helping students learn physics”

“Congratulations! You haven’t learned a damn thing about science.”
I grabbed that diagram of the citric acid cycle ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citric_acid_cycle ) from http://library.thinkquest.org/C004535/media/kreb_cycle.gif
Watch Richard Feynman for a more insightful view of science.
“The Pleasure of Finding Things Out”

“MythBusters is the most scientific show on television.”
What? You’ve never seen MythBusters?

“Maybe lawyers are getting in the way of science education.”
Watch Geyver Tulley’s TED Talks about
“Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do”
“Life Lessons Through Tinkering”

“Work your ass off until you figure it out.”
Dr. Carol Dweck might call this having a “growth mindset.”
“How Not To Talk To Your Kids”
Mindset by Dweck
Branford Marsalis thinks some students don’t understand the idea of hard work.
Dr. Kurt Wiesenfeld ( http://www.physics.gatech.edu/people/faculty/kwiesenfeld.html )
“Making The Grade: Many students wheedle for a degree as if it were a freebie T shirt”

“That’s a long time”
by Malcolm Gladwell
Dr. Alan Schoenfeld

“Teach For America Chews Up, Spits Out Another Ethnic-Studies Major”
The Onion

“You can polish a turd.”
MythBusters: Polishing A Turd

Distributed Computing on Wikipedia


  • Don Solo said:

    Dr. Tae – the write-up in the Reader led me to your video, and let me say how inspiring it is to know there is a science teacher like you out there. Though able to get good grades, esp. in math and science all throughout grade and highschool, math/science for me ended at the university level after dismal experiences in the huge lecture halls of Comp Sci, BioSci, Prob-Stats, and Physics, and I turned to what is my passion anyway – electronic music – many parallels to your skateboarding analogy. Though I’ve taught the art of DJ’ing and worked in computer support off and on since 1992, I’ve always thought about getting into the teaching of elementary-level math and science to improve our country’s future, if not music technology or techno-musicology – my final degree. Coincidentally, one of my last grant-funded presentations was about ways our education system needs to broaden and change – no joke! I hope leaders like Obama or next leader of the CPS system see your video, and I hope there is a way to implement distributed learning in a way at schools that our current budgetary problems can afford. Until then, I don’t know if I can fit into it’s system. Thanks for all you’re doing to share the knowledge man. Keep rockin’.

    Don Solo

  • Rebecca Mendez said:

    I like this video because when you are skatebording, there is no one there to tell you that you suck and should give up. That is what school should be like! Teachers basically say that you suck when they give you an F. They give you something called a “grade” and that is supposed to tell you if you are good enough or not. There is no chance to prove that you can master the things being taught with that system. Teachers put you down when they expect you to “know” something within a given time and the ones who are rewarded are people who “meet the standard”. Who are these people? They are people who know and do exactally what the teacher is trying to teach.In reality, they haven’t learned a thing! Thus, those who do not know what is going on are made feel like they are not good enough.This is not teaching!!

    When I am in math class, I get angry because the professor is up there and she doesn’t try to engage us. She tries to make it “real world” by giving word problems about ‘pizza’. That, is NOT real world; rather it is an attempt. One time, I asked, “So, this matters, why?” My friend looks at me like “No you didn’t!” I felt like I was in the right to ask something like that because I do not like doing things that virtually have no significance to me. Just this week, I was in class and we were doing a system of linear equations problems using a substitution method. I realized that I did the problem in a different way. I asked if I was right and she said, ” Technically, yes, you can use negative coordinates, but that is not the way I want you to do it. I was like, “Why is that so wrong?”

    That is another problem with teachers, they think they know it all. Rather, they were taught to teach the way that they do and think that it is the only way and get caught in the system. The reason good teachers are not hired is because the higher authorities think that qualified teachers will backlash and would require higher pay because they are more experienced. I thought this too, was an interesting part of your video.

    I am not great at math or science, but in my junior year of high school, I became interested in physics. That year, I was absolutely in love with the subject even though I always hated it and had my mind set to never taking it. I was happy that I landed in that class; plus, I was one of the most engaged students there even though it was a senior class. Part of that reason is because I went to a low income high school where we had “Teach for America” teachers. I always wondered what teahcers like that were doing at a school like mine. Then I found out why they left and I was so mad!They just left us and didn’t consider staying to change our school! Despite it being a low income school, I had my mind set on my drive to learn and to never give up. Some say you need to go to an awesome school to get the best education, but really, sometimes, it all starts with ‘you’, the individual and your outlook on education to do well and to want to change the ‘norms’.

    This is a very powerful video and I wish you luck!!! Please, never stop doing what you are doing! keep in touch!


  • Jessica Mans said:

    Brilliant. Thank you.

    I’d like to hear your thoughts alternate forms of higher education. When will good (high paying, high profile) jobs not require the stamp of a univeristy? When will just “working your ass off until you figure it out” become a recognized way to be considered proficent in any field.

    (You should know I dropped out of a graduate program at Northwestern to learn to be a journalist on my own time. Although I quickly discovered journalism wasn’t exactly the best feild for me, what I learned by “working my ass off” took me in a much better direction, and saved me 50K in loans.)

    Thanks again for posting this video.


  • jason said:

    Dr. Tae,

    Very inspiring video. Thank you for taking the time to create it, and for making it available.

    I went through, and completed, a Mathematics degree at university because I was interested in math, a variety of sciences and computer programming. Today, I’m a web programmer solving problems every day for my client … but with no thanks to my academic “education”! Because I love the idea of the Internet and given that web technologies evolve constantly, I have continued my education by using your “work my ass off” methodology, which works quite well.

    As a solo business owner, I firmly believe in and live the philosophy that in order to eat an elephant you simply do it one bite at a time. Your ideas about educating exemplify this. It would be interesting to see this become a reality. How it’s monitored, how it’s organized, and how it’s sifted through are potential problems given the oceans of information (good and bad) available, but I imagine that the solutions to these challenges will evolve as does the information to which it applies.

    I have thought about teaching in some way, but have always had a problem with the teacher-spouts-facts-students-regurgitate-on-tests method of learning, as it simply doesn’t result in actual learning much of the time for the young and old alike. Your section on “teaching what you know” really hit home for me, and I’m now taking some time to think about what I know and introducing this online to (hopefully) educate and inspire others.

  • Do Schools Suck? said:

    […] Tae‘s video “Building a New Culture of Teaching and Learning” and his main point that “School sucks!” continues to be on my mind. Primarily, […]

  • Eh said:

    Dear Dr. Tae,

    I think your videos are wonderful. I had the same ideas but with respect to learning languages. If you look at how children learn languages they are not graded, it is very unstructured and they all do it successfully. However, once they enter school and try to learn a language through the school system especially in high school, after 4 years of taking a spanish class, anybody who didn’t grow up in a hispanic family cannot speak it.

    I hope the message spreads. Its a shame the university system has so much power and influence yet does so little.

  • stephen said:

    Dr. Tae,

    I just wanted to comment on your video – it’s fantastic. As a formally trained organic chemist (MS in polymer chemistry), i can *totally* relate to all the points you made in your video. Here are some examples:

    Being lucky. Like you, I didn’t fall in love with science because I went to a phenomenal school with state-of-the-art facilities and millions of dollars in equipment (though our football program certainly got lots of money). Rather, I had three teachers who made an impact on my education and who got me excited about science and learning. Most interestingly, it was our class valedictorian who taught me all of first-year calculus in one night, over a case of budweiser. His calculus “lecture” lasted me all the way through high-school calculus and through my first year of college calculus. Once I started studying chemistry in college, I was lucky enough to meet a professor who let me work in her lab, and gave me a real, honest-to-god, graduate-student-level research project. I worked on that project for the entire time I was in school, and I’m absolutely positive that it was the *only* thing that kept me from dropping out of college. Being able to attend a chemistry lecture in the morning, and then go actually do *experiments* in a lab for the entire afternoon with a trained research professor helping me along really ignited my passion for research and for chemistry. Too bad graduate school destroyed it, but that’s another story.

    School sucks. I always thought this, and I was glad to see that you agree, for the same reasons.

    You have to work your ass off. As someone who trained himself for careers in fields as diverse as computer programming, carpentry, and futures trading, I have learned that nothing beats the ability to teach yourself something new. *This* is what kids should be learning – how to learn.

    Incentives Your comments about incentive structures are dead on. If you’re interested, a book called “Punished By Rewards” by Alfie Kohn that addresses incentive systems in detail. A fascinating read.

    Poorly Qualified Teachers Your comments about secondary school systems are also spot-on. Have you seen “Waiting for Superman”? They address these things in detail. I’d love to hear your comments on what you see in the film.

    Take care, and thank you so much for “sharing your knowledge”. I’ll forever remember that slogan “knowledge is not a cheeseburger.” Too true.


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  • Daniela Lugo said:

    When will a transcript of this be available?

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