Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Innovative Teaching

Let me first offer you my best wishes for the new year. I hope that during the past couple of weeks you were able to catch your breath, enjoy your time off and spend time with friends and family during the holidays. I know I very much appreciated the time off; we have all been working hard and this will help clear out the cobwebs and set us on the road for a great 2011.

While I was off, I was sent links to a site which featured the well-known statistician Hans Rosling. In viewing one of the clips I got to thinking about innovation in teaching methods and I have some thoughts to offer on that, in the context of commenting of a few of the clips I watched over the break. Let me begin by offering this link:

200 Countries, 200 years, 4 minutes: http://www.flixxy.com/200-countries-200-years-4-minutes.htm

Now, I know that we do not have access the kind of technology seen in this clip. But stop a minute and think about what you see here. Note that what Rosling does is intriguing. First, he is obviously passionate and animated about what he is discussing, and he has obviously planned out what he is going to say and the movements he makes in order to synch them properly with something he cannot actually see, since that has to be edited in later. But also note that his use of this technology helps him pass on an important learning message that would otherwise take far longer to present if he were to simply lecture or even use bullet points in PowerPoint. He has been able to show you the relationship between life expectancy and income (wealth) for 200 countries over a period of 2 centuries. And he has done so in just 4 minutes- and I think everyone who sees this could tell me what that relationship is. The key point he makes is this: “Having the data is not enough; I have to show it in ways people both enjoy and understand.” He has done so masterfully.

New Insights on Poverty: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/hans_rosling_reveals_new_insights_on_poverty.html

Another clip with Rosling. Note again how he combines passion, humor and data to present an engaging and informative lecture. Not only does he use his animated projections, but note how he integrates video clips and panoramic photography to illustrate points. And note his subtle humor about PowerPoint at around the 14.50 mark here! And I absolutely guarantee that youw ill not foget the end to this presentation. Guarantee it!

Animating the Cell: http://www.ted.com/talks/david_bolinsky_animates_a_cell.html

Another use of graphics to illustrate complex points. Imagine accessing this for use in class, or even learning how to do something like this. (PS. Ted.com is a great source of informative and educational videos).

The general idea, of course, is to use innovation in our teaching. Other ideas exist as well; Drunk History, which can be found in youtube, presents clips from American history through the lens of a purportedly drunk person discussing historical episodes and then has them acted out by famous actors. I will not post links due to the profanity on them, but I list it here as yet another novel method for presenting information. I hope to encourage us all to look for new ways to present information; new technologies do exist and we need to remain up to date with them and then use them to help our students learn more effectively.

Welcome back!

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