Tag Archives: web2.0

Is Khan Academy the future of education?

Salman Khan is a former financial analyst who quit his day job so that he could form Khan Academy — a venture in which he makes instructional videos on mathematics topics and puts them on YouTube. And he has certainly done a prolific job of it — to the tune of over a thousand short videos on topics ranging from basic addition to differential equations and also physics, biology, and finance.  Amazingly, he does this all on his own time, in a remodeled closet in his house, for free:

I can attest to the quality of his linear algebra videos, some of which I’ve embedded on the Moodle site for my linear algebra course. They are simple without being dumbed down, and what he says about the 10-minute time span in the PBS story is exactly right — it’s just the right length for a single topic.

What do you think about this? What role do well-produced, short, simple, free video lectures like this have in the future of education? Will they eventually replace classrooms as we know them? If not, will they eventually force major changes in the way classroom instruction is done, and if so, what kinds of changes?

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Filed under Education, Educational technology, High school, Higher ed, Linear algebra, Math, Screencasts, Social software, Technology, Web 2.0

Jott as a diction-checking device

I’ve blogged before about Jott, the web service which lets you call in and leave a voice message, and then it transcribes it to text and emails it to you or others you want to contact. I use Jott quite often in lieu of a voice recorder for quick thoughts that might be actionable. When I want to catch an idea, I get my cell phone, hit “5” on the speed dial to call Jott, then talk through my message. A few moments later, I get a transcribed version in my GMail inbox which then gets reviewed at my next GTD weekly review.

Jott’s capabilities as a speech-to-text converter are impressive, but it’s not perfect. When I get a mis-transcription, sometimes I wonder whether it’s Jott’s fault or whether it’s something having to do with how clearly I am speaking. Take this recent message for instance. I had just finished teaching a section on exponential growth and decay in my calculus class that meets this summer. I wanted to leave myself a quick note for my GTD review about things I needed to work on with the presentation for this section. Here’s what I said:

I need to edit the 3.8 presentation. The example on Newton’s Law of Cooling didn’t quite work. Need to add a question as to what the C represents in Newton’s Law of Cooling. It just went too long. I think one decay example, one growth example, one Law of Cooling and that’ll be enough. Maybe flesh out a little bit more what a differential equation is, they were a little lost.

Now, on the other hand, here’s what Jott thinks I said (differences are in boldface):

I need to edit the 3.8 presentation. The example on Newton block cooling didn’t quite work. Need to add a question as to what the C represents in Newton block cooling. I just went too long I think one decay example, one growth example,in block cooling that’ll be enough. Maybe flush out a little bit more for the differential equation is, they were a little lost.

Newton block cooling“? I went back and listened to the voice message and, to me, I am clearly saying “Newton’s Law of Cooling”, but Jott went 3-for-3 in transcribing this as it did. That makes me wonder if my students would hear me say “Newton block cooling”. Students are more intelligent than a computerized speech-to-text processor, but still, if this advanced technology is convinced that I am not saying “law of cooling” but “block cooling”, there’s a pretty good chance I am not being clear enough.

So perhaps Jott would be useful as a diagnostic tool for a speaker’s enunciation and clarity — if there’s 100% agreement between what the speaker actually said and the Jott transcription, then there are no problems with clarity; otherwise, there might be.

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Filed under GTD, Profhacks, Social software, Software, Teaching, Technology