Online courses are changing traditional education and the way we learn. This PBS article really caught my attention.
Watch the accompanying video below.
Online courses are changing traditional education and the way we learn. This PBS article really caught my attention.
Watch the accompanying video below.
I’m not a huge fan of paying for “how to videos” especially when I can find just about any topic I’m questioning on Youtube, but MindBites.com might have more to offer than the typical homemade flick. MindBites is a publishing and sales platform where individual video authors can sell their content on demand online and through mobile applications.
Like most other educational sites, users can sign up for different subscriptions in order to watch certain instructional videos. The Education category has lessons, instructions, homework help, and video tutorials for many subjects, including Calculus, Chemistry, Biology, Basic Math, Algebra, and Grammar. MindBites also features less-academic video lessons that range from surviving a knife attack to learning baby sign language to making bath products. However, the website’s audience seems to be video authors, rather than students. Their pitch is that you can share your knowledge and talent with others while also looking for lessons that interest you.
Some of their clients include:
– Thinkwell, a popular digital textbook publisher.
– Brent Mayne, a former Major League Baseball catcher, who uses the MindBites platform to power his video on demand store about how to be a skillful catcher.
– Urban Fitness TV uses the site to power and sell fitness videos.
MindBites describes itself as a “place on the web to learn directly from other real people and share what you know with the world. A self-publishing platform and social marketplace for instructional content, MindBites enables people to share their unique knowledge, skills and passions through audio and video lessons, earning money for themselves or for charity. The result is a unique community of discovery with content that simply can’t be found anywhere else. By enabling people to learn, connect and share as never before, MindBites promises to revolutionize the way the world shares knowledge. MindBites – What do you know?”
Is MindBites revolutionizing education? Here’s what I think…
– For those who want to sell their videos, they can quickly create custom branded video on demand stores that can be easily integrated into another site or offered on a standalone basis. You don’t even need any technical experience. Those custom VOD stores also fully function as iPhone VOD stores. In addition, content owner/publisher can set their own subscription and bundled pricing models.
– Sales reporting and statistics are delivered on demand so you can see exactly how well your product is doing.
– I found the videos to be high quality and played well on the embeddable media player. The site also offers one click purchase which is built in.
– MindBites.com has an attractive interface. The site is easy to navigate with all of its content categories listed at the bottom of the page. The site is also an ad free environment, which is always great.
– The community is interactive with lots of people posting feedback and comments. Users and authors interact through ratings, reviews, Q & A.
– For each person who purchases a lesson you receive $1. You can decide to keep your earnings or give them to a charity.
– You can browse through the site and see what lessons interest you, but in order to purchase a lesson or post your own video lessons you must be a member. The membership process was a little confusing at first.
– MindBites.com states that you must earn a minimum of $25 to get paid. If you make less than $25 dollars, even if its $24.99 you cannot claim your money through Paypal.
– Since MindBites.com suggests that authors can give their earnings to charity, it would be nice if people could feature their favorite charities on the site. How will users know where their money is going?
– Site is not available in other languages even though some of the subscribers ask questions in Spanish and are clearly Spanish speaking people.
– Sixty second, previews and trailers are not enough.
– Dr. Drew
The nice thing about Betterexplained.com is that it teaches for understanding. The website was developed to give struggling math students a safe haven to learn and finally have that “aha” moment. Essentially the e-book, available for purchase on the site, offers students a better explanation of difficult math concepts. And as an educator myself, I believe in the teaching learning process. Math isn’t just about knowing how to solve for x. It’s also about knowing why we are even wasting our time doing it, and whether it’s a waste of time at all. There are too many young people, and older people, out there who are math zombies. And by math zombies I mean individuals who just “plug and chug,” as people call it, simply putting in numbers without really thinking about the reasoning behind their choices.
– Kalid Azad, the founder of Better Explained and a Princeton alum, writes on the about page that complex topics are easily understood when you put them on a more basic level. Everything was hard to do the first time, but it gets easier. I really liked reading his philosophy on learning.
“Math is no more about equations than poetry is about spelling. Equations and spelling exist to convey an idea. Understand that idea.”
– The article section is very helpful to look through when looking for more information on various math topics (as well as writing, business, and technology topics).
– Azad writes for human beings and the readability of his product is great. His e-book is clear, concise, and based on teaching research.
– Why not take better to the best? If this was all free instead of $19 dollars, that would be fantastic! But at least you don’t pay a monthly fee. Just a onetime payment for the e-book.
– The slides, interview, and videos that accompany the e-book are an additional $59 dollars.
– The website has a lot of information on each page and you have to scroll down endlessly forever.
– There are no real pictures on the front page, and the look of the site is pretty boring.
Overall Better Explained has a lot to offer to those who still want to learn from a book. Granted, it’s an e-book, but a book none the less. Students who want the problems worked out before their eyes must purchase a more expensive package.
– Dr. Drew
A million years ago, when I was a young person, our teacher would give us monthly projects. One major project was the dreaded geography report. Students were assigned a place in the world, or country, or natural landmark and had to write several pages about it. These projects were big deals, you had to include pictures, hand drawn illustrations, and then present it all to the class. Needless to say, everyone stressed out about them. The biggest drawback of completing a geography report 45 years ago is you had to make trips to the library, lug home a stack of books, and sift though giant encyclopedias in order to find your topic. Not fun at all. Luckily, all that has changed.
The Internet is a fascinating and extremely useful tool. Now, when my kids have science projects or have to write a report on Chile, they simply surf the net for information. And then there are websites like Cosmeo.com, self-proclaimed the “Homework Help Toolkit,” that is the Discovery Channel’s answer to every students academic need. According to their about page “Cosmeo brings together a deep , interactive games, reference content, and tutorials to help kids stay engaged in learning.” Sounds pretty good to me, are there any downsides?
One of my neighbors has young children, ages 10 and 11, and they use it off and on throughout the week. She volunteered to give me her stance on the site. Overall, she likes it, but I was able to dig up some potential problems.
• The site is safe for kids, which is always a plus. There is even a parent account that allows parents to monitor their child’s progress, block keyword searches, and check their child’s viewing history. Overprotective parents, rejoice!
• Cosmeo covers k-12 subject areas, mapped out to your specific school region, includes lots video lessons and an encyclopedia, games, and links only to teacher-approved sites. There are also different types of learning tools to appeal to different learning styles. Some of the subjects include math, science, English, social studies, health, art, music and more.
• According to my neighbor, students can take notes online and then print the notes out. I think that’s a fantastic feature.
• My favorite part of the site are the reference articles for studying and writing reports. Where were these when I was a kid?
• Brilliant photography.
• They offer a free 30-day trial, which you can cancel at any time.
• Each subscription includes access for 4 student accounts (each with a separate screen name and password) and one parent account.
• Students can access over 30,000 video lessons and step–by–step tutorials, 15,000 quizzes, 27,000 articles, and over 200 links to teacher–approved educational websites. That’s insane.
• The service is related to the Discovery Channel and Discovery Education, therefore a subscription includes access to selected video from Discovery networks, including Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and Discovery Kids.
• Cosmeo requires an ongoing subscription. You have to pay $100/yr to use the service, which is billed every month.
• Requires a broadband connection and you have to install various plugins.
• My neighbor complained that there are often video glitches.
• Families have to download the Cosmeo software directly from their website. You will need a high-speed Internet connection and some additional software. If you can’t upgrade to Flash, you can’t use Cosmeo.
– Dr. Drew
I’ve come across a lot of teaching and e-learning websites in my day, but Thattutorguy.com is one of those sites that seems like it could be really good and then kind of lets you down. Chris, the owner of the site, films himself tutoring on a variety of math topics and then stock piles them onto a website. His approach strays away from the traditional lecture because he shows students exactly how to do the problems. At first glance, the site is both comprehensive and engaging— Chris certainly is a character —however, something is lacking. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe after you read the pros and the cons below you’ll be able to help me figure it out.
– Chris’ personality is fun and I can see students really being able to relate to him. There are two students in my daughter’s class whose families have purchased the service and they both “enjoy his straight-to-the-point lessons.” He is relatively young, energetic, and has attitude. He tells it like it is and gets right to the point in his lessons. That’s highly refreshing and works great when catering to young audiences.
– There are a lot of math subjects to explore such as Pre-Algebra, College Algebra, Calculus, and Trig. He has archived a wide array of topics, which makes it super easy for subscribers to find exactly what they are looking for. The search tool is quick and effortless, and he also allows users to vote on which classes he should put up next.
– Chris has ten years of professional tutoring experience, however parents may want to see an outline of his resume or know more about his professional training/schooling.
– The website works on phones and tablets, which is excellent for busy students on the go.
– I also thought his “Flipping the Classroom” idea was great. This model works for a lot of people. Chris claims that it is better to use online videos to expose students to new material before class. Therefore, instead of seeing the material for the first time in a fast-moving lecture, students can get acquainted with the information by watching a pre-taped lecture on their own time.
– Chris says he isn’t a teacher, but in a later video on his philosophy page he explains his “teaching style.” Is he contradicting himself here?
– No free trial or coupons, instead subscribers can get 7 days for seven bucks.*
– Very casual vibe to the entire website. At first I thought this might be a good thing, but the more I read the more mistakes I found. For example, the poor writing: “The videos on this site are aimed exclusively at teaching students what they need to know, now how to prove or derive what they need to know.” I know Chris is a math tutor, but typos take away from a site’s credibility.
– Chris says you don’t have to watch the videos in order, but then he says that the information in the lessons builds on previous lessons. Isn’t that another contradiction? Wouldn’t it help to watch them in order? He explains in his welcome video that the chapters are designed to be self-contained, so if you just need help on one topic, you could probably just watch that chapter. Then he says that once you figure out which chapter you want to watch, it’s best to start at the beginning of that chapter because everything builds.
– Lastly, I found him to be a little rude. One his Frequently Asked Questions page he writes, “If you wanted to watch a math genius derive every equation in your book… you’re already getting that every day in math class! While those sites may sound great in theory, once you start trying to use them you find that they are so egg-head and lecture-driven.” Professors who have dedicated their lives to helping students learn are not egg-headed.
I think the overall issue I have with this website as a whole is not the content, Chris is an extremely intelligent and gifted tutor, but it feels too homemade. It’s lacking the professional tone and quality of its competition. this doesn’t matter, but I also find all those t’s in the web address to be highly distracting. The actual videos are clear and well-made, but the rest of the site could use some work. You can only watch a few videos for free, which may also be a problem for some potential clients. Paying customers, want more samples. It’s nice to know what you’re signing up for before you pay for the service. There are many similar sites to Thattutorguy.com (such as Mathworld.com or Educator.com) and I think Chris might have a hard time differentiating himself from the lot…especially when those other sites are free or very inexpensive.
*Prices have changed.
– Dr. Drew
Why are kids so opposed to learning? I must have been a very unusual child because I was always begging my parents to take me to the museum, science center, or library. Of course, that was all we had back then. Technology was hardly a thought when it came to education, heck the Internet hadn’t even been invented yet. Nowadays it seems like young people only want to play video games or watch television, I know my kids do. If only there was a way to make even the most boring subjects fun and interactive. Luckily there is.
I recently came across a website called BrainPop.com, an educational site that teaches important concepts in core curriculum subject areas through short on-line movies, quizzes, and other activities. Although the main site has more advanced topics that are geared toward grades 3 and up, there are branch-off sites that include BrainPop Jr, BrainPop Español, and BrainPop ESL. I believe the site effectively uses animation and web technology, but there are some pitfalls.
– Cartoons will always be appealing to youngsters. The site is crammed, almost to the point of a migraine, with brightly colored, graphic images designed to engage kids. I’m not sure if the high school kids will relate to it as much, but overall animation is very cool and eye catching for kids and teens. I also like the consistency of the characters Moby the Robot and Tim.
– Monthly access is pretty cheap at only $9.95 a month and there are many free videos.
– BrainPop boasts to be an award-winning educational resource.
– The site includes animated movies, interactive quizzes, and activities. Students can explore hundreds of topics within the subjects of Science, Math, Social Studies, English Language Arts, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Music, and Health. Everything is organized according to subject area. There are also subjects about teen issues such as bullying and drug awareness. I also found that the search tools and easy-to-read buttons made it simple to navigate through the site.
– BrainPOP is accessible directly from Google Apps.
– Teachers who subscribe to the site can automatically track student progress on BrainPOP quizzes and integration with Google Spreadsheets instantly pulls quiz results into a teacher spreadsheet. Pretty awesome. Another plus for educators is the State Standards search tool.
– All the products are fully compatible with interactive whiteboards, learner response systems, projectors, Macs, and PCs. Not need to download, install, or purchase special hardware. Nice.
– I’ve said this before, but free is always king. All options require a monthly or annual subscription. The annual price is $100 dollars, which can be a little steep for families who aren’t certain they’ll be able to make their child sit down and watch the videos.
– There is just one quiz at the end of the video. It would be better to have multiple quizzes for students to choose from. It also seems like the quiz is more of a suggestion, rather than the interactive part of the video it was probably intended to be.
– BrainPop and BrainPop Jr only have a five day free trial. Whatever happened to the 1 month free incentive?
– There are 600 brief animated movies, but some of them are incredibly too brief and do not go into enough detail about the subject.
– I’m not 100% sure this site works for older or advanced students who may require more of a challenge. BrainPop claims it serves K-12, but from my experience 12th graders aren’t that interested in cartoon robots anymore (especially those who don’t blow anything up and only say “beep.”)
– There are also some pretty strange sections of the website like “How to with Gary and Gary” where students can take advice from a father and his son on “How to change a diaper.” The Infancy lesson will even teach kids how to take care of a baby. Of course there are older siblings who need to take care of younger brothers or sisters, but in my opinion, too many high school students drop out of school because of unwanted pregnancies. I think students in grades K-12 shouldn’t worry so much about the needs of infants.
– Then there is Bob the Ex-lab Rat… which is disturbing in and of itself. First off, I disagree with animal testing and wouldn’t want my child watching a video hosted by a bandaged and neurologically impaired sewer rat.
– I also found that the few videos hosted by female characters were about puberty and menstruation. Why can’t BrainPop feature girls (or girl robots) in more of their videos.
– Technical requirements for running BrainPOP are an Internet connection and the Macromedia Flash Plug-in. That can be a drawback for those living out in the middle of nowhere where speedy internet service isn’t always available, but you can view some of the videos on an Iphone.
All in all, I watched maybe two or three free videos and felt like I learned a little something. My last thoughts on BrainPop are simple. If the moving icons and bright colors on the homepage don’t pop your brain, the thousands of things you can potentially learn about probably will.
– Dr. Drew
MathTV.com provides free online video lessons to K-12 and college math students to explain steps and concepts. Users watch teachers solve math problems on a whiteboard and can rewind and replay as much as they want. Students can see as the teacher goes step by step through the problem on the screen. In textbooks, these steps are often explained in words, which is much more difficult to follow. Compared to just reading a textbook, seeing and hearing the problem can help the learning process. Neither of my kids have tried using MathTV (they’d rather just watch real TV), but I’ve still put together a review based on my own research and time spent on the site. Here’s what I found:
– Like I’ve said before, free is always a good thing when it comes to educational materials, especially when they are also of quality. Overall, MathTV presents some decent videos.
– Homeschoolers, especially on the high school level, will probably find this site extra helpful. My wife and I don’t homeschool our children, I believe they would miss out on valuable social training, but I definitely sympathize with families who are stuck at home with their kids all day. I could imagine that, unless you used to be a professional engineer, homeschooling moms (and dads) struggle with teaching high school math because they might have forgotten it or never even learned it correctly. I certainly have trouble helping my kids with their homework involving absolute value equations or trigonometric identities.
– The instructor and founder Charles P. McKeague is the oldest guy on the site, everyone else is young and engaging. But, McKeague has many years of teaching experience and education under his belt. He is also an author of several math textbooks and a truly inspirational speaker. While watching, I found his style of teaching to be very clear. The way he writes on the board is also very clear.
– I like the simple format of the website, no bells or whistles and it works.
– There are also several instructors who will explain the problems in different ways, which caters to different learners. There are even instructors who deliver the lessons in Spanish!
– You can even look up videos by textbook.
– The teachers explain specific problems but don’t really branch off into generalizations about that type of math equation. Unless you’re working on a problem that is almost identical to the one on the screen, you may have trouble working on a similar problem on your own. It would be nice if they spoke about the math concepts in general as well.
– You also can’t ask your virtual instructors for help.
– MathTV was created in 2000. After 12 years they could have done a lot more with the site in terms of aesthetics (simple is one thing, but boring is another) and maybe added some more engaging features.
– Videos on the site are free, but the E-books and XYZ Homework cost 30 dollars for a 12 month subscription. That isn’t too bad, but free is always king.
MathTV is a pretty good website with a lot to offer. There is tons of variety, especially for those who get tired of listening to only one person speak for an hour or two. I would recommend this site to anyone who needs to practice their math skills and needs a good, clear teacher to walk them through it. However, I would say the biggest advantage would be the Spanish lessons. I’m always trying to work on my foreign language skills and may just watch a few lessons for the Spanish practice!
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