Nine-year-old learns opera from YouTube

Nine-year-old Amira Willighagen, who won a “golden ticket” on Holland’s Got Talent, learned to sing opera from YouTube tutorials.

Ron Paul: Abandon public schools

Ron Paul doesn’t call for reforming schools in his new book, The School Revolution. He wants parents to abandon state-run schools and teach their children at home — with the help of low-cost online courses. (His own courses cost $50.)


“Teach” means “have your child read a lot of books and watch YouTube videos on his or her own,” writes Kevin Carey, who directs the education policy program at the New America Foundation, in the New Republic.

A fan of self-reliance, Paul believes students should learn on their own, starting in fourth to sixth grade, writes Carey. “If they need help, it’s best to ask other students. No teachers are required.”

“The parent who demands that his child be given special attention by a high school teacher is making a big mistake,” writes Paul.

Paul’s plan creates an “isolated learning experience focused exclusively on reading, writing, and debate, with no exposure to heterodox views,” writes Carey. “His program will shield students from the evils of liberalism and, worse, Keynesianism, and train them to argue their cause with facility and zeal.”

Video on demand for teachers

TED, a nonprofit known for its annual ideas conference, will provide free video lessons of 10 minutes or less on TED-Ed, reports the Washington Post.

Imagine you’re a high school biology teacher searching for the most vivid way to explain electrical activity in the brain. How about inserting metal wires into a cockroach’s severed leg and making that leg dance to music?

Starting Monday, that eye-popping lesson, performed in a six-minute video by neuroscientist and engineer Greg Gage, is available free online.

“Right now there’s a teacher somewhere out there delivering a mind-altering lesson and the frustrating thing is, it only reaches the students in that class,” said TED-Ed project director Logan Smal­ley. “We’re trying to figure out how to capture that lesson and pair it with professional animators to make that lesson more vivid and put it in a place where teachers all over the world can share it.”

In contrast with many of the free lessons now available online, TED-Ed uses “sophisticated animation, professional editing and high-quality production values,” according to the Post.

Teachers also can find free lessons on YouTube Teachers, a new channel whose slogan is “spend more time teaching, less time searching.”

Here’s a clip of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.


Cyberbaiting teachers is on the rise

Cyberbaiting teachers — provoking a rant that can be recorded on a cell phone, then posted on YouTube — is on the rise, reports Yahoo. Students have posted dozens of videos of teachers “flipping out” as students jeer: “A music teacher smashes a violin; another spits on a student in full classroom meltdown.”

Recently the cyber security company Norton reported that 21 percent of teachers worldwide either experienced cyberbaiting themselves or knew a colleague who was cyberbaited. Many lose their jobs after their outbursts, even though students were the provocateurs.

All teachers need to remember that “the eyes of the world are watching every second,” warns Lynne Diligent, who teaches at an elite school in a Middle Eastern country where adolescents think it’s “cool” to mock teachers.

YouTube launches teachers’ site will show ways to use video in the classroom, writes James Sanders, a middle school history teacher at KIPP San Francisco Bay Academy. That includes “lesson plan suggestions, highlights of great educational content on YouTube, and training on how to film your own educational videos.”

I use videos to spark classroom discussions, increase instructional time by assigning videos as homework, and create playlists for each lesson so students can dive deeper into specific areas that interest them. I also found countless educational videos on YouTube that energize and excite my students about a number of topics, such as medieval history.

This summer, YouTube Teacher’s Studio featured award-winning teacher trainers Jim Sill and Ramsey Musallam, who led workshops on “Finding your inner Spielberg” and “FlipTeaching.”  Sanders taught about using YouTube as a powerful educational tool.

Below is “Monster Foam Science Experiment.”

Admissions staff check Facebook profiles

In the college application, you’re a teen-age saint who tutors the underprivileged and picks up trash in the park. Online, you’re a party guy or gal flashing gang signs and strewing beer cans.

College admissions officers are looking at applicants’ Facebook profiles, according to Kaplan’s 2010 College Admissions Survey. (Here’s an infographic.) They also check Twitter and YouTube. Sixty-two percent said social-media profiles usually help applicants get accepted; 38 percent said  online profiles hurt students’ chances.

Mathemusic videos go viral

A “recreational mathemusician,” Vi Hart created a YouTube video about doodling in math class that’s gone viral, reports the New York Times.

The video never shows her face, just her hands doodling in a notebook. She talks about binary trees, Hercules cutting off the heads of a mythical hydra (each severed neck grows two new heads, which is the essence of a binary tree), and a fractal pattern known as Sierpinski’s Triangle.

She did another about drawing stars (really about geometry and polygons). Then another about doodling snakes (which segues into graph theory, “a subject too interesting to be included in most grade-school curricula,” she says). And another about prime numbers. (“Remember, we use prime numbers to talk to aliens. I’m not making this up.”)

More than a million people have viewed her videos.

A computer science professor’s daughter, Hart majored in music in college and took no math classes. But she attended math conferences and collaborated on papers with an MIT professor, Erik D. Demaine, known for his origami creations.

She started as a recreational mathartist, spending a week carving fruit into polyhedrons, posting photographs and instructions on

Last summer, she became enamored of hyperbolic planes, mathematical surfaces that are typically represented as horse saddles or Pringles chips.

Whereas others make bracelets or necklaces out of beads, Ms. Hart constructed hyperbolic planes out of them. She painted images of hyperbolic planes. She dried slices of fruit, which warped into hyperbolic planes.

“It just wiggles all over the place,” she said of a hyperbolic plane. “People don’t think of it that way, as being like a wild and beautiful thing.”

The doodle video has brought in some revenue and job offers. And it’s drawn a new demographic, teenage girls.

“I just think that’s really awesome,” she said, “because you’ve got girls in middle school and high school who are suddenly enjoy mathematics and enjoying being a little nerdy and smart, and we need that.”

Hart isn’t sure about her next step, though her goal is to be an “ambassador of mathematics,” like the late Martin Gardner, who wrote a math column for Scientific American.

For the holidays, she took advantage of the musical side of her mathemusician identity, rewriting “The 12 Days of Christmas.”

For example, “On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: the smallest possible number of sides on a polyhedron, the number of points that define a plane, the divisor of even numbers and any other number to the power of zero.”

Mathematical translation: polyhedrons have a minimum of four sides, three points define a plane, two is a divisor of all even numbers, and any number raised to the power of zero is one.

STEMposium, an April 1 event at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, is holding a video contest to generate ideas on how to improve science, technology engineering and math learning in schools.

Students, teachers and anyone with an innovative idea can submit a 60-second video. Finalists could win up to $5,000 in cash and prizes and will be featured at STEMposium.

For example, here’s Judah’s video and here’s John’s idea.

Gaga over history on YouTube

Music videos by history teachers are hits on YouTube, reports the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Hawaii residents Amy Burvall and Herb Mahelona have won rave reviews for “The French Revolution,” set to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.”  Dressed in period costumes and wigs, Burvall sings lines like, “La la liberte,” and “Walk, walk scaffold baby.” The video has topped 166,000 views.

Mahelona and Burvall produce their music videos in their free time, mostly on weekends, and from start to finish the process takes about three months. So far, they have posted 49 on YouTube, including “Black Death” set to Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl,” “Martin Luther” set to “Manic Monday” by the Bangles, and “Henry VIII” set to ABBA’s “Money, Money, Money.”

Napoleon will be next.

“The kids just eat it up,” said Mahelona. “And then they take the exam and just from singing the songs, they would remember everything.”

If you’re calling to lie . . .

Here’s the (alleged) answering machine message at a school in Australia.

Growing up digital and distracted

Young people today are wired for distraction, concludes a New York Times story.

Vishal Singh, a 17-year-old student at Woodside High in Silicon Valley, gets through only 43 pages of his summer reading because he’s busy surfing Facebook and YouTube and making digital videos.  On YouTube, “you can get a whole story in six minutes,” he explains. “A book takes so long. I prefer the immediate gratification.”

Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.

Researchers say the lure of these technologies, while it affects adults too, is particularly powerful for young people. The risk, they say, is that developing brains can become more easily habituated than adult brains to constantly switching tasks — and less able to sustain attention.

“Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task but for jumping to the next thing,” said Michael Rich, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and executive director of the Center on Media and Child Health in Boston. And the effects could linger: “The worry is we’re raising a generation of kids in front of screens whose brains are going to be wired differently.”

Trying to fight wired with wired, Principal David Reilly “has asked teachers to build Web sites to communicate with students, introduced popular classes on using digital tools to record music, secured funding for iPads to teach Mandarin and obtained $3 million in grants for a multimedia center.”

Instead of skaters, jocks and band geeks, students split into texters and gamers, “Facebook addict and YouTube potato,” write the Times.

Allison Miller, 14, sends and receives 27,000 texts in a month, her fingers clicking at a blistering pace as she carries on as many as seven text conversations at a time. She texts between classes, at the moment soccer practice ends, while being driven to and from school and, often, while studying.

. . . But this proficiency comes at a cost: she blames multitasking for the three B’s on her recent progress report.

“I’ll be reading a book for homework and I’ll get a text message and pause my reading and put down the book, pick up the phone to reply to the text message, and then 20 minutes later realize, ‘Oh, I forgot to do my homework.’ ”

Shy students escape into the world of video games.

Ramon Ochoa-Lopez, 14, an introvert, plays six hours of video games on weekdays and more on weekends, leaving homework to be done in the bathroom before school.

“Downtime is to the brain what sleep is to the body,” said Dr. Rich. “But kids are in a constant mode of stimulation.”

Yes, it’s the same Woodside High as in Waiting for Superman.