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How much of the world has my son seen?

Louis C.K. quote about boredom

Louis C.K. quote about boredom

My teenage son and I were having a discussion about boredom (his), the infinite nature of our minds and the universe, and the massiveness of the unseen Earth.

Our disagreement centered mostly on how much of the planet he’s seen, his claim being that he’s seen enough to qualify as being more than “none percent”. I saw this as an opportunity to teach him about comparisons and magnitude. So, in an email, I broke it down for him and “did the math”, leaving as his exercise the task of mathematically adjusting for assumptions. (Note: I used WolframAlpha for the land area calculations. I had to use Google to get the area data for specific places.)

Dear son,

Landmass of Utah = 85 thousand square miles

Landmass of Illinois = 58 thousand square miles

Landmass of Florida = 66 thousand square miles

Landmass of Ghana = 88 thousand square miles

Landmass of France = 211 thousand square miles

Adding these up gives us 508 thousand square miles

Earth’s landmass = 58 million square miles

Dividing 508 thousand square miles by 58 million square miles = 0.0087673793103448.

You’ve “seen” approximately 0.009% of the world. The good news is, that’s .008% more than your initial estimate!

Now for the assumptions:

1. I’ve assumed that you’ve seen 100% of the countries and states you’ve been to.

2. I’ve left out some places you’ve been to, like Guaymas, Mexico, because you were too young to remember them.

3. I’ve left out Cozumel, Mexico and Castaway Cay/Nassau in the Bahamas. The combined landmass of what you actually saw is too insignificant in size to make a difference in the calculation.

4. I’ve left out the flights over land and water to get to these places. I don’t think that can count as being “seen”.

5. I’ve left out the water parts of the earth because of your discussion about impossibility of visiting such depths. Plus it makes the math unnecessarily more difficult to compare volume (depth) with area (surface).

6. I’ve left out the cruise because the amount of ocean surface area you saw on our trip was limited to what you physically looked out over the water to see vs. doing other activities.

To correct for assumption #1, we can downgrade the landmass of what you’ve seen of the world to just the cities and towns you’ve been to, even though you’ve not really come close to seeing “all” of those locations. Just specific streets and buildings.

I’m leaving that up to you to look up. You don’t even have to know any more math than addition and division, and you may use a calculator. :)Just go to http://google.com and type in area of paris, france. Change the place-name for each city, town, and national park you’ve visited. Note the landmass of the place. Add the landmasses together and divide that total by 58,000,000. Then, subtract that from the 0.0087673793103448 number to get the adjusted amount.

That’s how much of the world you’ve seen. 🙂

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Brainy Approaches to Learning

Brainy Approaches to Learning

Understanding how the brain works when learning is key to helping students achieve mastery of a subject or topic.

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User Generated Education

Good learning is not a matter of finding a happy medium where both parties are transformed as little as possible. Rather, both parties must be maximally transformed—in a sense deformed. There is violence in learning. We cannot learn something without eating it, yet we cannot really learn it either without being chewed up.”
— Peter Elbow, Embracing Contraries, Oxford University Press, 1986.

The Map Is Not the Territory

The Map Is Not the Territory


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Adora Svitak: What adults can learn from kids

Adora Svitak is a precocious young learner who spoke at TED in February 2010. She has some great ideas for turning around adult attitudes about children. She uses humor to “roast” the contemporary adult perspectives and misjudgments of childhood. In the short time she has to make her exposition, some of her points only boil down to the same idealistic platitudes that we’ve all heard (and said) before. But she does hit the mark when it comes to how children actually learn (experiential, inquiry-based, free-range learning) vs. how adults too often want them to learn (sit down, shut up, pay attention).

To her point, the word “childish” is a put-down, and does describe the antics of far too many adults. I prefer to use the term “childlike” when describing the ideal to which all people should strive. The Savior, Jesus Christ, used the phrase “become as little children” to teach how everyone ought to relate to one another. Not that we should fight like little children sometimes do (too often referring to the examples of their adult role models), but that we should all humble ourselves as children and realize that we are all vulnerable, we all make mistakes, and we all depend on the same God to give us life.

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Reality Game Questions of the Day: Mean Experimentations with Redundant Pedometers

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Why so “mean”?

Dad wears two pedometers to measure how many steps he takes each day.

Pedometer “A” recorded 6,350 steps.

Pedometer “B” recorded 8,948 steps.

What is the “mean” number of steps Dad took?

Why do some people use the word “mean” instead of “average” to describe this?

Pedometer mystery

Pedometer mystery (Photo credit: sallypnut)

Why so redundant? And repetitive?

Why would Dad use two pedometers and then calculate the mean of the results of each?

Why so different?

Why would there be a difference of __________ between the pedometer readings? What is your hypothesis?

Why so scientific?

Design an experiment that attempts to test your hypothesis. HINT: It would be good to first learn how pedometers function with the body and go from there.

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TED-Ed | Lessons Worth Sharing

NEW YORK, April 25, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — TED, the nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading,” today launches the second phase of its TED-Ed initiative: a groundbreaking website [http://ed.ted.com] housed on TED.com that enables teachers to create unique lesson plans around TED-Ed video content.

TED-Ed seeks to inspire curiosity by harnessing the talent of the world’s best teachers and visualizers – and by providing educators with new tools that spark and facilitate learning. TED-Ed launched in March with a channel on YouTube, as well as an open call for educators and animators to submit lesson ideas and animation reels. Just five weeks later, the channel has attracted more than 2.4 million views, 42,000 subscribers, and more than 3,000 comments.

The TED-Ed site was built with a $1.25 million commitment from Kohl’s Department Stores, and optimizes TED content for use in educational settings. It is launching today in Beta, and the content it currently contains – a few dozen videos – is for illustrative purposes. The point of the site is what teachers can do with those videos.

Each video featured on the site is mapped, via tagging, to traditional subjects taught in schools and comes accompanied with supplementary materials that aid a teacher or student in using or understanding the video lesson. Supplementary materials include multiple-choice questions, open-answer questions, and links to more information on the topic.

But the most innovative feature of the site is that educators can customize these elements using a new functionality called “flipping.” When a video is flipped, the supplementary materials can be edited and the resulting lesson is rendered on a new and private web page. The creator of the lesson can then distribute it and track an individual student’s progress as they complete the assignment.

What is more, visitors to the site are not restricted to flipping the featured TED-Ed videos. They can also create a lesson from scratch using any video from YouTube that permits third party embedding — the vast majority. Users can offer these lessons for wider distribution, and the best of them will be subsequently featured on the TED-Ed site for others to make use of.

“Flipping” is intended to indicate propelling the spread of a video, but is also a respectful reference to the concept of “flip teaching” in which teachers can expand overall teaching time by assigning homework on video. Currently this is hard to do for many teachers, but the tools offered on TED-Ed ease the task and open up new possibilities.

Content and new features will continue to accumulate in coming months and a full launch is being planned for the start of the new education year in September.

“Our goal here is to offer teachers free tools in a way they will find empowering,” said TED Curator Chris Anderson. “This new platform allows them to take any useful educational video, not just TED’s, and easily create a customized lesson plan around it. Great teaching skills are never displaced by technology. On the contrary, they’re amplified by it. That’s our purpose here: to give teachers an exciting new way to extend learning beyond classroom hours.”

TED-Ed Catalyst Logan Smalley added: “The goal of TED-Ed is for each great lesson to reach and motivate as many learners as possible. The new TED-Ed website goes a step further, allowing any teacher to tailor video content, create unique lesson plans, and monitor students’ progress. By putting this new technology to use, we hope to maximize time in class and give teachers an exciting tool for customizing – and encouraging – learning.”

“Kohl’s is committed to kids’ education and we are thrilled to partner with TED to provide inspiring educational tools for teachers and students around the world,” said Julie Gardner, Kohl’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “We believe this new resource has the potential to enhance the way students learn and interact with curriculum and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

About the TED-Ed Website
The site builds on TED-Ed content – available on the TED-Ed channel on YouTube – by allowing educators to create custom lessons around each video. By publishing and sharing the lesson, the lesson-creator can measure its effect on an individual student, a class or the world. Specifically, they can measure participation and the accuracy of any individual student’s answers on the assignment.

The TED-Ed website was created with support from Kohl’s as part of the $1.25 million commitment from the Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program, which sells special merchandise and donates 100 percent of the net profit to benefit children’s health and education initiatives nationwide.

About the TED-Ed Channel on YouTube
The TED-Ed Channel on YouTube launched on March 12, 2012 with 12 exclusive videos. The site now has about 60 videos with accompanying materials, including both TED-Ed original content as well as TEDTalks.

TED-Ed video content is optimized for learning and geared towards teachers, students and the classroom – especially high school and college, though content is appropriate for lifelong learners.

The video content is built to deliver a lesson quickly (in 3-10 minutes), in a way that extends beyond the lecture format for which TED is known.

The videos provide teachers with new tools, which they can use to complement their existing lessons.

About the TED-Ed Call for Submissions
TED-Ed’s open call for submissions invites the world’s best visualizers and teachers to contribute their lessons worth sharing.

Teachers and animators can submit proposals online at http://education.ted.com.

The TED-Ed team reviews each submission, pairing selected visualizers with chosen teachers to create dynamic, 3-10 minute videos that share a lesson.

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Something fun to try with your kids…

DrTechniko - Making kids literate in technology

Last Sunday, I taught six kids of ages 5 to 7 how to program. “In what programming language?” you may ask. Well…I didn’t use a programming language, at least none that you know of. In fact, I didn’t even use a computer. Instead, I devised a game called “How To Train Your Robot”. Before I explain how the game works, let me tell my motivation.

I learned how to program during my freshman year at MIT when I was 19. It’s not because I didn’t have a computer at home or I hadn’t heard about programming languages. It was because (a) I thought programming was boring and (b) no one had told me why I should bother. In fact, my computer teacher in high school had told me “you don’t need to waste your time learning how to program. Now we have visual tools to build programs. Programming languages are…

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