Introduction to Algae

6th July 2018

Cheery Friday Greetings to our Learning How to Learners!

Book of the Week

This week we read The Magic of Impromptu Speaking: Create a Speech that Will Be Remembered for Years in Under 30 Seconds, by Andrii Sedniev.  Andrii is someone to be reckoned with—as the book description  notes: “At the age of 19, Andrii obtained his CCIE (Certified Cisco Internetwork Expert) certification, the most respected certification in the IT world, and became the youngest person in Europe to hold it. At the age of 23, he joined an MBA program at one of the top 10 MBA schools in the USA as the youngest student in the program, and at the age of 25 he joined Cisco Systems’ Head Office as a Product Manager responsible for managing a router which brought in $1 billion in revenue every year.”  Impressed by Andrii’s resume, we picked up Andrii’s book, and we’re glad we did. Along with useful insights, Andrii provides wonderful stories about speaking, including his own growth from shy youth to outgoing public speaker. A useful primer to help you gain more comfort in speaking publicly, and an easy, nice read.

A Popular App to Help You Learn to Play the Guitar, Piano, Bass, and Ukelele

We’ve heard some great things about the multiplatform app “Yousician,” which helps you learn to play a musical more quickly by giving you instant feedback. If you’re looking to release your inner musician, this may be the approach for you.

What’s the Difference Between STEM and STEAM?

This worthwhile article from npj Science of Learning does a good job of explaining how an appreciation of arts and the humanities can allow for more creative work in STEM. We love the pictures showing Leonardo Da Vinci’s work—if you’re at all interested in STEAM, you can’t miss Walter Isaacson’s magnificent biography Leonardo da Vinci.

Common CoreAn Interesting Experiment

There is an ongoing controversy going on with the US Common Core—here’s an interesting article about a Florida school that dropped Common Core, and consequently went to #1.  “Thanks to the classical approach of phonics, an impressive 90 percent of the third-grade students at Mason Classical Academy were proficient in English Language Arts, compared to just 58 percent in the county overall, most of whom rely on Common Core.”  It would be valuable to replicate this effort with different classes and teachers and to put it forward through research channels.

Our own opinion is that many of today’s teachers are brilliant, and the more we can give them the leeway to teach using their own creative skills, the better off students, on average, will be.

MOOC of the Week

We’re 2/3rds through the University of California, San Diego’s Introduction to Algae.  We think algae are pretty cool critters, and this MOOC is helping us understand why algae are so important in the earthly scheme of things.  The two key instructors, “Ike” Levine and Stephen Mayfield, are both excellent—personable, likeable, and in Ike’s case in particular, with good explanatory skills, as with exemplary guest lecturer Bianca Brahamsha.

We must admit that the video editing and presentation style could have been greatly improved—we’re always annoyed, for example, when complex textbook- and academic-journal style pictures are thrown up on a screen all at once—with the imagery often so small that it’s impossible to make out what’s going on. (Check out Andrew Ng’s beautifully taught Machine Learning course for great examples of how to gradually build complex material on the screen.) It’s also annoying when one instructor repeats what another guest instructor has already taught—meaning no one reviewed the MOOC in gestalt to ensure all the instructors worked well together. The feedback on the quizzes, unfortunately,  is mostly non-existent.

But if you wink past the sporadic drips and drabs of fairly advanced biochemistry, (well, it’s nothing to worry about if you’re a biochemist), this is a fascinating MOOC that covers what algae are, how they’ve evolved, and how they’ve transformed our planet. It’s a  little like watching an interesting documentary in the form of 1950s style horror film—the subject matter is fascinating, but you can’t help but wonder what cheesy thing you can laugh at that will happen next in the production. See if you can spot the guest lecturer who seems so bored with his own lecture that he looks about to fall asleep, double bonus points if you point out the bobbing guest lecturer.

That’s all for this week. Have a happy week in Learning How to Learn!

Barb, Terry, and the entire Learning How to Learn team



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