Monday, March 04, 2013

Eight Percent: Not Too Shabby!

When it comes to estimation, being off by an order of magnitude is.. not too shabby. You might not be in the in-field, but at least you're in the ballpark. And that's where my estimate landed on the year anniversary of my first Teach Me video.

My estimation? One million views. The reality: eighty thousand. Not quite packing the Big House (I grew up near the University of Michigan Football Stadium) but filling all other local sports stadiums to capacity and then some. (Accurate or not, that's how I visualize these statistics: sports stadia brimming with curious minds, eyes fixed on a giant YouTube screen above the field.)

Anyway, I've learned a diverse amount of information from this project so far. First, some topics are more popular than others. Yeah, it sounds obvious in hindsight but the results are quite opposite the prediction. I had no idea that Kirchoff's Rules (a second semester topic) would be one hundred times as popular as Impact Speed (a first semester topic, also covered in intro courses). I've guessed at the reasoning for these stats but only further experimentation will confirm my suspicions: you've gotta suffer for a while before you admit that you really need help.

Regarding production, the quality of video I'm producing now makes me blush at my first couple videos. (Which is how it should be with any entrepreneurial endeavor, I think.) It's still not perfect but I'm hoping that the addition of a second soft box and the use of a more sophisticated editting program (I'm using Apple's iMovie at the moment) will leave little for want in the production area.

Most importantly, I've seriously leveled up as a teacher. Some of this was through effort and research but most of it was the emulation and innovation. I happen to work with one of the most talented teachers in physics education (Dave Stoddard, Oakland Community College) and he has been very generous with his time and advice. His lectures have completely revolutionized my approach to teaching. And his suggestions regarding my videos are so useful and pertinent that sometimes I'm nervous to show him my work lest I need to scrap it and return to the drawing board. Scarcely a day goes by that I don't wonder where I would be as a teacher had I not been hired to work with him.

So... Quo vadimus? Well at risk of sounding repetitive, I predict again that (armed with the insights of a year of testing and tweaking) at this time next year the Teach Me videos will exceed one million views. As to which videos I'll produce, I'm torn between catering to the hungry crowd (making videos for upper level students looking for help) and building the foundation for the series (starting with lower level material). And though it may sound childish after all this technical analysis and post-game wrap-up, I will likely choose to make whichever videos are... the most fun to make.

Follow your bliss, right?


Physics Problems Driving You Bananas? Try This.

Folks rightfully resist the adoption of rigid, formulaic approaches to problems. In this case however, resistance is futile. That's because it's really difficult to overstate the utility of this problem solving method. And it's use can actually extend beyond the physics classroom. The reasons are simple. DAP: We are visual creatures. KNU: Failing to plan is planning to fail. EQN: Selecting the right tool for the right job. SSF: Haste makes waste. CYA: More than just covering your... it's an opportunity to review your work and understanding. From the production side, I'm very pleased with how this video turned out. In fact, I finally feel like the delivery is on par with the contents!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Down, Down, Down in a Freezing Ring of Ice

Non-calculus limit problems are fantastic for reinforcing the conceptual aspect of new physics principles. Nick Weckesser, an old college buddy, came up with this one and it remains one of my favorite. And as always, enjoy!

"F@#$ it! We'll do it live!"

Inspired by O'Reilly's viral rant and the prolific work of YouTuber PatrickJMT, I decided to experiment with a different format: live voice-over with minimal editting. The pros: no post makes cranking out videos a cinch. The cons: the videos are far less polished, and possibly less effective in conveying the information.


How to Row Reduce like Dr. Seuss

Oh, all those numerous and nasty equations!
All the plugging and chugging, it takes too much patience.
I've got just the thing for such an awful occasion:
It's mighty, it's sleighty! It's Gauss-Jordan Elimination!
First, our equations enjoy preparation.
Each variable is queued in ascending gradation.
Once aligned and accounted, their nice numeral agents,
Get bumped to a matrix in corresponding locations.
Next, we apply a few matrix operations:
Addition and subtraction. Division, multiplication.
Yes, our rows are massaged with arithmetication,
Until they're reduced to the simplest notation.
Lo', all of our multiplex math manueveration,
Concludes with a comely, concise configuration.
The name of this sexy and subtle sophistication?
She goes by Row Reduced Echelon Formation.
To the left: a delightful diag-one-alation.
To the right: our solutions, in column notation. 
Such a time-saving tool! Such a cool calculation!
It's mighty, it's sleighty! It's Gauss-Jordan Elimation!