Teaching Disabilities

I really enjoyed this recent interview of Eric Weinstein on The Tim Ferriss Show Podcast. One of the most powerful moments for me was when Eric says, “We don’t talk about teaching disabilities, we talk about learning disabilities.” (1:08:41) Eric continues:

A lot of the kids that I want are kids that have been labelled learning disabled but they are actually superlearners, they’re like learners on steroids who have some deficits to pay for their superpower. When teachers can’t deal with this, we label those kids learning disabled to cover up from the fact that the economics of teaching require that one central actor, the teacher, be able to lead a room of twenty or more people in lock step. that’s not a good model.

One of the things that I love most about our hyper-connected reality is the fact that anyone with an internet connection has the opportunity to learn about literally anything they are curious about - no classroom required. Yet, despite the explosion of available online educational resources - wikis, MOOCs, forums, etc. - I still struggle to find quality, well-curated scientific content outside of the traditional platforms of books and journals. Why is it that in the age of the internet, we are still limiting ourselves to content developed for (and confined by) the real estate of classrooms and printed pages? One answer is simply laziness. It’s really easy to film a lecture and put it on YouTube, or print to .pdf and host it online. It’s much harder to develop an interactive online problem-set that is tailored to a student’s current level of understanding. Ultimately that’s what I would like to see.

Here are a couple of my favorite examples of thinkers and educational resources that are clearly moving things in the right direction:

  • Julius O. Smith @ Stanford, in particular his free, fully-hyperlinked books on digital signal processing. What I love about these books is that because they are all fully linked together, you can start with what you are curious about, and then follow the links to the words and concepts that you don’t understand as necessary. Similar in workflow to wikipedia, except that the quality of the content is always superb.

  • Mike Bostock - Visualizing Algorithms. If Julius Smith showed what all online books could have been with just HTML, Mike’s work is an exemplar of Web 2.0 learning. I kind of feel like Mike has captured what Wolfram was trying to achieve with CDF, yet in a fully in-browser experience.

What are your favorite online educational resources?

Who else has suffered from teaching disabilities? How do we stop the suffering!?