Monday, 2 January 2012

In praise of Professor Stannard

So I watched the whole series of videos last night (see previous post).  On another blog I recently blew off a bit of steam about how infuriating some language learning materials can be.  Now the material Stannard presented in the video series was far more complicated than anything you could present in a language course, but it was just so easy to watch.  He covered the questions behind determining the size of the universe, he talked about string theory, he talked about the relativistic effects of "time dilation" and "length contraction".  And I walked away from it happy and contented.  Why?  Did he manage to give me a full understanding of these concepts in these little 10 minute snippets?  Heck no. But he made it OK to not understand.  Not by simply telling me that it was OK not to understand everything, because if he'd told me that, it would have felt like an excuse -- in the past, lots of teachers have told me it's OK not to understand, but I still find myself feeling that its my failure to understand.

But Stannard presented the material in a way that made it clear that most people don't understand it -- you actually believed that he didn't understand it... which is probably true.  There are many, many branches of science where even the experts don't fully understand the concepts that they're dealing with, yet when they teach or write books, there's absolutely no indication of doubt -- it's presented as pure, simple fact.  Every learner gets the same problem -- they don't understand the material, but they believe it's their fault.

So I'd really recommend Prof Stannard's videos to anyone -- they are some of the best science materials I've ever seen.  Here's a link to the entire series as a YouTube playlist.

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