The “Feynman Technique” for Studying Effectively: An Animated Primer

After winning the Nobel Prize, physicist Max Planck "went around Germany giving the same standard lecture on the new quantum mechanics. Over time, his chauffeur memorized the lecture and said, 'Would you mind, Professor Planck, because it’s so boring to stay in our routine, if I gave the lecture in Munich and you just sat in front wearing my chauffeur’s hat?' Planck said, 'Why not?' And the chauffeur got up and gave this long lecture on quantum mechanics. After which a physics professor stood up and asked a perfectly ghastly question. The speaker said, 'Well, I’m surprised that in an advanced city like Munich I get such an elementary question. I’m going to ask my chauffeur to reply.'"

That this intellectual switcheroo never actually happened didn't stop Charlie Munger from using it as an opener for a commencement speech to USC's Law School. But when a successful billionaire investor finds value even in an admittedly "apocryphal story," most of us will find value in it as well. It illustrates, according to the Freedom in Thought video above, the difference between "two kinds of knowledge: the deep knowledge that Max had, and the shallow knowledge that the chauffeur had." Both forms of knowledge have their advantages, especially since none of us have lifetime enough to understand everything deeply. But we get in trouble when we can't tell them apart: "We risk fooling ourselves into thinking we actually understand or know something when we don't. Even worse, we risk taking action on misinformation or misunderstanding."




Even if you put little stock into a made-up anecdote about one Nobel-winning physicist, surely you'll believe the documented words of another. Richard Feynman once articulated a first principle of knowing as follows: "You must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool." This principle underlies a practical process of learning that consists of four steps. First, "explain the topic out loud to a peer who is unfamiliar with the topic. Meet them at their level of understanding and use the simplest language you can." Second, "identify any gaps in your own understanding, or points where you feel that you can't explain an idea simply." Third, "go back to the source material and study up on your weak points until you can use simple language to explain it." Finally, "repeat the three steps above until you've mastered the topic."

We've featured the so-called "Feynman technique" once or twice before here on Open Culture, but its emphasis on simplicity and concision always bears repeating — in, of course, as simple and concise a manner as possible each time. Its origins lie in not just Fenyman's first principle of knowledge but his intellectual habits. This video's narrator cites James Gleick's biography Genius, which tells of how "Richard would create a journal for the things he did not know. His discipline in challenging his own understanding made him a genius and a brilliant scientist." Like all of us, Feynman was ignorant all his life of vastly more subjects than he had mastered. But unlike many of us, his desire to know burned so furiously that it propelled him into perpetual confrontation with his own ignorance. We can't learn what we want to know, after all, unless we acknowledge how much we don't know.

Related Content:

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Richard Feynman’s Technique for Learning Something New: An Animated Introduction

The Feynman Lectures on Physics, The Most Popular Physics Book Ever Written, Is Now Completely Online

The Cornell Note-Taking System: Learn the Method Students Have Used to Enhance Their Learning Since the 1940s

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

“I Will Survive,” the Coronavirus Version for Teachers Going Online

If you're an academic sprinting to put your course online, this video will make you feel better for a solid two minutes and 44 seconds.

Above we present, "I Will Survive," the Coronavirus version for teachers going online, with lyrics adapted by Michael Bruening, historian at Missouri State.

At first I was afraid, I was petrified

Kept thinking I could never teach through Canvas all the time

But then I spent so many nights reading the help docs for so long

And I grew strong

And I learned how to get along

And so I’m back

Students are gone

As all my colleagues try to figure out how they’re gonna get along

I should have kept up with the tech, not skipped that class on course design

If I’d known for just one second I’d be teaching all-online

Go on now, go, leave me alone

I’ve got to figure out

Just how to lecture using Panopto

You gave me two days to adjust, to move everything online

Did you think I'd crumble

Did you think I'd lay down and die?

Oh no, not I, I will survive

Oh, as long as I know how to Zoom, I know I'll be alive

Oh, my students still will learn

And my paychecks I will earn, and I'll survive

I will survive, hey, hey

It took all the strength I had not to lay down and die

Kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my syllabi

And I spent oh so many nights just feeling sorry for myself

I used to cry

But now I hold my head up high and you’ll see me

Teaching on zoom

But just don’t cough into the mic or every eye will be on you

I can’t hear you, you’re on mute, your camera’s black, are you still there?

We’ve got some glitches to work out, but I know my grading scheme is fair

Oh now, go, walk out the door

Trying to get this lecture done

And I’m already on take four

Now the network has gone down, and I’m all out of wine

Do you think I’ll crumble

Do you think I’ll lay down and die?

Oh no, not I, I will survive

Oh, as long as I know how to zoom, I know I’ll be alive

My students still will learn

And my paychecks I will earn and I’ll survive

I will survive

Hey hey

Use Your Time in Isolation to Learn Everything You’ve Always Wanted To: Free Online Courses, Audio Books, eBooks, Movies, Coloring Books & More

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." Mark Twain may or may not have actually said that, but either way the sentiment resonates — and with a new strength now, since schools have closed all over the world in an attempt to halt the spread of the pandemic coronavirus. For many, this period of isolation (self-imposed or otherwise) represents an opportunity to rediscover the value of education: not the kind directed by an institution, but the much more valuable kind that runs on one's own steam. If you count among that select group of self-educators (or educators of children whom you can no longer send to school), we here at Open Culture have spent nearly the past decade and a half amassing just the resources you need.

At our selection of more than 1,500 free online courses, you can take deep dives into subjects from archaeology and architecture to law and literature to physics and psychology. (We've even got courses specifically designed to help you understand the coronavirus itself.) If you've been meaning to catch up on the work of the aforementioned Twain — or that of Dostoevsky, Wittgenstein, Kafka, and Proust, among others — he appears in our roundup of more than 800 free eBooks.




Should you prefer reading through earphones while exercising or cleaning — especially important activities these days — we can also offer you more than a thousand free audiobooks, whether you prefer Isaac Asimov or Jane Austen, Adrienne Rich or Charles Bukowski. (You can also get audiobooks from Audible if you sign up for a free 30-day trial there.)

While quarantine puts a temporary stop to many of our usual activities, it shouldn't get in the way of movie night. Our collection of 1,1500 free movies will cover all your movie nights through the time of the coronavirus and then some, including as it does classic films noirs, thriller and horror pictures (including some by no less a suspense master than Alfred Hitchcock), documentaries, and even the fruits of the film industries of countries like Russia and South Korea. And though we can't get enough cinema here at Open Culture, it's hardly the only visual art form we feature: you might spend some time, for instance, with this collection of two million images from 30 world-class museums. This range of art also appears in free museum-produced coloring books geared to all ages.

If you'd like to use your time of "social distance" to develop skills other than coloring, we can point you toward resources for learning to cook, to draw (like an architect, like a Japanese mangaka, like Lynda Barry), to play the guitar, and to practice yoga. Bear in mind also the online-education offerings from Masterclass we've featured here on Open Culture, from "Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing" to "David Sedaris Teaches Storytelling and Humor" to "Werner Herzog Teaches Filmmaking." Those aren't free, but everything else in this post is, including our collection of online language-learning resources. Having spread through world travel, the coronavirus will keep many wary of going abroad in the foreseeable future. But when the pandemic ends, you'll want to be prepared to enjoy foreign lands again. Italy, a country especially hard-hit by the virus, will surely welcome all the visitors it can get. Until then, why not get a grasp on its language — and its cuisine — with a course like MIT's "Learn Italian with Your Mouth Full"?

Related Content:

Free Courses on the Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Emerging Pandemic

Coursera Providing Free Access to Its Course Catalog to Universities Impacted by COVID-19

Why You Should Read The Plague, the Albert Camus Novel the Coronavirus Has Made a Bestseller Again

Quarantined Italians Send a Message to Themselves 10 Days Ago: What They Wish They Knew Then

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Zoom Providing K-12 Schools Free Access to Videoconferencing Tools During COVID-19 Crisis: They’ll Power Your Online Courses

FYI: Zoom provides a turnkey video conferencing solution that's high quality and easy to use. And now universities across the country use Zoom to power their online courses. Today, Zoom announced that K-12 schools can gain free access to Zoom during the COVID-19 crisis. Students or teachers can sign up here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

via Forbes.

Related Content:

How Schools Can Start Teaching Online in a Short Period of Time: Free Tutorials from the Stanford Online High School

Coursera Providing Free Access to Its Course Catalog to Universities Impacted by COVID-19

Free Courses on the Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Emerging Pandemic

Bill Gates Describes His Biggest Fear: “I Rate the Chance of a Widespread Epidemic Far Worse Than Ebola at Well Over 50 Percent” (2015)

 

Coursera Providing Free Access to Its Course Catalog to Universities Impacted by COVID-19

FYI: If you work in a university impacted by COVID-19, Coursera invites you to leverage their course catalogue. The company's CEO writes:

The spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is the most serious global health security threat in decades. In many countries, restrictions imposed by government agencies have disrupted daily routines for millions, including students. Many universities in the impacted regions have suspended face-to-face seminars, closed campuses, and are scrambling to find a solution to minimize disruption for their students.

We are fortunate to have university and industry partners, who have been at the forefront of responding to the challenges humanity has faced from time to time. Inspired by their support and consistent with our mission of serving learners everywhere, we are launching a global effort to assist universities and colleges seeking to offer online courseware in response to the coronavirus.

Starting today, we’ll provide every impacted university in the world with free access to our course catalogue through Coursera for Campus. Universities can sign up to provide their enrolled students with access to more than 3,800 courses and 400 Specializations from Coursera’s top university and industry partners. These institutions will have access until July 31, 2020, after which we plan to provide month-to-month extensions depending on prevailing risk assessments. Students who enroll on or before July 31 will continue to have access until Sept. 30, 2020.

Over the past few weeks, Duke University has been using Coursera for Campus to serve impacted students at their Duke Kunshan campus in China. This effort has been swiftly adopted by students and widely recognized by the broader community. We believe that Coursera for Campus can be an effective resource to help all higher education institutions respond to the impact of coronavirus.

As a global community of educators, we are honored to be serving fellow institutions and student communities during this crisis. Over the next few days, we will also hold webinars and share more resources, including experiences from our partner community, to help institutions looking to transition online during this crisis. Stay tuned.

Sign up for Coursera's Coronavirus program here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

How Schools Can Start Teaching Online in a Short Period of Time: Free Tutorials from the Stanford Online High School

Image by King of Hearts, via Wikimedia Commons

A quick note: The Stanford Online High School--an independent high school that operates fully online--has created video tutorials designed for schools that may need to close classrooms and pivot online. "All guidance is platform-agnostic, focusing on the essential steps for preparing to teach online in a short period of time."

In addition to this videos, the Online High School will host a free webinar today at 2pm California time. You can register here and learn more about the transition to online teaching.

Note: Zoom--which provides a turnkey video conferencing solution--has made its product free for K-12 institutions during the COVID-19 crisis. This can help schools spin up online courses quickly. More on that here.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

 

The Summerhill School, the Radical Educational Experiment That Let Students Learn What, When, and How They Want (1966)

Among the political and social revolutions of the 1960s, the movement to democratize education is of central historical importance. Parents and politicians were entrenched in battles over integrating local schools years after 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education. Sit-ins and protests on college campuses made similar student unrest today seem mild by comparison. Meanwhile, quieter, though no less radical, educational movements proliferated in communes, homeschools, and communities that could pay for private schools.

Most of these experimental methods drew from older sources, such as the theories of Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori, both of whom died before the Age of Aquarius. One movement that got its start decades earlier was popularized in the 60s when its founder A.S. Neill published the influential Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing, a classic work of alternative pedagogy in which the Scottish writer and educator described the radical ideas developed in his Summerhill School in England, first founded in 1921.




Neill’s school “helped to pioneer the ‘free school’ philosophy,” writes Aeon, “in which lessons are never mandatory and nearly every aspect of student life can be put to a vote.” His methods “and a rising countercultural movement inspired similar institutions to open around the world.” When Neill first published his book, however, he was very much on the defensive, against “an increasing reaction against progressive education,” psychologist Erich Fromm wrote in the book’s foreword.

At the extreme end of this backlash Fromm situates “the remarkable success in teaching achieved in the Soviet Union,” where “the old-fashioned methods of authoritarianism are applied in full strength.” Fromm defended experiments like Neill’s, despite their “often disappointing” results, as a natural outgrowth of the Enlightenment.

During the eighteenth century, the ideas of freedom, democracy, and self-determination were proclaimed by progressive thinkers; and by the first half of the 1900's these ideas came to fruition in the field of education. The basic principle of such self-determination was the replacement of authority by freedom, to teach the child without the use of force by appealing to his curiosity and spontaneous needs, and thus to get him interested in the world around him. This attitude marked the beginning of progressive education and was an important step in human development.

What seemed anarchic to its detractors had its roots in the tradition of individual liberty against feudal traditions of unquestioned authority. But Neill was less like John Locke, who included children in his category of irrational beings (along with "idiots" and "Indians") than he was like Jean Jacques Rousseau. Fromm suggests this too: "A.S. Neill’s system is a radical approach to child rearing because it represents the true principle of education without fear. In Summerhill School authority does not mask a system of manipulation.”

Students decide what they want to learn, and what they don’t, with no curriculum, requirements, or testing to speak of and no structured time or mandatory attendance. Is such a thing even possible in practice? How could educators manage and measure student progress, or ensure their students learn anything at all? What might this look like? Find out in the 1966 National Film Board of Canada documentary Summerhill, above, full of “candid moments and scenes,” Aeon writes, “that evoke the rhythms of daily life at the school and give a sense of the children’s lived experience.”

Disorganized, but not chaotic, classroom bustle contrasts with idyllic, sunlit moments on Summerhill’s verdant grounds and honest criticism, some from the students themselves. One girl admits that the free play wears thin after a while and that “there probably aren’t such good facilities for learning here, after a certain level. But you can always go somewhere else afterwards" (though many would have difficulty with entrance exams). Another student talks about the struggle to study without structure to help minimize distractions. Despite Neill’s philosophical aversion to fear, she says “you’re always afraid of missing something.”

We also meet the man himself, A.S. Neill, a rumpled, avuncular figure at 83 years old, who proclaims freedom as the answer for students who struggle in school, and for students who don’t. If we’re honest, we might all admit we felt this strongly as children ourselves. It may never be an impulse that’s compatible with contemporary goals for education, which is often geared toward workplace training at the expense of creative thinking. But for many students, the opportunity to pursue their own course on their own terms can become the impetus for a lifetime of independent thought and action. I can’t think of a loftier educational goal.

via Aeon

Related Content:

Noam Chomsky Spells Out the Purpose of Education

Noam Chomsky Defines What It Means to Be a Truly Educated Person

Lynda Barry on How the Smartphone Is Endangering Three Ingredients of Creativity: Loneliness, Uncertainty & Boredom

Buckminster Fuller Rails Against the “Nonsense of Earning a Living”: Why Work Useless Jobs When Technology & Automation Can Let Us Live More Meaningful Lives

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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