Professor Eric Mazur of Harvard’s Physics Department and I have a longer history than his 2011 Keynote Address. A physics colleague of mine passed along an article he had found that changed the way he looked at teaching physics. It was written by a Harvard professor who, to his horror, discovered that his students might know physics but didn’t understand physics, i.e. could plug in numbers, could utilize formulae but didn’t understand the concepts underpinning those numbers and formulae. When I read the article, it struck me how similar the physics situation he described was to the Latin situation that I was experiencing. The professor was of course Eric Mazur. I saved the article but didn’t quite know what to do with it. I ended up coming up with some band aids for a much bigger problem / bigger injury that made me feel a bit better about my teaching but I’m not sure helped my students all that much.

In any case, Heather sent along the keynote months ago and said how good it was. With the school year calmed down, I finally got around to watching / listening to it and it was worth it. It was about an hour and 20 mins long but it was all quality. I didn’t need to watch most of it but I toggled over when it seemed more visual (had to watch the Guido Sarducci bit he not only referenced but showed, even though I knew the bit by heart thanks to my dad, and watched the thermodynamics demo among others) but it listened very well. He’s a great speaker who makes some great points (albeit points that make you feel like you’ve been teaching wrong for your entire career, not in a bad way but in a way that makes you want to change everything) and is worth watching for all teachers, not just those thinking about flipping the classroom.

My only criticism, and it is one of envy rather than disdain, is (and here’s the hobbyist in me coming out) it’s a bit like watching The New Yankee Workshop when Norm says that he’s going to use his 36″ belt sander to finish things off, as if we all have one of those in our basement workshops (for the record, I’m pretty happy with my 9 x 2 belt sander). When Mazur starts talking about gesture recognition software, he leaves a lot of people out. But of course I was interested in his software / program and wondered if / how I could investigate that. Dare to dream….