Category Archives: Teaching & Learning

Let’s “TED” Talk About It

Overwhelming Information

You’d have to look to the cosmos to find a metaphor for the seemingly unending amount of available information these days. Links, essays, videos, etc. stretched out like stars in the infinite space we call the web. In short, it’s overwhelming. With this wealth of knowledge comes uncertainty. It doesn’t take much searching to find the world is constantly jeopardized by problems; problems on a macro, micro, internal, external, you name it scale. So, how do we find motivation? How do we stay optimistic when it’s so easy to be scared?

ted-talks-tutornerdsWhat it comes down to, in my opinion, is inspiration. Equally infinite as information, inspiration can come from nearly anywhere. Music, movies, paintings, nature, teachers, tutors, even something as simple as a good laugh. The question I want to ask here is, how do we use the internet for inspiration?

1,600+ talks to stir your curiosity

TED works as a  platform for the greatest thinkers our world has to offer to describe, both poetically and scientifically, what excites them. A teacher’s dream come true; TED educates, illuminates, and most important of all, motivates. Suddenly, students are even  sharing their favorite TED videos on Facebook. Further, the expansive amount of topics the talks cover allows for nearly anyone to find a video that excites their curiosity.

To better understand the inspirational qualities of TED talks, allow me to give an example. It was the fall semester of my junior year in college. To fulfill my obligatory ‘Integrative Studies in Social Sciences’ credits, I enrolled in a ‘People and Environment’ course. The professor was an immensely curious, vehement speaker. His southern charm clashed with what he called our, “reserved Mid-West sensibilities.” What amazed me most about him, was his ability to remain so incredibly optimistic despite his vast knowledge of the world’s problems.

Every class we learned the painful realities our world faces in context to our destruction of the planet. Each new area of the world we explored, came with its seemingly never ending list of problems. To be honest, I was terrified. So how come this educator, who knew, in even greater detail, the perils of the planet, seemed so excited and content? The answer, to put it frankly, was his ability to turn inspiration into motivation.

He ended his classes on a positive note, and nearly always, with a TED video. For instance, one day we learned all about Brazil’s infrastructure problems, and how a country that large could potentially have a carbon footprint the size of Paul Bunyan’s boot if everyone started to drive. The hour long class was enough to fill me with anxieties of Brazil’s, and the world’s, future, but the final eighteen minute TED talk was more than enough to ease the worries. The speaker, a Brazilian city planner, used blueprints, paintings, and words to reveal his home wasn’t doomed to poor planing. In fact, Brazil was in a unique position to learn from other countries’ mistakes, and pioneer an environmentally friendly public transportation network.

tutornerds-ted-talkDid the speaker explain everything? Of course not. Due to time limitations, he had no choice but to gloss it up a bit. The point still got across, and a classroom of once anxious students turned into curious optimists. When I got back to my apartment, I researched everything I could about city-planning, green-public transportation, and Brazil. These were topics I’d never be curious about on my own. And there lies the beauty of platforms such as TED. On their own, they fall short of fully educating. In fact, recent articles have been slamming the site for its sometimes fluffy content. Isn’t that a positive consequence? The most beautiful  thing a student can do as a result of a TED talk is question it. In addition, there are many other websites – for example, – that talk about these hypothesis and theories in much more detail. It’s a great jumping-off point for tutors and educators to get a student curious.

That being said, TED talks, and similar educational venues, do not replace educators, but, in fact, complement them – that is, if the educator doesn’t rely on the videos to teach the class for them. So, I leave it to you. What are your opinions on TED and other such website? Do you think they dumb-down highbrow topics, or inspire viewers to explore further on their own? What would you give a TED talk about?

For more information on future TED talks in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County, click here.

TED Links:

Does Music Complement Math and Science Test Scores? | TutorNerds

Want Higher Math and Science Test Scores? Put on Your Headphones

From space travel to Silicon Valley, America has always been an innovative, progress forward country. Further, most of the world’s best Universities are found in our nation, as well as the biggest corporations, eager to hire their recent grads. So how come our children are posting flat test scores in science and math? Should we be concerned other nations, such as Singapore, are seeing test scores skyrocket, while ours remain flat? Of course we should.

With innovation comes the need for high-skilled workers. From engineers to statisticians, companies are beginning to rely on other countries to supply the brainpower where the U.S. lacks. To be fair, this isn’t a bad or unnatural thing, since globalization is the driving force of today’s economy, but it raises concerns in the realm of competitiveness. And where there is concern, there is debate.

slidebird1In an effort to pinpoint the ‘where and why’ American students aren’t learning as fast and efficiently as their contemporaries, schools have given (arguably) math and science most of their attention. Pressure is the keyword, as districts demand test scores are the main focus. Like a business consultant hired to eliminate overhead, schools are beginning to push subjects like music and art farther and farther down the priority list.

In Music Education for Creativity, Not A Tool For Test Scores, author Sarah McCammon reports that music educators are pleading music’s untestable benefits as the reason their classes should remain relevant. In her words,

 “some advocates say that rhetoric is missing the point and overlooking the virtues of music that can’t be tested.”

Few would argue music isn’t important to development, but it’s difficult to see, on paper that is, how it improves test scores. But what about that other buzzword, the one that usually describes the great minds who started the corporations hiring all the engineers? That’s right, creativity. Undoubtedly a key component in competitiveness, and a staple of America’s economic dominance, creativity is difficult to test for, but vital for success. That’s why many music teachers are arguing their classes should remain high on the priority list. Having a well-rounded education, including the arts, helps a student approach math, sciences, and life in general with more creativity and depth.

science-test-score All of this is good and well, but is it a bit of an overreaction? Are schools really putting music on the back burner? Some would argue no. For instance, the NPR article suggests schools, in general, aren’t ditching the pianos and violins so soon. To illustrate, Russ Whitehurst,

“points to a 2010 U.S. Department of Education report that found 94 percent of public elementary schools offer some kind of music classes, even if hours are being cut back in many places.”

As creativity becomes a focus for schools, especially higher education, there’s no surprise courses such as Stanford’s “Creativity: Music to My Ears” are becoming available to everyone, including non-musicians. Whether or not more or less music is the answer, the problem of America’s science and math drought is real and troubling.

Struggling With Math and Science?

As global competitiveness continues to grow, it’s crucial students don’t get too far behind in such topics. Luckily, we’re here to help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your math and science courses, don’t hesitate to contact us today. Whether you’re from Los Angeles, Orange County, or San Diego, we’ll match you with the perfect tutor. From Pre-Algebra to Physics, we’ve got your back.



Tree Grit: Can Learning Outdoors Engage Students? |TutorNerds

Learning Outdoors: Is it a viable option?

Draped in black & white monotony, an insipid classroom runs like a prison. The faceless teacher chalks line after line of boring algorithms as the students look on in hopeless disengagement. Suddenly, an object appears. It has energy, vibrancy, and best of all, it’s in color. The students light up as the mystery object uses its magical ability to spread blues, reds, and yellows throughout the room. Not only are the students engaged, but they’re happy.

slide2cIt’s a common advertising approach; you’ve probably seen it done in numerous commercials. Sadly, this feeling of discontent with the classroom is a reality. In an enlightening article on titled Outdoor Learning: Education’s Next Revolution, Laura Smith brings  facts into the argument of disengagement in the traditional schooling environment. For example,

“An Indiana State University study found that nearly half of students feel bored everyday, half of students report skipping school at least “once or twice,” and 20 percent consider dropping out entirely.”

So, what’s the solution? Aren’t our current schools tried and tested as the best format for learning? Not so fast, many would argue nature, humanity’s original classroom, is the best fit for engaging students. This philosophy isn’t just for after-school programs, no, nature is quickly becoming the permanent classroom from kindergarten to college.

outdoor-classroom4Like the sounds of a “forest kindergarten?” Its already happening at Cedarsong Nature School on Vashon Island, and, according to the article, ” Kenny (owner) reports that engagement is high and credits the student-led, outdoor curriculum.” With motivation and deep learning as the triumphs of such an environment, there’s no surprise Cedarsong’s enrollment is growing at a rapid pace.
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5 Brainy Movies Streaming on Netflix

Streaming Education on Netflix

As Hollywood begins to smell the smoke of a burning empire, internet networks are quickly becoming the number one source for entertainment. Take myself for instance, every night before I read my weary head to sleep – that’s right, READ – I watch an hour of Netflix. Like most, I occasionally fall from the ‘moderate streaming use wagon’ – picture, an entire weekend gone in an instant, as the first season of Twin Peaks streams before my eyes. Netflix is huge. Just read the description given on the company’s website:

“Netflix is the world’s leading Internet television network with over 44 million members in 41 countries enjoying more than one billion hours of TV shows and movies per month, including original series.”

One billion hours is a lot of entertainment. That doesn’t even count the one billion hours we spend searching through its massive library trying to decide what to watch. But is it just for entertainment? Can Netflix be used by tutors, teachers, and students as an educational tool? Can entertainment be educational? The last one may be a bit too philosophical to tackle in this post, but the question about Netflix as an educational tool can be answered, simply, as yes.

In my opinion, a sizable portion of that one billion hours is of educational value. Though I’ll have to leave it to you and your tutor to decide what compliments your curriculum best, I still have some suggestions for the curious. Next time you get lost in a Netflix trance, make it an educational one! Below are a few streaming suggestions to get you started (in no particular order).

5. Shakespeare Uncovered

Originally airing on PBS, this series takes the viewer on an exciting, six-part adventure seeking the heart behind Shakespeare’s mystique. What better way to do it than deconstructing his greatest works?

25SHAKESPEARE_SPAN-articleLarge-v2HIGHLIGHT: Watch actor Ethan Hawke take on the insidious macabre of becoming Macbeth.
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Creativity & Failure | TutorNerds

Adapting to progress is an integral part of a student’s success. You must work hard in grade school, then, when the time comes, leverage your successes so they give you the best shot at admissions. Let’s jump ahead a bit. Say your admissions campaign was a success. With the assistance of a tutor from TutorNerds, you’ve chosen the best school, submitted a moving essay, and charmed interviewers with your humility and passion. For the past year and a half, it’s been all about what makes you stand out. More importantly, it’s been about your skills and accomplishments.

Beaming with self-confidence, you get into your top school of choice. Eager to get to work, you open your first online assignment, which reads, “Create a resume of your failures.” That’s right, failures. If you were enrolled in environmental engineer Jack V. Matson’s “Failure 101” course, then you would most likely be faced with such a daunting task. You may be asking yourself why a professor would create such a course. Simply put, failure is the soil from which creativity grows.

imaginationTo illustrate, The New York Times quotes the professor as saying, “the frequency and intensity of failures is an implicit principle of the course. Getting into a creative mind-set involves a lot of trial and error.” Creativity – it’s more than just a buzzword these days, it’s what will get you your dream job. Creativity is what will wake up you up in the middle of the night to program the next billion dollar app. But wait, what if I’m not creative? Like any other unfamiliar skill, learn it!
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